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'A rocky journey' | Here's what one couple went through for their 'premie-miracle' baby

"Nobody thinks that you're going to have a premature baby until you do," new mother Elizabeth McKeen said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Newborn Layla Jane McKeen is all smiles and laughter, but more importantly, "she is perfectly healthy."

That's how mother Elizabeth McKeen describes "the best little baby" she and husband Steven McKeen could ask for. 

Still, how Elizabeth and Steven had to weather what arguably is among the most stressful experience two parents can go through is a story Dr. Michael Podraza can help shed light on.

“We knew that we were gonna have to deliver the baby early,” the OBGYN at St. Francis Medical Partners said. 

With severe preeclampsia, Elizabeth was in labor for four days total. 

"They induced on Wednesday and I did not have her until Saturday night at 11,” Elizabeth McKeen said. "Nobody thinks that you're going to have a premature baby until you do."

After that, little Layla Jane was in the NICU for five days. 

“Probably one of the main causes of prematurity is maternal health conditions like preeclampsia," Dr. Podraza said. "The biggest risk of preterm delivery is actually a previous preterm delivery.”

All in all, Layla McKeen was born prematurely by 34 weeks.

“If you have to induce them, it can take, a lot of times, you know, days to get the baby to decide to come out," Podraza said. "It doesn’t want to because it’s early.”

According to Elizabeth McKeen, on of the biggest issues the family faced was that Layla's lungs wouldn't be fully developed. Dr. Podraza said they tried to use steroids for the baby to help develop the lungs. 

“The next task was getting her to learn how to eat because one of the last things that develop in the womb is the ability to suck and swallow,” Elizabeth McKeen said.

The coordination between sucking and swallowing and breathing all at the same time is a fairly difficult thing for a newborn baby to do, according to Dr. Podraza.

Father Steven McKeen said the family wouldn't trade how things turned out for anything.

“It started off as a rocky journey, but with her health being the way it is, it’s so good and she matured so quickly."

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