A grieving mom is sharing her family’s “rollercoaster” adoption story after spending eight precious days with a micro-preemie baby boy. The baby lost his fight for life, but his adoptive mom remains grateful for their time spent together, claiming “his tiny footprints are forever stamped on my heart.”
Julie Chambers, 48, and her husband of almost 25 years, 50-year-old David, are parents to 11 children together at their home in San Diego, California. Julie describes herself on her blog as “privileged to be a mother of eleven by way of homegrown, adoption, and fostering.”
Eight of the couple’s 11 children have special needs, including autism, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy, as well as a number of complex medical needs owing to premature birth and developmental delays.
Julie and David matched with their two most recent adopted babies in quick succession. Julie, posting on Love What Matters, explained that one baby had been born at 25 weeks, a “micro preemie,” and the other was due in August 2019.
In the midst of settling into a routine with their newly adopted micro preemie, Julie received a message. “The mama that we had matched with for adoption, though not due for 16 weeks, was in crisis,” Julie wrote. “As one message read, ‘Her water broke.’”
The couple lived across the country from the mama. Julie nonetheless planned a cross-country trip in order to be by the birth mother’s side.
Baby Cane was born at 16 weeks, making him another micro preemie. While Julie fell in love instantly with the tiny tot, his prognosis was concerning.
That Sunday, Julie flew back home; however, her mind was still on the baby boy.
“My heart felt for the first mama who I have grown to love, and our son, who was laying in an isolette without anyone there except medical staff,” Julie explained. She decided at that time that the best course of action would be to fly with her entire family to the hospital’s NICU to be with baby Cane as he fought for his life.
“[A]s each day came, so did the daily calls from the doctors and the grim reality that he may not make it through the next hour,” said Julie. Upon arrival at the hospital, the frazzled mom with her family in tow was shocked by her adopted son’s appearance.
Within three days of Julie last seeing him, Cane was anemic and didn’t show any movement.
“He was so small with so many tubes and wires encumbering his little body,” she recalled. “I just wanted to trade places. I wanted him to beat the E. coli infection that was ravaging his system.”
Over the next few days that followed, Cane’s little body fought hard. During this period of time, Julie and her family could witness miracles, especially all that they had prayed for and asked others too to pray for. Speaking of miracles, she said, “Our little one would come through on one but take three steps back on others.”
Tragically, after eight days of emotional ups and downs, an EEG revealed the family’s worst nightmare: Cane had no brain activity. At that time, Julie was heartbroken and requested that Cane’s wires be removed so that she could finally hold her baby son close to her heart.
By the evening that day, Julie hoped that Cane would know that “he had given so much love to our family.”
“Eight days is never enough to have with anyone in comparison to a lifetime,” Julie reflected, “but I know we will cherish every moment we were given.”
“I was asked this past week how I could love someone so much I did not give birth to and my answer was, how could you not?” she continued. “He needed us and we needed him, and that is the definition of family.”
In the wake of Cane’s passing, Julie continues to write about life as a mother of a large blended family on her parenting blog, “Our Big Crazy Family.” On May 12, 2020, Julie shared a heartfelt update on life after baby Cane.
“I still have so much to learn, so much to advocate for, so much to live for, and so much to celebrate,” Julie shared.
“There will continue to be good days and not so good, but that is the beauty my children have taught me,” the mom of 11 concluded. “[T]hey live in the moment.”
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