ATLANTA - LaTia and Robert Whisby’s baby girl Talia was born with the odds stacked against her.
Talia came into the world at 24 weeks gestation, weighing just 1 pound, 4 ounces.
Doctors call newborns like her “micro preemies,” premature babies born months before their due date.
LaTia's water broke at 19 weeks, nearly 5 months early. Doctors were able to delay her delivery by a month, but then had to do an emergency casaerian section when the baby went quiet in her womb.
"When you have a little baby, especially her size, it's just scary,” says LaTia Whisby, "She was really, really tiny, and she just looked like she has really been through it."
Talia was so critical, her mother didn’t see again for several days.
“It was just relief,” Whisby says. “Knowing, she's okay, and whatever we need to do, we'll do it."
Talia was transferred to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston's Neonatal ICU, where she’s spent the last 2 and half months.
It’s full of babies not yet ready for life.
"They go through a lot, and she's been so strong,” says LaTia Whisby. “There have been days when I would just cry, cry, cry. And I would look at her, and I'm, like, 'She's going through all of this and she hasn't cried!’ She'll just sleep through everything. So she's taught me to be strong."
LaTia and her husband have learned to take their cues Talia and her NICU nurses.
"Even if I'm at her bedside, anything they do with her, to her, they're letting me know, they're explaining their way through everything,” says LaTia. “Of course, it's a lot of medical terminology that we don't really understand. So it's really good to have the nurses just break everything down for us so that we are, we know what's going one, and we're not confused, and we're not asking a million questions."
When she’s away, the nurses call with updates.
"And that feels good, to know that I'm not left in the dark,” says Whisby. “There is nothing going on with my baby that I don't know about."
But, just picking Talia up is complicated.
She’s surrounded by monitors, attached to wires and IVs, and has a central line used to deliver her medication.
The first time LaTia held her daughter, it was powerful.
"I was able to hold her, and give her skin-to-skin, Kangaroo care.”
The nurses encourage parents to hold their babies and bond with them.
"I think she knows who we are,” says LaTia Whisby. “When we hold her, we want her to have her eyes open. And she just sleeps the whole time. Sometimes we put her down and it's like her eyes pop open, like, 'Why are you all putting me down? Why aren't you holding me!’"
Talia has already survived one surgery to repair a perforated bowel, and she will soon face another.
"You just have to learn everything that you can learn,” says her mother. “I joined groups, blogs, support groups that are women, mothers, going through the same thing with their new babies."
The Whisbys know they’re on a journey, and they don’t know what lies ahead.
“We have to think about the next month, the next year,” says LaTia Whisby. “ We have to think about how her future is going to be, even as a teenager or adult, with what's going on with her. But we really won't know."
So, the Whisbys will wait, for this little girl, who is their whole world.