Our Precious Angel Baby

Although this is a path on our journey that we never ever anticipated, it is now a part of who we are and will help shape who we become.  Because of our love for our sweet Caleb, it is only natural that we will grieve him forever.  We will never get over or move on from his loss, but instead will embrace it, knowing that it is okay to mourn, celebrate, honor, and talk abut his precious life.  This is the story of a precious baby boy who brings new inspiration and meaning to our lives...

Sam and I absolutely love family and have always known that we wanted at least four kids.  We were already blessed with two incredibly precious boys, Jaden and Elijah.  And when Elijah was about 2 1/2, we decided we were ready for our third.  In late 2011, I took a positive pregnancy test, but was devastated when my ultrasound was unable to detect a heartbeat or even a fetus.  My doctor determined that I had experience a very early miscarriage, prior to the fetus ever forming in the uterus.  In March 2012, much to our surprise, I found out that we were expecting again!  Anyone who knows me well knows how obsessed mindful I am about planning and organizing, even when it comes to my pregnancies, and this pregnancy was a bit of a surprise to us - but a very welcome surprise at that!  I had been feeling really sick for several weeks and had already diagnosed myself with food allergies and other issues, and even had an appointment scheduled with my doctor, as well as an allergy doctor to figure out what was going on.  I only took a pregnancy test to confirm that I already knew that I wasn't pregnant.  It was spring break when I found out, and Sam was on a trip to England with a friend when I told him the exciting news!  I felt so incredibly grateful and almost in awe at the fact that we had been so blessed.

We shared the news with our family on my birthday, April 2.  My parents had us all over for dinner and my mom had made my favorite birthday meal from childhood - her homemade beef stroganoff!  Sam and I were going to make the announcement after dinner, and I remember trying to suppress my extreme nausea and muster up a smile through the meal so there wouldn't be any premature speculations before we could share our exciting news!

Other than continuous nausea/vomiting for about a month early in my pregnancy, and a trip to the E.R. for extreme dehydration, I had a wonderful pregnancy.  I felt so great, sometimes a little too good - almost as if my sweet boy knew the pain that was to come and wanted the road there to be as easy and enjoyable as possible.  Just as all parents, our only wish was for our baby to be healthy; but for some reason I found myself asking for that with greater intention during this pregnancy.  I didn't know why, and none of my prenatal appointments gave me any reason to think otherwise, but at night I often found myself hugging my stomach and just asking God to please let me have a healthy baby.  Looking back now, my mother's intuition was hard at work.

I continued through my pregnancy and prenatal appointments with no concerns, until my 37-week appointment on October 9th.  Baby Caleb was still measuring at 35-weeks and my blood pressure was elevated, which it hadn't been throughout my pregnancy.  I was scheduled for a level 2 ultrasound the next day to rule out intrauterine growth restriction or any other possible cause for the growth concern.  The ultrasound was miserably long, as the sonographer busily moved her wand all over my stomach and clicked away on her computer for what seemed like hours.  After she was done inputting all that she needed to, she showed us our precious boy on the screen and we got to see every little perfect part of him.  I sighed a huge sigh of relief when she reported no concerns, but she did note that he was in fact measuring small, weighing only about 5 pounds and a couple of ounces.  But I was confident that he would chunk up by my due date because I just don't have small babies (Jaden weighed 8.3 lbs and Elijah weighed 8.9 lbs)!

The following week, my midwife scheduled me to come in to review the ultrasound and make decisions about inducing.  We went in for my appointment on October 16th and reviewed the ultrasound, which again did not present any concerns; therefore my midwife attributed Caleb's slowed growth to a possible issue with the placenta no longer providing the necessary nutrients to him.  That, combined with my blood pressure being elevated again led her to the decision that we were going to the hospital to have a baby right after leaving her office!  Despite planning and preparing for our little guy for months, all of a sudden we felt so unprepared!

