When Marie Massey’s baby daughter was born at 23 weeks, or just about 5 months into gestation, she weighed only 15 ounces. Typically babies are born between 37 and 41 weeks, and weigh about 7 pounds.
Most babies born so early rarely survive. And when they do, the first few days of their existence are often a struggle to save their lives.
Massey, however, had faith that her baby would make it. “They didn't think she was going to be alive, but I knew she was. Because I just knew it,” she told ABCNews.com.
23 weeks into gestation, Massey began feeling ill on her commute to work in Manhattan. She found it hard to believe, but one of her co-workers mentioned that she looked just like his wife did when she went into labor.
After rushing to NYU Langone Medical Center, baby Faith was delivered. The doctors told Massey that babies born at 23 weeks rarely survived – and even if they did, many developed cerebral palsy or other complications such as immune or respiratory problems due to immature lungs.
According to NYU Langone neonatologist Dr. Michael Espiritu, Massey’s preemie daughter had a 20 percent chance of survival, and only 5 percent had a chance to make it without any brain damage.
Cerebral palsy can refer to a neurological disorder that occurs in infancy and is a permanent condition disabling muscles and movement. Severe cerebral palsy may cause a child to be unable to walk or move and require extensive lifelong care, but mild cerebral palsy may only have a slight effect on a person’s movement abilities.
An earlier study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that premature newborns could have a higher risk of developing complications later in life as well. Now that more preemie babies are surviving their birth and early years, studies have been able to track long-term conditions that may develop. “[V]ery preterm babies, born at 22 to 27 weeks, were twice as likely to die between the ages of six and twelve than their full-term counterparts,” TIME reports.
So when doctors told Massey there would be no chance, they had reasons to believe so. But Massey was certain that her daughter would survive. The night before going into labor, she had experienced a dream where God said he would take care of her child as long as she had “faith.”
Remarkably, after four months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Faith was able to leave the hospital weighing 10 pounds and without any structural brain damage.
"It surprised everyone that took care of her how strong she was,” Dr. Espiritu said of Faith.