A mum who was told her daughter would never walk or talk after she caught a cold during pregnancy shared her joy after the brave baby waved for the first time.
Minnie Mae Farnell’s proud mum, Courtney, 23, said she was left “very emotional” after the baby looked at her from her crib and extended her arms to greet her.
Kourtney even managed to capture the adorable moment on video, adding that it was a “huge milestone” for the three-year-old.
She said: “Minnie just waved at me at three years old, I just waved for the first time. I am so emotional.
“This is a massive accomplishment for Minnie, the girl I was told would never move and have no quality of life.”
Kourtney contracted the common cytomegalovirus (CMV) — a virus that causes cold-like symptoms — eight weeks into her pregnancy, which then passed on to Mini Mae.
The virus, which is transmitted through saliva, tears, and urine, is usually harmless but can be fatal to unborn babies. Courtney believes she contracted the disease while caring for vulnerable people.
Kourtney said that doctors urged her to abort her child, but she decided to go ahead with her pregnancy. Minnie May was born in September 2019.
While Minnie Mae suffers from anemia, sclerosis, muscle weakness, epilepsy and severe brain damage, Kourtney said she doesn’t regret her decision to keep her.
And after years of hospital visits, she said it was amazing to see her “smiling” and able to communicate with her mother in such a “happy” way.
Courtney said: “The child they told me would never move was walking before my eyes. I was told she would be blind, or deaf, or not walk or speak.
“Look at her now. She’s always smiling. She’s always so happy. Minnie-mae makes me proud in all the different ways.”
Courtney, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, became pregnant in January 2019 and had some bleeding early on, but was ruled out as usual.
A scan at 12 weeks revealed her unborn baby had brain fluid – a sign of CMV – but it soon disappeared.
However, her next scan at week 20 revealed that “everything was wrong”, with little Minnie Mae suffering severe brain damage and liver and kidney problems due to CMV.
The virus is responsible for cold sores and chicken pox, but around 1 in 1,000 babies born in the UK each year will develop permanent disabilities as a result.
But if the mother catches it for the first time during pregnancy, it can be passed on to the fetus and cause birth defects.
The only way to prevent CMV is by taking hygiene precautions such as washing hands with soap and not sharing cutlery or cups with children.
Kourtney said she faced a very difficult dilemma when she found out the virus had passed to her baby, but later decided to move forward with her pregnancy.
She said: “They told me she would never breathe on her own. It was like something hit me in the heart.
“They asked me to terminate the pregnancy, that I was really young and would be her carer for life – but I was a carer anyway as my job so I didn’t want to give up.
“Everyone was supportive of my decisions to go on, but since none of them could feel the pain I was in, I think they felt embarrassed about what they could do.”
Kourtney was induced at 34 weeks due to reduced mobility, and Minnie Mae was born on September 3, 2019 at 11:58 p.m., weighing only 2lbs 4oz.
Nine hours later, she was taken off life support at St James’ University Hospital, Leeds, and defied the odds to be able to breathe on her own.
She has since attended hundreds of hospital appointments with Minnie Mae as she strives to spread awareness of CMV, particularly among expectant mothers.
Courtney said: “If you get CMV in your early pregnancy, it can have horrific results.
“You can pick up the virus by changing diapers and bottles, which as a carer for children and adults alike I did regularly, as well as not washing your hands.
“You don’t even notice it if you’re not pregnant, but no one warned me about it.
“I was scared when I found out I could have caught the virus through my care work.”