Finding Joy in Every Moment: Lily's 101 Days in the NICU

The Speckmans are holding their new baby girl, Lily, who spent 101 days in the NICU.

In May 2023, Ben and Sage Speckman received exciting news that would forever change their lives: Sage was expecting the couple’s first child, a daughter they affectionately named Lily. The news arrived just one day before they were heading out of town for Sage’s brother’s graduation ceremony in Virginia.

I was a day late on my period, and I thought I should take a pregnancy test, Sage reminisced. I had one test left, so I took it. Two lines popped up. I ran to Ben and said, ‘There are two lines. We are pregnant!’ We bought four more pregnancy tests. Sure enough, all of them were positive. We were super excited.

Choosing not to wait until birth, they eagerly found out the gender early on – a girl. Sage had an intuition from the start, while Ben, hoping for a boy, joined in the excitement of welcoming their daughter.

Our pregnancy journey

Sage's pregnancy progressed without a hitch, no health complications in sight. Each ultrasound brought reassurance as they watched Lily hitting her milestones right on cue.

But then, at 25 weeks, things took an unexpected turn. While on a family trip, Sage began experiencing discomfort that escalated into agonizing pain.

My baby tracker app mentioned Braxton Hicks, said Sage. I was feeling uncomfortable and in pain. It kept me up all night. I reached out to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law about it, and they mentioned they had experienced Braxton Hicks too. However, they suggested I might have a urinary tract infection (UTI). The pain persisted the next day, so we decided to cut our family trip short and head back home.

The 2.5-hour trek home was fraught with discomfort, with Sage's pain escalating with each passing mile. I was bleeding pink discharge and had to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes, said Sage.

Determined to address the issue, Sage texted her primary care doctor to schedule an appointment that same day to get tested for a possible UTI. When she saw her doctor in New Braunfels, the diagnosis was confirmed, and Sage was prescribed medication for her UTI in hopes of alleviating her painful symptoms.

Sage was in a lot of pain when we got back home from the doctor’s office, recounted Ben. Sage described her cramps as excruciating. Seeing her on her hands and knees like that was concerning. I remembered from my online research that Braxton Hicks contractions were supposed to be uncomfortable but not truly painful. That's when Sage's OB-GYN advised us to rush to the hospital.

When they arrived at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - New Braunfels, Sage was admitted, setting the stage for the whirlwind events that would soon unfold.


The Level IV NICU at CHRISTUS Children's in San Antonio offers advanced care for newborns and their families, especially babies born prematurely or with special medical conditions.

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Pre-labor and delivery

Once admitted to the labor and delivery unit, things were a bit perplexing. The nurses couldn’t see any contractions, even though Sage was sure she was feeling them.

I was like, I thought I felt contractions, said Sage. I was still thinking it was Braxton Hicks!

But then, things took a serious turn when Sage started bleeding profusely. The nurse’s words hit hard: You are going into preterm labor. In that moment, Sage and Ben felt the weight of the situation sink in as they prepared themselves for the early and unexpected arrival of their daughter. Suddenly, the room filled with urgency as the medical team sprang into action to address the rapidly evolving situation.

Dr. Kevin Blair, her OB-GYN at CHRISTUS, arrived just in the nick of time to deliver the baby.

New baby Lily Speckman, smiling at the camera with a pink bow on. Lily spent 101 days in the NICU.

On October 22, 2023, the Speckmans welcomed their daughter, Lily. Born at just 25 weeks gestation, Lily entered the world weighing a mere 1 pound, 10 ounces. Despite the chaos and uncertainty, Sage and Ben found solace knowing that their daughter, as tiny as she was, would receive the best possible care.

The medical team intubated our baby and gently swaddled her, allowing us to get a brief glimpse of her face before she was sent to the NICU, recalled Ben. We knew the first few days were the most critical.

With Lily’s condition required specialized neonatal intensive care, she was airlifted to CHRISTUS Children’s 33 miles away in San Antonio, home to a Level IV NICU equipped to handle the most critical newborn cases.

A higher level of NICU care

The Speckmans and two female NICU nurses are holding Lily and smiling for the picture. Lily spent 101 days in the NICU.

As Lily began her NICU journey, Sage and Ben stood strong by their daughter’s side. Days stretched into weeks, and weeks stretched into months, as they navigated the emotional highs and lows of NICU life.

Through it all, they drew strength and support from the NICU team, as well as their family and friends.

When Lily first arrived in the NICU, she was kept on a breathing tube, but as she showed improvement, the medical team was able to remove it. Thankfully, Lily didn't need to be intubated anymore.

That was a huge relief for us, said Ben. She seemed stable, but they cautioned us about the first three to five days, calling it the 'honeymoon period.’ Our baby appeared strong and was making progress, even though she didn't get a steroid shot right after birth like most babies do to help with lung development.

In the first week, Lily had a feeding tube and lost weight as expected due to fluid loss. Though it was tough for Sage and Ben to see, the doctors reassured them it was normal. Lily's weight dropped to 1 pound, 4 ounces a week after birth. In the NICU, she was closely monitored by the medical team.

Lily didn't require any surgeries or face setbacks during her time in the NICU. Despite having a heart murmur due to abnormal blood flow caused by patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), her ductus arteriosus closed on its own, resolving the murmur. Additionally, Lily underwent two blood transfusions and received shots to maintain her red blood cell count.

Being in the NICU for 101 days was emotionally challenging. The family drove from their home in New Braunfels to San Antonio to see Lily every day.

NICU life was tough but the nurses and doctors made it bearable, said Sage. They became like family to us and we couldn't have asked for a better team to care for our precious Lily. 

The family had four primary nurses—Amy, Kasey, Bailey, and Brooke—who they said were absolutely amazing. They provided excellent care for our girl, the couple emphasized. Lily's main NICU doctors were Dr. Cody Henderson, Dr. Maria Pierce, Dr. Cheryl Motta, Dr. Katherine Brandt and Dr. Sowmya Mohan. Each of them played a crucial role in Lily's care.

Even though they were in charge of making the critical decisions, they always made sure we felt like the parents and were still involved in our daughter’s care, Sage added. And we can't forget our night nurses who we absolutely adored – Lee, Chris, and Janeen – they took such wonderful care of Lily.


A message for other families

Today, at 6 months old, the Speckman’s describe Lily as truly a miracle. She’s a happy baby who isn’t shy about expressing her needs or desires. Lily lights up with smiles, especially when music is playing, and she absolutely adores being outdoors.

Whether it’s going for walks or cozying up by the fire pit with her parents, she basks in the warmth and comfort. To Sage and Ben, Lily is simply the cutest thing ever.

As they begin their journey as a family of three, Sage and Ben offer these words of encouragement to other NICU families facing similar journeys. Take each day as it comes, they say. Treasure every precious moment and rely on your support system. And most importantly, never lose sight of hope.

Learn more about our NICU at CHRISTUS Children’s.

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