By Sarah Francis
A miracle preemie, so small she was dressed in Barbie clothes, has celebrated her 1st birthday party by recreating a photoshoot to show her transformation.
Baby Gem Monks wasn’t expected to survive after she was born by emergency C section at 29 weeks in June 2016, weighing just 1lbs 12oz.
Her mum Kheri, 33, had been diagnosed with terrifying HELLP syndrome – life-threatening pregnancy complication.
The newborn spent 78 days in neonatal intensive care unit and had multiple surgeries to save her life.
Despite being unable to leave the hospital, Kheri, 33, was determined to have photoshoot with Gem and kind nurses allowed her five minutes to takes snaps of her daughter dressed in clothes from Toys R Us when she was one-month-old.
Now, a year later, after reaching her milestone birthday, the tot and her family recreated the shoot – and this time weighing a healthy 15lbs.
Kheri, full time mum from Baton Rouge, Louisiana said: “When she was just over one month old, I took my camera and I let them know I just wanted to take pictures of her.
“I had to put on Barbie doll clothes of her and a toy white rug.
“I had five minutes to snap the photos and she didn’t drop her heart – she stayed well.
“It was amazing to be able to celebrate her first birthday. She’s had a rough start but she’s a fighter.”
Kheri pregnany was going smoothly until one day, while watching TV at home, she began experiencing intense pain and alerted her husband Justin Monks.
She said: “I couldn’t even scream, I had to bang on the door to get my husband’s attention.
“He rushed in and I had ripped off all my clothes, I was vomiting, I was scared.
“I tried to lay down but everything hurt.”
They drove to the hospital and found she had HELLP Syndrome – a rare condition that affects 5-8 percent of women world wide.
She said: “I had planned this picture perfect pregnancy. I was blaming myself.
“She was still undeveloped and underweight – I felt like everything was my fault, I felt like I was was not motherly, or womanly enough.
“I arrived at the hospital they told my husband to call family, because they weren’t sure if Gem and I would survive.
“I only agreed to have the emergency cesarean, because Gem’s heart rate was quickly dropping and the nurses told me we’d both die if I didn’t do it,”
Gem was rushed to NUCI and when she was eight days old Kheri was finally able to hold her baby daughter.
She said: “I was with her everyday. It was so detrimental not being able to hold her and when I was discharged, leaving the hospital took a toll on me.
“I was so scared of her dying. I’d never seen a premature baby, only on TV.”
Baby Gem was in the NICU for 78 days and underwent 3 surgeries but last August she was able to come home.
Kheri said: “Everything has been smooth, I do have a few oxygen tanks just in case, but she hasn’t needed them.
“She’s taken physical therapy twice a month, she’s not walking yet, she’s pulling herself.
“Now she’s starting to clapping her hands. It took her a while, but she’s catching up. She’s still small but she’s a busy body.”