Chelsea Maschino was 18, about to start college and pregnant. While it was unplanned, she was looking forward to becoming a mother.
“From the moment I took that first pregnancy test and saw those two little blue lines side by side I was flooded with so many overwhelming emotions," she told Love What Matters. "Starting with panic and tears and ending with joy and laughter.
"With me being 18, having just started my first real job and about to start college, this was definitely not something I had planned on, but from the moment I saw those two lines I also knew it was something to be grateful for."
The pregnancy progressed normally. They found out the gender, a baby girl.
"As far as we could tell she was a normal, healthy baby and extremely active. So active in fact that during her 16-week ultrasound appointment they didn't get images of everything they needed to, but the growth seemed normal and with all the activity, my OB seemed to assume that everything was fine so she didn't order a follow-up ultrasound to finish getting the images."
In the meantime she was assigned to another OB, who picked up on something not being quite right.
"When he brought back the results we could tell that something was wrong. There’s nothing like that sinking feeling in your gut when you know you’re about to hear something you desperately hoped you would never have to hear."
There was something wrong with the girl's brain development and they were referred to a children's hospital. The baby was diagnosed with "spina bifida and Chiari malformation type 2 and proceeded to tell me that she may never have the ability to walk, go to the bathroom or have normal brain function."
Chelsea had a a C-section and the baby was immediately whisked off for surgery.
"I named her Lily Belle and I have never been more proud of a human being before in my life. She was the strongest bravest person I’d ever met and she was only a few hours old."
But her battle was not over just yet.
"After a couple of weeks in the NICU fluid began to build up on her brain causing sleep apnea, so my little girl went into yet another surgery where they placed a shunt to drain the fluid."
However, despite fears that Lily would never walk, she began to move her little legs, much to her mothers delight.
"It became apparent during our NICU stay that Lily could move her legs, and even wiggle her little toes! It was truly the most amazing feeling to know that there was hope for my baby girl in her ability to walk."
To celebrate Lily's triumph over her rocky start, Chelsea enrolled the help of a photographer to capture the duo's empowering scars.
"This picture of us together was meant to capture the moment in both of our lives when we knew the hardest part was over, and that we had the strength to overcome every obstacle thrown at us. A woman’s body is strong and beautiful and capable of creating miracles.
"My little princess has spina bifida, and I’m rocking my C-section scar and stretch marks (battle scars) like a queen.
"It’s a picture that will be looked back on in the years to come and remind us of how strong we truly are and what is truly important in life. I hope this picture inspires others to become more aware of spina bifida and to be forever grateful for what they have. All of life is a wonderful gift and should never be taken for granted."
It's simply gorgeous!