She weighs only about 3 pounds, but Cerenity still has a lot of fight in her.
It's hard not to be a little fiery when you've spent the first few weeks of your life fighting to survive.
“Feisty little thing,” said her great grandmother, Nancy Glory “I haven't seen a baby so tiny be so feisty.”
Cerenity Sage Easter was born at 25 weeks and six days, about three months too early.
She has spent most of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit, and she'll likely be there through Thanksgiving and Christmas.
If she's lucky, she'll go home near Jan. 6, her due date.
Cerenity's mother, Rachel Plymale, remembers how red Cerenity was when she was born.
Her lungs weren't fully developed, and Cerenity was quickly rushed away. Plymale didn't see her again until several hours later.
When Plymale first saw her infant daughter, she was scared.
“I didn't really know what to think,” she said. “I was happy she was alive, but I didn't know if she was going to make it or not.”
Babies like Cerenity used to not have much of a chance.
Cerenity's neonatologist, Dr. Ajay Verma, said as technology and medicine have improved, doctors have been able to push the limits further.
“Approximately 20 years ago, we used to write off babies who were born about 28 weeks,” Verma said.
But now, babies born at 28 weeks do pretty well, he said.
It's the babies born at 22 to 23 weeks, though, that still have trouble.
Almost 30 percent of babies born at 23 weeks of pregnancy survive, while about 50 to 60 percent of babies born at 24 weeks, about 75 percent born at 25 weeks, and more than 90 percent born at 27 to 28 weeks, survive, according to the March of Dimes.
Those numbers could improve as well, though.
“I always tell the parents we are good, but we are not as good as the mom yet,” Verma said. “We have not created the intrauterine environment yet, but that's a possibility that maybe 20 or 30 years down the road we may have artificial wombs available to us.”
For now, babies in neonatal intensive care units spend the early part of their life in incubators. The temperature in Cerenity's incubator stays in the high 90s because she can't yet regulate her own temperature.
And she still wears a ventilator to help her breathe.
Verma said there are two main problems with a baby's lungs when they're born as early as Cerenity.
For one, their lungs are often not structurally ready to breathe.
Secondly, these babies usually have a surfactant deficiency. Surfactant is a liquid that coats the inside of the lungs, and helps an infant's lungs open so that infants can breathe in air once they're born, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Without enough surfactant, the lungs collapse and the infant has to work hard to breathe, according to the institute. The lack of oxygen can damage the baby's brain and other organs if the baby doesn't receive proper treatment.
Verma said that several years ago, this deficiency presented major problems for doctors. But synthetic surfactant has since been developed, which doctors can use to treat premature babies.
“That's one of the medications that has really created miracles for neonatologists,” he said. “It has significantly improved the survival rate and significantly fastened up the process of development of the lungs in immature babies.”
A baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy is premature, according to the March of Dimes.
In an average week in Oklahoma, 1,039 babies are born, according to the state Health Department. Of that, 144 babies are born preterm. Eight die before reaching their first birthday.
Plymale still takes each day, one at a time.
“With them being that small, there's no guarantee they'd make it,” Plymale said.
But Cerenity continues to grow, and she seems to love eating.
Doctors thought Plymale might give birth early. But no one knew that Cerenity would come so soon. Thankfully, Plymale was in the hospital when Cerenity was born.
About 21 weeks into the pregnancy, Plymale developed pre-eclampsia, characterized by high blood pressure and protein in urine. At the end of August, she was sent to a specialist, and she was put in the hospital soon after.
Plymale and her boyfriend, Bradley Easter, wanted to have a baby, but doctors had thought Plymale couldn't. And then along came Cerenity.
Plymale's grandmother, Nancy Glory, was at the hospital soon after Cerenity was born.
It took about 45 minutes to drive from Enid, praying for green lights all the way.
Cerenity is Nancy Glory's 11th great grandchild.
“She's just so tiny, tiny,” Glory said. “I call her my little Beanie Baby.”