Strangers rally around family stranded with baby in NICU

Our continuing series, A More Perfect Union, aims to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us. When Shelcie Holbert came to New York on a business trip, she expected to stay three days, but the 22-year-old, who was six months pregnant, suddenly went into labor 16 weeks early. That was in June, and over a month later she's still in New York.


One pound, nine ounces. That's all baby Rosalie weighed at birth. Though tiny, she managed to stir up trouble for her parents Shelcie Holbert and Jacob Wallace.

"It's been a roller coaster," Holbert told CBS News' Jericka Duncan. "I mean it's a beautiful thing, right, but it's not how we imagined it."

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Rosalie Wallace

CBS News

How they imagined it was full-term in North Carolina, where they'd just moved from Alaska specifically to raise a family.

"We wanted to be in the South and have, like, Southern hospitality and raise her and have her in a place where we knew everybody was nice," Holbert said. New York City was not part of the plan.

But doctors have told the couple Rosalie needs to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at New York's Mount Sinai hospital until October, leaving the couple stranded with no friends, no family, and no place to stay. Their initial thoughts on New York? "A lot of people, dirty… people are kind of rude," Jacob Wallace said. That opinion has quickly changed.

After new mom Kim Kaplan met the couple in the hospital, she set out to help them. She posted a message on Facebook in a group for mothers in Manhattan's Upper West Side hoping others would want to help. Offers came quickly. Jenna Cognetti let Shelcie and Jacob stay in her vacant three-bedroom apartment rent-free.

"It was a no-brainer. I was gonna sort of do whatever I could to make sure that she had a safe place to stay and she could focus on her daughter," Cognetti said. 

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Shelcie and Jacob visit baby Rosalie in the hospital.

CBS News

The help didn't stop there. Toby Baldinger reached out to Jenna and offered to provide meals for the couple for the first two weeks.

"She'll come back from the hospital and there'll be a hot meal waiting for her every single day from a diner in the neighborhood," Toby Baldinger said.

A GoFundMe site was set up and has so far raised more than $20,000 for the couple. And the women who've pitched in for Shelcie say she's helped them too – by showing strength.

"Do I think I would be able to exude the enthusiasm and, like, zest for life that she does? I do not think so. I think she is just really an inspiration for us all," said Julia, another woman who pitched in.

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Shelcie Holbert (center) along with some of the New York City women who have offered her support.   

CBS News

"I can't even imagine. I mean, I'm probably gonna start to cry. I had a hard time with my boys in the NICU for nine weeks and to hear what you were going through, it really put me in my place, in a sense. I have family, I have friends, I have a home here that I can go to every night," Kaplan said.

And Shelcie hopes that one day, when Rosalie is old enough, the story of her birth will be an inspiration.

"She's gonna feel invincible, and she's going to do good to the world because of the way she came into it," Shelcie said.

A little girl, bringing love into the world where some might least expect it.

Shelcie and Jacob chose Jenna Cognetti to be Rosalie's godmother, though they've known her just a few weeks. Their doctor told CBS News that the baby is thriving.