At 6:30 am on Saturday, 22 November 2008 we welcomed Gaige Percy Christenson into our lives. Just in time!! Our Doctor had been out of town at a conference and she no sooner walked off the plane in Kamloops, and received a phone call from the hospital announcing that I was in labor. In addition to Gaige’s Grandma Audrey (my mother), my best friend “Aunty” Jobina travelled from Kelowna to be my coach and support. I called her first thing Friday morning to let her know that this was the day and to have her phone close by. She managed to get through the work day before the “get here now!” call came. And once here, she got to sit and wait…and wait….and wait. Finally at 6 am the doctors announced that a c-section was necessary, both mom and baby were in distress. With the exception of a wee panic attack, all went well. Gaige was 6lbs 15.5 oz and utterly perfect. Gaige was wheeled to the nursery where Grandma Audrey was able to spend almost an hour telling him stories of the family and how much he was loved.
And so began the adventures of Gaige.
Up until this time I had never understood what everyone meant when they claimed life was “different” after you have children. Well I knew what that meant now! This wee little man was everything to me. There was a shift in the way I perceived the world and it was astonishing. I was now a “mommy” to this beautiful little boy.
We had many visitors during that first month, including my mother who spent a month helping out (thank goodness) and my step-mom who came for a couple weeks to help me get some sleep. There were also Grandpa’s, Aunties, Uncles, cousins and so many friends.
Because my family is spread across British Columbia, Gaige and I spent much of the first year travelling. Thankfully I had a full year off work and was able to focus on Gaige and our new family unit (which included our best buddy, Jax, a miniature schnauzer)! One month after Gaige was born we packed up the Jeep (a lesson in exactly how much luggage a baby travels with) and drove the 10 hour trip (usually 6.5) to Cranbrook to spend Gaiges 1st Christmas with Grandma Audrey, Grandpaw Dave, Aunty Kerry, Uncle Greg and most importantly his cousins Shaylyn and Keenan. This trip was followed by a stop in Castlegar (enforced, we were snowed in!) with Auntie Kerry and the kids, followed in February by a much longer and more adventurous trip to Dawson Creek via Prince George to visit Grandpa Gerry, Grandma Lori, Auntie Tracie, cousin Mikyla and Great Grandparents as well! We were BUSY!!
During those early months I was amazed at how generous and caring everyone was. People I had never met but whom knew my family passed on their best wishes and such thoughtful gifts. Handmade blankets or gift certificates from acquaintances that had heard about Gaige, I was so grateful and touched. And wow, the conversations and well wishers as you wheeled around the stroller at the mall or grocery store. Of course as Gaige got a bit older, people would stop and laugh and talk to him. He had a smile for everyone, literally (except that one fellow with the beard but that was the exception). Gaige didn’t know how to “play strange”. If you came to visit, he would snuggle. Hugs and kisses all the time in our household!!
We also joined as many children’s activities as I could find. Starting when Gaige was only 2 months old, we started with a Rhyme-time and Mother Goose group at our local library; he loved “Shoo-fly”. By 4 months he was anticipating all the tickles and bumps that went along with many of the nursery rhymes and songs we sang, such as” the little green frog” and “Round and round the garden”…. We joined stroller fit, mom and baby fitness classes, and swimming lessons as soon as he was old enough…and very shortly we had a community of friends with children around the same age. During the summer we would often meet with our new friends at the park or lake to play and cool down.
Gaige had his first camping trip up at Knouff Lake; that was when I decided that I was done with tenting and Gaige and I needed a trailer!! It was pretty chilly; he was bundled up pretty good at night! That was also when I discovered that the jeep battery will run out if using it to run a DVD player and heater during the night, a blackberry and a fan during the day!! Hmmm.
All too soon fall arrived and with it my return to work at the beginning of November. In anticipation of that day, we began spending some time at his new daycare, run by a family I knew well. I was worried that he would cry and not want me to leave. Oh how wrong I was. He LOVED daycare! Kids, people and fun all day! He would see his daycare family as we approached the door in the morning and his legs would start wiggling and he would grin. I could hardly get his coat off and he would be crawling towards his favorite toys or the other kids. And they loved him, he was so happy. Everyday there were stories of what he had done and how snuggly “their” Gaige was. I was just grateful that he was happy to see me at the end of the day!
The only problem Gaige had with adjusting to daycare was his napping. He was a cat-napper and would often nap for 15-20 minutes and be raring to go again. He was only just beginning to get into a routine with his afternoon naps when the angels came for him.
On 9 December 2009, the day Gaige passed away, he awoke a bit tired and cranky. I attributed his mood with his one-year immunizations, received the night before, and gave him a small dose of Tylenol. We otherwise got ready as per usual, had breakfast and drove to daycare. He fell asleep on the way and I carried him into daycare and laid him in his playpen so that he could “nap”. The daycare had planned a trip to see Santa at the mall, so I made arrangements to meet them. There was no way I was going to miss, Gaiges first Santa visit. At 11 am I met the group at the mall. The kids were all lined up with Santa, I don’t think Gaige knew what to think but he was game. He was also pretty happy to see his mommy and I got lots of snuggles. He was a bit sleepy as it was getting close to lunch and naptime. After playing for a bit and getting his very own Santa photo, it was time for the children to return to the daycare and have lunch. I said goodbye to Gaige and went back to work. That was the last time I saw my little man alive.
Approximately 2 hours later I got a call at work from the daycare. “It’s an emergency” was the message. He was napping and was not breathing; an ambulance was on its way, meet us at the hospital. I beat the ambulance and was there when it arrived. Despite their best efforts they were unable to revive Gaige. He had joined the angels. I held him for a few hours and sang the lullaby that I had sung to him every night before bed, “Rock me gently…” And then painfully, I said goodbye to my son.
In the days that followed I am so grateful for my family, friends and co-workers who went above and beyond. They all loved Gaige so much and were devastated as well. At Gaige’s memorial service the funeral home was overflowing with people who had been touched by this sweet little boy who was often called “Smiley or Happy Baby”. Although much of that time is a blur to me, I remember how everyone gathered round to help and grieve together.
Thank you to our family, friends, Gaige’s daycare family and our Dr’s and nurses; all of whom have grieved and will carry Gaige in their hearts for always.