Human Interest

Born at 18 weeks, premature baby Luke was ‘absolutely perfect’

Meghann Jacobs and her husband Craig were thrilled to be expecting their first baby, a boy they named Luke. His due date was March 8, 2018, and at first, the pregnancy went relatively well. But a major complication was looming, one that would cause an on-call doctor to advise abortion and could cause Luke to be a premature baby. The young couple, however, refused to terminate and did all they could to save their baby boy.

“At about 11 weeks, I had some traumatic bleeding,” Jacobs told Live Action News. “I had run across the school – I’m a teacher – to get something to a kid before he got on the bus, and I had severe bleeding. I went to the ER and they told us, without doing an ultrasound or anything, that we had had a miscarriage. I called my OB as soon as we left the ER and she said to come straight to her office, and she met us there and after explaining to her that I wasn’t having any cramps or pain, she said, ‘Let’s do an ultrasound’ and that’s when we saw that the baby was fine.”

Relieved and elated that their baby’s heart was still beating strong, the couple went home and Jacobs spent the weekend on bedrest. She returned to the doctor on Monday where she learned that her cervix was shorter than it had previously been. Another week of bed rest seemed to solve the problem and all was well, but then at just 15 weeks, Jacobs felt the pain of repetitive twinges. A trip to the doctor showed that she had dilated three centimeters. The doctor advised that she continue with bed rest, but within a few days, doctors found that the pregnancy membranes were new protruding. A specialist confirmed the news.

Baby Luke's parents hold his tiny hand after he was born prematurely at 18 and a half weeks gestation. Photo courtesy of Meghann Jacobs.

After his premature birth at 18 and a half weeks gestation, baby Luke’s parents hold his tiny hand. Photo courtesy of Meghann Jacobs.

Jacobs underwent an emergency transvaginal cerclage to stitch up her cervix. The specialist who performed the procedure didn’t offer much hope and the surgery caused severe bleeding, but overall, the surgery seemed to be a success. However, within a day, Jacobs suspected she was leaking amniotic fluid.

“I went back to the hospital and my doctors said the membranes were back out. The stitch was closed, but membranes were out,” explained Jacobs. “I stayed in labor and delivery and the fluid looked good around the baby. My doctor was out of town, and the on-call OB suggested that we terminate because it was going to happen anyway. But my husband and I knew that that wasn’t an option for us. We believed there was still a chance as long as our little boy was still in there. If it [the loss of Luke] was going to happen, it was going to happen. We weren’t going to make it happen.”

Jacobs remained in the hospital on bed rest for three more weeks until suddenly and without any signs of infection, she went into labor because of an infection of the placenta due to prolonged exposure.

Premature baby boy William Luke Jacobs was born at 18 and a half weeks on October 10, 2017. He had a heartbeat during labor but unfortunately did not survive the birth process and was stillborn.

Baby Luke, after his premature birth at 18 and a half weeks gestation. Photo courtesy of Meghann Jacobs.

Baby Luke, after his premature birth at 18 and a half weeks gestation. Photo courtesy of Meghann Jacobs.

“Our little boy was absolutely perfect,” said Jacobs. “It was amazing to see at 18.5 weeks. He had every single thing you and I have. Fingernails. Eyebrows. He even had features. My husband’s long, flat feet. He had my nose. It was amazing to see that at such an early gestation he still looked so perfect. And he was a lot bigger than I expected him to be too. From his head to the bottom of his feet was three or four inches past my wrist. So it was amazing to see the development even at nineteen weeks.”

The wonder and awe at the beauty of their baby boy were met with the pain of having lost him, but the couple held onto their faith in God and used the strength they received through prayer to get through the worst moments of their lives. Jacobs says there was one particular Bible passage that helped: Philippians 4:6-7 which reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Those words would bring her great comfort as she faced the loss of Luke.

“I hung onto that verse a lot as we were pregnant,” said Jacobs. “I thought of it at first that if I’m not anxious and I trust God then he’s going to give us Luke. But after we lost him, I realized that the verse doesn’t say He’s going to give us our prayers, but that He’s going to give us peace.”

That peace would be exactly what Jacobs received when the time came to say goodbye to Luke.

