My baby wouldn’t stop crying.

Although my baby boy was six weeks old, it had been a tough six weeks. We had already been experiencing problems that had taken us to the doctor multiple times without a solution, but this time it was different. I could see the pain in his eyes. I went so far to even call my husband home from work because I couldn’t figure out how to make him stop.

My husband came home and took our two-year-old so that I could walk our boy outside in the sun, walk around the house, and try every trick in the book to try to make it stop. Sensing my frustration, my husband came in to help me with a diaper change. When I opened Will’s diaper, my husband said that something didn’t look right and Will needed to go to the Emergency Room.

Since I was nursing him, I needed to be the parent to take him and my husband would stay back with our other son. I was ushered through triage pretty fast as the nurse realized something was happening to my boy and it wasn’t just a new mom overreacting. Will and I were sent for him to get an ultrasound. The tech started the procedure and gave a little surprise exclamation for what she saw. I pleaded with her to tell me what was wrong, but she told me that she had to wait for the doctor to come and see.

The doctor came in, looked at the screen, and told me my son’s intestines were kinked up and wedged into a place where they shouldn’t be. He needed surgery soon or part of his intestines would die. He needed to be transported to a different hospital to handle the procedure. Although it was late in the evening, I managed to talk the staff into letting me transport my own son instead of going by ambulance. I remember calling my mom close to midnight while I was making this drive to tell her what was happening and hoping I could keep it together long enough to get us there safely. She stayed on the phone with me while I made the longest 15 minute drive of my life.

The surgeon was at the hospital waiting for me. He examined my boy and told me that surgery would be happening first thing in the morning, but he managed to move around Will’s intestines just enough to provide him enough comfort to rest after all of that excruciating pain.

That night, I stayed up alone in that hospital room. I was crumpled up at the bottom of the hospital bed and beating myself up for not getting him to the hospital earlier. My little boy had been in distress and I didn’t know the right thing to do. How could I miss that my son needed medical treatment?

Will had the surgery the next morning and everything went well. It was just one of many of the bumps we experienced on the road of Will’s first year of life.

That guilt stayed with me for quite some time—months even.

I needed to learn to forgive myself for what happened and to understand that I wasn’t at fault. Later on down the road, I eventually learned that I was strong enough to ask for help. I called my husband home and he realized Will needed immediate medical attention. I called my mom to talk me through that intense drive and she kept me calm. She and my father even jumped in the car in the middle of the night and drove at breakneck speeds to be at our duty station to watch our older son so that my husband could be at the hospital with me during our son’s surgery and recovery. She knew that I needed someone with me at the hospital.

Even though we were relatively new to our duty station, we still had people reaching out with offers to help once word got out what had happened. Although I felt alone, I wasn’t. I learned that it’s okay to draw strength from others during difficult times. As a military family, we have an even larger family that will help us when we feel at our worst. Through this experience, I have learned that my community would help me find my strength when I couldn’t find it within myself. All I had to do was reach out and ask for help.

headshot of the author Ashley Marshall

Ashley Marshall is the author behind Dandelion Families, which is a website working to help military families find their roots and bloom at their duty station. She spends her days chasing two preschool boys and trying to keep up with her husband’s schedule as an Air Force Pilot. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Ashley has lived all over the country, and her favorite duty station was Spokane, Washington (probably because of the awesome people, weather, and her amazing job as an Assistant City Attorney.) She spends her free time camping with her family, watching Auburn football, and exploring the Southeast. Ashley and her family have recently returned to Alabama for her husband’s sunset assignment and they are looking forward to making plans for his future retirement.

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