Krysta Davis was 18 weeks pregnant with her daughter, Rylei Arcadia Diane Lovett, when she was told the baby had an abnormality. Soon after, Rylei was diagnosed with anencephaly, a rare condition in which an infant is missing parts of the brain or skull.
Doctors told Davis, 23, and her boyfriend, Derek Lovett, 26, that Rylei likely wouldn’t live more than 30 minutes after birth.
“It was definitely shocking. It was a huge heartbreak knowing that we’d miscarried previously and were having complications with this pregnancy. It was really hard to take in,” Davis, of Cleveland, Tennessee, tells PEOPLE, recalling her 2017 miscarriage.
Doctors gave Davis two options: induce labor immediately or carry the baby to term and donate the child’s organs.
“[The doctor] said babies with anencephaly don’t tend to survive birth let alone cord-cutting. There was no outcome where she would be able to survive on her own for very long if at all,” she says.
“We decided that even if we couldn’t bring our daughter home, no mother would have to go through what we were going to go through.”
So, Davis carried Rylei to term, delivering her baby girl on Christmas Eve at 40 weeks and two days.
“She came out star-gazing. She was born face-up,” Davis says. “It was the most overwhelming feeling of love that I’ve ever felt in my life. Laying eyes on her, I never knew that I could love someone so much. It was insane.”
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Then, Rylei shocked everyone. The ailing baby survived for an entire week after her birth. Davis, Lovett and Rylei spent that time at the hospital together until the baby took her last breath on New Year’s Eve.
“It was absolutely amazing going from knowing we were maybe gonna get 30 minutes with her at most to having a week with her was more than we could have ever expected or imagined,” Davis tells PEOPLE.
“We were able to fit an entire lifetime of love into that one week with her that wasn’t promised to begin with. She just smiled the whole time. She was such a good baby.”
Davis notes that Rylei hadn’t cried at all during her week of life. But on her final day, she’d let out a small cry when her oxygen became too low.
“It’s like she was fighting to give us more time. It was amazing,” the doting mom tells PEOPLE of Rylei. “She surprised everyone by being alive for that week.”
After Rylei died, her heart valves were given to two children and her lungs were given to a research hospital.
“It’s been really hard coming to terms with the fact that she’s really gone. But it’s also been a great month that we’ve got to share her story,” Davis says. “It’s helped a lot to be able to help other women in our situation, and hear their stories. It warms our hearts to know that [Rylei’s life] will give two other babies a second chance at life.”
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