Alexis a featured child for March of Dimes
Alexis Ann Barber will celebrate her first birthday later this month. Her parents, Justin and Amy (Nieland) Barber, call her their miracle baby, and feel very blessed to have her.
Born Sept. 27, three months before her due date at Blank Hospital in Des Moines, she barely tipped the scales at 1 pound 6 oz. and measured only 13 inches. At nearly a year, she now weighs 12 pounds, and is 28 1/2 inches long, barely bigger than some babes at birth.
She is a happy little girl, and always has been, despite the many health problems she has had to contend with. She is now quite healthy and is doing many of the things that babies her age are doing. She loves to play patty cake and is crawling.
"We feel so blessed to have such an awesome girl," said Amy, who grew up in Newell and where her parents, Bruce and Robin, still reside. The young Barber family resides in Clive. Amy, a teacher, and Justin, who now owns his own business, met while attending college at Buena Vista University. His parents are Glenn and Kathryn Barber.
The 2003 graduates were married and were anxious to start their family. They were expecting their baby to arrive Dec. 22. Amy was diagnosed with HELLP, which results in skyrocketing blood pressure and potential liver damage.
The young couple knew their baby needed more time to develop but there was no choice but to deliver her by emergency C-section.
They decided at first sight that their perfectly formed princess was a gift of God.
One of the most immediate concerns was to close a valve in her tiny heart. When she was a mere six days, the surgery was performed and successful. There were a few close calls where they thought they were going to lose her but from the beginning, Alexis has been a fighter.
"We are so glad she is," said Amy.
Strong faith and support from family and friends have helped Amy and Justin deal with the difficulties.
Getting her to gain weight was also a concern. Her first feeding in the hospital consisted of 1/5 of a teaspoon of her mother's milk. Due to complications, a feeding tube was inserted. The tiny baby was much more easily feed in this manner and the milk was more tolerable. The amount of feedings was gradually increased and Alexis was off and running to gaining weight!
Amy and Justin were told to expect that their daughter would be in the hospital until at least her due date but as it turned out, she remained until Feb. 3. By that time, she had tipped the scales at 6 lb. 7 oz. Everyone was quite pleased with the results.
"The nurses there called her Spitfire from the beginning," said Amy, "because she was so active."
Alexis had many other obstacles to cross during the months in the hospital. She was on a ventilator for some time, keeping her free of infection was a challenge, she encountered an enlarged spleen and liver and was dealing with kidney problems.
In the beginning, Amy and Justin could not hold their daughter. "That was probably the hardest," Amy said, pointing out that she saw many other premies and sick babies on the hospital floor that were on being cuddled by their moms or dads. "It broke my heart that I couldn't hold her."
It was an "awesome" feeling to finally hold their daughter.
Alexis was so tiny at first that Justin's wedding ring fit her wrist, with room to spare. Diapers were no bigger than Amy's palm.
"It's unbelievable to look back now and see how tiny she was," Amy said. Today, many people comment about how tiny Alexis is when they are told she is nearly a year old but to her parents, she is now big.
Justin and Amy have kept a diary, of sorts, of her progress since she was born and placed the information on a web site for friends and family. The site also allows readers to send their own messages.
"We were so flooded with calls when she was born that we decided to start the web site," Amy said.
It has also been a place to place pictures of Alexis for all to see. Grandma Nieland gave Alexis a Cabbage Patch doll while still in the hospital. The doll was used as a makeshift measuring stick when Alexis was only a few days old. She of course was dwarfed by the doll. It was decided to continue taking monthly pictures with the doll to measure her progress. Finally, at the age of nine months, she was the same size and now she is bigger than the doll.
While her parents are at work, Alexis is able to be at home and receive care from nurses. Her parents are pleased that she doesn't have to be taken to the day care and be exposed to germs that may be flying around from other children. She still is equipped with a feeding pump, filled with with high calorie fluids to help the little girl gain more weight.
She also must see a kidney specialist in Iowa City on a regular basis.
"Alexis is very feisty and she isn't afraid of anyone," her mom said, attributing this to so much attention while in the hospital. She is also a very happy girl. "She smiles all the time."
Amy added, "We feel so very blessed to have her. We made a lot of acquaintances while she was in the hospital and some of those babies didn't make it. She really is our miracle baby. God's worked hard for her. He must have some awfully big plans for her."
Alexis will be one of several babies featured as a Miracle Baby at the March of Dimes Banquet in Des Moines.