While Kelsey Ferguson already knew she would encounter some significant challenges when her baby was born, she had no idea she would be going through it as a widow.
Kelsey, 31, lost her husband Scott four days before delivering son Maxley Russell, who weighed just 1021 grams when he was born at 33 weeks gestation in June last year.
Scott, 30, hadn't been well for some weeks by the time Kelsey was admitted to hospital due to her high risk pregnancy, but the couple thought it was a flare up of his psoriatic arthritis.
"I had been admitted on Monday to Abbott Northwestern Hospitals Mother Baby Centre... He went home after visiting me that night and before bed, was coughing up blood and couldn't catch his breath," Kelsey recounts on her blog.
She wrote that Scott attended the ER near their home in Prior Lake, Minnesota, but there was no lung specialist at that hospital so he was transferred to Abbott, where Kelsey was on bedrest.
She was able to visit him while he had a steroid drip, which made him feel better for a short time.
But his health began to deteriorate again during the following two days, with Kelsey visiting him as much as was permitted.
"He was still having a really hard time getting his oxygen levels up and was getting really frustrated. I knew it would take some time for him to get better but we thought he would get discharged on Thursday or Friday."
After a bad night's sleep on Thursday the pair napped through the morning. In the early afternoon Kelsey got the call that Scott was in respiratory distress and was being transferred to ICU.
She was able to see Scott, but not for long.
"At this point they sent me back to my room. I got a call from his doctors a little later that his lungs were so much worse than they anticipated so they needed to put him on lung bypass to give his lungs a break and let the machine breathe for him for a few days. So I rushed back to authorise the bypass. But, in the process of putting him on lung bypass, Scott went into cardiac arrest."
After an hour's CPR and a period of trying to stabilise him, the bleeding on Scott's lungs could not be stalled and he passed away after midnight, after Kelsey held his hand and said her goodbyes. She had to be taken back to her room after collapsing and vomiting.
He died shortly afterwards of an inflammatory disease called Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, which affects five in every one million people in Australia. Sadly, Scott's case had been identified too late to save his life.
"I really didn't know how sick he was. Nobody told me he could die. Nobody said his body was shutting down," Kelsey said.
Consumed with grief, she gave birth to Maxley just four days later on June 12. She said the days in between were a "complete blur" and concerned doctors had made the decision to induce her.
I am beyond thrilled to announce the arrival of our perfect little bundle of joy. Maxley will grow up knowing his dad, loving his dad and hopefully being just like his dad. He arrived safely via c-section at 33 weeks and 5 days. Maxley and I are both doing well and I’m just so in love! 📷: @amymullenmeisterphotography #maxleyrussell #oncloudferguson #babyfergie
Now Kelsey focussed on her son's survival.
An ultrasound at 20 weeks revealed heart defects and a chromosomal abnormality called 12q14 microdeletion syndrome, which results in developmental delays and affects physical growth.
While she and Scott had known that Maxley would have a tough start to life, they also didn't know for sure if he would survive.
"I would say my world ended the day [Scott] left this earth but in a way a new life began when our son was born just four days later," she said.
Defying doctors' predictions, Maxley pulled through and went home in September, though Kelsey knew they would be back in four months' time for Maxley's first open heart surgery.
To date, the youngster has endured seven surgeries amid his extensive health issues.
While Kelsey devotes her life to her son and his wellbeing, she continues to suffer the traumatic loss of her beloved life partner Scott.
"I thought it would get easier as time went on but it turns out I am more broken than ever," she said.
"He was an incredible husband and made my life easy. I was happy every single day with him. We did everything together and there isn't a single thing in my life that doesn't remind me of him."
Of his dad's memory, Kelsey fully intends to keep that alive for Maxley.
"I will tell Maxley all about his dad and how much he loves him. We have a long road ahead of us in so many ways, but in the end, we have each other – and I count myself incredibly lucky for that."