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A Love and a Loss

Shawna Kitchin

Well hello there! It's been a minute since I did a blog post, so bare with me. I have a lot of new followers who don't necessarily know our family's story, so here it is! 

It all started in May 2015, when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. I had just returned home from Hawaii. I had a wonderful week there with my mom and some of her friends, and it was so nice to be in paradise for a little bit. At the time we were living in Alaska, so the warm climate was something to dream about. I was so caught up in the vacation, that I didn't really pay attention to the fact I was late. A few days after I returned home, I decided to take a test, just to see. 

Those 2 pink lines showed up quicker than I'd ever seen. I remember that Craig was at PT that morning and would be back before I had to go to my job. So I laid back in bed and stuck them under my pillow until he came home. I know the first person I told was my bestfriend Tish, and then I'm pretty sure I told my aunt. Craig was actually the 3rd person to know, and i'll never live that down. LOL. 

Fast forward through the first trimester, everything went by super smooth, besides the obvious morning sickness. That's always fun. We went in for the ultrasound at 13 weeks, and that would be the test to see if the baby would have Down Syndrome or any other abnormalities. We're going through the scan and the tech said that she was pretty sure it was a boy, but that wouldn't be confirmed until our 20 week anatomy scan. But, let's be honest, we could tell that was a boy! 

Fast forward again, to the 20 week ultrasound. This was a long ultrasound as they looked at every part of the baby to see if there were any abnormalities or anything was wrong. We found out for sure that we were having a boy! Jaxton Wayne Kitchin was now part of our lives. Something else was mentioned at that ultrasound that after birth, things might be different and Craig could possibly get a "new car", if you understand that reference...thanks ultrasound dude. So we had to wait about 2 weeks for the results, and up until then, Craig had been to every appointment with me, but for some reason he couldn't get away from work. It's the Army, to be expected. So I walk in to my appointment and sit in the room waiting for the doctor to come in, and I had no idea what was about to come. 

It wasn't long after the doctor had come in and started speaking, that she uttered the words, "There is something wrong with your baby's heart." My heart dropped to the floor. She said she wasn't sure of the complexity of it, but she would be putting out a referral for us to start seeing a maternal fetal medicine doctor, that could help us understand it a little better. I thanked the doctor, kept my composure, walked across the parking lot, and got in our truck. I honestly don't remember getting from the hospital to our house, which was only about a mile away. But I do remember calling Craig bawling, just telling him to come home. He pretty much got home as soon as I pulled into the driveway, and I couldn't bring the words together to tell him what was wrong over the phone. We sat on the couch and I just cried, but I was able to explain what was said in our appointment, and where we would be going from there. 

I remember calling my stepmom and asking her about my brother's condition, because I wanted to get on top of things. You see, for those of you who don't know, my little brother has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Once we got in to see our doctor, that's what they thought Jaxton had as well. It was then, if we were asked if we wanted to terminate the pregnancy. I have always been and alwys will be Pro-Choice, especially with what we had been through. In that moment though, we said no. We said no because we knew there was a chance that we could beat this, because my brother was such a warrior with his condition. We wanted to give Jaxton a fighting chance regardless. And to this day, we still wouldn't change that, even knowing the outcome. 

From then on, we had appointments more frequent in our pregnancy than most would. And to top that off, Craig was being put in for a new duty station. Alaska just didn't have the capabilities to take care of babies with need like Jaxton would need. If we were to have stayed up there, Jaxton would have been life-lined to Seattle Children's Hospital, because that was the closest place for us. Luckily, that didn't have to happen, and we found out Craig's duty station would be in Colorado Springs. Before we had even left Alaska, we were already set up with our new doctors in CO. It was so nice knowing that we were being taken care of. 

Once we arrived to CO, we continued our weekly/bi weekly appointments. We had a ultrasound done that focused directly on his heart. We met with a team of doctors, surgeons, OB/GYN's and got a plan together. This is where we found out that Jaxton's condition was not what they originally thought. It was much more complex, and we wouldn't really know what we were dealing with until after he was born. They planned on doing a fetal echo as soon as they could and run some other tests to see where we stood. We were going to appointments close to 3 times a week up until birth. That was an 1.5 hour drive up to Denver, 3 times a week. Talk about exhausting! Craig's command was really good about letting him come to the really important appointments with us, which I really appreciated, because I was a mess. 

I believe it was a Tuesday when we had one of our final appointments. They pretty much told us to make sure our bags were packed at our next appointment because nothing was really moving along and they planned to induce. We went in that Thursday and sure enough, we were being induced. We were taken to our room and got all set up with the monitors and everything they needed me on. Of course, I hadn't eaten yet, and they told me I couldn't eat yet because of the Pitocin. About 4 hours in, they finally let me eat. Contractions really were not that bad. All this time while were in the hospital, family is scrambling around trying to change flights to get to us, because we weren't supposed to have this baby for another 2 weeks. Anywho, I got my chicken quesadilla (which was heaven in a tortilla) and then contractions started to pick up. That's when I asked for the epidural. I think around that time, my mom arrived. I'm really not sure on these couple hours because everything seemed like a blur. I know I was dilated at a 6 and just stuck. That's when they noticed that Jaxton's heart rate was starting to fluctuate a little and they just wanted to be safe and get him out. So they decided to do a c-section.  January 1, 2016, our baby boy was born. 

