At home with Anders: Bemidji family celebrates first Thanksgiving with newborn son

BEMIDJI -- Grant Coauette was filling his tank at a local Tesoro when he looked up and saw the chopper that was carrying his wife and son. He was in no condition to drive after them. Amber's sister took the wheel. She aimed the tires toward Fargo...

Amber and Grant Coauette with their son Anders Wallace Coauette in their home on Tuesday. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Grant Coauette was filling his tank at a local Tesoro when he looked up and saw the chopper that was carrying his wife and son.

He was in no condition to drive after them. Amber’s sister took the wheel. She aimed the tires toward Fargo and accelerated while Grant tried and failed to relax.

Neither Grant nor Amber had met their son. They didn’t know it would be a son.

The Coauette pregnancy had been ordinary until Amber’s water broke on a Sunday morning in April as she lay in bed. They had painted the nursery at their home a day before, Amber’s visiting sister there to help, the walls melting into a soft, safe, gender-neutral tan.

“We thought we had more time,” Amber said. “He was just ready to meet the world.”


Ultrasounds during the first several months of the pregnancy failed to show that Amber has only half of a uterus. About three in 100 women have defects in the size or shape of their uterus, leading often to premature births or miscarriages or birth defects.

After 29 weeks, Anders Wallace Coauette had outgrown his living arrangement.

Amber, 30 and an accountant, doubted her water had broken. Grant, 31 and a former chiropractor studying to become a physician’s assistant, “had an inkling,” he said.

She wanted to shower first. He said absolutely not.

Hospital bound Amber sets down a drool rag and tries to calm Blaze, the family’s sweet, lick-happy Brittany.

Grant sits on the thick carpet, his back pressed against the couch and his legs spread to form a sort of human chair. He plays with the little fingers and toes that sprout from the little arms and legs that sprout from the little gray onesie. His blue dress shirt is wet with drool around the collar.

Life has been strangely ordinary for the Coauettes since Anders came to their home in the wooded Bemidji outskirts -- especially, Amber said, considering they’re first-time parents.

Sure, since July 13 they don’t get as much sleep, and Blaze doesn’t get as much attention.


But Anders smiles and sleeps and eats.

He switched to harder foods this week, though he’s not crazy about that. Grant and Amber give him squash to help the transition, though Grant said “he’s not sure about that either.”

Anders is 15 pounds, heavy enough now to register on a household scale. When he made his big move April 26, the Sunday, he was about 2 pounds, 5 ounces.

Amber felt nothing at first.

She started having contractions at Sanford Medical Center in Bemidji as doctors gave her a steroid to help the baby’s lung development and magnesium to help her relax.

They loaded her into a chopper bound for Sanford Medical Center in Fargo. Grant left the Bemidji hospital in the Coauette car. It was low on gas. Grant pulled into the gas station. He heard the fanning drone of the chopper. He found it in the sky. “I was in a state of shock,” he said.

Grant talked on the phone with his sister, an ob-gyn in Fargo, while Amber’s sister drove.

Doctors recommend mothers in labor spend a maximum of 48 hours on steroids and magnesium.


The baby didn’t come Sunday. He didn’t come Monday.

On Tuesday doctors prepared to move Amber to a long-term care room.

The starved woman ordered a big lunch. She smiled wanly for a photo, holding the flowers Grant’s classmates had bought for her.

Then Anders said hello.

Seventy-six days Anders has blue eyes. He’s starting to grow blond fuzz.

He’s a good sleeper, Amber said, and a good smiler. He needs coaxing to smile for a photo.

The doctors and nurses got to know Anders better than most babies.

In medical terms, Grant said, Anders was a whimpy white boy, and it’s the white baby boys who take the longest to gain strength.


Seventy-six days passed before Anders could come home.

Amber stayed in Fargo with Grant’s sister. Grant went back and forth between Bemidji and Fargo.

Their friends checked on the house, washing dishes and petting the dog.

Grant and Amber went to see Anders as much as they could in the neonatal intensive care unit, the baby hooked to breathing machines, tiny and fragile but with no birth defects.

Maybe because she’s an accountant, Amber knows all the important numbers.

Anders was 2 pounds, 5 ounces.

He measured 14 inches -- and an eighth.

She married Grant 5 and a half years ago.


“Wait,” she said. “Four and a half.” She knows all the important baby numbers.

From the moment a nurse pressed some sort of emergency button, Amber said, to the moment Anders blinked into the light, about 12 minutes had passed.

Grant flips through time-stamped photos on his phone to corroborate this.

Back home At the same time, the Coauettes seem to smile and frown when they look at the many-colored mess in the living room of their tidy house.

A playmat arched by a mobile sits in front of the muted TV.

Caches of stuffed animals and playthings pile around the room and floor.

When Grant and Amber visited the hospital July 13, the doctors and nurses smiled at them.

They had visited a day before. Anders hadn’t made his weight goal and needed another day.


The smiles told the Coauettes what they needed to know about July 13.

Doctors say it would be a bad idea for Grant and Amber to have another baby. The next one would likely come around 22 weeks, with a less pleasant prognosis than Anders.

“It won’t be coming from her womb,” Grant said.

The Coauettes say they feel fortunate as it is. Anders came home July 13, his due date.

“He has two birthdays,” Grant said. “We’ll celebrate the day he was born, but we’ll remember the day he came home.”

They also waited for a name.

The day Anders was born, Amber was too groggy. Their girl names were already narrowed down.

They had saved the boy discussion for the 76 days they never had.

The next day they locked on Anders, a good Scandinavian name, said the two Scandinavians.

Amber called her grandfather. There was still the middle name to decide.

“I would be honored,” he said.

And after that, she could hardly take it back.

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