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First Friday Birth Story! This month: Raeann Howes and her baby girl, Justus

We love birth stories! Each one is unique and amazing. If you'd like to share yours, you can use the button below to submit it. We will read (and probably cry) over each one, and then post one on the first Friday of every month! 

Mama: Raeann Howes
Baby: Justus
Due Date: Monday, March 12, 2012
Birthday: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This is a very special, miraculous story.

I became pregnant in June of 2011 and once we found out I was 6 weeks along and due March, 12, 2012. Everything seemed to be going great up until about the 22 week of my pregnancy. My blood pressure started to elevate, but nothing too serious. The morning of Thanksgiving of 2011, I woke with cramps and bleeding. I rushed to the ER and I was told all seemed to be fine and my uterus was "acting irritable," but nothing to be concerned about. By the end of Thanksgiving night, I was back in the ER with more bleeding and more cramps. At this point, the cramping turned into light contractions and my cervix was just a bit soft. But still, the doctor assured me I was fine. I stayed for two nights and went home that Saturday morning. I was to be on strict bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy with weekly non-stress tests and ultrasounds. By that night, I was bleeding worse with severe cramps. I went to the ER again and to my surprise I was in full labor at 24 weeks!

They immediately started me on preterm labor medications to stop the contractions. I was rushed to Indiana University Hospital and was already dilated 2cm. Twenty minutes after the ambulance ride, I had dilated to 4cm and she was head down and my water bag was severely bulging. There was absolutely no reason for my pre-term labor. My cervix was fine, no infection, no blood clots, and most importantly baby was just fine. The doctors came in and updated us on what was going on and what would happen if I gave labor that night.

They explained to us that if she was born that night she would only have a 30-40% chance of living and of that chance an 80% chance of severe disabilities including cerebral palsy and a wheel chair with machines for the rest of her life. They told me that babies born at 24 weeks barely ever make it and if they do they have the worst possible quality of life. Our only options were to try and stop labor for 48 hours so I could receive steroids to develop the baby's lungs as quickly as possible since babies born at 24 weeks never breathe on their own. They also said that she had a 90% chance of severe brain bleeds and hemorrhaging. The doctors basically instructed us we should just hold her and let God take her. 

They hoped I would make it to 28 weeks because her chances of living would double to 80%. They assured me I would give birth that week since you can only be on those meds for 48 hours before it hurts mom and baby. The medications were stopped that Monday and I started contractions the following Tuesday afternoon. 24 hours later I was fully dilated and my water was on the verge of breaking. After a few large pushes Justus was born at 640 grams, or 1 lb 6 ounces. They actually placed her in a ziplock bag to keep her skin moist so it wouldn’t fall apart while they transported her to Riley Children’s Hospital. Her name is very special because she is our first child and she is “Just Us."

Basically at this point it was nothing but a waiting game. We were told she wouldn’t breathe on her own for months, would have severe brain bleeds, would be 80% blind and deaf if not more, her gut would be incredibly underdeveloped and would suffer severe necrotizing enterocolitis. She would also suffer severe chronic lung disease and a lot of heart problems. This summarizes just the major issues; this doesn’t even touch the minor issues.

Surprisingly Justus breathed on her own for the first five days! She was only intubated because she became septic and fighting an infection and breathing is very hard for a one pound baby. A week later they did a head ultrasound to determine the amount of brain bleeds she had. This was actually the biggest moment in her NICU journey because depending on how much her brain bled depended on if we should continue her life. To our amazing surprise, she had no brain bleeds and her brain/head was completely normal! Over the following weeks, Justus could have lost her life at any moment. Incredibly, she overcame EVERYTHING and was still alive after four weeks.

At this point, we knew she would live, but her quality of life was still in question. After two months had passed, Justus was still miraculously alive and doing beyond well. The fact she had no eye and ear issues defies medical science.

We finally took her home on her due date, March 12, 2012 with just a feeding tube. She weighed 6 lbs 13 ounces.

Today, Justus is a very healthy 16 month old with only some physical and occupational needs and is severely far sighted. She is itty bitty, just 15 lbs 6 ounces. We have had a lot of stomach issues and feeding tubes, but nothing near what she should have. Furthermore, the doctors cannot medically explain why Justus has done so well! We have had a lot of ups and downs, road bumps, and challenges to overcome. But not a day goes by we don’t praise God for our true miracle.

Thanks, Raeann, for sharing your story with us! Justus is truly a miracle baby and cute beyond words. Give her hugs and kisses from all of us at Kanga Care.

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