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Told To Plan Her Baby’s Funeral, One Iowa Mother Found Hope Instead


Livia Knipp was only about halfway through her pregnancy when her water broke at 19 weeks. Doctors at the first hospital she visited gave her no hope for the survival of her unborn child. “They told me to start planning a funeral,” Knipp says.

After returning home from her initial hospital stay, Knipp took to Facebook to ask for prayers and support from friends and family and found the miracle suggestion she needed.

“Hundreds of people started commenting, ‘praying, praying, praying,” Knipp says.

But it was one online friend who gave her the first glimpse of hope she needed. Knipp was connected with Carrie Tisdall, a mother in Clear Lake who had experienced a similar early water break at 22 weeks whose baby had survived. Tisdall credited the health of her and her child to the care team at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

The UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is the largest in the state, and the only Level IV NICU, which is the highest designation available, in Iowa. According to the hospital, the survival rates for babies born at 22 to 25 weeks are “significantly higher” than the survival rates seen nationally for extremely premature babies, ranging from 59 percent at 22 weeks to 89 percent at 25 weeks.

Credit Livia Knipp
Livia Knipp holds her daughter Kerigan for the first time, two weeks after she was born.

Within days, Knipp was admitted to the hospital in Iowa City and gave birth to her daughter Kerigan, born one pound, six ounces by C-section at 23 weeks and six days gestation.

Just shy of two years after Knipp was told her daughter had no chance of survival, she says Kerigan leads a mostly normal, very full life at their home at Windsor Heights. She credits the care she got at the University of Iowa for Kerigan’s survival, and she encourages other parents experiencing early pregnancy complications to seek support.

“I would tell anyone to always get a second and third opinion,” Knipp says. “Doctors are not God. They don’t know everything. And clearly in this case, if I had listened before, we wouldn’t have our Kerigan. So never give up hope, and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.”

On this episode of Talk of Iowa, a story of hope for micro-preemie babies, babies born either before 26 weeks or weighing in at less than one pound, 12 ounces, from Livia Knipp and leaders in neonatal care and maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Iowa.



  • Livia Knipp
  • Dr. Jonathan Klein, Medical Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital
  • Dr. Andrea Greiner, High-Risk Obstetrician and Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa