LaWanda Rosenberger waited 39 years to have her first baby.
After just one month of marriage, lots of prayers and careful planning, Rosenberger found out she was pregnant. She and her husband Jason were ecstatic.
"We started to buy things once a month and save up for her arrival," she said. "Little did we know God had another plan."
LaWanda was hospitalized just five months into her pregnancy. Her baby wasn’t growing as expected, and her placenta was not receiving enough blood. Doctors couldn’t pinpoint the problem, but they insisted on monitoring LaWanda around the clock.
LaWanda gave birth to a baby girl almost three months early. Doctors and specialists packed the delivery room at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, hoping to get a glimpse of the 2-pound premature baby with a mysterious diagnosis.
"They expected the worst and they prepared us for the worst," LaWanda said.
Aubree Lynn Rosenberger was diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder called Partial Trisomy 15. The disorder is so rare that only 10 cases have been reported in the last two decades worldwide. Partial Trisomy 15 can cause physical defects, organ abnormalities and slowed development, and most babies with this diagnosis die before birth.
Specialists gave baby Aubree a 20 percent chance of survival upon her birth. Despite those frightening odds, she lived and was immediately whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit — or NICU. Nearly four hours later, LaWanda finally met her baby girl.
"When I laid eyes on her through this incubator, I was able to touch her and instantly, the emotions took over," she said. "I began to wail and cry because it's this precious little baby, laying in this incubator, and I can't hold her."
As difficult as it was not to be able to hold her newborn, LaWanda was happy knowing her child survived. She continued a nonstop vigil from one hospital to the next, staying by Aubree's side all day, every day.
Meanwhile, life outside the hospital didn’t stop. Soon, LaWanda had to return to her job as a cyber-security marketing and training specialist at Kimberly-Clark, but she was nervous about leaving Aubree by herself at the hospital.
"I felt like, as a mom, that's my responsibility to take my baby home and be able to care for my baby," she said. "So it was excruciating."
LaWanda's husband, Jason, worried his wife was stretching herself thin.
"She felt the need to be there constantly," Jason said. "I mean, there's a helplessness feeling that you get, you know, when you're in that situation.
Fortunately, one of Aubree's therapists found a way to help alleviate that feeling of helplessness. Her idea had nothing to do with medicine or machinery.
Hannah Ivey Bush grew up in a family of musicians. Both of her parents are music educators. Her mother was the piano accompanist at their local church, and her father was a music minister. Bush grew up singing in choirs and playing piano. She said as a child, she dreamed of being a musician or an actor when she grew up.
But her passion for music and helping others led her in a different direction. Bush now uses music to soothe children and anxious parents like LaWanda and Jason when they have to leave their sick babies behind at the hospital.
The music therapist started recording parents’ voices and putting them on CDs.
"There's a natural pairing of singing to your baby, and it's part of our culture to sing to babies and to read books to our children," Bush said.
She helped LaWanda make a CD to play for her baby when she couldn’t physically be by her bedside. The day of the recording was particularly difficult, as 36-week-old Aubree had taken a turn for the worst and had trouble breathing.
"I knew it was so important for me to get the emotions of what I needed out in that recording, but in a very positive way so that my baby could have that at her bedside and that she could know that she was going to make it," LaWanda said.
LaWanda sang the ABCs, read inspirational books and recorded a song she’d written just for Aubree. The nurses then played the CD for Aubree when her parents were away. Bush said Aubree always opens her eyes and turns toward her mother's voice when she hears the CD.
"There are times that she begins to smile, and it's really beautiful to get to watch her," Bush said. "She doesn't like me as much as her mother's voice. I can tell the difference."
Her idea to record parents’ voices at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite turned into a program she calls Little Lullabies.
On recording days, she and a music producer set up a makeshift studio in a hospital conference room. Bush is there with her guitar, ready to play along if parents need backup.
"It's helping us, knowing that we're not feeling helpless anymore," LaWanda said. "We're actually contributing to the development of our little baby."
Little Lullabies has become more popular since it started in March 2018. Hospitals across the country have reached out to Bush hoping to start their own programs.
"This is something bigger than I ever imagined," Bush said. "I just feel fortunate that I get to be a part of the experience that families allow me to come into their lives and be a part of their journey."
That oftentimes difficult journey was made a little easier for LaWanda and Jason, thanks to Bush.
"We're just so happy and thankful that this little baby that they said had 0 percent chance to live has defied every single odd and she is not only surviving, but she is thriving," LaWanda said.
Seven-month-old Aubree is growing stronger and more alert every day. She not only listens to her mother's voice, she also likes to kick and babble along to the song LaWanda wrote just for her.
And after her long NICU stay, Aubree is scheduled to leave the hospital on Friday, November 16. Her parents are thrilled to finally bring their baby girl home.
This segment aired on November 13, 2018.