Keeghan Taylor and Dalton Haight have journeyed a fairy tale storyline together, a path fret with fear, but rooted in love.
Their 6-month-old son, Jameson, born premature with major medical conditions, stars as the prince, the ring-leader of their family circle, and they as his constant companions.
On Saturday, Keeghan and Dalton married at the Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital chapel, a place they chose so their little prince could be present at their wedding, and the doctors and nurses in his court, could surround them with both medical and emotional support.
Their ‘once upon a time’ began many years ago, when 5-year-olds Keeghan and Dalton hung out in the karate school kid area together while their parents took lessons.
Their paths intersected several times after that—in middle school, then as older teenagers. They both came to believe they were meant to be together, after so many chance meetings.
“The last time our paths crossed, it was through mutual friends,” Keeghan said. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s you.’ I thought it was fate at that point.”
They met at a Grand Haven, Michigan, restaurant for their first date. They then continued seeing each other regularly, spending time on the beach, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Olive Garden.
“We both knew we wanted kids,” Keeghan said. “I was told when I was younger that I would have trouble having kids. I started tracking my ovulations.”
A complicated pregnancy
The Tuesday after Mother’s Day last year, Keeghan learned she was pregnant.
“That was incredible,” she said. “I’ve always felt like I’m supposed to be a Mom, like that’s my duty in life. I was in love from the second I knew.”
She shared the news with Dalton by placing a pink sucker and a blue sucker in an envelope, followed by the results of her pregnancy test in a second envelope.
Although excited, their anticipation turned to terror.
“We had complications throughout the entire pregnancy,” Keeghan said. “We knew he was coming early, but we didn’t know how early.”
One night, as the couple slept, Dalton awoke to Keeghan bleeding profusely.
“I woke up and I was covered in blood,” he said. “In my mind, it was the worst-case scenario, that we had lost the baby. I told her, ‘We need to get to the hospital.’ I was worried about her safety and her well-being, as well as the baby’s. It was hard to juggle all those emotions and still be strong for her.”
There were many such trips to the emergency room. Keeghan developed hematomas inside her uterus. Her placenta detached. She settled into modified bed rest for 26 weeks.
She attended weekly appointments at Spectrum Health, and saw maternal fetal medicine specialists for monitoring.
“I only gained 4 pounds throughout my entire pregnancy,” she said. “They were concerned about his organ development.”
Tiny baby, big medical problems
Those fears proved to be on target. Jameson stopped growing at 24 weeks gestation. When Keeghan underwent a C-section on October 13, Jameson weighed only 1.5 pounds and entered the world with many medical complications.
He needed a ventilator to breathe—set at maximum oxygen level. At 3 days old, he underwent a double barrel colostomy. Next, eye surgery, followed by two hernia repairs and a G-tube. He also entered the world with seven bone fractures.
Like their son, Keeghan and Dalton entered a new world, staring at their medically-challenged baby inside his isolette. They dozed in his room and slept at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Renucci House.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months.
Some days brought new fears. Others, status quo. Some, hope. The roller coaster track could have derailed the relationship.
“It could either tear us apart or bring us together and I think it did bring us together,” Dalton said. “I had been planning the engagement for like six months. I knew I wanted to do something super special.”
He picked December 30, their one-year anniversary. He wrote notes, each beginning with an uppercase letter, that when placed with the other notes, spelled “Will you marry me?”
They visited the beach, the Rendezvous Restaurant in Grand Haven where they shared their first date, his truck, Frederik Meijer Gardens, Olive Garden and more. At each stop, he handed her a note.
The last stop? Jameson’s neonatal intensive care unit. Dalton had arranged for a nurse to tuck the final note, and the ring box, inside their son’s isolette.
“I wanted to get Jameson in on the proposal,” Dalton said.
Standing beside her infant son, and her soon-to-be husband, Keeghan burst into tears, with an emphatic ‘yes.’
‘Til death do us part
Keeghan and Dalton knew they could get married anywhere, but they also knew taking their son away from an environment full of trained medical staff could be risky.
“Originally, we were going to get married this summer after Jameson was home,” Keeghan said. “The more we thought about it, he’s so medically fragile. And there are germs everywhere. We decided to get married at the hospital before he goes home. We didn’t have to worry about something happening during the ceremony.”
Dalton said they wanted their special day to be as stress-free as possible.
“It’s very scary when he goes down because he goes down hard and he goes down fast,” Dalton said. When his heart rate and sat rate drop, he turns purple.”
Besides, the NICU staff has become like family, and the young couple wanted them in attendance, if possible.
Saturday afternoon, doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists and nurse techs gathered in the chapel with family to celebrate the couple’s special day.
Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital neonatalist Robert Langen, MD, was among them.
“They have gone through a lot,” Dr. Langen said. “They are a young couple who had an extremely premature baby with more complications even than most premature babies. He’s had a lot of issues.”
Some of those issues, life-threatening.
“He’s doing pretty well now,” Dr. Langen said. “We’ve come to know the family well. This place has become an integral part of their life. It’s almost like their home.”
Lauren Broersma, one of Jameson’s primary care nurses, also attended.
“He’s a rock star,” Broersma said of Jameson. “I’m so happy for the family. This wedding is perfect. It’s so them.”
Saturday afternoon, as “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran played, Holly Rottier, an RN in the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit, walked the groom to the front of the 11th-floor chapel.
Next, Rottier returned to the hall outside the chapel and wheeled the bow-tied baby Jameson, surrounded by medical equipment, into the chapel. She placed flower petals inside his tiny hands, which he dropped to the floor. Between his tiny feet sat the open box containing wedding rings.
Several staff members teared up when they saw the tiny ring bearer, the one sent to complete the family circle.
Keeghan, escorted by her father and grandfather, followed Jameson up the small aisle, then stood front and center with her soon-to-be husband, and her maid of honor mother, at her side.
“Today is a celebration of love, of commitment, friendship and family and of two people who are in it forever,” said Keeghan’s stepsister, Shelby Pusz, who performed the ceremony.
As she spoke, the soft, rhythmic sound of Jameson’s ventilator filled the silence between the words.
“Despite all of our differences, love is what we all share,” Pusz said. “In this moment, we are reminded that love is the very best part of humanity. Love isn’t happily ever after. Love is the experience of writing your story.”