We checked into the hospital that afternoon to start inducing.  I was induced with Jaden and Elijah and they both arrived after about 8 hours.  But due to Caleb's size, they had to take a slower, more natural approach so they wouldn't induce any stress to him.  Thankfully, everything was fine with my vitals and his heartbeat the entire time.  I never thought this induction process would land us into the next day, but the the hours just kept passing.  I continued having contractions through the night, but they were manageable.  I remember just lying there enjoying the feeling of Caleb kicking and moving around in my tummy for the last time, while so anxious to just see his precious face and hold him in my arms for the first time.  I couldn't wait to meet my Caleb!  The next day was much more eventful, and I begged for an epidural as soon as I could get one!  When the epidural was being placed, it hurt so bad and I felt a numbing and tingling all the way down my left leg, followed by a bout of nausea and vomiting.  But I was so glad to have it, and waited...and waited...and waited for it to kick in, but it never did!  I didn't have a bit of relief, so the anesthesiologist was called back in to redo it.  And once again, I waited...and waited...and nothing!  So he came back a third time...pointless!  And my poor mom and Sam were so wonderful and put up with me through it all.  (We were so blessed to have my mom with us the whole time, while my dad was with Jaden and Elijah).  Shortly after the third attempt at an epidural, my midwife broke my water, and less than a half hour later I went from 5 to 10 cm dilated and we welcomed our precious baby boy at 3:01pm!  He was definitely tiny (compared to what we are used to), weighing 6 pounds, 1 ounce!  And he was just as perfect as he could be!  He had the most adorable little face with a tiny button nose, lots of beautiful hair (that looked like it might be the color of his mommy's), long piano-playing fingers like his daddy, and he looked a little bit like both of his big brothers.  My dad brought the proud big brothers to see their baby brother just after he was born.  They couldn't have been more excited!  Their little eyes twinkled as they stared at him with such awe and amazement.  They each got to to hold, kiss, and snuggle with their baby brother and it was one of my most proud and happy mommy moments.  

Later that evening, our wonderful family doctor, Dr. Schafer, came by to do his routine newborn checkup on Caleb.  That was when the words "heart murmur" were spoken to us for the first time.  He told us that heart murmurs were fairly common in newborns and that it might repair itself by the next day; but if it hadn't, he would have an echo cardiogram done to get a better idea of what was going on.  At that point, I tried not to worry myself too much.  I just wanted to enjoy my sweet boy!  So that first night, I lay in my hospital bed and held Caleb in my arms all night long.  I didn't know it then, but that was one of the few precious moments I would ever get to spend with my sweet boy, and I have thanked God for that moment every day since.
The next day, Dr. Schafer returned to check on Caleb and was concerned that the murmur was still present and ordered an echo cardiogram to be done.  He contacted a neonatal cardiologist at the Children's Hospital in Albuquerque, who would receive and review the results once it was completed.  The echo was done right in our room, which was nice.  A huge machine was wheeled in and a small wand, similar to the one used for an ultrasound, was used to take a tons of images and measurements of Caleb's heart and chest.  It took about an hour to do and Caleb wasn't a fan!  In between crying, he tried his best to sleep through it all, while I stood next to him and held his tiny hand and admired his precious face.  As the sonographer did her thing, she didn't say a word.  I looked at the screen shots and listened to the beat samples, but I had no idea whether what she was seeing and hearing was concerning or not, and her expression wasn't giving anything away either.  When she was done, she said it would take about 45 minutes to send it all to the Children's Hospital in Albuquerque, and then the team there would be in contact with Dr. Schafer, who would then be in contact with us.

In the meantime, I tried desperately to get Caleb to eat.  My sleepy little guy just hadn't been wanting to eat much since birth.  On his feeding chart, we only had two good 30-minute feedings listed, and the rest were just a few 5-minute feedings here and there.  As I was trying to feed him, our nurse came in to see how he was doing, and became concerned with his feedings as well.  She checked his blood sugar, which was very low, and also noticed that his breathing was much faster than it had been.  Due to the level of his blood sugar, she was required to take him to the special care nursery at that point, so he was quickly whisked away (this was about 5pm on the 18th).  Sam had gone home earlier to shower and spend some time with the boys, so I called him to tell him what was going on and he hurried back to the hospital as quick as he could.  And then the waiting, wondering, and worrying began - worrying about how our baby was doing; wondering what they were doing to him in the nursery and when we would see him again; wondering about the results of the echo cardiogram; just waiting...and waiting...

