For Krysta Davis, pregnancy was not easy. The then 23-year-old had already suffered a miscarriage and had some trouble with her pregnancy with her daughter, Rylei Arcadia Diane Lovett. But at 18 weeks, doctors gave her and her boyfriend, Derek Lovett, 26, devastating news. Rylei had anencephaly, a rare health condition where a baby is missing certain parts of their skull or brain. They didn’t expect Rylei to live more than half an hour after birth.
“It was definitely shocking. It was a huge heartbreak knowing that we’d miscarried previously and were having complications with this pregnancy… it was really hard to take in,” said Davis of Cleveland, Tennessee.
“We were going to cherish what time we had with her”
Davis had two options. She could induce labor right away or carry the baby to term and donate the organs. Both seem daunting but Davis showed incredible strength through it all. “[The doctor] said babies with anencephaly don’t tend to survive birth let alone cord-cutting. There was no outcome where she would be able to survive on her own for very long if at all,” she said. “We decided that even if we couldn’t bring our daughter home, no mother would have to go through what we were going to go through.”
The couple didn’t need much time to make their decision. “We talked it out,” Davis said. “We knew that’s what we wanted to do.”
So she carried Rylei to term at 40 weeks and two days. The couple planned to enjoy every moment with their baby. “We were going to cherish what time we had with her,” Davis said. “I knew we would have time after to grieve and be sad.”
Davis delivered Rylei on Christmas Eve. “She came out star-gazing. She was born face-up,” she said. “It was the most overwhelming feeling of love that I’ve ever felt in my life. Laying eyes on her, I never knew that I could love someone so much. It was insane.”
A Lifetime of Love into One Week
Although Davis was prepared to lose her baby right away, Rylei wasn’t ready to leave the world just yet. She survived an entire week despite her health issues, and she was the happiest baby her mother has ever seen. Davis and Lovett stayed with her in the hospital until she passed away on New Year’s Eve.
“It was absolutely amazing going from knowing we were maybe gonna get 30 minutes with her at most to having a week with her was more than we could have ever expected or imagined,” Davis said. “We were able to fit an entire lifetime of love into that one week with her that wasn’t promised to begin with. She just smiled the whole time. She was such a good baby.”
Rylei didn’t cry during the week of her life until her last day. When her oxygen levels lowered, she let out a small wail. “It’s like she was fighting to give us more time. It was amazing,” said her mom. “She surprised everyone by being alive for that week.”
Afterward, Rylei’s lungs were donated to a research hospital and her heart valves went to two children in need. “It’s been really hard coming to terms with the fact that she’s really gone. But it’s also been a great month that we’ve got to share her story,” said Davis. “It’s helped a lot to be able to help other women in our situation, and hear their stories. It warms our hearts to know that [Rylei’s life] will give two other babies a second chance at life.”
They hope their baby will live on through the people she has saved. Fortunately, the parents got to learn more about these people. “They told us after six months, we would get to inquire about who received them,” Davis said. “We are super excited. It is amazing that our little girl is going to live on.”
Davis shared her story on the Facebook page Rylei Arcadia: An Unexpected Journey. And on December 24, 2021, she wrote a post celebrating what would’ve been Rylei’s third birthday. “I can’t believe it’s already been 3 whole years since the first time I held this tiny little human. 3 years since you took your first breath… I am so thankful for the time I had with you, but what I wouldn’t give to see you now… Happy birthday, precious girl.”