Storytelling is in my blood. It’s in my heart. While weddings offer a beautiful avenue for me to express that passion, every now and then there comes along a story that’s not all glitter and rainbows and happiness. Life is not just about the good. Life is filled with the bad. And the ugly. The news reports are filled with unimaginable stories of hatred, fear, dirty politics and bigotry. Too often the story of told of what could have been – a broken home. A missed family. A lost chance. While those stories are incredibly important to tell, it’s stories of hope and love – of miraculous events happening and LIFE – these are the stories we need to continue to tell and need to remind ourselves of. In a world like this, I choose to bring to life the stories that make my heart sing, my eyes well up, and my nose get stuffy. The stories that tug at your heartstrings so hard you feel like you might burst.
The Clark family’s story is one of them.
When Stephanie’s water broke at 22 weeks, doctors told Stephanie and her husband Dustin that most women go into labor within 24 hours to two weeks after rupture. At 22 weeks, their son would not live. If her body pushed labor to 24 weeks, it would put their baby on the very bottom rung of the premature ladder.
A 3% survival rate with severe disability.
That 3% was only possible if her body could miraculously hold out on labor for two weeks. Without any amniotic fluid, his lungs would not develop properly. So that day, they were given an unimaginable choice: induce labor or take the chance that going home would be enough and they could get to 24 weeks, where she could be re-admitted to the hospital and see if they could push it even further with antibiotics. Staying in the hospital at that moment wasn’t an option. Infection was possible in her now-jeopardized uterus. How do you make that decision? Stephanie answered so eloquently on her blog this very question:
As the Mother and Father of Teddy, we were his voice. We had to stand up for him, decide what would be best for him in his life and in his death. WE couldn’t NOT try, though. We had to give our Teddy a chance. We had to have faith. We had to have courage. We had to have hope.
It was very, very hard deciding that going home was the right thing for us to do that day. That it was okay to leave. That we were going to go home with the hopes of coming back in two weeks with this boy still in my belly. And so as his Mother and Father, this little boy’s voice, we did just that. We packed up, Dustin gingerly wheeled me out of the hospital and got me into our car. He drove us home carefully, slowing for the turns, making sure I was okay. That we were okay. He’s such a good guy, truly. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such a great man.
Two weeks later, Stephanie re-admitted herself to Kaiser Walnut Creek at 24 weeks, where she remained until a very special day: January 3.
Against all odds, Teddy stayed put. He remained in her body, growing. She remained in bed at Kaiser for 10 long weeks. She saw her son Roman three times a week. Roman would spend half the week with Stephanie’s parents and half the week with Dustin’s parents. Saturday nights was their only time that “things felt normal.” Picking up dinner on the way, the family of three sat around her bedside tray and ate together. A simple every day occurrence that so many of us take advantage of.
Christmas came and Christmas went. Stockings were hung in the hospital room. Presents were wrapped. The New Year dawned.
And on January 3rd, 2014, life forever changed. January 3rd was the magical 34 weeks – Teddy would be born today. I arrived early that morning, as Stephanie had requested that his birth be documented, no matter the outcome. No matter what happened, she wanted some images of this strong baby boy and his fight to survive.
That day was one of the most truly amazing and unbelievable days of my life. Stephanie had gotten clearance for Dustin and I to be in the OR with her for the C Section. ORs are a lot smaller than they look on television. Far more bright. And quiet. Being one of the few people on this earth who was witness to his birth, and heard Teddy’s lungs give a strong cry – those lungs doctors fought so hard to grow – that is a sound I will never forget. Ever.
Teddy was born at 1:47pm, weighing 3lbs 4oz. The fight did not end there, not by a long shot. More times than I want to admit, doctors told Stephanie and Dustin that he would die. That he would not survive. But every time, this little one pushed back. He raised his tiny fist in discontent and said he would not go quietly into the night or without a fight. Every time he came right to that cliff, another reservoir of strength and love and hope was found.
This is Teddy. This is his family. And this, right here folks – this is what miracles look like.
Original music by Michael Haller