Contact us

Any questions, tips? Anything else?

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form
Francie's Story

Chapter 7: Meeting “Mancie”

“How do you think we will get baby Francie out of Mommy’s belly?” I asked Wilder.

He furrowed his brow and studied Laura’s growing belly. Then, jumping up and down, he shouted, “We can use a FISHING POLE!”

Over the many months since we found out we were expecting our third, Laura and I found moments each day to point to her growing belly and talk about the arrival of a new baby sister.

“Do you know what’s in Mommy’s tummy?”

“You’re going to be a big brother and a big sister. That’s a very important job.”

The weeks leading up to Francie’s birth were littered with doctor’s appointments. Each time we would come home and open the front door, the thunder of tiny feet would greet us. 

Wilder’s first question: “Is baby Francie’s heart still sick?”

The answer: “Yes.”

Becoming a parent is one of life’s great experiences! A close second is watching your kids become siblings. We knew that after Francie was born, the kids would not be allowed in the NICU or the CTICU. It was hard to balance building up Wilder and Shiloh’s excitement for a new sister with the reality that they might have to wait months to meet her. It was harder still to avoid the even uglier question: “Would they be able to meet her at all?”

There are many miracles, big and small, that brought Francie kicking and screaming into our family, some of them we may never recognize or understand! But our favorite miracle was the day Wilder and Shiloh met their little sister “Mancie.”

Truthfully, in the days and weeks leading up to Francie’s birth, we were so focused on whether we would hear a cry when she was born and what our first few minutes with her would look like, that we didn’t have time to even imagine Wilder and Shiloh meeting their new sister.

The second day after Francie was born, I found myself holding her, alone, in the cozy glow of the Mary Birch NICU. The privacy curtain rolled back, and Dr. Rasmussen, the attending neonatologist, poked his head in. He’s a veteran of the NICU hallways. Dr. Rasmussen reminds me of that uncle who doesn’t need a mechanic because he fixes his own car. Initially, there’s a practical hardness to him, but it’s not at all off-putting. It’s like he’s done a tour overseas, and he understands a side of life you may never see.

It was early in the morning. I gathered myself and began re-asking my laundry list of questions. Dr. Rasmussen pulled up a chair, and we started to talk. Before I knew it, we were talking about the impact AI will have on the medical field and how augmented reality could change the physical layout of a NICU. I like Dr. Rasmussen. Like Dr. Suri, he’s a philosopher too.

As he stood up to continue his rounds, I heard myself say, “I’d love to find a way for our kids to meet Francie.” I was still worried that we were in a short honeymoon period and our miracle outcome could quickly turn into a nightmare.

“I think we can make that happen,” Dr. Rasmussen responded.

I had initially floated this idea with our nurse, who had laid the groundwork. A few hours and many strings later, a time was picked, and a meeting confirmed for that same evening.

Francie was wheeled out of the NICU and pushed through a maze of hallways to a wing that was not currently in use. Grandparents waited with Shiloh and Wilder in the lobby while a private room was set up. Months of kissing Mommy’s tummy, reading books, and talking about being a big brother and sister had set the stage for a carefully planned thirty minutes that we never thought would happen.

Two big hospital doors unlocked and swung open, and the kids ran in, no hesitation for what came next.

As a parent, you’re always nervous that your older kids might feel competition, rejection, and a lack of attention with the addition of a new sibling. Laura and I have found the opposite. As two little sets of feet ran towards their new sister and four chunky hands patted her head, I watched our kids grow up in front of us.

For both Wilder and Shiloh, the world was still impossibly large and full of unexplainable mysteries, like how to use a fishing pole to get a baby out of Mommy’s tummy. Making space for a new sister, that was the easy stuff.

Wilder patted Francie’s head, whispering, “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

Shiloh said, “I wuv you, baby Mancie.”

I’m reminded of lyrics from one of my favorite songs by Dave Matthew’s “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)”:

“Oh joy begin
Weak little thing
More precious there'll be nothing, no
Oh joy begin
Let's not forget these early days
Remember we begin the same
We lose our way in fear and pain
Oh joy begin”

It’s the eternal soundtrack to my parenting journey, and the song that gave Francie her middle name: Joy.

I’m going to let the photos tell the rest of the story. But I will say this: watching Wilder and Shiloh meet Francie is forever a peak memory.

We have so many people to thank for making this miracle happen, including Dr. Rasmussen, Becky Coulter, our many nurses, and Amy, our charge nurse.

Dad Lesson #7: We all begin the same.

Written by
Michael Anderson
View all my posts →

Discover more stories