Luckily, with this hospital, I was a floor above Jaxton so I was in my room but could still visit. After birth, Jaxton was taken immediately, I never even got to hold him. Craig went with him, and they started all their testing in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). Luckily, I had my mom with me in my room so I wasn't completely alone, but I couldn't feel my legs. That medication was strong. It was the best and strangest feeling in the world. This isn't about me though. So a few hours go by, and Craig finally comes back up and says we can go see him. So the nurses wheel me to the floor in my big ol' hospital bed, and we go into his room. Let me tell you about love at first sight. You never know that feeling until you see your first born child. Even though, my husband would say that he looked like a purple slimeball. But that's besides the point, because he was still freaking adorable. 

We said our goodbyes for the next few hours and I think I got some rest. It's hard to say when you have nurses in and out of your room every hour. Family finally made it in later that day and they all got to meet Jaxton one by one. Everyone got their snuggles in and the world was calm. The evening of the second night into the third morning of Jaxton's inpatient stay, I got a call to my room. It was his nurse and she said that they had to intubate him (put in his breathing tube) because his lung had collapsed. We immediately went to his room to see him and see what was going on. There's something about seeing your child with a breathing tube, that is unreal. I didn't want to believe this was happening. I wanted to believe that everything was going to be okay, and we would go home as a family. Little did I know...

This is the day I remember most vivid. We were in my room, the whole family was there, and one of the cardiologists had come in to talk about Jaxton's condition. It turns out, that Jaxton's heart condition, was much worse than they thought. Long story short, there were no surgical options to fix his heart, like we previously thought there was. They drew us a diagram, explained in detail what was wrong, and to be honest, I cant remember anything that they said. I just remember family crying, Craig and I crying, people leaving and then we were alone. Craig and I went to Jaxton's room, just to cuddle him and give him so much love. We didn't know where we went from here. 

I don't remember what day specifically it was, of course if you would have asked me 3 years ago, I could have told you every detail to a T. But that's the day we met with the transplant coordinators and met more members of Jaxton's insanely large team. This kid loved attention because he had the nurses wrapped around his fingers, the doctors, just everyone loved him. And if you ever got the chance to meet him, you'd understand why. So back to the transplant. Jaxton was listed as status 1A, which in transplant terms, that's the best you can be. You're listed as that because you were born with your condition and you're basically on life support until you receive the heart, because without a lot of Jaxton's medications and tubes and wires, he wouldn't have survived. 

For 3.5 months we were listed as that status. We would go back and forth between 1A and status 7 (inactive) because little man kept getting pneumonia or other complications that would have prevented him from getting a heart. So they hold him on he list until he is better and his chances of survival heighten. What people don't know, or don't understand is this is a complex system. There were multiple ways that we could get a heart, but that meant that someone else's baby had to die. How as a parent, can you wish that? You're wanting someone else's child to die, so yours can live. It really takes a toll on you, having to think like that. When we were told that we almost had an offer, that was a child that had passed away and we almost got that organ. It's not like a kidney or spleen or liver, it's someone's heart. The heart is such a vital organ, and we'd be taking that away from someone's child, grandson, brother, sister, cousin, etc. We tried not to think about it for the most part, but then we'd be talking and we'd just be wishing for Jaxton to get his new heart. 

April 12th came like another day. We had a care conference with everyone on Jaxton's team to discuss our options. This went in such a different direction than I had even thought about. Basically, we were given many different options, but none of the outcomes, we would ever feel comfortable with. None of these options, left us with our child. They all left us empty and alone. The team left the room and we sat there with a few nurses and just cried. We knew this was over. We knew that our day had come. Craig and I got back to Jaxton's room and gave him all the kisses in the world and started talking to our nurse. And her words really stuck with me. She said, "You are great parents and everyone here knows that. But in this situation, you have to think of quality vs. quantity." She was saying that we had to think of Jaxton's life vs. how long he would live. We decided to drive home to think and just get out of the hospital for a minute. We called an updated family with the news and we would let them know what the next steps were. 

