Before she was born, baby Jocelyn Shirley was diagnosed with a fatal form of skeletal dysplasia, or dwarfism.
During her 24-week ultrasound appointment, doctors told her parents, Ashley and Ronnie Shirley, that their unborn daughter was missing part of her brain. They said Jocelyn’s femur bones were bowed, and her arms and legs were smaller than they should be.
The doctors suggested an abortion, but the Shirleys refused, according to Live Action News, which first reported the Tennessee family’s story.
But as the weeks went by, the news only got worse.
“As she grew, her chest did not,” her mother said. “Her heart eventually took up over half her chest, leaving virtually no room for her lungs to grow and mature. That’s when they told us they didn’t know if she would come out breathing or not.”
The Shirleys said doctors suggested that they abort their daughter several times, but they continued to refuse. Though they were devastated, the family decided that Jocelyn should live as long as God intended.
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“I sat many days and just wondered why this was happening. I would pray in my mind, but couldn’t open my mouth to pray. I couldn’t open my Bible. I was just emotionally and mentally drained,” Ashley said.
The Shirleys prepared for the worst on July 7, the date when Jocelyn was scheduled to be born. They asked a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, an organization that provides support to families whose babies are diagnosed with fatal defects, to come to the hospital; and some of their family flew in for the event, expecting to attend both Jocelyn’s birth and funeral.
But the tiny girl had a big surprise for her family. She was born alive and crying, photographer Jennifer Wilkerson wrote on Facebook.
“Mom and dad were praying and holding each other wondering if they would even get to hear her sweet cry, when she started screaming- which doctors had prepared them that this would be very unlikely,” Wilkerson recalled. “That sound was the most beautiful sound I think any of us had ever heard.”
Here’s more from Live Action:
“The neonatologist said, ‘I came to this delivery expecting a very abnormal and sick baby, but she looks normal!’ They could not explain it. I tell them all ‘it’s a miracle!!’ Not something you can explain with science,” said Shirley. “When I heard her scream from behind the curtain, my heart exploded. My husband and I wept together, thanking God!!! I was in shock at that goodness of God.”
The photographer who had come to take pictures of a baby’s birth and death could barely contain her excitement.
“I wept tears of joy,” Jennifer Wilkerson of Wilkerson Photography wrote on Facebook. “I ran over to mom and started showing her the pictures of the baby and saying, ‘I think she’s okay,’ and mom is crying and we are all crying… full testing showed the part of her brain that was showing absent was now there; the limbs that were bowed and short were now straight and full; there was no fluid on her brain, and her chest cavity, which had been deemed too small to support life, looked normal from the outside.”
Today, Jocelyn is home with her parents and three older siblings, according to Live Action. The family’s struggles are not over: Jocelyn is blind, and she is fed through a G-tube. She visits the doctor several times a week, but her condition is improving, her family said.
“We will continue to trust God through this,” Ashley Shirley said. “He hasn’t let us down yet, and I know he will continue to show himself faithful.”