We got pregnant quick! My husband, Justin, and I didn’t waste anytime and were blessed to conceive a month after we got married. I know my body pretty well and have always been on target when that time of the month came around. The 2 apps I had tracking my cycle and ovulation times never failed me either. So, it was no surprise when the 2nd pregnancy test came back positive.

After giving God thanks, I immediately seek out for the proper health care and I was only 2 to 3 weeks pregnant. I wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to make my pregnancy, labor and birth to be as smooth as possible. All I wanted to do is have a natural water birth. I went to a birth center that encourages and specializes natural child births. They do not handle high risk pregnancies. So, I was the perfect candidate to become a patient there…right? Wrong!!!

Even though my blood work looked good and had no issues with blood pressure I had something going that the papers didn’t pick up on. Our pregnancy went from being super easy with no issues to my body swelling up early at the end of my 2nd trimester. We asked why was I swelling before the last trimester and were told that’s normal. I never thought it was normal. All of the preparation like seeing a prenatal chiropractor and weekly 3 hour natural birth classes (with my husband) was not used when it came time to give birth.

We were 29 weeks into our pregnancy and the day was perfect. It was a Sunday. During dinner I told Justin my stomach was bugging me so I went to the bathroom. After getting in there I suddenly felt pain under my chest and headache. It was hard to breathe and hurt to speak. I couldn’t call out to my husband for help, so I banged on the wall until he came running. He found me laying on the floor in distress. After walking me to the bed, he convinced me to go to the emergency room. I was calling on the name of Jesus as we drove 25 minutes to a hospital that was not in my birth plan.

As soon as we got there they checked my blood pressure and the big number was in the 220s. I was close to having a stroke or seizure, but we rebuked all of the negative words spoken against my health. I was diagnosed with two life threatening issues, HELLP Syndrome and preeclampsia. They told us that me and our daughter will die soon if I didn’t have an emergency csection. Don’t forget we were planning a natural child birth, so a csection and epidural was not in the equation. I was freaked out so much that my body wouldn’t stop shaking. I just knew they were all overreacting, because our daughter was kicking like normal. I tried to reason and bargain with the doctors and nurses to let me stay pregnant with my firstborn child.

This is the child we prayed for and named before she was even conceived. I remember asking God, “how to do this?” “How to get trough this?” At 2:36am Monday morning we gave birth to Gem Elle Monks after arriving at the hospital late Sunday night. She weighed 1lb 11oz and 12in. Hearing her cry was everything to me. I asked if she would be alright and no one would answer me. They gave me such “sorry” eyes. I guess they can’t answer that especially if they are basing the answer on what the eyes can see instead of faith. They called her a “tiny little thing” and let me look at her for 3 seconds before hooking her up to multiple wires. My husband prayed for us and I knew that the spirit of God was upon me, because in that time of calamity I found a peace that only He can provide. He provided peace through my husband. I still remember the comfort of my husband’s hand tightly holding mine as I squeezed his. We were only a few months into our marriage and faced a storm no one can prepare for. Justin let me know that it was going to be ok and it’s all in God’s hands. We took a picture with his wedding ring around her skeleton like leg and then they rushed me to the ICU and Gem to the Newborn/Neonatal, Intensive Care Unit (NICU). That was day 1 of 80 days in the NICU without our daughter ever being kissed by the sun outdoors.

We had more bad days then good ones in the NICU. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for any parent. Some days we’d think Gem was doing good, then they would tell us the opposite. We had no one to tell us in advance that it was a possibility of us having a preterm baby and what to expect. I don’t think we would’ve been prepared for the NICU anyway. We are heavy prayers and believers in the healing spirit of Christ. We knew we had a long road ahead of us and we needed the strength of God to pull us through. We became closer to Him through this and to each other. We prayed over Gem every time we went into her room. We’d close her door and get on each side of her incubator to hold her and each other while praying. Our daughter needed so much medical assistance during her first few months here. Prayer and believing God’s word applies to our lives is what we trusted.

Since having a premature baby I’ve found myself wanting to help other moms. We couldn’t be at the hospital all of the time so we did things to help ease our minds. We FaceTimed Gem with the nurses. We called the NICU every 3 hours to check on her. Everyday she was there we took a picture of her to remind us today of how far she’s come. And I am big on breastfeeding, so I pumped a bunch of milk. And let me add that Gem has been doing excellent and I contribute my breast milk to her prime development. Even doctors have noted that they can tell breast milk has helped her develop into the bright and healthy 22 month old she is today. If you’re a preemie or NICU parent just know that you are strong enough to be in that situation. It’s amazing how God uses situations to make you grow. Now, we are the March of Dimes Ambassador Family here in Louisiana. Thank God our story can give you hope through yours. Remember how God brought you through yesterday’s challenges. He’s the same God that will bring you and your family through the NICU and beyond! God bless you for reading this.

-Kheri Monks

Photo credit: Instagram/beautyiskherim