Gwendolyn’s Story {and the My Story linkup}

by Erin Cushman


If you’re a Hope Mom, talking about your children just isn’t the easiest thing.

Answering the question, “How many kids do you have?” or “Oh, too bad you don’t have a girl!” or “Is this your first?” becomes complicated the moment it leaves the person’s mouth. Any conversation becomes awkward as soon as death is introduced.

How do you tell someone that your baby is in Heaven? How do you communicate the depth and gravity of that truth? If I cry, do you understand it better? If I don’t, does she seem less important to me? When I tell her story, what do I want you to hear?

My daughter Gwendolyn went to Heaven 36 hours after she was born. That’s the short version.

If I get the chance to tell you the longer version, this is how it goes:

I had a really beautiful pregnancy. My husband and I had waited a few years to start having kids, and when I became pregnant early in 2010, we were elated. I had grandiose plans of what motherhood would be. We wanted two boys, two girls: the classic American dream. I eagerly adopted the title of “granola mom” and researched cloth diapers, vaccines, circumcision, midwives and birth centers, and read countless books on natural labor. I stopped drinking coffee and cokes, I took an alternative birthing class; I was joyfully joining forces with the millions of women who had naturally given birth before me. I had a plan.

When I started having contractions, I was freaking out I was so excited. I sat during our church service, timing my contractions and smiling like a crazy woman. After 18+ hours of contractions, I wasn’t smiling anymore… I was happy of course to be having a baby, but MAN! Labor hurts! I kept telling Blair I would never judge another woman who had a medicated birth, ever again! Around the 24 hour mark, the midwife’s assistant came to check her heartbeat. She had trouble finding it — but she was just learning, so it wasn’t too alarming, right? When my midwife checked, there was that moment on her face – sheer panic the was quickly masked so she wouldn’t scare me. But I was scared.

I was scared as I hurried out of the birthing tub and put on an oxygen mask. I was scared when I heard the lead midwife of the birth center say, “There is a ton of meconium…”. I was terrified as my husband herded me to a van and we raced to the hospital. With contractions every 45 seconds, I couldn’t run fast enough down the halls. The L&D team prepped me for surgery, had me sign papers, and told me “You need to be prepared for fact that when you wake up, your baby might not be alive.” I moved myself to the operating table, and fell asleep as the blue eyed anesthesiologist counted backwards from 10.

I woke up in a room that’s meant for laboring mothers. Blair was there, and I asked if the baby was alive. “She is. It’s a girl! But she has heart damage, and liver damage, so she’s in the NICU.” And I thought, “Okay. She can survive. People recover from that.” But as the day wore on, she didn’t recover. In fact, she was never able to breathe on her own or open her eyes. Her body wouldn’t pass fluid. Her perfect, chubby little body that weighed 10 pounds, 1 ounce – it failed her. I failed her. 24 hours after she was born, a neurologist told us she was brain dead.

What’s a mommy to do, when her precious baby is lying exposed, naked, unloved on a sterile hospital bed? She was supposed to wrapped up and snuggled next to me, nursing and opening her eyes and crying.

You know, I think that most of these details have come back to me over the years, because God knew I couldn’t handle them in those moments. The Spirit kept reminding me, “Erin you know ME. You KNOW Me. Live by faith, one minute at a time.” So I lived by the minute, waiting to hear about her, waiting to see her, praying that God would make her wounded body whole.

He did, just not in the way that I had wanted. Gwendolyn Hope Cushman separated from this body and went home to Jesus on October 20, 2010 at 3:10am. And in the days that followed, the Lord kept bringing me back to that one truth – I live by faith. What faith? Faith in the son of God, Jesus, who loved me and Blair and Gwen so much that He died in our place. Faith that He came to life after He was dead, now lives in Heaven with God the Father, and invites all of us who repent and believe, those who fall asleep on this Earth to be in paradise with Him. Gwen fell asleep before me, but she and I share the same hope. She is in Heaven because God made a way. I will be in Heaven one day because of that same truth.

I should add, of course, that in my desperate clinging to Jesus, it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t clean. It was often messy, and loud, and despairing. But God is faithful, even when we are faithless and lose heart. He patiently brought me through that first year of missing her, and every day since. I can now say that the Lord is completely true, and when He said that He will bind up the brokenhearted, He meant it. It’s been almost 3 years since Gwenny changed my life, and the Lord has restored my heart, joy, faith, and family. She now has a younger brother, whom the Lord graciously allowed us to keep for a few years this side of eternity. Every day is one day closer to her.

I don’t know where you are in your story – if you are a Hope Mom or Dad, or family member, or just a friend who has different (but deep) wounds. What I do know is that God is Good, and that His mercy and love will reach you wherever you are.