Finally, Dr. Schafer arrived with the results of the scan, and this is where the story gets harder to tell.  This is where our blissful baby story slowly started turning into what would be the darkest time of our lives.  We were told that Caleb had something called aortic stenosis, which is a heart condition that causes obstruction to blood flow between the left ventricle and the aorta.  Dr. Schafer told us that Caleb would need to have a procedure done called a balloon dilation valvuloplasty and cardiac catheterization, which would help open up his narrowing valve.  He was very informative and explained how it would all be done - my mind was in a fog at that point, as I sat in disbelief, just trying to process it all.  Dr. Schafer then offered us a couple of options, both of which would require Caleb to be transported to a different hospital out of town.  The most promising option was to have him airlifted to the UNM Children's Hospital in Albuquerque, where they have an expert team who specializes in pediatric cardiology.  Dr. Schafer had already been in contact with the team there and they were prepared to send their flight team to transport Caleb and the hospital was prepared to receive and treat Caleb if we decided on that.  The other option was to have him airlifted to the children's hospital in El Paso, which may then require him to be transported to Houston if they were unable to perform the procedure there.  Without hesitation, we opted for Albuquerque.  Dr. Schafer assured us that he thought it was the best option and was very optimistic of the results of the procedure.  He gently said to us, "I think he is going to be just fine.  If I didn't think he would make it, I would tell you...but I think he is going to be just fine."  With that, he hugged us and left the room to make the arrangements with the UNM hospital.  I was devastated and just put my hands to my face and sobbed.  Sam, my mom and I held each other tight and I clung to those words, "I think he is going to be just fine."

The next few hours involved more waiting, wondering, and worrying.  The hospital in Albuquerque was sending their own special infant transport team and we were waiting to find out if one of us could go with Caleb on the plane.  If so, we agreed that I would go on the plane with him and my mom and Sam would drive to Albuquerque that night; otherwise we would all three drive together.  We decided that we wanted Jaden and Elijah to be with us as well - I was feeling so sad about not having seen them for most of the week and just wanted them close.  My dad had been staying at the house with them all week, and made plans to drive to Albuquerque in the morning with the boys and my aunt.

It was close to midnight when the head nurse from the special care nursery came into our room to let us know that the flight team had arrived and she wanted us to follow her to the nursery to meet with them.  At this point, we hadn't seen our sweet boy since he left to the nursery almost seven hours earlier.  I was so nervous walking down the hallway, not sure what we were in for.  We walked into the nursery and the nurse lead us right to Caleb.  My tears fell instantly.  Sam and I clung to each other as we stood beside our precious boy.  He was lying so helplessly under a heat lamp in just a diaper, with all sorts of tubes and monitors attached to him to assist with breathing and feeding.  He didn't wake up at all while we were there, but we stood by him and talked to him, softly touching his tiny hands and feet.  I couldn't believe what we were seeing.  I couldn't believe that such a precious new life was suddenly in critical condition and knowing there was nothing we could do at that point but hope and pray..so that's what we did.

