I have to write a separate blog about these angels because they've made such a difference in our lives. Now there are many angels who've included family and friends, people I haven't seen for years have dropped by to see Christian and the overwhelming support has touched us.
But these angels are different. They're my August Mamas. I've tried to explain this group to those who have asked where this particular outpouring of support is coming from. When I try to explain, people mostly look a little puzzled but accept my explanation without much question..."a group on the internet did all this?" is what I know they're thinking.
I felt compelled to write about these angels on our last day in the PICU because since we first arrived, they've been such a strength to my son and my family. And they continue to amaze us with their generosity, comfort, and prayer. As far as we are considered, they are family. They are Christian's "Internet Aunties."
Eliisa, one of the group members, did such a wonderful job putting our group and it's definition into words. So it is with her permission to post her blog entry that I'm explaining this group through her beautiful words.
Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 is a day that the Quintero family won’t ever forget. That afternoon, 11-month-old Christian fell in the family pool and nearly drowned. His big brother Gabe pulled him out of the pool, and his mother Shauna frantically did CPR while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Even at the hospital, they could not get a pulse, and Shauna was asked to come in and say goodbye to her little boy. During their last attempt to save Christian, Shauna touched her son’s leg, called out his name, and his heart started beating again! Amazing! Of course, this was not the end of the story, but rather the beginning of a long, hard struggle for Christian and his family as he fights every day to survive and recover.
But they are not alone. The Quinteros don’t just have their wonderfully supportive family and friends surrounding them. In this spectacularly small world where any person is just a mouse click or keystroke away from another, the Quinteros also have hundreds of people all over the world praying for them and for little Christian. But how is this possible? How has Christian’s story reached so many in such a short time? Maybe I should start at the beginning.
In November/December of 2007, a group of about 100 women were meeting each other on an online message board. We had all just found out we were pregnant with babies due in August 2008. There were women who were expecting their first child, and those expecting their fourth. Women who had been trying for years to get pregnant, some who had gone through countless infertility treatments, and some who had gotten pregnant easily or even by “accident.” There were women who had lost previous pregnancies, even had to deal with stillbirth. We came from all over the US, Europe, and even Australia. We were as varied in personality and circumstance as any group could be, but we were united in our love of our August babies.
As the months went on, we grew closer. We were devastated when our numbers were diminished as some among us had miscarriages and lost their precious babies. We were thrilled when announcements of twins came, and when other women found us and joined in. We shared our joys, our fears, our aches, our pains, and our complaints about spouses who just “didn’t get it.” We became a family. As time went on, we posted pictures of our growing bellies, shared gender ultrasound results, and discussed baby names.
And then, all of a sudden, it seemed, it was June, and babies started arriving. Paige was first, born so early, and we all furiously prayed for her as she fought in the NICU, and celebrated when she went home. July and August brought a cascade of babies, birth stories, and pictures of beautiful, wrinkly newborns. Some babies even waited until September to make their appearances. But we were all still the “August Moms.” By that point, we’d been together 8-9 months.
Many so-called “due date groups” peter out after babies are born. Moms get busy, don’t have time to get online anymore, or just aren’t interested now that their due dates have come and gone. Not so for our group. If anything, we became stronger after our babies were born. Instead of Braxton hicks contractions and swollen ankles, though, we complained about sleepless nights and cranky, teething babies. Instead of feeling kicks or seeing sonograms, we cheered about rolling over, sleeping through the night, and first teeth. We shared pictures, stories, and even videos of our little ones, and became even closer. We started calling each other our children’s “Internet Aunties.”
Many of us became “friends” on Facebook, and continued connecting. We had “meet-ups,” where members met each other in person. Some continue to get together regularly. And we kept posting on our message boards daily, asking questions, sharing advice, and generally doing what friends do. We had found caring, loving, loyal, and true friends on the internet. I guess stranger things have happened.
Then, as we were busy reading through posts and updates about first steps, plans for birthday parties, and other fun things, tragedy struck. One of our precious August babies, little M, died suddenly in her crib during a nap. She was just over nine months old. We were horror-stricken. We all felt so deeply for M’s mommy, and hugged our children all the tighter as those awful “what ifs” ran through our minds. But the group banded together through our grief, and rallied around M’s family. We sent cards, remembrance gifts, and messages of love and support. While little M is gone, she will always be an August baby, and her mother will always belong in our group. We love and miss them so much.
Things were just starting to get back to “normal” after little M’s passing, and we saw Shauna’s update. Her beautiful boy Christian had fallen in the pool. He was in critical condition. She asked for our prayers. We didn’t know anything else. The group flurried into action. Messages were sent, updates shared, and panicked posts started about how Christian was doing. There were frantic pleas of “Not another August baby!” One of the August Moms called Shauna to check on him, and filled everyone in. We were so glad to hear that he was getting more stable all the time but dismayed that his situation was still extremely critical.
That’s when it started. People started posting updates about Christian on their Facebook pages as we got them. We posted about Christian’s situation, and how he, his big brother Gabe, his father Manny, and his mother Shauna (who is also pregnant with Christian’s little brother or sister, due next year) needed all the positive thoughts and prayers they could get. Friends of friends, acquaintances, and coworkers responded in droves. Everyone was touched and moved by Christian’s story, and the prayers and thoughts for the little fighter and his family started. And they haven’t stopped since.
Shauna started a blog called Christian’s Journey (http://christiansjourney-shaunaq.blogspot.com/) to keep everyone up to date with the latest happenings in Christian’s world. It already has over a hundred official “followers,” and surely many more unofficial ones. I get messages all the time from Facebook friends asking how Christian is, and they’ve never met him or anyone in his family. Though, I suppose it’s a fact that I’ve never met Christian or his family either. But I know him, and I know them. I am his Internet Auntie, after all.
Christian has come so far, but he still has SO far to go. He just got a g-tube (for feeding) and a trach tube (for breathing) placed, and took his first breath on his own since the accident just yesterday. He is such a fighter! His parents are not deluded, though: they know they are in this for the long haul. Christian’s recovery is going to be lengthy and difficult, not to mention expensive. While they are, of course, devastated that their family has had to endure such tragic circumstances, they are hopefully comforted, at least somewhat, by all the people pulling for Christian.
There are those that condemn message boards and social networking sites like Facebook as frivolous time-wasters, not good for anything but gossiping, spying on old boyfriends, and sharing self-important status messages about what people had for dinner. But then there’s a case like Christian’s. Through the magic of the internet, Christian’s Internet Aunties have organized a worldwide network of positive energy, all aimed at Christian and his family. We know that they feel it, and that it’s helping. Here’s to that circle growing exponentially, and to Christian’s continued progress. We love you, buddy!
And yesterday, we finally completed the circle. These hugs will follow us to Phoenix.
And, thank you, Storms' family, for the "Miracle Baby" onesies. I love them and they're just perfect to wear as my miracle baby departs from the PICU. Thank you thank you thank you! And Jenny, Cici, Pam, and Makenzie, you are included in these "internet aunties" because if it weren't for the August Moms, I wouldn't have found you ladies and your beautiful and inspiring stories.
August Mamas, I do want you to know how much you guys mean to us. Manny and I both agree that as soon as things have calmed down and we are in the position, we can't wait to pay all of your generosity and selflessness forward. You guys are AMAZING!
On to the next journey...