On Wednesday January 26 we checked in at Riverside Hospital in Columbus for an induced labor procedure at 9AM. Hanna’s family also gathered at the hospital, and her twin brother watched Myles & Garrett at our house until his wife finished work that day, and they all came to join us later in the evening. In addition, our midwife and a friend from Athens were with us in our room the entire time. A few of Hanna’s friends from Athens also swung by for a brief visit with us in the late afternoon, and an old college friend of hers that lives in Columbus brought food for dinner, and remained through the evening. We were supported and surrounded by caring people, combined with all of the prayers that were said and masses that were offered for us that day. This was a very special day in Heaven - and it felt as much in our hospital room, too.
Because we wished for a gentle induction, Hanna’s labor did not begin to progress until late in the afternoon; the medical staff at the hospital graciously stepped aside, allowing us to have as natural a labor and delivery as was possible. In reality, with the presence of our midwife, we had no concerns whatsoever of our ability to deliver Jesse on our own. We also knew we could not affect Jesse’s prognosis after his birth, but we were committed to making his birth beautiful by our choices.
At 9:30pm, Jesse came into the world; Hanna’s hand was the first human touch that he felt. The hospital nurse then passed him to us – he was so tired. I opened his eyes and for a moment we were able to look at him and he was able to see his mother and father. Our friend managed to be in place to take the picture of that moment – it is the only one I will ever need. We were able to talk to him, but he had very little life left. I then held him and asked for our priest to be called to the room. Our pastor came in shortly and with our midwife standing in as his Godparent, Jesse was baptised. As we prayed the Our Father, the entire room including the physicians and nurses, joined hands with us as we sang Jesse into Heaven. I held him a few minutes more, feeling his heartbeat with my fingers on his tiny chest, and at 9:45 pm, he had passed away.
Hanna’s family remained with us in the room until late into the night, then departed for home. Myles and Garrett went to Grandma’s house. We came home on Thursday afternoon and had the house to ourselves until yesterday afternoon when the boys returned. While we were gone, our friends came to our home, cleaned it from end to end, stocked the fridge with food, and left flowers in every room. The meals have not stopped coming. We are being well cared for here in body and in spirit.
While we are sorrowful and have only begun to absorb what we have lost, we also have a very tangible feeling of gratitude for what we have experienced. We always believed that Jesse’s condition was not a mistake but a part of God’s plan. Yesterday morning we spoke with our pastor at length in our home, and our belief was confirmed. He is near retirement, and has never dealt directly with parents that have lost an infant child. He shared with us that the day that we were giving birth to Jesse, another couple here in Athens experienced the loss of their premature baby at 6 months. Initially, the parents wanted to simply call the funeral home and not include anyone in their loss. Father explained that after witnessing our experience on Wednesday, he was able to speak with the parents and ultimately they ended up having a funeral mass with their families present just yesterday. Their child’s life was honored, their loss was recognized - they can begin to heal…Jesse’s work had already begun.
Last October, when we chose to name our son, we did so to acknowledge not only his life, but also what we hoped his life would mean. We chose the name Jesse from a hymn that was sung during Advent mass at our old church in New York by the priest that married us. He had a voice that sounded as if it came straight down from Heaven, and it was from this Old Testament passage from Isaiah that we found our son’s name:
“A shoot shall sprout
From the root of Jesse,
And the spirit of God
Shall rest on him.”
The sadness we feel is companion to gratitude to have been chosen as Jesse’s parents, to be a vehicle of God’s message of love and caring, to give witness that every life is sacred and has purpose. We move on with our son’s memory, and a message that we will never fully understand. We believe in our hearts that this message will bring peace to so many that we will never know. For that, and for the time that we knew him and the time that we held him, we are eternally thankful.