The Johnson Family
We were fortunate enough to have an easy time getting pregnant. We decided to start trying during Christmas, so we downloaded a fertility app, and a couple months later, we found out that our baby boy was due September 12th! However, what began as an uneventful pregnancy quickly made an abrupt turn when Jaclyn was admitted to the hospital on May 21st for preterm labor – then only 23 weeks and 5 days pregnant. The next morning, the Neonatologist came in to consult with us. She kept saying “I need you to keep the baby in until 28 weeks, that’s your goal, statistics really change once you hit 28 weeks.” We just stared at her numb. We couldn’t comprehend that she was talking about survival rate statistics for our baby, not to mention the complications and challenges he could face after he was born, if he survived.
After 4 trying weeks in L&D, and a steady dose of progesterone, magnesium and steroids, Jaclyn was discharged from the hospital and sent home to continue on bedrest for as long as she could make it. Jaclyn made it a week and half at home until she woke up on June 27th with some mild cramping. Arriving at the hospital at 12:30pm, we were told once again that she was having contractions and that she was going into labor. When the Neonatologist walked in, Jaclyn looked at her and said “you told me I had to make it to 28 weeks, and I made it to 29.” Graham Franklin Johnson was born at 4:33pm that day weighing 2lb 6oz and measuring 14.5 inches long. He was small, yes, but everything else was perfect. He was perfect.
No one plans to leave the hospital without their baby. Yet, every night after Graham’s last touch time – our favorite because it was when we got to measure and weigh him and celebrate every centimeter and gram gained (no pun intended) – we would pack up our stuff and head home, hoping that we would not get a call in the middle of the night and praying that his status update at rounds the next morning would be just a little bit better than the previous day. This became our routine for the next 10 weeks.
The NICU is a rollercoaster. As NICU parents, we heard this phrase time and time again, and it couldn’t be more true. We watched helplessly as Graham had PICC lines put in and suffered reflux episodes so violent they caused his heart and lungs to stop, but watched happily as Graham took his first bath and graduated to an open-air isolete. Learning to celebrate every small victory and family moment was the only way to get through the tough times and steadfastly help Graham the only way we could, which was to be present and to give him all of our love. The NICU team lives this rollercoaster every day too. They meet us under the most difficult of circumstances, immediately treat us like family, devote themselves tirelessly to the care of our babies, and then hopefully wave goodbye to us knowing that our family will be okay. These are our first memories as a family, with our baby, and although trying, we feel so blessed and lucky to have shared it with the NICU team at Little Company of Mary.
Towards the end of our stay in the NICU, we made a promise as a family to get involved with March of Dimes to show gratitude for the role they and the NICU team at Little Company of Mary played in our positive outcome – so that one day, all babies may be born healthy. Our first event with March of Dimes was the March for Babies, which brought a flood of emotion. While our family and friends were there to celebrate Graham’s strength and perseverance, there were others there in remembrance of their little ones who were lost too soon. Volunteering with March of Dimes has shown us that we’re not alone in this journey. We will continue to share our story in hopes that even just one person shares our story or reaches out to us when they or someone they know experiences life in the NICU and needs our love and support. Graham turned our world upside down in the most amazing ways, but looking back and seeing how we came out stronger as a family will forever be the foundation on which our family is built.