From Loss to Strength with Love

Jennifer Williams Shares Her Journey to Motherhood

After years of being told that conceiving on their own was impossible, Scranton residents Jennifer and Bayard Williams were shocked and overjoyed when they found out they were expecting a baby boy in November 2013. Their once-stalled dreams of parenthood were coming true. Jennifer’s pregnancy was difficult and her doctors said there was a high probability of delivering early. The couple kept the faith, “We told each other everything was going to be fine,” she explains.

On August 5, 2013, their parenthood dream was fast-tracked to reality when Bayard rushed Jennifer to the hospital in premature labor. Every measure was taken to stop the labor and keep the baby inside. Since those efforts were not successful, the doctors gave Jennifer Surfactant (a drug funded by the March of Dimes) to help the baby’s lungs to mature. For more than 48 hours Jennifer stayed in a Trendelenburg position with her body and legs inclined at a 45-degree angle to assure the medicine reached the baby’s lungs. “I was so afraid and uncertain as to what was going to happen but kept telling myself that it was all going to be ok. It had to be ok,” Jennifer recalls.

On August 7, 2013 Nathan Russell was born at 24 weeks and three days weighing just over a pound. For the first few hours Jennifer was unable to visit Nathan in the NICU. The following morning when Bayard wheeled her to NICU, “It was love at first sight,” she explains. “His little finger squeezed mine and that feeling I will never forget. He was so tiny, but he was a fighter.” Jennifer didn’t know that the first time she held him would be her last. Within 48 hours things took a turn for the worst. Nathan fought hard for five days, but on August 11, 2013 he passed away with his parents and loved ones at his side. It was a devastating blow to the entire family, a time that should be celebratory and joyous turned to sorrow and grief. “Our lives were shattered. Nathan showed such courage, determination, strength and the true meaning of love,” says Jennifer. She says the precious lessons of love and courage they learned in their four days with Nathan will never be forgotten.

Jennifer found out she was again pregnant almost two years later. They were over-the-moon but also nervous and afraid. Jennifer saw many specialists and was monitored closely to maintain her pregnancy as long as possible. Through the March of Dimes, she received weekly Makena injections free of charge. The medication is a form of progesterone, which is naturally developed in the body and is integral to the initiation of labor. As labor begins, progesterone declines sharply. So theoretically the injections helped ward off early labor. At 26 weeks they had a scare when Jennifer had a sub chorionic hemorrhage, for protective and preventative measures Jennifer received Surfactant for the baby. The crisis passed, and Jennifer carried the baby 37 weeks to full term and delivered a six pound 15 ounce baby boy named Russell Anthony on June 3, 2015. The couple says March of Dimes was critical to the support and success of Jennifer’s pregnancy both through the life sustaining medication and the love, concern and care they received from the March of Dimes staff. “Their support allowed us to be prepared for the possibility of a premature birth,” explains Jennifer.

To give back to the March of Dimes, Jennifer and Bayard formed TeamNate807, which has raised over $15,000 in donations to help other families in need. TeamNate807 walks in the March for Babies every year in Nathan’s honor. “Our team sets a financial goal and begins collaborative discussions on fundraisers for the year.” Fundraisers held throughout the year raise awareness and money to help support the mission of the March of Dimes. The team sold t-shirts, had hoagie sales, hosted a craft fair, chartered a wine tour, and held a gala.

Jennifer and Bayard honor Nathan’s memory by sharing their story with others, and walking in his memory each year. “We remember Nathan in everything we do, and continue to teach Russell of his brother,” Jennifer explains. “We have vowed to remember Nathan in all that we do until our last breath.” Their journey taught them to enjoy every day good or bad, especially on Mothers’ Day. “Protecting and carrying our two sons has been one of life’s most rewarding and enriching experiences,”proclaims Jennifer. – Kieran O’Brien Kern