The nursery was crowded with paramedics and other team members that came from UNM's Children's Hospital.  One of them took us aside to speak to us about their procedures and what we could expect from this point.  She said that Caleb would be taken by ambulance to our small airport in town, where their plane was waiting.  From there, the flight to Albuquerque would take about 50 minutes; and then he would be transported by ambulance from the airport there to the children's hospital.  She informed us that neither of us would be able to go on the plane, but we could immediately go to the NICU when we arrived in Albuquerque; and then we would look into staying at the Ronald McDonald House while he was receiving treatment in the hospital.  At this point, Caleb's level of acidosis was high and he had been given medication to try to reduce it before being transported (acidosis is basically increased acidity in the blood and other tissues).  While this woman was discussing all of this with us, a man from the team had checked Caleb's acidosis levels and walked over to her and handed her a small paper printout with the reading on it, while shaking his head in disappointment.  She took the paper, looked at it, and softly said, "It's going in the wrong direction."  My heart sank even deeper.  We then signed several papers and consent forms and they said they would call us as soon as they landed in Albuquerque.  Before leaving, Sam and I went to our precious baby to kiss him and say goodbye.  As we stood with him, I whispered to Sam, "He's going to be okay...He's going to be okay."  I'm not sure if I believed that, but I was sure trying to convince myself that he would be.  It was so hard leaving his side with so much unknown ahead for all of us. 

We were all exhausted, but my mom, Sam and I immediately started the four hour drive to Albuquerque.  We didn't want our sweet boy to be there for too long without us.  The drive was quiet, as I'm sure we each had a million thoughts. prayers, and questions running through our heads.  Less than two hours into our drive, Sam's phone rang and I just knew something wasn't right - it was too soon for them to be calling.  My hands and voice shook as I answered the phone, and the conversation that took place will haunt me forever.  The lady on the other end asked us to pull over to the side of the road.  She told us that Caleb started to collapse pretty badly on the way to our airport in town, and that due to his vitals, they wouldn't be able to transport him after all.  She said they were taking him back to the ER and asked us to turn around and head back to the hospital.  Sam broke down like I have never seen, and I just went completely numb.  Thank God my mom was with us because Sam could no longer drive and she had to find the strength to get us back to our precious baby boy.      

We got back to the hospital just after 2am and frantically went into the ER asking where our baby was.  The nurse's at the main desk just looked at us blankly and didn't say a word.  Then a lady holding a clipboard asked us, "Are you here for the baby?"  We said yes, and she lead us to "Trauma 1," where tons of nurses and doctors were standing around our tiny baby.  We couldn't even make it into the room, but stood at the doorway and just cried in disbelief.  I grabbed onto the wall because I was sure I was going to pass out.  I just felt so helpless and knew this precious new life was slowly slipping away from us.  The lady from the flight team came over and hugged us tightly and just kept saying how sorry she was.  Then one of the doctors came over to talk to us and I'm not sure I heard half of what he said.  But basically he let us know that they had done all they could and if the hospital had the ability to perform open heart surgery on Caleb, then things might have been different. 

We finally found the strength to enter the room, and one of the nurse's asked if we wanted to hold Caleb.  They wrapped him in some very large warm blankets and handed him to me.  His skin had started to look gray and he was using the ventilator to breath.  His tiny breaths were few and far between, and sounded so labored.  As I held him, we just looked at him, told him how precious he was, and how much we loved him.  Then one of the nurse's asked us if we would like her to baptize our sweet baby boy while he was still with us...another beautiful memory for us to cherish.  After spending some more time with Caleb, the doctor told us that all of the supports he was currently on were not going to help him, but just prolong the process.  He then asked us a question I never ever thought I would have to answer about my newborn baby - he asked us if we wanted to continue or cease the life supports.  Without having to say a word, Sam and I looked at each other and we both knew that it would be selfish of us to continue the supports when it was obvious that our precious angel baby was suffering so much and his tiny body was ready to rest.  With that, we gave our permission to discontinue the supports.  The breathing machine was removed from Caleb's mouth and I kissed his head and whispered to him "I hope you know how much we love you.  It's okay to let go now.  You will be with your grandpa's, who will love you and take care of you in Heaven."  After three more breaths, Caleb's beautiful eyes closed and we knew he was gone from our lives.  Sam and I sobbed together; I have never been so devastated.  I continued to hold him as we were lead to another hospital room to spend some time alone with him.  Sam sat and held him, but we were both finding it more and more difficult, as his coloring was changing and our baby boy was fading away.  This is not what I wanted my lasting memories to be.  After a while, we told the nurse we were ready for them to take him, and she said "You don't want him anymore?"  And although I know it wasn't her intention, those words were like a stab to the heart.  Of course I want my baby...but I want him alive!  We said goodbye and he was carried away.  Once we were ready to leave, the nurse was wheeling me down the hallway as we headed for the elevator and suddenly I wasn't ready to leave him.  I said, "WAIT!...I need to see him one last time."  The nurse very sweetly lead us back into the special care nursery.  Before we saw him, I asked her if they would cover him so that I could just see him and his precious face, not all of the wounds and pain that were underneath.  The nurse's swaddled him perfectly and put a tiny blue crocheted hat on his head and lay him in the bassinet.  And he looked just as perfect and precious as he did when I held him for the first time. 

