Kristy Cecil’s first pregnancy was uneventful, and her daughter, Francesca, was born without complications. Just one year later, Cecil was pregnant again and expected much the same — but instead she was diagnosed with a devastating medical condition that could have killed her and her baby. When her son, Hugo, was born at just 25 weeks — four months before his due date — doctors and nurses called him a “miracle” baby who survived against all the odds.
Cecil never wavered from her belief that Hugo would pull through, even though he was just 1 pound and 14 ounces and had eerily transparent skin “like a baby bird.” “I believed that he was going to make it … and he did!” she says in an emotional and triumphant interview with Yahoo Parenting as part of our original video series, “What It’s Like.”
Still, she knows she and her husband, Ben Cecil, a racehorse trainer, were lucky. One of every nine infants in the U.S. is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. And while survival rates have increased for babies born much earlier than that, like Hugo, pre-term deliveries tragically still account for a third of all infant deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Technically, a baby can survive if born after 24 weeks. That’s when Cecil, 41, a TV producer, began having contractions at 3 a.m. early one morning. While her husband, 47, stayed home with their toddler daughter, Cecil drove herself to the hospital near their Pasadena, Calif., home, where she was immediately put on strict bed rest. Hours later, she was diagnosed with complete placental abruption, a serious complication where the placenta — which provides oxygen and nutrients to the baby — detaches from a mother’s uterus. “A doctor told me, ‘You’re not going home any time soon,’” Kristy recalls, adding, “I began to kind of freak out.”