Erin Cushman is the co-founder and Director of Hope Mommies. Erin is married to Blair and has two children: Gwendolyn, who has been with Jesus since October 20, 2010, and Malacai, who is one. She loves photography, gardening, cooking, reading, playing with her son, and loves especially when all those things combine. You can get to know her more by reading her blog, Our Blessed Hope

Now it’s your turn to share your story! Join in below by linking to your blog! Include the blog button below so readers can easily find their way back here to read other stories! If you don’t have a blog, don’t worry! You can still share your story by writing it in a comment! Thanks for sharing your sweet babies! ~Kelly

9 Replies to "Gwendolyn's Story {and the My Story linkup}"

  • Amber Crosby
    August 16, 2013 (3:27 pm)

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories. It has been a little over two months since my husband and I had to say good-bye to our precious son and hearing other people’s stories, knowing that other people have been in the same place we are and have managed to keep going, is really encouraging. You can find our story here-

    • Erin
      August 18, 2013 (5:16 pm)

      Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Jaime
    August 17, 2013 (5:55 am)

    I have read your Gwendolyn’s story in several different places over the last 2 years. As heart breaking as the story is, I am always blessed to read it. Your story, Sarah’s story, and many more Hope Mommy stories have made my own time as a Hope Mommy more bearable. I have my own blog for family and close friends, but I’m linking up to share my own story with maybe a larger audience than I have written for before….
    It’s scary thinking about sharing such a vulnerable part of me, but almost a year and half now after my own son has gone to live in Glory… I feel the need to share and be a part of this community is greater than the fear! This community has been so needed to sooth my heart, and I am so grateful to you all for devoting your time to it.

    • Erin
      August 18, 2013 (5:15 pm)

      thank you for sharing and for linking up!

  • Lindsey Moon
    August 17, 2013 (7:14 pm)

    The story of our sweet daughter, Faith Leigh Ann..called to heaven much too soon.

    • Erin
      August 18, 2013 (5:15 pm)

      Thank you for sharing, Lindsey

  • Jennifer Wilson
    August 19, 2013 (2:20 am)

    I don’t have a blog, but I wanted to share my story as well. Here is the story of Sam Thomas Wilson, born straight into the arms of Jesus.

    My pregnancy was fairly uneventful. It was a very easy and good pregnancy. Just a horribly hot summer. On September 20th, I had my 38 week appointment and everything looked good. I did talk to my doctor about Sam not moving quite as much the last day or two and as we talked about it we both decided it was probably because he was running out of room. We listened to his heartbeat and it was a good 145 beats per minute and strong. I was already starting to dilate, which was good for me since I didn’t with the previous two children. When I left there I just had this feeling that this baby was coming soon! So I went into prepare mode. I picked up my kids and went home to clean house, wash sheets, finish packing my hospital bag, sending my husband to buy dvd’s for the video camera, batteries for the camera, etc.

    Now that I think back, I had taken my older children outside to play for a little while and I didn’t know it then but around 6:30pm, I felt Sam move for the last time. I remember thinking Ow, buddy, that hurt as he kicked and stretched out. About that time I got busy cooking supper, feeding the kids, bath time, book time, and bed time. All while I started having contractions. By the time I sat down around 9pm I realized I needed to start timing my contractions. By 10pm I had called my parents and told them to go ahead and come over that I would need them to watch the kids at some point that night. I called L&D and told them my contraction were about 5 mins apart, they suggested that I give it about another hour before I come in, unless I wasn’t feeling the baby move. It was then that I realized I wasn’t sure if Sam had been moving recently or not. So I gave it about 30 min, the contractions were worse and I hadn’t felt movement. We headed to the hospital but I was still thinking we were going to be bringing a baby home. In the back of my mind though, I kept hearing a voice say, “they are not going to find a heartbeat.” As a previous NICU nurse I knew stillbirth happened, I just never thought it would be me.

    We arrived at the hospital, and since I used to work there I knew many of the nurses on that night. We talked and laughed as that got me admitted. Then they came in to hook up the monitors, and that is when our world fell apart. The nurse searched and searched with the monitor and had me move several times, then she decided to get the ultrasound machine, and she searched and searched. At that point I knew something was horribly wrong I was just waiting for someone to say it. They called my doctor in. I can still remember her come flying in our room as worried as we were. She looked with the ultasound and then just turned at looked at us and the look on her face said it all. At appoximately 1:08am on 9-21 we learned our son had gone to be with Jesus. The nurse and my doctor sat and cried with us, held us, and then gave us our time. Our doctor even offer to call our parents for us, so that we didn’t have to make that phone call. At that point we finally decided on a name for him. Sam Thomas.

    At 7:47 am Sam was born. He was beautiful, perfect in every way. We were able to spend all day with him and with our family. Every test imaginable was run, with no abnormal results. We are not real sure why Sam was stillborn. I went home the next morning to plan a funeral. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was to walk out of that hospital without my child. My husband almost had to drag me out of there because I felt like we were leaving our child behind to be given to someone else. At the time I didn’t think about it, but we were giving our son to someone else, he was given to God and a piece of my heart went with him.

  • JoDee
    August 19, 2013 (7:16 pm)

    I just linked up our story although it has been quite a while since I posted an entry on our blog. We have since sent another son Home to Heaven. Thank you to all the brave mommies willing to share their hurts and heart through the stories of their beautiful children.

  • Ashlee Schmidt
    October 29, 2014 (10:04 pm)

    Oh Erin,
    How I rejoice to see that great work that God has done in you and Blair through the loss of sweet, Gwen! Thank you for being courageous time and time again in order to share your story and encourage others who have experienced the loss of a child. You’re faithfulness to the Lord has proven to be a great comfort to my own heart through our loss this summer! I am thankful for you and continually blessed by your love for the Lord and those who are hurting.
    Love you!

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