We got home, and just sat in his nursery in silence. Finally some words were spoke with Craig and I, and I told him we needed to go back and be with him. We shouldn't be away. So we drove back to Denver about 3 hours later. The next day, we were standing in rounds talking and about to say that we were going to withdrawal care in a few days. Before we could get that out, one of the doctors said he wanted to try and extubate (remove the tube). If Jaxton could get this breathing tube out, that would change everything. He had been given so many tries before but his lungs were just never strong enough. They decided to give himself one last chance. The time came, and the entire team was in the room, ready to go. Craig and I were on the couch watching, trying not to get in the way. They started to extubate and oh did that make him mad. I mean, not being able to breathe would make me pretty mad too. So they tried some different masks, to see if he could breathe with those, and his sats were just dropping. To see those numbers go down that quickly, we knew this was it. He couldn't handle breathing on his own. We felt terrible for putting him through that, but even the slightest chance that this could help him, of course we wanted to try. 

Family flew in immediately to say their goodbyes and give him all the love in the world. My mother decided now would be a good time to introduce him to snow, so she brought some in and he was not impressed. He got to meet his great grandma, and his aunt. 

April 18th, Craig and I were alone with Jaxton. The night before/that morning, we watched movies together, held Jaxton all night long and gave that little boy all the love in the world. Our family was on standby, as we wanted to be the only ones in the room with him. At 12pm, they started to administer the medications that would eventually stop his heart. They made sure that he was comfortable the whole time, and he was never in pain. I think the entire staff for the floor that day were in our room or outside of it. We even had some staff come in on their days off to say goodbye to him. He changed lives and made plenty of girlfriends. At 12:58, Jaxton's heart gave it's final beat. Craig and I were holding him the whole time. We felt him take his last breath. He passed away with so much love in his heart, I don't think humans are capable of holding that much themselves. He didn't know what hate was, and he sure as hell didn't know what anything bad was in this world. He just knew his mommy and daddy, his family, the mobile above his bed, and the nurses who would occasionally fight over him. We spend the next few hours with him. We had professional pictures taken, we gave him a bath, and we just gave him all the snuggles in the world. Around 5pm, the funeral home came to get him, and that was the last we ever saw our baby boy. Craig and I went back to the hotel where family was waiting and we just sat there. I didn't really know what to say, besides explaining what the process was, and family didn't ask questions. They just sat there with us. I think Craig and I were asleep by 7pm that night because we had cried ourselves to sleep. The next day, we met with the funeral home and decided on cremation. We picked out the most beautiful moon urn, and picked out some cremation jewelry so we always had him with us. 

Let me tell you this. Having this baby, has forever changed me. It changed the way I look at life, relationships, and love. This little 5 pound 4 ounce baby changed my life in so many ways I could never write them all down. He taught me that life is short, and you need to live. Live it to the best of your ability, which is still something I am working on because let's face it, 3 years later and I still want to stay in my bed all day and cry. He taught me that there are going to be people in your life that are meant to be there and some that aren't. I feel like a lot of my relationships have changed, and i'm really not sure why. But I know that i'll never stop talking about my son, and if that's the reason i've lost relationships, so be it. But i've also realized my worth, and realized that there are people who are not supposed to be in my life. I'll be honest, Craig and I's relationship struggled for a little, but maybe that's a different story fro a different time. Last but not least, he taught me to love with all of my heart. I felt more love in 3.5 months than I maybe ever will. A mother and son's love is so different than the other loves in your life. I never thought I could love another human more than I love my husband, but that's false. I packed so much love into that little boy that he probably was like mom, you're embarrassing me, stop! Really though, it's hard to express how much love I have for him. 

We miss him every single day and there isn't a day that goes by that we don't think of him. I feel bad because there are somedays that I feel as though I am failing him, because i'm not honoring him like I should be. But then I think, that he's my 'why'. He's the reason i jumped back into this business and he's the reason I donate 10% with every sale. He's the reason I'm wanting to better myself and make a name for me. I hope to grow this business and I want to stand out, and I think by sharing out story, I can do just that. If you're still reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I didn't expect this to be so long, but I can't help myself when I get to talking about our sweet Jaxton. 

 

 

Until next time! 

XOXO, 

Shawna


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4 comments

  • My name is Taylor Harper, maiden name Hamner, and I’m your cousin. I never knew the whole story of Jaxton’s sweet and beautiful life, and I’m honored to have read this and that you shared this personal and heartbreaking moment of your life. Jaxton was so loved and still is. You and Craig are so strong. Much love to all of you, especially little Jaxton, who is watching over his mommy and daddy from Heaven.

    Taylor Harper (Hamner)

  • I am in absolute tears Shawna . Your baby boy was such a beautiful little man . You and your husband are so strong and let me tell you . You are one hell of a woman and you keep on telling your baby boys story . God bless you and your husband.

    Jess Comstock

  • you will always have him in your ❤️. Don’t ever apologize for talking about your son! He had a great mom/dad while on this planet and would luv that you share his time with you with others. Hugs

    Lisa

  • Very sweet message, you are in our prayers……………….We lived next door to Dannie Bea and Ronnie for 27 years so feel I know your whole family.

    Donna and Bryan Toll

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