We left the hospital empty armed and broken hearted that morning.  We had an empty baby carrier in the backseat, along with a diaper bag and "coming home" outfit that would never be used.  And I knew that within a couple of hours, I would have to explain to two proud big brothers why their baby brother didn't get to, nor would he ever, come home.

This has definitely been the darkest time in our lives, and each day there are reminders of what was, what should be, and what will never be.  Caleb never held my hand or called me mommy.  We will never see him smile, say his first word, or take his first steps.  It feels like we were cheated out of a lifetime with our precious baby boy.  We are still trying to navigate the feelings of pain, anger, disbelief, confusion, and (surprisingly) gratitude that our lives have become.  And although we don't understand why God would take such a precious new life, there is unspeakable joy in knowing that Caleb is in a much more perfect and beautiful place.  And while his life was brief, it had so much meaning.  Caleb has showed us the true meaning of love and life; he has taught us to be grateful for and find the beauty in each passing day; to reserve judgment of others, for everyone we meet is fighting a harder battle; and to be stronger, more patient and understanding individuals in our lives each day. 

We are so grateful for you being here and listening to the story of our precious angel baby; and for the many family, friends, and even strangers who have uplifted us in prayers.  Even though Caleb isn't here with us, his death will never overshadow the precious, beautiful life he lived.  When our tears fall each day, we will also cherish the moments we got to hold him in our arms; and now will carry him in our hearts forever.


  1. Your story touches my heart and reminds each day to be grateful for all God has given me! I pray for you always and pray God continues to give you and your family peace. You are right, we don't always know why God does certain things in our lives, but remember God is in control and he loves you and Caleb soooo much! You have a beautiful family and you will continued to blessed in so many ways!
    love, Rebecca Donehoo

  2. Jeanette, thank you for sharing. I have to tell you that I too have learned so much from Baby Caleb and your family. I have learned how love and spiritual strength can help lead one during the most difficult of times. I have learned that life should be treasured and well lived. I have learned that you never know what tomorrow will bring. I, of course, have always spoke these phrases, but now I have learned and have internalized the meaning. You have such a BEAUTIFUL family and I am blessed to have met you and will always be thankful for what you and have taught me. The strength that you and Sam have shared with us is remarkable and so touching. You have shared with me that you are both being strong for your precious little ones (Jaden and Elijah), but I want you to know that you are also showing many of your friends and family how love, faith and strength can help one overcome such personal pain and tragedy. Much love and peace to you sweet Jeanette. Please know I will always be here for you should you or your family need ANYTHING. With love and continued support, Annette Nunez

  3. Wow Jeanette, even though I knew a lot of Caleb's timeline, it helped to hear about the last few hours.

    I always knew you had a special way of expressing yourself in the written word. I am amazed at how you managed to untangle such a tragedy into beautiful thoughts. I can't imagine the pain you and Sam (and Susan) endured. My heart goes out to you and Jaden and Elijah. Thank God that Wayne and Susan could be there for you.

    I thank God for the letting us know sweet Caleb for a few hours. He truly was precious and a gift to shout about!
    We love you.

  4. Jeanette I sobbed through your whole story. I can't even begin to imagine your families heartache. I am so very sorry your time with baby caleb was so short. No mother should ever have to endure such pain. It's awesome that u celebrate your days with him like u do. U r truly an amazing person.

    Marcy and Andrew