More than a dozen people gathered at a Belleville home Sunday to grieve and talk about Kayla Goscinski, a mother of three who unexpectedly died Thursday two days after giving birth.
Friends and family members talked, cried and laughed as they spoke of the 31-year-old Belleville woman who they say was born to be a mother.
Goscinski had her third C-section Tuesday and delivered a healthy baby boy named Hudson. After the birth, however, she began having serious complications from a rare condition. After fighting for 48 hours, she died on Thursday.
Mindy Skinner had known Kayla since they were 15 and watched Kayla grow from the "wild children" they were into a "super mom."
"People who really knew her knew her whole life was about her kids," she said.
Kayla leaves behind her husband, George Goscinski, and their two other children, 2-year-old Joanna and 4-year-old Edward.
"I was in love with her soul," George said on Sunday. "She really cared about a lot of people. She was so sweet, and that's what I loved about her."
Kayla had also just been elected to the PTA board at Notre Dame Academy in Belleville, which her friends said is a testament to her dedication to helping and leading others.
"It's just such a shock she was taken away from us so soon," Skinner said. "I don't understand why she was taken away from her kids."
"It just wasn't her time. It wasn't her time," Emily Totel added.
Kayla's mom, Janice Barts, and George sat together on the couch Sunday, with Joanna curled up on George's lap and baby Hudson sleeping in Janice's arms.
"I'm just worried about the kids. I want to make sure I do everything I can and hope it's enough," George said. "They're still waiting for her to come back."
Janice said Kayla was everything to her children, and they haven't processed that she is gone yet.
"Last night, Edward was looking around and around and finally he said, 'I'm just going to bed.' You know he was looking for her," she said.
Skinner said Kayla had amniotic fluid embolism, a pregnancy complication that causes life-threatening conditions such as heart failure. The rare condition occurs in 1 out of 40,000 pregnancies in North America.
"Usually people die within four hours from it. She lasted almost 48. She really put up a fight, and I think that was for her kids," she said. "All her friends and family were there talking to her, and we put the baby on her. She knew we would all be there to take care of her kids."
Skinner also said she and Kayla's many friends are prepared to be there for George and the kids no matter what.
"We're going to raise the kids as a group. She would want her kids to be raised right in religion, and I'm just hoping that George gets what he needs because it's very overwhelming to be left with three kids by yourself," she said.
Kayla's friends are looking for donations to help the family with medical bills and supplies for the baby. Skinner said they need diapers, baby formula and gift cards for groceries.
"If people want to do donations, donating money will help, because I'm going to put it towards the kids to make sure they always have everything they need, everything they want," George said.
Shaundra Schaefer, George's cousin, started a GoFundMe on Tuesday when Kayla’s complications began. As of Monday morning, almost $19,000 had been raised, $7,000 over the original funding goal.
Another friend, Megan Kurrus, started a Meal Train, where community members can sign up to make meals for the family. By Sunday, 26 meals had been set up for them.
"This week has been a mixture of not believing this can be true and crying so hard and laughing so hard because she's touched all of us so much," Kayla's friend Amanda Beer said.
"Our kids were going to grow up and be best friends," Kurrus added.
Jessica Blum said Kayla wasn't just a wonderful mom, she was a beloved friend, too.
"I still remember the day I found out I was pregnant and went straight to her. She guided me through my pregnancy and having a newborn baby," she said. "We talked all the time about watching our babies grow up together, but I know now that she will be watching us all from heaven."
George's mom, Joyce McDanial, said Kayla brought people together wherever she went.
"She brought our two families together; she does this with everything," she said. "She's like a matriarch. The ultimate matriarch."