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Francie's Story

Chapter 5: Miracle Baby

Laura’s labor was methodical, controlled, quiet, peaceful. Napping, laughing, slowly rocking, hands and knees cat-cow was all punctuated with “I need to push. This baby is going to come out now.”

The room was empty. Our teams were missing. The nurse didn’t rush.

“This baby’s going to come now!” Laura said louder.

People began to flood in, rushing to to their station. Classic rock played from Laura’s phone, but I couldn’t hear anything as I waited. Would we hear a baby’s cry? Would Francie’s arms and legs have tone? Would she have color?

Laura moved quickly. She waited until everyone was in the room, and then, with three strong pushes, I could see hair. Then the head was out. One more push, and Francie was here. The first second was deafening silence, then she cried. She cried and cried and didn’t stop! No murky middle—she was letting us know she wanted to fight.

Francie was moved to Laura’s chest. She looks just like Wilder. She was pink. She’s our loudest baby.

The minute went by quickly. I cut the cord, and she was free, on her own.

I hovered as they examined her. I saw them place the mask. I glanced at her heart rate. 164—perfect. They suctioned fluid from her mouth. She was still crying, even louder.

I got a thumbs up from our neonatologist, Dr. Suri!

“This is a healthy baby,” he proclaimed. “A miracle!” he added.

Dr. Suri began his practice in India forty years ago! He’s seen it all. He’s a man quick to acknowledge where modern medicine ends and God begins. He is always ready to give a meaningful hug, not afraid to put a steadying hand on your shoulder and leave it there. He lost a child at birth to heart failure. You can tell our story feels personal to him, and he speaks more as a favorite uncle than an attending doctor.

As Dr. Adamczak delivered the placenta, Laura heard her gasp. “Oh my god, oh my god, look at this. There is a tight knot in the cord.” There was a pause in the room. “This is almost always fetal demise.” 

Another reason why Francie shouldn’t be here. Biweekly ultrasounds had shown nothing. The knot was too tight to have just happened. Somehow, blood flowed through, finding an impossible path to hope.

“Bring baby back to mom.” Dr. Suri beamed.

A different team might have acted in an abundance of caution and whisked Francie away. Dr. Suri and our amazing team of specialists believed in the power of a baby’s connection with their mother.

Next thing we knew, the room had cleared. The chaos was gone. It was just me, Laura, Francie, and our nurse. Our carefully orchestrated minute had turned into a luxurious forty-five minutes of normalcy.

Finally, it was time for a very healthy looking Francie to go down to the NICU for some tests. Our team broke protocol again and let me carry Francie down in my arms. Amazingly, she stayed at Mary Birch, and we had yet to transfer her to Rady’s. Definitely not part of the plan.

This next part of the story is the most predictable. Within three hours of watching Francie walk out the door, Laura willed herself to Francie’s side in the NICU and proceeded to feed every three hours through the night.

We spent the following four days living in the NICU. It felt like an alternate universe. A bustling city with its own language and traditions. The constant alarms, almost always the result of sensors disconnecting, were hypnotic white noise. I felt less like a parent and more like a part of the team. “Hand me that. Can you reattach this? Close the curtain. What was her number again?” The daily shift change brought a new set of faces, but a constant drip of “miracle baby.” It was all we heard.

It was an amazing first three days. Francie had passed every test! Her vitals were strong. We sat with her, held her, squeezed her hand, and fed her for as long as we wanted.

The next day, she might be discharged, and we could bring her home. That was such an impossibility that we didn’t even have a nursery ready. No diapers. A few onesies still sadly packed away in the garage. As I wrote the words “bring home,” I still couldn’t believe it.

But, and there is a big but, Francie’s heart still had the same defects. She was still a likely heart transplant kid.

We had two roads to walk down. The first: short, painful, conclusive. The second: long and unknown. It promised towering highs and deep lows. As we left the shorter path behind and stared up at our mountain, I felt myself shaking. Was it joy? Fear? Gratitude? Surely it was everything all at once.

Francie’s story was not over. It had just begun. There will be more chapters to follow. Some good, some funny, some confusing, some hard.

Our hope is that her story will stay with you. Maybe it will ask you to refocus on life’s big questions. Maybe it will remind you that prayer isn’t an emoji. Maybe it will fill you with gratitude for the things in life we all too often take for granted.

At the very least, I hope it will inspire you to support our family. The coming weeks would look different for us.

We are so grateful for our family. They traveled endlessly to be there for us. We are grateful for Carolyn and Kennedy, our amazing nanny team, that had become a second family for our kids, giving us peace of mind to be away from home. We are grateful for Erica Lettow, who came to sit with Laura after birth when I could not. We are grateful for the amazing team at Wonderist that never missed a beat. We are grateful for the many friends and neighbors that have reached out from the heart to encourage us. We are grateful for the amazing medical teams that, down to a person, led with compassion and uncompromising excellence. And we are grateful to God, the author of this story, that he has given us a daughter, Francie Joy Beck Anderson.

Dad Lesson #5: Learn to pray. If you haven’t prayed in a while, the perfect time to try is now. Pray for Francie.

Written by
Michael Anderson
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