So, I finally wrote out the entire story. I think it was good for me. Kylie (Justice'smom) asked me to write out Gunner's Story for a school project she is doing. So, I figured I would post it and share. Why not?
Two Pounds Of Uncommon Valor
I've always wanted to be a Mom. It's the only thing I've ever been certain of. But, when my husband and I got married on February 16, 2008, we planned to wait at least two years before having children. I had some strange symptoms towards the end of May 2008. I blamedthem on the stress of our upcoming cross-country move. My best friend kept telling me to take a pregnancy test, but I was in denial. Eventually, I gave in and took one, just to prove her wrong. I will never forget how bad my hands were shaking as I watched thatsecond pinkline appear on the test.
I was terrified. I had no idea how to tell my husband and I was afraid that he would be angry. According to my calculations I was almostseven weeks along. I would be due on January 24, 2009. I had onlythirty-three weeks to get everything together.Thirty-three weeks to grow up. This was totally unexpected and I was not sure I had matured enough to be a good mom yet. My husband is a United States Marine and I knew that it was possible he could be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan before our child was born. How would I do this so far from my family and friends?
Eventually, the shock wore off a little bit for both of us. My pants slowly stopped fitting and wemoved from the West Coast to the East Coast. We still hadn't told our familes. I was afraid that my mom was going to be angry at me. Because of a problem with my insurance, I didn't see a doctor until I was about 13 weeks along. The doctor assured me that this was not a problem at all. All of my test results came back perfect. I was expected to have a flawless pregnancy. I didn't even have any morning sickness! I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time. My doctor made arrangements for my first ultrasound on August 22. I would be 17 weeks and 5 days pregnant. Dr Tinga said they would be able to tell me whether my baby was a boy or a girl. But I was certain I already knew. I was having a girl.
While we were waiting for the big day of the ultrasound, we told our families. They were so excited. Our sisters were so happy to be aunts. Our parents were excited about welcoming their first grandchild. As it got closer to the date of my ultrasound, I got more and more excited to see my little girl on the screen. I had already started calling her Kaidence when I talked to her. I could barely sleep the night before my appointment.
The next morning, I was so anxious while I sat in the waiting room. When we got back to the room and she began the ulstrasound, we got to see our first child's brain and heart. Both looked perfect. And then camea moment I will never forget. An image that I couldn't recognize came across the screen. I stared at the screen, puzzled. The ultrasound tech said, "THIS baby is a BOY!" I was in shock. I had been so sure it would be a girl. My husband was excited and I was terrified. I had no idea how to raise a son, I had grown up with only sisters.
Over the next few weeks, we went back and forth, trying to come up with the perfect name for our son. I had begun to adjust to the idea of a little boy and was getting excited once again. I was still not sure that I was going to be grown up enough to be a mom in only 20 weeks. It didn't seem like nearly enough time to prepare myself. I made a list of names that meant "warrior." I wanted my son to have a name that meant something. A name he could be proud of. My husband looked through the list and got his heart set on Gunner. To a Marine, this seemed like the ultimate name. He hoped that our son would follow in his footsteps and become one of "The Few, The Proud, The Marines." I hated the name. I thought it would be ridiculous for a baby. But he had his heart set on it. So I agreed, under the condition that I could choose the middle name.
Over time, the name Gunner grew on me. I began to like it. I began to feel Gunner tapping me. And soon my husband felt it as well. Gunner would kick and punch every morning at 5:45 a.m. when his dad's alarm clock went off. I was laying in bed one morning, saying names out loud, trying to think of a middle name. I said, "Gunner Isaiah" and was greeted by a kick, and then another. And so, Gunner and I chose "Isaiah." There were no more discussions about his name. This one seemed to be "the one."
I was still having a perfect pregnancy. I was hospitalized once overnight, but it was not related to the pregnancy and I was told that the medication I was given during that hospitalization would not affect Gunner. I remember reaching twenty-four weeks and calling my mom to tell her how relieved I was that his lungs were producing surfactant, so if for any reason he was born early, he would have a better chance of survival.
