A Mukwonago couple holds onto faith regarding their daughter born at just under a pound.
Amber and Josh Heling understand the concept of newness. The couple married in September 2016 and moved to Mukwonago shortly after to be closer to their family.
A short time later, the couple learned their little family would grow. Amber was pregnant with their first child, a girl, due on Oct. 12.
But things don't always go according to plan.
Amber had blood pressure issues even before becoming pregnant. On June 24, at just under 25 weeks gestation, Amber started experiencing pain on her right side. Her blood pressure was very high, and doctors diagnosed her with preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.
Amber hopes her story inspires others to learn about the pregnancy complication.
"I was admitted and told I wouldn't leave the hospital pregnant," she said.
On June 28, Natale Jane was born via C-section, nearly four months early. She weighed just 15.8 ounces and measured 11.75 inches.
"We nicknamed her 'just under' because Natale was just under a pound and just under a foot," Amber said. "Natale" is Amber's maiden name. She shares her middle name with her great-grandmothers.
Amber and Josh know the baby has plenty of guardian angels on her side, including both of their grandmothers and Josh's cousin, who recently died.
"She has plenty of support, including everyone on earth," Amber said.
Go Fund Me and blood donations
The couple has been told that Natale has just a 50/50 chance of pulling through. They haven't been able to hold their baby yet, but are allowed to touch her through the incubator in the neonatal unit.
The baby is on a ventilator and has received two transfusions of blood, and platelets. As tiny as she is, the couple said doctors are not concerned so much with Natale's weight but making sure her organs are developing.
Josh said he has been worried not only about his daughter but also his wife. He mentioned her high blood pressure and the risk of stroke or seizures.
On top of those medical concerns come financial concerns.
"I'm waiting for the hospital bills to come in and wondering how we will pay for rent and other bills," Josh said.
A colleague of Amber's set up a GoFundMe account. Josh and Amber can't get over the amount of support they are receiving from their family, friends and colleagues.
Amber is looking forward to the day when she can bring her baby to work to show her off to co-workers.
"We are very grateful for her setting it (the GoFundMe) up and everyone who has donated and shared it," Amber said.
According to the GoFundMe page, donations will help the family out as Amber will be out of work for some time to heal and care for her new daughter.
Amber and Josh are also encouraging people to give blood donations.
"Even if you can't help our daughter, donating blood can help anyone," Amber said.
A preemie with personality
During hospital visits, Natale's parents read Disney princess stories to her.
One day recently, Amber swabbed Natale's mouth with her breast milk.
"Natale looked like she was smiling a little; it was amazing," her mom marveled.
Amber and Josh are feeling optimistic about how Natale is doing. While it is not official, they said she looks like she is getting bigger.
Her tiny body hosts a big personality, her parents said. Amber described her daughter as feisty, noting that she is constantly moving her arms and kicking her legs.
Josh said Natale is already wrapped around daddy's finger, literally. She spends long periods of time holding onto his finger.
"She really responds to him, I talk to her all day but she responds to Josh so well," Amber said.
If everything goes well, there is a possibility that the couple might soon be able to hold Natale for a little bit.
"Every day there is something better, but we know it can change in an instant," Amber said.
Learn about preeclampsia
- Preeclampsia occurs only during pregnancy and in the postpartum period
- Symptoms include: headache, high blood pressure, changes in vision, swelling, sudden weight gain
- Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death, responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths annually.