The annual March for Babies fundraising walk is scheduled in Shawnee on Saturday, Nov. 3, and this year's ambassador family is Justin and Rachel Robbins. Their son, River, was born premature, weighing just over one pound.

The annual March for Babies fundraising walk is scheduled in Shawnee on Saturday, Nov. 3, and this year's ambassador family is Justin and Rachel Robbins. Their son, River, was born premature, weighing just over one pound.

On April 27, 2017, Rachel, at 29 weeks pregnant, went in for an ultrasound and was told she was having her baby that day.

“We were terrified and tears were filling our eyes, but we knew this was the only way our son could possibly make it,” she said. “We trusted God, and we trusted our doctors to make the right decision so we checked in immediately for an emergency cesarean. It was beyond the scariest moment we lived in our marriage yet.”

Rachel said they prayed for years and tried for years to have a baby and felt those prayers were answered, but they became worried it was going to be taken away at any moment.

“We absolutely had to not give in to the fear and let it overtake us and learn to trust God even more. We prayed together and cried together,” she said, before she was taken into the operating room.

She didn't know how or what to feel and wasn't prepared to have a baby that day or that way, but said the doctors and nurses were absolutely incredible.

“The surgery went by in a flash and the doctor held up this tiny, fragile baby boy,” she said. “He was red and crying and waving his little arms. The nurses cleaned him up a bit, wrapped him, and brought him to me for me to see up close.”

All she could see was the tiniest face and how sweet and little his features were. They took him to the NICU and it would be several hours before she would see him again.

“I cannot even describe the feelings I had in that moment because I felt relief that he was here, but I also felt the worry of the unknown of what we had ahead of us. Still, in all of that, I had this deep trust that he would make it,” she said.

Her first time being wheeled through the doors of the NICU was a scary and strange feeling, she said, and she didn't know what to expect.

“All of those feelings seemed to disappear for a moment when I was wheeled into our room in the NICU and saw my precious boy lying there in his isolette hooked up to all kinds of wires and tubes,” she said. “I thought, 'whatever it takes, I have to be strong for him.'”

Their son, River Ethan Robbins, was 1 pound, 14 ounces, and just 13 inches long.

“I had never seen a baby that small and fragile. I then got to put my hand in and feel him. I will never forget that moment of seeing his tiny hands and feet move and watching him breathe and sleep so peacefully,” she said. “We were truly overwhelmed with thankfulness in that moment.”

The next 57 days were spent in the NICU, where the couple endured a “roller coaster” of emotions.

“We praised and counted each ounce he gained, and all the little things that kept developing physically and mentally for him were incredible,” she said.

“One day I had a purple bag delivered to my room with all kinds of books and information in it. It was from the March of Dimes. I had heard of March of Dimes and even helped raise money for it before. I did not truly understand what it is they do though, and I really did not even understand what all it meant to have a premature baby and to be in the NICU,” she said. “The time that they took and the books they sent were very thoughtful and very helpful.”

They even received a baby book written specifically for NICU babies.

“It was something nice that the parents could fill out, and it actually fit our lives. Most baby books that new parents get to fill out are very sweet and want you to talk about things like coming home and what the baby did and what your schedule was like, and I found myself not being able to answer any of those questions,” she said. “The NICU baby book they gave me was much more specific to what was happening with our lives at the time. I really appreciated that because sometimes as a parent going through what we did, a person can feel alone and unable to relate to anyone else. “

On June 22, 2017, River was finally at the 4 pound-mark and able to go home.

“It was a moment we had waited for for what seemed like an eternity...oOur miracle could have taken many turns, and some days it seemed to not be going well while other days everything seemed great,” Rachel said. “I truly feel blessed by God to be able to share our story, and I hope to encourage others with it as well.”

While everyone's story is different, the most important thing is the health of the babies and also the parents.

“I know that is why March of Dimes exists and why it is important to give to this organization because every child’s start to life matters, and I know they seek to help make that as good as possible,” she said. “They fight for healthy families and to educate people on premature birth. They strive to help families have the care that they need even though it seems unaffordable.”

Today, River is a happy and healthy little boy.

He’s had his own hurdles to overcome since coming home from the NICU, but Rachel said they are so thankful for his health and life and the joy that he brings to them every single day.

“We will never forget the day he was born and our time spent in the hospital. And while it was frightening, it was also one of the best times in our lives,” she said. “I really do feel like it changed us for the better, and watching River grow has been one of the greatest joys we could experience. God has been so good to us, and I hope our miracle story helps to encourage many others for years to come.”

For more information about the walk, or to sign up for a team or donate, go to:

https://www.marchforbabies.org/EventInfo?EventID=19708