On October 21st, I woke up and had some slight spotting. I was somewhat concerned, but knew that spotting could be normal during that period of pregnancy. I called my mom and talked to her. I was wondering if I should go to work as planned. I decided to go to work, and placed a call to the OB Nurse at my doctor's office. She did not return my call until several hours later when I could not answer. While at work, I had some more bleeding. But still not a significant amount of blood. I also had some pressure and pain. But wrote it off as Braxton Hicks contractions. The girls at work assured me that my body was just practicing for what it would need to do almost 14 weeks later. The pressure got worse though, so I went home early to put my feet up.
On the way home, I called the OB Nurse. Again, I had to leave a message. I never recieved a call back. I got home and put my feet up. I was still having some spotting, but nothing that seemed too significant. I'd get a pain every once in awhile, but nothing I couldn't deal with. The evening came and went and I fell asleep, thinking about my doctor appointment the next day and how I would get everything straightened out. At about 3:00 a.m. I was awakened by a sharp pain in my stomach. It seemed like a bad stomach ache. The pain was keeping me from sleeping, and keeping my husband awake, so I headed downstairs to put my feet up and play a computer game. About three hours later, I was still awake. And took a bath to soothe the aching. While I was in the bathtub, I cried. Inside, I knew that something was not right. But I convinced myself that I was just being a typical first time mother... Scared over something totally normal. Besides, it was only four more hours until my doctors appointment.
The pain gradually got worse. But it happened over such a long period of time, that it was hard to notice a difference. The bleeding was no better, no worse.
My husband got home from work to take me to my appointment. He came over to where I was laying on the couch. I remember looking up at him and saying, "Get ready for a long day." By this point, I knew something must be wrong. He changed his clothes while I got ready to go to my appointment. As we were getting ready to walk out the door, I sat down to use the toilet, like every pregnan woman does so many times every day. What happened at that moment will haunt me for the rest of my life. More blood than I had ever seen in my life gushed out of me. My hands started to shake and my heart started to pound. This was not good. This was not right. This could not be normal.
We got in the car and drove towards the nearest hospital, 20 minutes away. As my husband drove, the pain got more and more intense. And I knew that Gunner was going to be born soon. I prayed, and I begged my unborn son to just stay inside me until we reached the hospital. I was so afraid that he would be born on the side of the road.
When we arrived at the hospital, I stood up to walk in and felt more blood. I got into the ER and they gave me a wheelchair. They asked me a few questions and told me my husband could answer the rest and meet me upstairs. The nurse who pushed me to the labor & delivery floor told me that the same thing had happened to her when she was pregnant. She said the doctors had been able to stop her labor and everything was fine. That gave me hope. I got changed into my hospital gown, and was waiting in the bed for the OB to come and check me out. They asked me a lot of questions, and I answered them the best I could with contractions right on top of one another. Had my water broken? "No," I said.A couple of questions later, I felt a gush of fluid. I remember saying, "Either I am bleeding terribly or my water just broke." They checked, and it was my water. The OB told me that he was going to examine me and see how much I was dilated.
And then came the most terrifying moment of my life... Dr Joyner said, "She is fully dilated. She's going to have this baby now." I did not want to have my baby now. I was only twenty-six weeks and four days pregnant. I'd had a dream early in pregnancy that I gave birth to a premature little boy. I'd had a feeling all along that I would never have a baby in my house. But, I had pushed those fears aside, telling myself they were just the result of being nervous about motherhood. Now that nightmare was coming true.