Craig and Meghann Jacobs hold their premature baby boy Luke who was born at 18 and a half weeks gestation. Photo courtesy of Meghann Jacobs.

Craig and Meghann Jacobs hold their premature baby boy Luke who was born at 18 and a half weeks gestation. Photo courtesy of Meghann Jacobs.

“The hardest moment was when they had to take him away. I lost it,” said Jacobs. “I broke down and I said, ‘God give me your peace’ and the sobs were taken away so fast it made me sick. I just couldn’t cry anymore. I have never felt God’s power like I did in that moment. That was a life-altering moment. The hardest thing a parent can ever face and then to feel peace – there’s no other explanation than God’s peace.”

After Luke was born and Jacobs had seen first-hand how developed he was at 18 and a half weeks, she began researching the legal age limits on abortion and was shocked to learn that abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy in the United States.

“After looking into it and realizing that in almost every state it is legal to abort past 20 weeks, that was just mindboggling to me,” she explained. “I knew that abortion was legal, but I assumed that it was just up to 12 weeks. And so, to think that there are abortions being done on children that are his size and bigger – that’s a person. That’s a human. Not just a fetus or a clump of cells. They have everything you and I have just on a smaller scale. So that was hard for me to imagine and understand.”

At first, Jacobs and her husband weren’t going to share images of Luke. They had friends and family who found it too difficult to view pictures of the baby they had lost. But then Jacobs realized she wanted to share Luke’s pictures; after all, she was a mother, and what mother doesn’t want to share her baby’s pictures. Realizing that Luke’s life has touched so many lives, she began to see God’s purpose for him.

“In sharing his picture and his story we want more than anything to continue his purpose. I felt very strongly that God had a purpose for him on this earth and I think his purpose has continued in reaching people,” said Jacobs. “I feel that his purpose is for people to see the life that it is, even at 19 weeks, and the person that’s there. And in sharing his story and our journey, we couldn’t have made it, we wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t have God’s strength to help us through the process. He’s carried us through the whole process. And I hope through this we are able to minister to others who deal with this grief. Because there’s not a textbook on it, there’s no way to know, ‘How do I handle this? How do I deal with it?’ It’s just a process that is different for everybody. Having other people who had gone through a loss – a stillbirth, an infant loss, having them support us and saying, ‘I understand. I’ve been there,’ was a huge benefit to us, so we want to also be that for other people.”

Jacobs says her husband has been her rock through the entire experience, but he has also learned that it’s okay for him to be emotional as well. They are seeing a grief counselor together in hopes of handling the loss in the healthiest way possible for each of them. They also continue to hold onto the hope of having more children and have taken steps to make sure that happens.

Premature baby Luke was born at 18 and a half weeks gestation. Photo courtesy of Meghann Jacobs.

Premature baby Luke was born at 18 and a half weeks gestation. Photo courtesy of Meghann Jacobs.

Jacobs was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix, and typical protocol is to have a vaginal cerclage placed at about 12 weeks gestation which is then followed by bed rest. That offers a 75 percent success rate of making it to 24 weeks. Not wanting to relive what they had already been through, the couple searched for other options, and they found one. In February, Jacobs and her husband traveled from their home in Georgia to Chicago for a surgery called transabdominal cerclage. This surgery would mean that any future children would have to be delivered via C-section, but it also offered a 95 percent success rate of carrying her children to full term. It’s a surgery that very few doctors perform.

“Those odds seemed much more hopeful,” said Jacobs, “And it could be done before we were pregnant rather than waiting. It does mean I have to have a C-section for all pregnancies, but that to me wasn’t a huge deal. If we wanted more than one baby we’d have to repeat the vaginal cerclage every time. The risk of having a premature baby and the NICU were just kind of daunting to us.”

The couple can try to get pregnant whenever they are ready and they have high hopes that barring any other complications, they will not lose their future children due to incompetent cervix issues. While they are excited at the prospect of future children, Jacobs says they will always count Luke among them.

“When people ask if we have children we say ‘our son.’ We say, ‘We have a son. He’s not here with us.’ And when we have future children we will always include him as part of that,” she explained. “We just want him to be remembered and his impact to continue and his purpose to further impact other people. And bring all the glory back to God and his power through this process.”

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