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Lakeland mother opens up about having to give birth to baby she knew wouldn’t survive | 10 Tampa Bay

Author: Miguel Octavio
Published: 12:26 AM EDT May 11, 2024
Updated: 12:26 AM EDT May 11, 2024

LAKELAND, Fla. — Deborah Dorbert gave birth to baby Milo in March of 2023 knowing he wouldn’t survive. A year later, she and her family are still mourning.

“The grief comes in waves,” she said.

Milo’s face was blue. He didn’t cry and his eyes were shut, but Deborah said he could be heard gasping for air.

“It’s a sound that I will never forget,” she said. “Your heart shatters because you feel so helpless as a mom. Just holding your child, and they are suffering.”

Milo died 94 minutes later. 

Deborah and her husband Lee Dorbert are still processing the pain. Some days, they’re numb. Depression and suicidal thoughts have been common occurrences after the trauma endured.

“Holding him, all I could focus on was in that little time that we had with him to try to show him as much love as we possibly could,” Lee Dorbert recalls.

Deborah was about 23 weeks pregnant when medical staff noticed something was wrong. Doctors would soon diagnose Milo with Potter Syndrome. 

It’s a life-threatening condition that affects the growth and function of a baby’s kidneys and other internal organs, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Symptoms arise because of too little amniotic fluid in the uterus and infants are expected to have a short life expectancy.

Along with the mental toll on Deborah, the physical pain from the condition was also difficult to endure.

The Dorbert family felt an abortion was the best option for them. However, that wasn’t an option given Florida’s then-15-week abortion restrictions.

It wasn’t until Deborah said she carried Milo for 37 weeks that she was given clearance to be induced. 

The family said they wouldn’t be spared the grief of losing Milo no matter what, however being induced much sooner would’ve spared them less heartbreak. 

“There’s a lot of trauma that happened from November [2022] to when he was born. Just a lot more mental and physical pain that I’m still healing from,” she said.

The family, alongside their primary care doctor Dr. David Berger, are hoping voters are able to pass the abortion referendum on the ballot this November

The amendment, sponsored by Floridians Protecting Freedom, would block Florida from prohibiting abortion until the point of viability — when the fetus is viable outside the womb. This is usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy. 

If voters pass this amendment in November, the right to an abortion will be enshrined in the Florida constitution.

“She didn’t have to suffer the way that she did,” Berger said. “She was in excruciating pain because the baby was just pressing down on her uterus and stretching all the ligaments out.”

On top of the grief, the Dorbert family has another young son who is also mourning the loss of Milo. 

Deborah recently spoke at a U.S. House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on reproductive freedom. At times, emotional, Deborah testified to Congress about her the pain she and her family have had, and still continue to endure through the trauma.

“We all struggle with our mental health. My four-year-old son had to see a therapist to understand why his brother died. So we all really struggled with our mental health. Obviously, my physical health, it’s taken a long time for me to recover and I’m still not recovered from it,” Deborah answered in response to the impact on her family.   

While doctors brought up going to another state to get induced, Deborah said factors like finances, medical bills, insurance, possible legal repercussions, and finding ways to still care for their then 4-year-old son hindered her from doing so. The family has been asking for financial support since last year to help with ongoing medical expenses.

With the six-week ban in effect, Deborah said she has worries over how it will impact other families who may not receive proper care.

“I’m just afraid for other women to go through what I went through because it’s not an easy journey to be on,” she said.

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis is urged to reach out for help. You can contact the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay at 211 or call 911. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 800-799-7233. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached by dialing 988.