Today, I get to be Adam’s mom.
It’s a title I cherish every day, of course. But it’s a role that isn’t so obvious in everyday life. It’s opportunities like this, when I get to wear that title like a badge of courage.
And my beautiful baby boy was indeed courageous.
On Jan. 8, 2009, Adam Thomas Runde was born far too soon. I woke up that morning with nagging cramps. Just 6 months pregnant with our first child – conceived after a long fertility struggle – my husband Jeff and I were worried.
So we went to my OB’s office, where I was monitored to make sure everything was OK. Eventually, I was sent over to Meriter Hospital for more testing, watching and waiting. By that evening, Jeff and I were settling in for a potentially long holding pattern, and there was talk of admitting me for observation.
So Jeff, starving after a long day, ran down to the cafeteria to grab a sandwich. By the time he came back, just minutes later, I was being prepped for an emergency C-section. Things had taken a dramatic turn, and the doctor told us the ominous words: “Your baby is no longer safe inside your body.”
In a terrifying blur, our baby boy was born.
At under two pounds, he was a “micropreemie” who faced formidable obstacles. But as each day passed, under the care of an equally formidable team in the Meriter neonatal intensive care unit, Adam showed us that even though he was tiny, he was mighty.
He just needed to grow. At 26 and a half weeks, he weighed just 1 lb., 14 ounces – no bigger than Stripes the Tiger, the Beanie Baby his favorite NICU nurse gave him to snuggle with in his isolette.
With every ounce he gained and every obstacle he fought, we allowed ourselves to dream that eventually, we could bring him home. For as long as I live, I’ll forever treasure how it felt to hold Adam in skin-to-skin kangaroo care. As he rubbed his tiny legs together, getting all snuggled in on my chest, it was as if a perfect little puzzle piece had nestled right in the mommy spot of my heart.
And there he remains – even after a monstrous invader called necrotizing enterocolitis quickly and furiously took our sweet little “Sugar Bear” from us, just as abruptly as he arrived in this world.
In the middle of a cold, quiet February night, while the rest of the world slept, Jeff and I squeezed in a lifetime of hugs, kisses and “I love yous” – and our beautiful, brave baby boy died in our arms.
We buried Adam with his buddy Stripes; we just couldn’t bear the thought of our little one being alone. And it seemed so fitting that Stripes was a tiger, because Adam fought so fiercely in his 25 days with us.
But ultimately, the complications of prematurity were just too much.
After losing Adam, we were terrified to try again, fearing I’d once again give birth far too soon. But thanks to March of Dimes-supported research, I was able to receive weekly progesterone therapy which allowed me to carry Adam’s little brother to full-term.
On Dec. 15, 2010, the second light of our lives was born healthy, with that most wondrous of hallmarks of full-term birth – fully pinchable chubby cheeks. Our gratitude for the remarkable care we received and the research that helped us along the way simply can’t be measured.
Benjamin is about to turn 7 next month. He laughs from his belly, he loves Dilly Bars and Legos, and he’s a world-champion snuggler, just like his big brother Adam. Another perfect puzzle piece in the mommy spot of my heart.
In 2018, the Rundes are honored to serve as the Madison March for Babies Ambassador Family, to help the March of Dimes and its many health care partners give all babies a fighting chance. In telling our story, we both celebrate incredible NICU grads and prematurity success stories, while we also mourn the heartbreaking losses, sharing our sorrow with the far too many families who have endured them.
And I’m truly humbled to be the mom of two beautiful boys.