I was wheeled into a delivery room. The doctor told me that most would perform an emergency c-section in this case, but he felt it was a better idea for me to do it naturally. I asked for pain meds, but was told there was no time. They told me that my son might cry, or he might not. That as soon as he was born he would be taken to the nursery so they could try to keep him alive. They told me that they were calling a helicopter to come pick him up and take him to a hospital with a NICU... It was two hours away from our home. One and a half hours from the hospital I was in. And then, they told me I needed to push. I started to push, but I didn't try very hard. For a moment, I thought that maybe if I didn't push, he wouldn't be born. He could stay inside me, where he was supposed to be safe. They told me to try again, and that this time I needed to push harder. And so, I pushed as hard as I could. I was terrified and in shock. I didn't even know that he'd be born until I heard him cry. He sounded like a tiny kitten. I looked down, and there he was. He had been born breech. Feet first and fighting. I was a mother. The mother of a warrior.
They immediately took him away to clean him up and intubate him so he could breathe. I did not get to hold him, or touch him. I did not get to count his fingers and toes. The nursescleaned me up and told me that I'd had a placental abruption. That I might need a blood transfusion because it had caused me to lose so much blood. They said that soon I would start feeling weak and I would have to take some time to get to feeling better before I could be discharged to travel to the NICU. They promised to bring my son in before they took him to the other hospital. I was told that he weighedone pound and thirteen ounces. He was thirteen and a quarter inches long. The nurse asked if I had a name. "Gunner Isaiah," I said. "It means warrior."
About two hours later, they brought him in to see me before he left. I looked at him, and I knew, Gunner fit him perfectly. This tiny little human whose eyes were still fused shut was already a warrior. He was perfect. Bruised from the traumatic delivery, but perfect. I touched his tiny hand and I think I told him hello. I took a picture to send to my friends and family. Then he was gone.
I begged and pleaded until I was discharged from the hospital six hours after delivery. I went home and gathered everything we needed to travel to the NICU. We arrived there late that night. I saw my son again, through the plastic of his isolette. A green light glowing inside to reduce his bruising and keep him from becoming jaundiced. We were not allowed to touch him without gloves on. I cried for the first time since I'd been in the bathtub that morning. This was not a nightmare, it was officially my life. We were able to stay in a family room in the NICU that night. I woke up at 5:45 a.m. expecting to hear the alarm and feel Gunner kick. And then it hit me, I would never feel that again. I walked down the hall to his bed. There he was, kicking his legs and flailing his arms. Just like he did every morning at that time. I giggled and then I cried.
Over the course of the next few days, they did so many tests. We were told that he had a 90% chance of going home and living a perfectly normal life with no long-term effects from his prematurity. He did not have ANY bleeding in his brain, something very rare for a baby his size. He was taken off the venitlator and put onto a high-flow nasal cannula. I was finally able to hold him for the first time. His bare skin against my bare chest. The weight on my shoulders was lifted. It was the best moment of my life. We visited him for many hours every day. Everyone was amazed by his progress.
Then things started to go wrong. His breathing got worse and he had to be put back on the ventilator. He got a staph infection, and they discovereda heart murmur. After treating the infection and trying to fix the heart murmur with medication, it was determined that he would need surgery. The night before the surgery, we were allowed to hold him again. This time we held him for a long time. It was my fourth time to hold him and my husband's second. They told us that it would be quite some time before we could hold him again, since he would be sore from the sugery. On the day he turned 2 weeks old, the surgery was done. He came through surgery well, but he didn't wake up from the anesthesia as quickly as he should have. And there was another thing bothering the staff. It seemed that his kidneys had shut down. They did not function at all for nearly 24 hours. Out of nowhere, eveerything started working again. He was back to his usual self. Always kicking and moving around. Making the nurses laugh with his silly faces. Everything was going well again for that next week. Gunner gained weight and got stronger. He was going to be taken off the ventilator again on the day he was 3 weeks old.
