William’s Story

I was so excited to find out we were expecting our first child in October of 2011. We had been married about 18 months, and were looking forward to starting a family; we couldn’t wait to fill our house with the echoes of pitter-pattering footsteps. We announced to my family at Thanksgiving dinner, as I was lumping it through the unpleasantness of the first-trimester. Baby Z was to be my parents first grandbaby, and Nana and Granddad were more than enthusiastic.

Christmas time brought presents for the unknown little person, and the purchase of a gently used crib for the soon-to-be nursery. I was thoroughly convinced I was having a boy. A baby boy we had affectionately nicknamed “Fruitbat,” because I was craving so much fruit. Around my 20th week Daniel was able to feel Fruitbat kick for the first time.

At my 23 week check-up I had an ultrasound, and we chose not to know the gender. The little mystery person looked healthy and strong, growing well. That evening, after a brisk walk in the sunshine, my water broke. As a first time mommy, I didn’t realize what was happening. I hadn’t had a birth class yet, and since during my ultrasound, Fruitbat had been cozying up to bladder, I assumed I’d had an accident. The midwife recommended rest, and I was given instructions to call if I spiked a fever.

The following day my temperature spiked. When I was lucid enough to realize what was going on, I called my midwife again. Assuming bladder infection, I was scheduled for a check-up first thing in the morning. My tests revealed that I did not have a bladder infection, but a uterine infection, and an ultrasound showed that I had lost almost all of my amniotic fluid. As I was in the doctor’s office waiting to see an OB, I began having mild contractions. I was sent to the hospital, and then transferred by ambulance to a larger hospital with a specialized OB and a NICU. I was sent in for an emergency c-section shortly after arriving at the second hospital.

March 9, 2012, at 4:09 PM, William Jorge Zambrano was born at 23 weeks, 4 days gestation. He was named for William the Conqueror – because I wanted him to conquer all of the obstacles before him – and for his late grandfather, Jorge.

He weight 1lb 7oz, and had a collapsed lung. I was very ill myself. I remember meeting little William in the NICU once I left recovery. In my dazed state of post-op, painkillers, and extremely potent antibiotics, I remember being horrified. His skin was dark and bruised almost black, his little eyes still sealed shut. He was so tiny that the smallest preemie diapers were too big on him. And then there were the tubes, and cords, and wires, and the patches and the beeping noises and the sterile hospital environment. The shock was so great, I couldn’t look at him for more than a few minutes before I had to leave. I was sick to my stomach. I wish I would have stayed.

The next seven days were a flurry of activity. My hospital is considered a “pro-baby” hospital, meaning they encourage both breastfeeding and Kangaroo care. Since William was too small to nurse but needed the milk, I was pumping strictly ever 2 hours day and night (no different from a nursing mom, but I couldn’t be with my baby while doing it). I would cuddle up to my very Little Man every afternoon for an hour or so. I would eat. I would sleep. I would sit by the incubator and talk to William’s nurse. I remember one day going outside to get some sunshine. I couldn’t read stories or sing songs – I would start to cry – but I would hum or talk a little to my precious little William. We prayed over him every night, the only way we could tuck him in.

At first, William did well. In a couple of days the tube in his lung was removed, and he was clearly taking little breaths on his own, although on a respirator. The nurses kept telling me how feisty he was. He didn’t like be swaddled up, he wanted his arms and legs free to move around. A typical little boy, he peed on more than one nurse during diaper changes. He even started getting some breastmilk through a tube. They called it the honeymoon period, and kept telling us we were in for a long journey. But they were optimistic. His heart looked good, his brain looked good, his body was well developed. He needed time to mature and develop, but he was a promising little guy.

There were things that were especially hard. I hated seeing his blood drawn, he seemed so tiny and has so little to begin with. No one could touch him but us and the medical staff, and that incubator looked so lonely. My husband had to return to work because he had no paid emergency leave, so he commuted over an hour from our hometown to the out-of-town hospital multiple times. Still we were well supported. My mom stayed with me, and my dad and sister visited frequently. My mother-in-law flew in from Philly to be with my husband. Pastors came to visit. Colleagues came to visit. Friends and family came to visit. We started making plans to be in the NICU long-term.

Then everything went wrong. William’s blood gases started looking bad. He stopped filling his tiny little diaper. He stopped peeing. That’s when they told me to call my husband. Then the seizures started, only registered as aberrant brain activity on a monitor I’m thankful I couldn’t read. My husband held him for the first time that day, a full week after William was born. Then they told us there was nothing else they could do; the seizures had become too severe and he had lost most brain function. The doctors and nurses had tears in their eyes; they’d loved my son, too.

We held him for a while, surrounded by our family. We wept. Our loved ones kissed our little man goodbye and left us with him for a bit. We didn’t keep him long; we knew he had fought the good fight and needed to rest.  Once the respirator was removed, we sang our little William home to Jesus. This Is My Father’s World, which was William’s favorite, and Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Because at such a time, what else do you say?

Then it was over – close to midnight. We slept at the hospital that night. And then we left. Nothing more to do, no little person to see.

