When you see bouncing, giggly babies practically everywhere you go, it’s sometimes easy to assume that they were all born as healthy and happy as they look. But when you stop and think about the fact that billions of tiny details have to go exactly right in order for a healthy child to be born, it boggles the mind — and makes every baby feel even more like a miracle. One Utah mom’s story is going viral this week for reminding us all of that very sobering fact.
Several months ago, a pregnant Nadine Shelley was undergoing a routine ultrasound when she and her husband Garrett received some upsetting news: her amniotic fluid was leaking, putting her baby’s health at risk.
In a now-viral post on the popular Facebook page Love What Matters, Shelley explained that her baby could have been born with a host of heartbreaking problems including brain damage, blindness, and severe mental and physical disabilities. Not only was her son at risk of dying or being born with serious complications, but Shelley’s life was in jeopardy as well.
It was for this reason that doctors advised the couple to consider terminating the pregnancy — a heartbreaking and difficult decision the Shelleys never thought they’d have to face.
“As a nurse, I appreciated what she was telling me,” she explained. “I understood why she would recommend it.”
But as Nadine later told Love What Matters, something inside her just wouldn’t allow termination to become a real option. Instead, she kept thinking about Harry Potter, the character at the center of her favorite books. She thought about the great odds he faced in each novel, and how his mother sacrificed her own life to protect his. And above all, she kept thinking of how he became known as “the boy who lived.”
Despite the odds, Nadine and her husband refused to terminate the pregnancy, and what happened next was nothing short of a miracle.
“The most terrifying part of this whole situation was that I didn’t know if Brayden would be OK,” Shelley tells Babble. “I was being told the opposite by specialists and statistics. I was putting my little family through a lot of stress with a high probability that I would come home from [5 weeks of] hospital bedrest empty-handed and without my baby.”
Shelley’s son Brayden was ultimately born at 28 weeks; too early to thrive on his own. He was rushed to the NICU where he would live for the next 76 days — days that were terrifying, and filled with endless worries and stress and what-ifs. But Shelley says the devoted NICU staff helped her pull through.
“The NICU staff was incredible,” she later shared on Facebook. “Many of them will be my life-long friends. I call some of them Brayden’s ‘other mommies’ because they were there for him when I couldn’t be.”
In fact, the NICU team had such a positive impact on the Shelley family, that the family went back to NICU to celebrate Brayden’s 1st birthday with the people who made it all possible.
“They loved him, soothed him, sang to him, and cuddled him when he needed it,” she shares. “It is something I can never repay!”
Getting through such a traumatic birth and postpartum experience is bound to be hard for any new parent — which is precisely why surrounding yourself with the right people can make all the difference. And that was certainly the case for this new mom.
“I have a very big support system,” Shelley tells Babble. “My 18-month-old daughter at the time was not allowed in the NICU because she was so little. So any time we went to go see Brayden in the NICU we needed to have a babysitter. My mom and dad were only about 15 minutes away from us at the time, so they were probably the biggest support … They love their grandchildren, and they were their to support us every step of the way.”
And it wasn’t just family and NICU staff that stepped in, either.
“We also had many neighbors come to our house and watch our daughter so Garrett and I could go to the NICU together,” Shelley explains. “Several of my aunts, cousins, friends, and coworkers pitched in as well. Everyone saw how much help we needed, and their support and love was overwhelming.”
In the end, Brayden beat the odds — just as the wizarding Harry Potter did in J.K. Rowling’s famed novels — and to the Shelleys, he is now known as they’re very own boy who lived.
Now at 1 year old, his mom says he’s nothing short of a modern-day miracle.
“He is physically 1, but gestational age he is more like a 9-month-old baby, because he was born 3 months early,” she explains. “So he is crawling around and getting into everything, and has the biggest toothless smile I’ve ever seen.”
Congrats to the Shelleys, and to their miracle baby Brayden for celebrating a year they at one point feared they’d never get to have. Their incredible story is both heartwarming and inspiring.