MIAMI (CBSMiami) – November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born prematurely each year. Those tiny babies spend their first days and weeks on earth fighting for survival.
“You have to be on top of them every minute,” Cardenas said while trying to keep tabs on her toddlers during her interview with CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana.
“We have a lot of help from family,” Gutierrez added.
Quadruplets Julian, Sebastian, Francesca and Gabriel are now a year old and they keep their parents on their toes.
“Stressful, but happy. We’re overwhelmed with joy,” Cardenas said.
That joy first came in early 2014 when they found out they were expecting.
The way the parents tell it, they went in for what they thought would be a routine first ultrasound to see one baby and listen to its heartbeat. The doctor quickly told them it was twins, then triplets.
“We believed for five minutes that it was triplets. And then he kept moving the thing and then he said there’s quads. And then we started crying and everybody started yelling,” Gutierrez said. “I thought they were trying to prank me.”
They knew the pregnancy would be high risk, but that reality came into sharp focus when at just 27 weeks pregnant, during an appointment at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, the doctor gave Cardenas some devastating news.
“One of the babies is not receiving enough oxygen through the placenta,” she recalled the doctor telling her. “You need to make the decision right now if you want to keep going with the pregnancy and one of the babies will die in your belly or go ahead and take them out.”
The parents said they didn’t hesitate, choosing to deliver all four babies that very same day, even though they were only given a 40 percent chance of survival.
All four babies went straight to the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, but little Gabriel was in the fight for his life.
He had seizures and his oxygen levels kept dropping.
The new mom and dad were told to prepare for the worst, even calling in a priest to baptize their newborn son.
“He was dying. He started, his color change. He was starting to get white. They told us, we’re going to open the incubator so you can say your last words to him and say goodbye,” Cardenas explained.
They say they can’t medically explain what happened next, but somehow, Gabriel’s oxygen levels went up, and in the days that followed, he slowly started gaining weight.
All told, he spent four months and 20 days in the NICU.
“He’s a miracle baby. They all are, but he’s a fighter,” Cardenas said.
The young parents say they focused on their faith during those tough time, often asking via social media for people to pray.
“I thought there were so many people praying for them that that’s what helped them get better,” Gutierrez said.
Cardenas now has more than 24,000 followers on Instagram, and uses the hashtags #GodSquad and #LoveTimesFour to connect with people around the world, offering images of hope that preemie babies, even four of them, have a fighting chance.
“When you’re a mother you fight for your kids, even if it meant I was alone in this world, I would fight with them. It helps that I have such a big support system,” she said.
Since CBS4 met with the family, Gabriel has had some minor surgeries but is doing just fine.
To follow along with the quads’ journey, check out Cardenas on Instagram @ivicardenas.