She thought it was the first and last time she would ever hold her newborn daughter. Carolyn Isbister had just given birth to Rachael at 24 weeks gestation. The little girl weighed just 20 ounces. Doctors gave her only minutes to live, and gave the baby to her mother. But Isbister’s instincts saved her daughter’s life.
At 24 weeks a uterine infection led to premature labor. Isbister, who had suffered three miscarriages, was scared and began to lose hope. When Rachael was born, she was grey and lifeless.
“The doctor just took one look at her and said no,” Isbister told the Daily Mail. “They didn’t even try to help her with her breathing as they said it would just prolong her dying. Everyone just gave up on her.”
A neonatologist at the hospital told the parents that the little girl was not going to make it. He thought the best plan of action was to let Isbister hold her daughter while she was still alive. Isbister placed the tiny baby inside of her shirt in what is known as Kangaroo Care or skin-to-skin contact.
“I didn’t want her to die being cold,” said Isbister. “So I lifted her out of her blanket and put her against my skin to warm her up. her feet were so cold. It was the only cuddle I was going to have with her, so I wanted to remember the moment.”
That’s when the power of a mother’s touch took hold. The warmth of her skin and the sound of her heartbeat and breathing helped Rachael to regulate her own heartbeat and her breathing, which had been just one breath every 10 seconds. And Isbister’s body responded to Rachael’s needs and warmed Rachael.
“We couldn’t believe it, and neither could the doctors,” said Isbister. “She let out a tiny cry.”
While the doctors still offered no hope, Rachael’s skin began to turn pink. After two hours of her mother holding her skin-to-skin, the doctors were amazed and called Rachael a miracle.
Rachael was placed on a ventilator and continued to improve. She stayed on the ventilator for five weeks. After four months, she went home with her family. Doctors were concerned that the lack of oxygen she received would cause complications, but that hasn’t been the case.
“She had clung on to life, and it was all because of that cuddle. It had warmed up her body enough for her to start fighting,” explained Isbister.
Today Rachael is doing remarkably well. She is a happy little girl who proves that doctors don’t always know what’s best, and that all lives are worth fighting for.