(MOBILE, Ala.) - It's a story of a rare medical condition that has tested the faith and love of one local couple. While still in the womb, doctors discovered a disorder that caused a mass to grow on the baby's neck. Just bringing her into this world meant a complicated surgery that put both mother and baby at great risk. LOCAL 15's Andrea Ramey tells the miraculous story of baby Grace.
Her little toes, fingers and soft skin are just like any other newborns. But a rare condition caused something most babies aren't born with.
"It's very rare," said mother Laura Martin.
At 7 pounds 7 ounces, baby Grace was born with a half pound mass on her neck.
"It's a lymphatic malformation is what she was born with," Laura said.
A condition that clogs vessels, forcing fluid to build up. Parents Laura and Aaron Martin first learned there was a problem 18 weeks into the pregnancy. Ultrasounds showed the mass was growing at the same rate Grace was.
"It was very emotional. It was very hard. A lot of the way we looked at it and the way we were thinking is, we're both very faithful people and God had a reason. And we went from there," said Laura.
The couple's faith was tested once again at birth. To deliver Grace, doctors had to perform what's called an Exit Procedure.
"It's actually very risky," said Laura.
It's similar to a C-section only it lasts much longer. Laura was unconscious during surgery. And while still attached to the umbilical cord, doctors cleared Grace's airway with a tube.
"From the very beginning they said the Exit Procedure would be better for her, safer for her, more dangerous for me because of the risk of bleeding," said Laura.
That risk paid off.
"It was incredible. It was humbling and sobering. But absolute joy of course. The fact the birth went well and she was relatively stable," said Aaron.
Recovering from surgery, Laura had to wait an entire day to meet her first born.
"To see her for the first time was amazing because it's your baby. No matter what. It's your baby. And you're just like wow. It was funny because she was there and she did some kind of kick or something, and I was like that's what you did in my stomach for the past five months," said Laura.
Joy once again was replaced with worry. Only one week old, Grace underwent an eight hour operation to remove half the mass.
"To see your child go through that, it breaks your heart," said Laura.
To remove all of it will require several years of Sclerotherapy. A process used to treat varicose veins, it will slowly shrink the mass.
"They've always said they can't guarantee it will go away completely," said Laura. "But um, they can shrink it to where you probably will never notice."
"The hard part is you see the mass, you see the long road ahead as well," said Aaron.
After spending two months at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston the Martin family is finally home. They're dealing daily with the complications of her condition, like keeping her throat clear and a watchful eye on her trach.
"We tell ourselves she'll never remember it," said Laura.
Baby Grace may never remember. One day she'll see the pictures that show her miraculous journey, the unconditional love and unwavering faith of her parents.
While the Martin's are hopeful the mass can be completely removed, doctors have told them it could return later in life when hormone levels will be higher like during pregnancy or menopause.