Melanie Acevedo
March 21, 2015 09:20 AM

Following his wife’s tragic death just hours after giving birth, Carlos Morales is raising newborn quadruplets on his own. Subscribe now for instant access to this single dad s mission to make his late wife proud, exclusively in PEOPLE.

PEOPLE staff writer Caitlin Keating first wrote about Carlos Morales on PEOPLE.com Feb. 28. She spent hours on the phone interviewing him and also went to his house in Phoenix, Arizona, for four days for a magazine story, on newsstands now. Below, Keating reflects on her experience getting to know Carlos and his quadruplets.

I didn’t think Carlos Morales would talk to me when I called him not even a week after his wife’s tragic death following childbirth. A big part of my job is convincing people in tough situations to talk to me even when I know they have many good reasons not to. But he did answer, and we talked for one precious hour of his time. At the end of the phone call he said, “that felt good getting off my chest.”

His wife, Erica, 36, died on Jan. 16, just hours after giving birth to quadruplets. As Carlos and I spoke on the phone, he sat by his babies at the hospital, who weighed between two and three pounds at birth. I could hear and feel his pain through the phone in New York City all the way from Phoenix. But I also sensed something else – hope.

Carlos told me that although Erica – the “love of my life” – had left this world, she had also brought “four blessings” into it. He was calm, but it seemed to me that was at least in part from being in a state of shock. He was distracted by his four newborns, since so much was up in the air about their future. “I put all of my energy into them,” Carlos told me. I was in absolute awe that this man, who wasn’t even 30, could be so strong and brave. It put many things into perspective for me.

I continued to talk to Carlos almost every day and when I eventually flew to to meet him and the babies – Tracy, twins Erica and Paisley, Carlos Jr. – last week, it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I landed in the city, drove to his house and was greeted with a big hug. “Thank you so much for doing this,” Carlos told me. “No, Carlos, thank you,” I said back to him.

Tracy, Paisley, Erica and Carlos Jr. Morales
Melanie Acevedo

I spent the next four days with Carlos, Erica’s mother Sondra Bridges and their family and close friends. After no time at all, they had welcomed me into their home and were letting me hold the babies. (I have to admit, I miss those five and six-pound, noisy bundles of joy!)

I knew right away how loving and close this family was. Although I had never met Erica, after hearing dozens of stories about her, I understood the strong, ambitious, deeply loving woman she was. Most of all, I understood how more than anything else, she wanted to be a mother and to raise a family with her husband.

I watched Carlos learn the ropes of caring for newborns – something he always assumed Erica would take the lead on – as he instinctively helped them when they needed something. He showed me a video and photos of Erica and I got a tour of the nursery that Erica had carefully decorated.

Even when Carlos got emotional throughout my visit, a smile wasn’t far behind. That was the baby effect. When he talked about how lucky he was to have found Erica, I could tell those words were truly coming from his heart. He couldn’t have been happier that he was persuaded to go out to a nightclub in Scottsdale, Arizona back in 2006, because that is where he had met his future wife.

With every day the babies grow stronger – so does their dad. I heard daily updates about their health and when the remaining babies, Paisley and Erica, were finally coming home from the hospital. Yes, I was reporting, but as with many human-interest stories I cover, I became invested in their life. I was rooting for the Morales family to make it through this difficult time – and they have, strengthened by their love for Erica and one another.

Despite this tragedy, I know from the few days I was there that although these babies didn’t get to meet their mom, she will be celebrated every day and live on through the stories Carlos and Sondra tell and the memories they share.

A friend has set up a GoFundMe site for Carlos and the babies. To donate, click here.

Watch PEOPLE Writer Caitlin Keating Talk about The Quadruplet Story

Watch Carlos Morales Talk about Finding Hope After Tragedy

Watch Erica’s Mother Sondra Bridges Talk about Their Personal Story

Watch A Day in The Life of The Quadruplet Dad

For more on Carlos’s Amazing Story:

Quadruplets’ Grandmother Sondra Bridges Helps New Dad Carlos Morales
Quadruplets’ Dad Raises Money After His Wife Dies in Childbirth
Dad Cares for Quadruplets After Wife’s Tragic Death in Childbirth

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