Through the following days as we planned his memorial and burial, we held fast to Psalm 9:19-16

“Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place — the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

As I think of my Little Man, I’m reminded that he was, in fact, a true conqueror. Through Christ, William has conquered death.

“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” ~Romans 8:37





I’ve shared this post at The Mommypotomus and the Sisterhood of Loss and Support

23 thoughts on “William’s Story

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  3. It’s hard to know what to say here, except that I am just bawling. Thank you for sharing your story in all of it’s raw contradictions: tragedy and hope, grief and victory. Praying peace on your heart and your womb.

    • Thank you, Heather. Thanks also for including me in your birth stories link-up. Its easy for us mommas who have gone through difficult things to feel a part of the “normal” moms’ circle.

  4. Oh, Amanda, I’m so, so sorry that you, your husband, and your tiny man had to go through this. My heart just really goes out to you and your family. The strength you show here and your faith in God is really an amazing example and I want to thank you so much for sharing your story and your pictures. You are a wonderful woman.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing your sweet story about William. What a beautiful little boy. I was so touched reading your story. I pray for continual peace and strength for you and your husband.

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  8. Oh wow you are so strong to share this and to go through it. I cried reading this. Our son is 10 months old. He was born 2 months early (so is 8 months “adjusted” for his due date) and we drove back and forth to NICUs in the city for 2 months. He was born with cleft lip and palate and has terrible eczema but he is alive and smiles and gets to play with his cousin. I remember all the babies in the NICU and I am grateful every day that our son got to live. May you and your husband have peace of hearts and mind in remembering you did all you could for your little one.

  9. I doubt you remember me, but I used to work at the Subway that you and your husband frequented. I remember striking up a conversation with you not long after your marriage, and I was still giddy over my own recent marriage. Although our Father God has gifted me with discernment, I don’t always immediately understand his purpose for drawing my attention to people. I did follow a distinct path from God that led me to your Facebook and this blog today, though. I sent you a friend request on FB and hope to be able to share some kind thoughts and words of comfort with you that I feel He wants you to hear. If you are not up for that, I understand.

    I also wanted to tell you that your son William was absolutely gorgeous! I am so sorry you have to grieve his loss. You will most certainly be reunited with him one day. You have such a kind and beautiful soul that is very apparent to complete strangers (obviously…lol!). I will pray for you and Dan as you continue struggle with the trials and heartache of this life. I pray you keep your strength and faith and that at least even a small glimpse at hope is shown to you. Hugs!

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  11. Amanda, thank you for sharing this part of your heart and life. I was drawn by the simplicity of your faith and trust. Christ is clearly the “solid rock” on which you stand and find your strength. The passage from Psalm 9 gripped my soul when reading it from your grieving perspective. What hope is offered through those words. I believe William has not only conquered death through Christ but that Christ is using his life and death, through your story, to conquer souls for His kingdom. He is a warrior for Christ! I would love to meet you and “hug your neck”, as they say here in the South.

    • Debbie – what wonderful, thoughtful words! I’m constantly amazed at how Christ is working through the darkest of days. He is good, isn’t he? Be blessed today by our Savior. A virtual hug from me!

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  13. Amanda, I just saw a comment you made several months ago on a post I was reading and felt compelled to see if you had chronicled your experience with your son. I am so very grateful for you sharing this part of your life. I can’t begin to describe how much it means to me to have found you, and to read your experience. I, too, had a son born way too early just about a year and a half ago. Landon Asher Friedline. We lost him after 2 weeks in the NICU. I journaled his daily progress on Caring Bridge for our family and friends up until his passing. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/landonasherfriedline I have always been strong in my faith but have had a very difficult faith journey since his passing. My husband and I are healing little by little, but we still sometimes lose our way. Please know that your words have so much impact. You are an inspiration to me, and an image of the mommy-of-an-angel I want to be. Thank you for making this blog, and for sharing your experience.

    • Jennifer, I am so sorry for the loss of your son. Just now I sat down and had a good cry over my sweet William – what a balm to read your words, and know that I am not alone, and that through William’s story, others are being blessed. Praying you continue to find peace as you grieve Landon.

  14. Dear Amanda,

    Can’t even begin to imagine the pain you have been through… But I am very thankful that you have Jesus as the center of your life. Hasn’t been Him, how could we have managed through life’s crazy things? I haven’t experienced the loss of a child, and maybe cannot even afford to say I can imagine how excruciating it is, but I can relate to your story somehow. My family has been through a LOT, I mean, really hard things, but amidst it all, we have walked with Jesus. And we have learnt with him, and have been healed by Him. I guess I could say that I am grateful for everything that has happened to us, because it has drawn us closer as ever before to His love and Mercy.
    I am sending you prayers all the way from Brazil. Your story has reached that far, and now you have a praying friend down here in the South, too. 😉
    Your sister in Christ,

    • Ligia – thank you for sharing your heart. How hard it is to cling to Jesus when the hard things keeps coming, and yet how necessary it is. I’m sure you can tell from my sporadic posting that life hasn’t been easy in recent months either. Our faith gets rattled and its hard to cling to truth. Praying for you as you walk through the challenges of your life, and thanking God for the sweet way he brings people into our lives in the moments when we need encouraging. Bless you!

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