Rebekah Gregory, who lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, leans on prayers and the rallying cry “Boston Strong” as her premature daughter fights for her life in an intensive care unit.
Ryleigh Michelle was born prematurely on May 2 to Gregory and her husband, Chris Varney.
Since then, the baby has come off a ventilator and is on a CPAP (continuous airway pressure) machine to keep her airways open until her lungs develop and her bilirubin levels normalize.
“I couldn’t ask for a better Mother’s Day present than to hold my baby girl for the first time today,” Gregory, 28, posted on her public Facebook page. “This picture represents my entire world and my heart is so full.”
“Best five minutes EVER,” she added. “One day soon I’ll hold you tight and never let you go, my Ryleigh girl.”
Ryleigh has an older brother Noah, 8, who announced to his parents on Mother’s Day that the “best job in the whole world” was “being a big brother.”
The family, who lives in the Houston area, had kept the news of the pregnancy to themselves.
Not long ago, Gregory said, doctors told them pregnancy was something she would “never be able to think about again.”
“We knew right away it was extremely high risk and decided that we both wanted to keep this part of our lives private as a result,” she wrote.
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But now, Gregory has turned to her supporters for their prayers.
“[This is] about the time when privacy goes out the window for me and I am once again forced to just be human and ask for help," she wrote.
The family’s ordeal began on April 29, when Gregory went into the hospital with back pain that soon turned into labor.
“[I] not only almost lost our baby, but came too close to losing my own life as well,” she wrote.
It was her second brush with death. At the Boston Marathon in 2013, she was standing just feet away when a terrorist's homemade bomb exploded near the finish line.
After enduring 17 surgeries, she eventually had her leg amputated.
Full of optimism and humor, she named her prosthetic leg “Felicia” and inscribed it with the word, “blessed.”
Since then, Gregory has been a motivational speaker. She returned to Boston in 2015 and ran the final three miles of the marathon, crossing the finish line.
At the time, she told NBC News, "I truly believe that I've found my purpose in life, and it's to inspire and encourage other people. If my words can do something like that for someone, I would get blown up again tomorrow."
Gregory, who is now home, says “as thankful as I am to be out of the woods, our precious baby has a much longer road ahead.”
Support for the family has poured in on Facebook since Ryleigh was born.
“This is big, but we still believe that our God is bigger, and prayer is a very powerful thing," she says. "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Rebekah’s mother, Tina Gregory, echoed that gratitude.
“The Lord has once again blessed our family 'exceedingly, abundantly, even more than we could every ask or think,'” she wrote on her daughter’s Facebook page.
“While we were in Boston, we saw God at work in Rebekah's life,” she wrote.
“Baby Ryleigh … is a fighter. Someone said ‘Boston Strong’ by default. I would agree.”