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First-time mom: 'This is the baby we prayed for'

Mauricio Leiva

When Magaly and Luis Leiva were married nearly five years ago, they didn’t think they’d be able to have a child together.
They were both OK with that, says Magaly, a 35-year-old Dodge City High School teacher. “But I always thought that if God wanted to give me a child, he would.”
A few years later, she had a medical exam that uncovered diabetes and other health issues that might have affected her ability to conceive. She decided to start working out with a personal trainer and watch her diet, to lose weight and get her diabetes under control.
Then the Leivas got a happy surprise: Magaly became pregnant. Her Dodge City obstetrician, Aye Win, MD, told her the baby was due May 10 — Mother’s Day in Mexico and El Salvador, the couple’s native countries.
“We started praying for our baby from that moment on,” says Magaly.
From the beginning, however, the pregnancy would not be easy for her or the baby.

Difficult pregnancy

Magaly suffered several scary instances of bleeding, and Dr. Win, who had been closely monitoring her pregnancy, ordered her to bed rest for weeks at a time. A cervical cerclage — a special clamp to keep the cervix closed  — was placed to help prevent premature delivery.
The waiting and watching was tough on the couple, who knew their baby would likely be born before the 39 to 40 weeks considered full term. 
Magaly’s water broke during her 26th week — just two weeks beyond the earliest point at which a premature baby is generally considered likely to survive outside the womb.
Because of her complicated condition, Dr. Win transferred Magaly by air ambulance to Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, to the care of maternal and fetal medicine specialist Michael Wolfe, MD, and to the hospital’s NewLife Center and Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which are specially equipped to care for high-risk expectant mothers and their babies.
“There, they told me that every day we could keep our baby from being born meant one less week he’d need to stay in the NICU,” says Magaly.
But early rupture of membranes can be associated with many complications for the patient as well as her unborn child, says Dr. Wolfe, so ongoing evaluation of both mother and baby is critical.
“We have to balance risks of prematurity and risks of infection,” he says. “Our goal is to keep the baby in the mother’s womb for as long as safely possible to reduce the risks of prematurity.”
Magaly was placed on bed rest and given plenty of fluids to drink to help replenish the amniotic fluid she’d already lost and to be closely monitored by NewLife staff.
Dr. Wolfe was able to keep the baby in utero nine more days, until Valentine’s Day, when he had to deliver the Leiva’s baby boy by C-section. Magaly’s cousin was with her during the birth. Her husband, Luis, and her parents arrived soon after. 
The tiny baby weighed just 3 pounds, 1 ounce.
“We named him Mauricio, after my husband’s late older brother, who he idolized,” says Magaly.

Strength from God

At first, the baby was on a ventilator and feeding tube, to help him breathe and grow stronger.
“The doctor and NICU nurses told me they’d do all they could to save him,” she said. “I told God, if he’s for me, then give him to me. If not, take him. Either way, give me strength. I can’t do this on my own.”
A few days later, Magaly was discharged from the hospital, but she stayed nearby in one of the unit’s mother’s sleeping rooms so she could visit Mauricio any time of day, for as long as she wanted. She often sat with him for hours, holding him and reading to him in English and Spanish.
Luis, who works in a Dodge City restaurant, could join mother and baby at the hospital only about once a week, so the couple stayed connected daily, by phone and computer.
During their stay, Magaly said she and her entire family felt exceptionally well cared for by everyone at the hospital, from the doctors and nurses to the housekeepers to the cafeteria staff.
“For a first-time mom who doesn’t know what is going on, they gave me so much reassurance,” she says. “I wanted to take them all home with me!”
Mauricio responded well to his care, gaining weight and strength so quickly that he was able to go home with his parents on April 3, seven weeks after he was born, and more than a month before his original due date. By then, he weighed 5 pounds, 6 ounces.
“It’s been a journey, with a lot of people praying for us,” says Magaly. “I told the nurses, a baby is one of those things you never thought you needed, but once you have him, you wonder how you lived without him.
“It makes me think of 1 Samuel 1:27-28: For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me my petition which I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.

About Judy Conkling

Judy Conkling is a Wichita writer and editor with a deep interest in all things related to healthy living.