An infant being born with a birth defect is difficult for any new parents, but when one Arizona couple learned that their baby’s intestines had formed outside of her body, they never gave up hope. Then the mom found something in her newborn’s bed that stunned her to the core.
Kimberly Elizalde Pelayo and her partner Alex Avila live together in Glendale, Arizona, and in March 2017 they were just starting their family. The prospect of welcoming a little girl into the world no doubt delighted the couple, who looked a picture of happiness as Pelayo’s baby bump grew.
However, worry soon marred what should have been one of the happiest times of their lives. Their baby, whom they named Meilani, had a condition called gastroschisis. Consequently, her intestines had grown out of her body through a small hole near her belly button.
Gastroschisis is a birth defect which causes a hole in the abdominal wall. Often this situation results in the intestines sticking out of the abdomen. However, the liver and stomach can also protrude through the opening.
The defect first occurs in early pregnancy if the baby’s stomach wall doesn’t form completely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,871 children in the United States are born with gastroschisis each year. And although the condition is treated through surgery, problems with feeding and digestion can still occur in later life as a result of it.
So when Meilani was just hours old, her parents handed her over to surgeons. Naturally, the predicament terrified Pelayo and Avila. That said, they managed to stay positive that things would turn out all right.
“I have faith in God that everything will come out perfectly fine,” Pelayo wrote on Facebook prior to the operation in March 2017. “I rarely do this, but I strongly believe in the power of prayer and ask that you keep our daughter, Meilani Alexandra, in your prayers. God is great, and he works miracles. A big thank-you in advance.”
Thankfully, Meilani’s surgery went to plan. Much to her parents’ relief, surgeons handed their baby back once the defect was corrected. However, the infant would still have to stay in hospital while she recovered.
Nevertheless, Meilani’s progress delighted her parents. “I want to thank everyone who prayed for our daughter Meilani and everyone who has been on our side physically and mentally in these hard times for Alex and I,” read on update on Pelayo’s Facebook page. “Thank God our princess is slowly recovering, and hopefully she’ll be soon in our home.”
But before that hope could be fulfilled, the family would first reach another milestone. Two days after Meilani was born, Pelayo and Avila were finally able to touch their baby girl. “[There were] so many emotions, but the most overpowering one was love,” Avila wrote on Facebook as he described that special moment. “I love you baby girl. You and your mommy are my life; keep battling because we cannot wait to be able to hold you and take you home!”
Nursing an acutely sick child is undoubtedly one of the hardest things that a couple will go through. However, the experience only brought Pelayo and Avila closer together. Avila therefore decided to do something to surprise his girlfriend, and it was beyond romantic.
On the day that Pelayo celebrated her 21st birthday, Avila shared an emotional post on Facebook about the new mom. Alongside his heartfelt caption, he posted a picture of Pelayo cradling Meilani in her arms. “Happy 21st birthday to my baby momma,” he began the post.
“I love you with all of my heart,” the post continued. “I admire you more and more every day, and every day that goes by I thank God for bringing you into my life because I have achieved so much because of you. Our first place together, our first car together, and even our first beautiful baby girl together.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better life partner than you,” Avila’s message continued. “I hope you really get to enjoy your birthday today with Meilani and I.” Yet the doting young dad’s surprises didn’t end there.
As she did every day, on her birthday Pelayo visited Meilani in hospital with Avila. However, it seemed that someone had got there before them. Yes, somebody had left the mom a message in the baby’s incubator.
And when Pelayo read what the message said, her emotions overcame her. On the blackboard, Avila had written, “Mommy, will you marry Daddy?” What’s more, he’d placed a stunning engagement ring on their newborn baby’s head.
Without hesitation, Pelayo accepted Avila’s proposal, and after she had said yes, she embraced her new fiancé for a tearful hug. As a result of their circumstances, local media soon picked up on the couple’s emotional journey, and the story spread from there.
So it was that well-wishers inundated the young couple with messages. “My daughter was born with this as well [at the] same wonderful hospital. She will be 18 this year and wears a bikini,” one user wrote on Facebook. “God bless your family! And congratulations.”
Another person added, “So amazing! I knew this story would get far and touch so many hearts. Your baby girl is such a beautiful miracle and blessing! Congrats to your little family.”
In April 2017 Meilani celebrated her one-month birthday. According to Avila, at the time she was improving every day and would soon be home. And with strong, loving parents like Pelayo and Avila, she has the best possible support system going forward.