New parents have nine months of preparation to welcome home a newborn baby. Nothing, however, can prepare for the gut-wrenching heartbreak of returning home to an empty nursery. Sadly, that was exactly what happened to one Idaho couple when their first baby died less than a week after being born. Then, less than a year later, the pressure was on the same doctor to deliver their second baby safely…
Andrew and Amanda Hanson had struggled to conceive their first child. Indeed, for two and a half years they had been trying for a baby with no luck. But then, on April 6, 2013, the Boise, Idaho, couple welcomed into the world their first son, Klayton.
Both the pregnancy and labor had been smooth, with no sign of any problems. Furthermore, as Amanda told USA Today in July 2014, “When they broke my water it was clear, so there were no signs of distress or that anything was wrong.” But there was a problem.
Amanda continued, “It wasn’t until [Klayton] came out and you wait for that cry, and there wasn’t one.” The new mom thought, then, that there must be something wrong. Also present at the delivery, moreover, had been local photographer Sarah Ledford, whom Andrew and Amanda had hired to document the birth.
Ledford later told USA Today of how the mood in the room changed. She said, “The whole room went silent. Everybody was just holding their breath waiting for the baby to cry.” Then, as the room swarmed with doctors and nurses, she realized that something very serious was happening.
Andrew, too, thought that something was wrong as he waited for his son to cry. But as more doctors came into the room, the helpless father could only watch as they tended to the infant. Sadly, the cry that Andrew and Amanda expected from their newborn baby never came.
Tragically, Klayton had breathed in fluid while in the womb. His airway had become completely blocked, and he consequently couldn’t breathe.
By the time doctors had revived Klayton, then, the newborn had suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy – meaning that some of his brain tissue had been destroyed after being too long without access to oxygen. Doctors duly pronounced the baby brain dead. And although Andrew and Amanda were understandably devastated, they found the strength to make his next six days the best they could before they let him go.
“I was just so mad,” Amanda told USA Today. “Nobody said this could happen. The nursery was set up, toys were out. Coming home and… He wasn’t with us. That was so hard.” Feeling the pain along with the Hansons was their doctor, Bryan Hodges.
Speaking to USA Today, Amanda said, “He cried right along with us. At that point he wasn’t even a doctor anymore.” Hodges had been delivering babies for 11 years, and Klayton was in fact his first loss. He found the experience deeply traumatizing, too, with the event still constantly weighing on his mind to this day.
And yet, just a few short months later, Andrew and Amanda would pay a visit to Dr. Hodges once again. This time, however, the news would be altogether happier. Amanda had fallen pregnant again – news that the couple found as frightening as it was exciting.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Andrew told Today in June 2014. “We were still both mourning, we hadn’t really moved past [Klayton’s death].” Amanda added, “We were in shock. I was terrified from the instant I found out.” Nonetheless, Amanda contacted Sarah Ledford to share the news of her “rainbow baby.”
“I didn’t know what a rainbow baby was,” Ledford explained to USA Today. “[Amanda] came to her maternity session with paint. We had her paint a rainbow right on her pregnant belly.” In fact, the term “rainbow baby” refers to a child born after the trauma of a miscarriage, a stillbirth or other infant loss. Ledford added, “That’s your promise after a storm.”
So, less than a year after the heart-wrenching loss of their first-born son, in February 2014 Andrew and Amanda were back at the same hospital in a delivery room. Adding to the sense of déjà vu, photographer Ledford and Dr. Hodges were also in the room.
Labor for Amanda was, however, smoother this time. Amanda subsequently reported that she felt her first son’s presence in the delivery room as his younger brother, Karson, popped into the world. “When Andy cut the cord, [Karson] let out… just this battle cry of, ‘I’m here,’” Dr. Hodges told Today.
It was at this point that Andrew, full of emotion, approached Dr. Hodges and gave him a huge hug. “Andrew looked up at me and he had tears streaming down his eyes,” Dr. Hodges later told Today. “And he walked around and gave me a big hug. It was a good closure.”
“I looked back at Dr. Hodges and I could just see how relieved he was, too,” Andrew told USA Today. “I just couldn’t help it, I had to give him a hug. It just felt right.” It was a touching moment that was beautifully captured by Ledford in her pictures.
And the moment, which she described on her Facebook page as having taken her breath away, was shared more than 15,000 times and attracted over 250,000 likes. She subsequently told Today, “It was amazing. Everything bad that had happened had just been lifted off of every single person involved.”
“I was just so happy,” Andrew added. “I knew that moment was going to come and I was going to break down and bawl.” Dr. Hodges also said to USA Today, “I think a very personal moment was caught on film. And I think there is just such a great sense of relief and joy.”
But more than that, Amanda wants Karson to be a sign of hope. “[He’s] the light at the end of the tunnel that he was able to bring us joy after so much grief,” she explained to the newspaper. She added, “Every day I just look at him and smile and… hope.”