Layla Daly is a Christmas miracle who might not have been if her parents had listened to their doctors.
The British infant was born three months prematurely after her parents refused to go through with a late-term abortion, according to the Daily Record. After several months in the hospital, she has grown well enough to go home.
Vicky Russell and Scott Daly, of Melksham, Wiltshire, said they are so thankful their daughter is home for Christmas.
“There have been so many times where we’ve been told that our little girl wasn’t going to make it, so we feel incredibly lucky that she’s here with us,” Russell told the news outlet. “And to be able to bring her home in time for her first Christmas is just magical.”
The family’s struggles began years ago when Russell battled lupus, according to the report. She said they waited four years until she was in remission to get pregnant.
Russell said she was overjoyed to be carrying Layla, but her pregnancy was extremely difficult. She was hospitalized several times for severe morning sickness; then, at 18 weeks, doctors spotted calcifications on her unborn daughter’s liver.
“They talked about the possibility of our daughter having CMV, Down Syndrome, cystic fibrosis or cabin damage,” Russell said. “To say we were distraught is an understatement. They talked about termination, but I was then 21 weeks pregnant. I didn’t want that option. But I still had to think about it as I didn’t want her to suffer all her life.”
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The couple chose life for their daughter, but their worries continued. At 24 weeks of pregnancy, Russell’s water broke. Doctors managed to delay Layla’s birth for two more weeks, but the baby girl still was born severely prematurely, according to the report.
Layla was born July 28, weighing 1 pound, 9 ounces. Russell said she could not hold her daughter until five days later because she was so fragile.
“Layla was ventilated straight after her birth as her lungs needed times to mature,” her mother said.
The tiny infant had 11 blood transfusions and surgery, she battled sepsis and almost died in the hospital several times. But each time, she managed to overcome the problem. Her parents said she is a “fighter.”
She was discharged at the end of November. Now, the family is planning their first Christmas together.
“We plan to have a quiet family Christmas – just the three of us and our dog,” Russell said. “We plan on starting a family tradition and going for a nice walk every Christmas morning.
“We are so happy and can’t wait for our first family Christmas,” she continued. “We were told we would be very lucky to be home for Christmas because of how poorly she was and the repeat step backs, so we are even more grateful.”
There is more hope for very premature babies than ever before. A 2017 Duke University study reported that babies born at just 23 weeks gestation are surviving outside the womb at a greater rate than ever before. Researchers examined 4,500 babies between 2000 and 2011 and found a “small but significant drop in fatalities for babies born between 23 and 37 weeks gestation,” as well as a decrease in premature babies manifesting neurophysiological problems, the Daily Mail reported.
Research published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine also found that 23 percent of premature infants are surviving as early as 22 weeks of pregnancy. However, the study also found that some hospitals do not treat babies at this early age.
The earliest known premature baby to survive outside the womb was born 21 weeks and four days after conception. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the girl’s story. She now is a healthy 4-year-old.