In February of 2004 we had just moved into our dream home that we built and the old saying “new house new baby” held very true for us. We conceived the same month we moved in. We already had a 3 year old son, Nolan, who was kind, big hearted and the center of our world but we knew we wanted to add to our family.
We were beyond excited. I predicted that it was another boy and when we had the ultrasound I was proven right. My husband, Alan and I knew the sex of the baby but didn’t tell anyone. We wanted that sense of surprise for everyone.
My pregnancy went smoothly and the size of the baby was the only concern. Nolan weighed 10lbs. 4oz and was 2 weeks early so the physician was predicting the same for baby number 2. We scheduled another cesarean section, just as we did with Nolan and I was perfectly content with that. We knew that October 27, 2004 would be the perfect day.
That morning Alan and I awoke to the normal “we are having a baby today” jitters and nerves but we couldn’t wait for our son to be born. The ultrasound tech informed us weeks before that he had chubby cheeks and lots of hair. We were used to the chubby cheeks with Nolan but didn’t realize when she said lots of hair…she meant massive amounts of hair.
At 8:05 a.m. Garrett Alan Atnip came into this world. He let out a wail so loud even the nurses commented he might be a wild one. We knew then he was full of life. His dark black hair went down past his ears and his skin was olive. He looked nothing like our blond haired blued eyed little Nolan. Alan and I jokingly said “if we hadn’t seen him come out ourselves we would have questioned that he was ours.” My Aunt said he looked like a little “papoose” all swaddled tightly in his blanket. He was ours; perfect, beautiful, chubby cheeks, lots of hair and the most amazing gift ever.
I stayed home with Garrett all through the holidays and went back to work when he was 9 weeks and 5 days old. I remember sobbing at the babysitters that morning. She was a friend of the family and Nolan went there so it had nothing to do with my fear leaving him with someone I didn’t trust, but I truly was so attached to that sweet baby. I had a rough Monday, missing him and worrying about him but he did fantastic at the sitter. I am normally not a mother that rocks her babies to sleep. I have always laid them down groggy and let them put themselves to sleep but that night I felt compelled to rock him. I figured it was just because I had missed him so much that day. Garrett and I spent over an hour and half rocking that night. I held him, kissed him and thanked God for such a beautiful gift. He truly was such a pretty baby. I laid him down in his bed finally and kissed him goodnight. He was a good sleeper and had just recently started almost sleeping through the night so at 4:30 a.m. he awoke on that Tuesday morning, January 4, 2005. He was all smiles. He cooed, kicked and grinned from ear to ear at me. I even mentioned to Alan that morning how happy he was. I fed him, changed him and he dozed back off to sleep. I did our normal routine and dropped both boys off at the sitter. Nolan was so incredibly proud of Garrett being at “Mimis” (their babysitter) with him. Mimi said Nolan commented on everything Garrett did. I had a hard time that morning leaving as well. I even mentioned to Alan on my way to work that maybe we should figure something out because I didn’t think I could leave him every day.
Work kept me busy and I stayed pretty focused that day. I had heard some horrible news that morning of an old high school friend passing and my heart ached a little. It was roughly 3:20 in the afternoon and I was really looking forwarding to 4:30 so I could fly home to see my boys. I was filing in our back file room and noticed on caller id that it was my husband calling. I found it strange for him to be awake as he normally works nights but just thought he had one of those days where he just couldn’t sleep. The voice on the other end was not what I expected and I knew something was seriously wrong. His words “Kim, they can’t wake Garrett up from his nap” stung but truly didn’t sink in. I remember thinking he just needs his Mom. I guess my heart wasn’t ready for the pain. He told me to meet him at the hospital and my boss drove me. All the while I remained pretty calm considering. My boss, on the other hand, made 3 wrong turns to the hospital and he was a mess. Clearly he processed the severity of the situation before I had.
While arriving at the hospital my boss kept telling me that I should call my Mom. I kept thinking I would wait until I knew more. I still at this point remained relatively calm. I finally, after much persuasion, called my Mom. I said “Mom I am at St. Mary’s Hospital, they couldn’t wake Garrett up from his nap” I will never forget the way her voice sounded and ear piercing scream of “oh my god” that came from the other end of that phone. I don’t believe I will ever get that moment out of my memory. It was then, and only then, that I knew he was gone and our journey had just begun…….
My story will continue with future postings on how our life changed in an instant, how we learned to find a new normal as a family, how our 3 year old son coped with the loss of his brother, how my marriage suffered the strain, but came out stronger and how finally after 7 plus years I can honestly say we have learned that this is our cross to carry.
Part II of Kimberly's story will be published next week.
Kimberly Atnip is mother to Nolan, Garrett, Justin and Michael. Kimberly will continue her story about her journey through tragedy and healing in her upcoming posts over the next two weeks.