For expectant parents, the months leading up to the birth can be incredibly anxious, especially if there’s a problem with the baby. Drew and Ariann Corpstein can certainly relate to that, as medics diagnosed their unborn son with a terminal issue in the womb. However, after listening to the doctors, the pair then turned to their religious beliefs, leaving the baby’s fate to God.
Residents of Ankeny, Iowa, Drew and Ariann first met back in 2008 during their time at Wartburg College. They eventually got married in 2013, with the former running a clinic named Embrace Life Chiropractic. Meanwhile, Ariann worked as an English teacher at the city’s high school.
Before long, though, Ariann decided to join her husband at the clinic, looking after the business. With the pair seemingly settled, they planned to have their first child together in 2016. Sadly, though, Ariann suffered a miscarriage later that year, leaving them heartbroken.
As a result of that devastating loss, Drew and Ariann understandably took their time before making another attempt. Indeed, it wasn’t until December 2017 when the Corpsteins received news that she was pregnant again, bringing smiles to their faces. However, after what happened previously, they called upon a midwife to help them with the pregnancy.
Despite taking that precaution, the pair were then given some slightly concerning news after the preliminary blood tests. The doctors discovered that the baby didn’t have much iron, so they handed Ariann a new set of vitamins to help boost those levels. Unfortunately, though, the problems didn’t end there.
Some five months into the pregnancy, Ariann underwent a diagnostic ultrasound, before planning a trip with Drew to a conference. However, the test results stopped them dead in their tracks. It was strongly believed that the child’s brain tissue was malformed, leaving the Corpsteins devastated.
“We just held each other for about an hour,” Drew recalled to The Des Moines Register in August 2018. “It was one of the worst days of our lives.” After receiving the results, a perinatologist then explained the issue in greater detail after some more imaging tests. According to those results, the baby was missing a large portion of its brain.
After those tests, Drew and Ariann looked for another opinion, but the news didn’t improve. Indeed, while the new specialist believed that the child’s brain was more fully formed, they also claimed that it wasn’t divided in half. Despite the differences of opinion, though, the expectations for the baby didn’t change.
“The best prognosis we had was the baby would only live a few days,” Dr. Jona Conklin told The Des Moines Register. With that in mind, Drew and Ariann were given options by their doctors, which included ending the pregnancy via an induced labor. However, the couple had other ideas.
Due to their Christian beliefs, Drew and Ariann wanted to deliver the baby naturally. “[It] didn’t feel like it was my decision to make,” the latter said about aborting the pregnancy. “We knew that our baby was probably not going to be born alive. Whatever happens, it’s in God’s hands.”
After a very difficult period, the Corpsteins then decided to commemorate the last few weeks of Ariann’s pregnancy, taking a vacation to Costa Rica in June 2018. The pair also organized some low-key baby showers with loved ones, but the celebrations remained bittersweet. One month later, the big moment arrived.
Ariann was taken to the Mercy Medical Center’s neonatal hospice unit in July 2018, with doctors informing her that the baby needed to be delivered now. After turning down a cesarean delivery, she then spent the next three days in labor. On July 29, though, she finally gave birth to her baby son Matthew.
After provoking fears that he’d already passed away, baby Matthew started to show signs of life after releasing some internal fluid. Not long after that, Ariann started to breastfeed her son, which came as a massive surprise. “The nurses rated him a ten out of ten on that,” she recalled. “They told us normal newborns don’t do that well.”
Keeping the early prognosis in mind, the doctors subsequently wanted to conduct an MRI scan on the baby to check his condition. A few moments later, Drew and Ariann received some quite incredible news from one of the neonatal neurosurgeons. Indeed, despite all the previous tests, Matthew had been wrongly diagnosed.
As it turned out, the baby’s brain had formed completely, but due to a considerable build-up of fluid, it had moved to the side of his skull. The fluid in Matthew’s head came as a result of a shrunken duct in his brain, which proved to be the real issue. After that, Dr. Conklin tried to explain how the misdiagnosis happened.
“When you’re using imaging technology, like an MRI, on a baby that’s inside the mom’s uterus, you’re looking at something that’s very small and very far away,” Dr. Conklin told The Des Moines Register. “If you’re trying to look at a heart defect, for example, you’re looking for something that’s about the size of a quarter or half-dollar through all the tissue that’s a part of the mom’s body and the fetus’ body.”
After the real problem’s detection, Matthew underwent brain surgery, with a shunt being placed inside the shrunken duct to help clear the fluid. Thankfully, the operation was a success, with Drew and Ariann taking their son home a few days later. However, Dr. Conklin offered the pair some words of caution.
“The baby still has a long road ahead,” Dr. Conklin added. “There is a whole gamut of possible neurological impacts, including autism, learning disabilities and other pretty severe neurological disorders.” Unfortunately for Matthew, he went back to the hospital in August 2018, suffering from meningitis.
Drew and Ariann’s son was set to stay at the hospital for about three weeks, with the former offering a positive update in that time. Meanwhile, the pair also set up a GoFundMe page for Matthew after his birth, with the donations, totaling more than $40,000 by September 2018, going towards his medical expenses.
As for Ariann, who dubbed her son “Matthew the Great,” she referred back to her faith when reflecting on everything that happened. “It’s so amazing that a few days ago, he had brain surgery, and he’s just here in our house like nothing happened,” she said. “If you don’t believe in miracles, God sent us Matthew to remind us they’re real.”