TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains information about infant loss, which may be triggering to some.
Our adoption journey has been nothing less than a roller-coaster. We have three homegrown (biological) older children and all our six "Littles" are adopted.
After our first four adoptions, we had a failed match again. But then there was a light when we matched with our most handsome son, who was a micro-preemie. He was born at 25 weeks and we adopted as soon as he was discharged from the hospital at six months. Then we quickly matched again with a mama who was not due until August. Our journey had many twists and turns.
A little more than two weeks ago, I was standing in the exit line of the neurology office for three of our littles when I thought I would check my messages. I started to scroll and found myself reading a message that broke my heart. The mama that we had matched with for adoption, though not due for 16 weeks, was in crisis and we live clear across the United States.
As one message read, "her water broke."
Standing there with our now 8-month-old who is our micro-preemie, I could not stop crying thinking about the mama and the baby, praying all would be OK. As the next few hours were merely a blur, one thing that was not: the need to get to the mama to love and support her, no matter what was to happen as the medical staff was doing everything they could to stop her from delivering a premature baby.
I planned the trip across country to ensure I had time to spend with the mama, to listen, to pray, to love, and support her.
Anyone who has been in the hospital knows the stay is never fun. We were all told she was going to be there for a while. Having everything handled on the home front, I planned the weekend trip, which to my surprise became much longer. I arrived to find mama started contracting and the baby was soon on its way … 16 weeks early, making him another micro-preemie. All I wanted was everyone to be OK. My prayers became repetitive as I felt so helpless. Sitting in the waiting area, I researched everything on premature deliveries that I could. I had trouble reading some things, although there were some amazing stories. Plus, we have an amazing story with our own micro-preemie. I continued to pray over and over that mama and baby would be OK and if any storm would come, we would all make it through.
Little did I know, the storm carrying a precious baby boy, who would be soon joining our family, was right in the tailspin of a hurricane.
I had quickly become his anchor, trying everything to find a way to get him out. Never in my wildest dreams did I think any of this was to come. I am a planner. However, our schedule always has something, from therapy, appointments, school, outings. I reluctantly flew home on a Sunday, greeted by pitter-pat of feet along with a whirlwind of emotions.
My heart felt for the mama whom I have grown to love, and our son, who was laying in an isolette without anyone there except medical staff.
The hurricane was only getting stronger. All the while, all I could think was I was a failure. I was not there to protect him. I was not there stalking his isolette to let him know he had a family waiting … this big, crazy family who loves him.
Less than eight hours after getting home, I got a call that I wish upon no one.
Many doctors expressed their concerns about the overall prognosis or the possibility he just may not make it through the night. The more the doctor spoke, the more I silently prayed while trying to listen to the umpteen medical terms. The conversation concluded as to what should and should not be done.
All the while, I knew I needed to get back to the NICU.
However, I was overwhelmed with a burning need: We needed to travel as a family. At the time, I was not sure why but I knew it needed to happen. I would soon realize the decision for all of us to go was one of the best decisions I made.
Sitting down with my husband, David, we figured out the best way to travel with all the littles, some of our older kiddos, and work around work, daily therapies, and appointments which have been on the calendar for months.
The trip was set, but as each day came, so did the daily calls from the doctors and the grim reality that he may not make it through the next hour.
There came a point where I did not want to answer the phone. I insistently prayed and asked for "prayer warriors" to cover our baby boy. I posted daily on social media asking for help in prayer to the specific needs as the doctors gave their updates. It seemed there was always a time in the day we were told he just not might make the next hour. This prompted my husband to reach out to family who lived near the hospital, asking them to please go and be with our little guy. We did not want him to be alone if things were really going in a downward spiral.
I cannot thank them enough for dropping everything on a moment's notice and getting the hospital until we could get there.
In the meantime, I changed our already set plans to leave sooner, canceled everything on the calendar, loaded our car, and set out for our baby, who was without his mama and family. When we finally arrived, I settled all the kids in the hotel with our older daughter, allowing me to arrive in the NICU in the wee hours of the morning. I was greeted by his nurse, a respiratory therapist. All I saw was the beautiful, most amazing baby boy fighting to live. By this time, he did not look like the little boy who I left that previous Sunday. Only three days had gone by and he was anemic and not moving. He was so small with so many tubes and wires encumbering his little body.
I just wanted to trade places. I wanted him to beat the E. coli infection that was ravaging his system.
There was a part of our stay when we saw progress, miracles, although they were quickly followed by the same question from different medical professionals: "What are your wishes and how aggressive do you want the treatment?"
I felt like a broken record, but I also felt like a silent voice. I stalked the NICU by telephone when I was not there physically, calling for results, calling for updates, calling just because, and trying to keep everything together in our makeshift home of a hotel room. As minutes turned into hours and then into the days, we really were able to witness several miracles, things we specifically prayed for and requested from others.
Our little one would come through on one but take three steps back on others. As I stood at his isolette's side, I would read the comments left by others on the daily updates I was posting while reading scripture from the Bible. He was listening and God was right there with him. However, we quickly found out that even though one or two things would be successful, another one or two things would not. Finally, it all came to a head as we had another heart-to-heart talk with another doctor. I asked questions where I was not even sure I knew where they came from. We all agreed to an electroencephalogram (EEG) to determine if our little boy was still the little boy had seen several days earlier.
His head was so small, I was not even sure if they would be able to fit all the EEG leads.
He received his crown, as we call it. I had to excuse myself while the technician finished placing all the leads, because there was a part of me that did not want to know anything. I returned about an hour into the test, seeing the screen, lines going across … I just cried. I cried uncontrollably. Our family has had their share of EEGs and I have seen many results. I am not a doctor, not even close, but I knew even with the little hiccup here and there the lines I was witnessing were not in his favor. I knew in my heart our precious baby boy did not have any brain activity and it was not long before the medical professionals were confirming my worst fear.
When the doctor was speaking to me and giving the results, a part of me felt gone.
I know there is a reason for everything, but why bring precious baby Cane into the world only to take him out eight days later? I was sad, mad, and most of all, I felt as if I was letting his first mama down -- a feeling I wish upon no one! I requested that any wires and tubes that could be removed from him be gone so I could finally hold him close to my heart.
For several hours I was able to love him more, sleep with him, and just have those moments, those moments to cherish.
As the first light of the morning approached, I left the hospital to get the rest of the family from the hotel, not really knowing how we were going to get through the day where our little boy would receive his angel wings. I knew that, as a family, we could do anything. Though it may be hard, we would get through it together. Our little boy was given so much love without being in an isolette or encumbered by tubes and wires. He was held, snuggled, and read to from a big crazy family who found light and love from him. I will not lie, I questioned our decision many times over and was reassured that our little boy was so sick that if he had stayed in utero another week or even a few days longer, he would have been stillborn.
As early evening came, I had hoped he felt so much love.
Even if he did not know it, he had given so much love to our family. Eight days is never enough to have with anyone in comparison to a lifetime, but I know we will cherish every moment we were given. As his passing came and the doctor gave the official declaration, our little guy has his tiny footprints forever stamped on my heart. I was asked this past week how I could love someone so much I did not give birth too and my answer was, how could you not? He needed us and we needed him, and that is the definition of FAMILY.
Our family is truly grateful and blessed by all the love, prayers, thoughts, and outpouring of support through this time.
I am still in awe of everything and continue to read the comments and posts as it helps in our journey. Our precious Cane made his way into the world for eight precious days and brought light, not only to our life but to many others. God had his plan. Though I still do not understand, I hope one day I will. I have faith our story is not over.
Until we meet again, little one.
This essay was republished with permission and was written by Julie. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her website.