Candace Richter, 36, and her husband, Michael 34, were thrilled to learn they were expecting a baby due on Mother's Day. Their son, Nash, 17 months, would be a wonderful big brother and they were busy making plans to sell their house in Myers Park, where they had lived for seven years.
Their plans changed on Jan. 25, when, at 26 weeks pregnant, Richter was taken by ambulance to Presbyterian Hospital Charlotte with severe bleeding.
After being examined by the doctor, she was admitted to the hospital and told that she would remain there on bed rest until her baby was born.
A week later, on Feb. 7, Avery Shaw Richter was born. He weighed 2 pounds 7 ounces.
At 4 days old, Shaw's ultrasound revealed a small amount of blood in his brain. Although not uncommon in premature babies, his doctors said that his condition would need to be monitored with follow up ultrasounds and spinal taps to determine the next steps.
Richter was discharged from the hospital on Feb. 11, but Shaw remained in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Over the next month, the Richters spent every day at the hospital, where they became acquainted with the ins and outs of the NICU ward and were well known as "locals."
It was at that time, that Richter met Domekia Council and her son, Josiah.
Council, 26, a first-time mother, was in the process of moving back to her parents' home in Raleigh when she went into labor.
Her son, Josiah, whose name means "God save me," was even younger than Shaw, born Jan. 29, at only 24 weeks gestation. He was 1 pound 5 ounces.
Council was discharged from the hospital, but Josiah remained in Charlotte NICU until he was strong enough to be transferred to WakeMed hospital in Raleigh.
Shaw and Josiah, nicknamed by nurses "the brothers," quickly won the hearts of the medical staff and a friendship developed between their mothers.
"Our boys seem to have kindred spirits," said Richter. "They are fighting through this together."
When Richter learned that Council was staying with friends and commuting an hour each way to the hospital to see her son, she invited her to stay at her home.
Richter said that Council has become like family.
"She is great company at night, as we carpool back to the hospital to see our boys," she said. "Our son Nash has also taken to her and she joins us for most meals."
Council said the Richters have been a gift to her and her son, "showing them tons of love and support," and that she believes that she ended up in Charlotte for a reason.
Josiah, now 2 pounds 12.5 oz, will remain in Charlotte until he is strong enough to be transferred to WakeMed.
Shaw, now 5 pounds 6 ounces, has been moved to Special Care.
"A huge milestone for Shaw," said Richter "It is officially crossing the threshold to our way home.
"Who knows, maybe by Mother's Day our family will be together and Nash can finally meet his little brother; I can't think of a more special gift."
Richter said that she and Council are already making plans to get together next May to attend the annual NICU nurse and family reunion event given by the hospital.
"This walk has been a long one and we have found comfort in our company," she said.