When we walked into the hospital that morning, we discovered thatour sonwas still on the ventilator and that once again, the settings were very high. The nurse informed us that they thought he had another infection. They were drawing blood and would be doing some tests. They were already giving him antibiotics. Something in my heart told me that this would not end well. His breathing got worse and worse as the day went on. Even the ventilator wasn't giving him enough oxygen. So they had to put him on a different, stronger ventilator. He was getting worse, not better. We were told that it was very possible that Gunner would not make it through the night. I cried and cried. I did not want to be touched, or talked to. I burried my face in my sweatshirt, turned my back to the nurses and cried. The nurses made arrangements for us to stay in another parent room that night. I finally fell asleep around 3:00 a.m. due to the fact that I was emotionally and physically exhausted. About two hours later, there was a knock on the door.
We followed the medical student down the hall to our son's bed. He was pale and lifeless. When I touched him, I didn't feel the spark that I had felt all the time before. The staff was crying as they told us that Gunner was only alive because of the machines and medications. His heart would not beat without the medication, and he could not breathe without the ventilator. They explained our options to us. The chances of Gunner surviving at all were very slim. The chances of him surving with minimal disablities and the possibility of a relatively pain-free life were even smaller. And the chances of him going on to lead a normal life... Playing soccer, getting married, or having children were pretty much non-existant. They let us get him out and hold him. Kiss him, and cuddle him. They told us we could put him back in his bed and leave him on the life support or they would take out the ventilator tube, disconnect the IV's and let us hold him while he died. Then they gave us some time to think about it.
It was the hardest choice we will ever make. But the answer was clear to us. Gunner would not have wanted a life filled with pain and sickness. We would have loved him the same, even if he was not perfect. But what life would he have chosen for himself, if he had that power? The nurse came in and helped us take out his ventilator tube and disconnect the IV lines. And then they left, closing the curtain. The fifth time I held my son was the last time. He took his lasts breaths in my arms with his daddy by his side.
At 7:30 a.m. on November 13, 2008 Gunner Isaiah Baldwin was declared dead. He had lived for 22 days.The doctor assured us, it was the most loving choice we could have made for him. I was allowed to give him a bath and put a little outfit on him. We held him as we talked about all the things he would never do. Then, we went down the hall and a volunteer photographer took some pictures of Gunner and our family. Finally, we would have pictures of our angel without any tubes or wires in him. After that was done, we made plaster molds of his hands and feet. We put ink on his feet and got a copy of his footprints. And then we were given privacy to say goodbye. I changed him into another little outfit, wrapped him in his blanket and put him back into his bed. I kissed him, told him goodbye and practically ran out of the hospital. Fighting the urge to turn around and go get him all the way out the door.
We made arrangements to have him cremated. And now, Gunner's ashes are on our coffee table in a tiny urn that looks like a baby's block. Infant loss does not end when the baby dies. It stays with you forever. It permanently changes who you are. I went through a time immediately after his death when I was desperate to have another baby as soon as possible. Now that urge has faded and I am not sure I will ever want another child. I do not want some other child, I want my tiny Marine. My two pounds of uncommon valor. I just want Gunner.
-01/10/2009 Ashley Baldwin
wow Ashley, i am crying so hard right now!. you are a strong woman. i would've die if that happened tome. im not sure what to say.. im feeling so much pain right now. i remember when my baby was born. i cried alot. but nothing that i when through compares to what you went through. i m so sorry hun. i really am. if you need to talk im here for you.
im gonna read this tomorrow the last few sentences gave me chills I know it will be wonderful
Ashley i didnt read it all yet just wanted to tell you that i started to cry before i even started reading just thinking about what you have gone through
Thanks ladies. It will still be here.
Beautiful mama! I know he is so proud to have a mama like you!
and im officially bawling my eyes out...that was beautiful
Its really beautiful.. as I sit here crying my eyes out..
Wow, you are such a strong woman. You wrote that out so beautifully. I am crying right now.
hunny i am so sorry But i cant read it I am not strong enough i guess.
I look at your avi and cry.
i am sorry for your loss
Quoting ad astra per aspera: