Mom with COVID-19 delivers baby she would never be able to hold: 'Mom was about to go to heaven'
Vanessa Cardenas Gonzalez and husband Alfonso Gonzalez celebrated the news that Vanessa was expecting a girl at a live streaming sex reveal party in July.
Weeks before she was diagnosed with COVID-19, Vanessa Cardenas Gonzalez chose the name "Heaven" for the child she would soon give birth - her first girl.
That name now comforts the husband she left behind, who takes care of the daughter Vanessa never kept.
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"The name is prophetic for what would happen to mother," Alfonso Gonzalez told USA TODAY. "Mother wanted to go to heaven."
Vanessa - the mother of two boys and newborn heaven - died on December 14 in Los Angeles at the age of 33 after suffering from COVID-19 complications for about a month.
Heaven was born in November before Vanessa's worst illness. But because Vanessa was positive for the virus at the time, the only interaction she had with her daughter was through video calls, the family friend Desiree Vera, who organized a crowdfunding campaign for the family's good, told USA TODAY.
Vera, who has grown closely together with Vanessa and Alfonso through a small church group, knows that the story is "heartbreaking".
Vanessa was a healthy young mother who waited anxiously for months for her first daughter to be born. She even started buying items for a little girl before they knew the baby's gender.
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In July, Vanessa was wearing pink when she and Alfonso popped a confetti-filled balloon in a live-stream gender reveal that was virtually due to the pandemic. When the exploding confetti was pink too, they both laughed and smiled with delight. Vanessa dabbed her eyes before ending the live stream.
But when Heaven was delivered in November, doctors and nurses took the baby away to prevent Vanessa from infecting the newborn. When she returned home, Alfonso had more bad news: Vanessa still had to isolate herself from the child at home, even though she longed to be in the same room as heaven.
"It can't happen like that. I'm sorry, Vanessa," he recalls.
Soon her condition worsened. After a heart attack, she spent her last days with Alfonso by her side, praying, reading and playing music to comfort her.
But in the midst of the tragedy of her death, Alfonso speaks of gratitude and hope.
He is grateful for a church family that has supported him every step of the way - buying groceries, helping him manage Vanessa's medical care, collecting donations to help his family.
"I am so blessed to have family in the Church - they are so selfless," he said of close friends with New Beginning Community Ministries. He credits his faith with the strength to move on and to rebuild.
When Vanessa's story attracts attention, he hopes it will be remembered for longer than her final days.
"I just want people to remember her as a loving mother, a loving wife, and a loving friend," he said. She was the kind of person who "stays in her footsteps and gives" - and he hopes her memory will encourage others to do the same.
Vera recalls that Vanessa was shy but giving - someone who fed the homeless and loved teaching their children.
She hopes Vanessa's story will help others better understand the ravages of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 325,000 Americans - including Vera's father - to date.
"This virus is very, very real to us."
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: California Mom with COVID-19 gives birth to a baby she would never hold
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