Pregnant Mom Jumps from Two-Story Window to Flee Fire at 36 Weeks: Her Family's Incredible Story of Survival (Exclusive)

One year after Rachel and Travis Standfest narrowly escaped a house fire, the couple is relishing life with their daughter and awaiting baby No. 2

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Standfest</p> Rachel and Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

Courtesy of Rachel Standfest

Rachel and Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

Rachel and Travis Standfest were just weeks away from welcoming their first baby when they almost lost everything.

Last May, the couple was staying in Rachel's parents' pole barn in Grand Rapids, Michigan, while building their first house about 20 miles away in Rockford. Rachel, 26, and Travis, 25, had four weeks to finish their new home before welcoming their baby girl Brynlee when the unexpected happened.

Rachel, who was 36 weeks pregnant at the time, tells PEOPLE that she was at her parents' home across the driveway working with her mom on her baby shower when she called it a night and went to put her pet goat away near the pole barn.

"I went upstairs and Travis was sleeping, which is not uncommon. I was just watching TV with our dog and I thought that I had heard something earlier, but I didn't go check. I don't know if I heard something or if I smelled something," says Rachel.

"Something made me get up and go check the stairs, and all I could see was smoke. And so I grabbed [our dog] Otis and I ran back and I shook Travis up and I called my mom. The last thing I remember is Travis punching out the screen window, and I could see my mom in the driveway yelling, 'Get out now.' And that's the last thing I remember for probably two weeks."

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The couple was on the top floor of the pole barn — which was turned into a fully renovated apartment for the two to live — when they noticed the house fire. Travis' first move was to get his pregnant wife out of the second-story barn, which he tells PEOPLE was 15 to 20 feet off the ground.

"I helped Rachel get out the window and then I picked up my dog, got him out the window, and by that time, flames and smoke were coming up over the window," he recalls. "Rachel had to go headfirst out the window, so she started going out with her head and I helped lift her legs up and through. And then when I carried my dog out, I had to hang out the window, put him through first, and then hang out to get his whole body out, just because we've got a 70-pound Goldendoodle."

At the time, Rachel admits the "pregnancy didn't really occur to me."

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Standfest</p> Rachel and Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

Courtesy of Rachel Standfest

Rachel and Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

"It was just fight or flight," she says. "In the moment, I know I was scared. I know both of us had a moment of, 'Oh my word, is this it? Are we going to die?' But I wasn't scared to jump out because I knew that's what we had to do to survive."

After Rachel safely got out, Travis had to come up with a game plan to escape the fire himself. "My option came down to, there are two exit points, and I thought my best exit was going to be down the stairs and then through the pole barn."

"We didn't know what the downstairs looked like at that point. We knew that it was very smoky because we could see smoke on the stairs, but we didn't know what was on fire, or where it was on fire. I decided to gather my thoughts. I threw the first pair of shoes on that I found, and I took a quick 10, 15 seconds and came up with, all right, I'm going to run down as fast as I can ... I fell at the bottom of the stairs and quickly picked myself back up. And it was right after I picked myself up that I started feeling the intensity of the fire."

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Standfest</p> Rachel and Travis Standfest

Courtesy of Rachel Standfest

Rachel and Travis Standfest

Since the downstairs of the barn was filled with boxes and bins masked by the smoke, Travis says he had to run through the area "based on memory."

"There were seven fire departments. They said it was the hottest fire that they had been to in 27 years, and it burned really quickly. It burned about six feet of space every second once it was fully up and going," Travis explains. "And part of that was once the garage door got opened, it allowed a lot more oxygen to fan the flames. So it was a blessing because that is what allowed me to get out. If that door wasn't open, I probably wouldn't get out."

Rachel hit her head after she jumped from the barn, causing a skull fracture and a brain bleed. She also suffered severe burns from the heat of the fire, despite never touching the flames.

Both Rachel and Travis were transported to the hospital where Rachel was quickly taken in for an emergency cesarean section.

"They made sure Brynlee was safe first, and then they did it in the trauma bay. They had to cut through a third-degree burn to do that, and they had never done that before, so they took Brynlee and made sure she was okay. And then the trauma team took over and started addressing my burns."

"It wasn't like, 'Oh my goodness, is she going to make it or is she not going to make it? What's the baby going to be like?' It was like, 'Nope, we got to make a decision. We've got a lot of smart people in the room. What are we going to do?' And boom, 15, 20 seconds, and Brynlee was out."

Miraculously, Brynlee did not need to go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and was not affected by the house fire or Rachel's injuries. "She went up with the big babies. She left the hospital on day three," Rachel tells PEOPLE. "She is our miracle baby."

While Brynlee was doing well, both Rachel and Travis were put on ventilators and given feeding tubes. It wasn't until they both were awake that they learned their daughter was born.

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Standfest</p> Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

Courtesy of Rachel Standfest

Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

"Rachel probably woke up the next day or two. She was not with it because of sedation and stuff like that for probably a week to a week and a half. Myself, on the other hand, I woke up the next day 12 hours later," says Travis.

"It was day two or three that we met Brynlee together," he recalls. "They waited until they could wheel me down to have us both meet her at the same time. And I remember that very clearly, where Rachel doesn't remember the first time seeing Brynlee. And for me, I remember seeing Brynlee but I had some eye damage. So for the first week and a half, Rachel doesn't remember anything, and for the first week and a half, I couldn't see anything, so quite the combo."

"I remember being excited to all be in the same room together. But I also remember when they brought her around and she came into view, I remember her being super blurry. And I started crying, and everyone thought I was crying because I was like, oh my goodness, first child. And I was actually crying because I couldn't see her," says Travis. "And I almost had that moment of, am I going to be able to see her? My eyes had been damaged by the smoke. They had scratches on my corneas because of smoke damage."

Rachel adds that for the first few days of Brynlee's life, she was called "baby Rachel" since she and Travis never shared what they would be naming her. "It wasn't until we were together that Travis was able to tell our parents her name."

Brynlee's name also has an incredible connection to the way she came into the world. Six months before her birth, the couple decided on the name Brynlee, which means "burned clearing," having no idea the ties it would have when she was born.

"What brought that to light for me was one of the fire chiefs that was on the scene. And then my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, they both looked up the name and they're like, 'This is much bigger than just a fire.' That's really where the faith portion of it started for I think our families and for me, but it's like hearing that, it's not just coincidence," says Travis.

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Standfest</p> Rachel Standfest and daughter Brynlee

Courtesy of Rachel Standfest

Rachel Standfest and daughter Brynlee

While Rachel and Travis were recovering in the hospital, Rachel's mom became Brynlee's designated caregiver. "She took her home every night and took care of her. But then she brought her to the hospital so we could see her every day and hold her as much as we could, but neither of us could feed her because of our hands and we couldn't burp her or change her, so we just held her as much as we could."

Rachel was released from the hospital after 29 days, and Travis was able to go home one week prior. With the pole barn destroyed, the couple stayed with a family friend for two weeks because their new house still wasn't finished.

"We just didn't have a normal, which was hard. We didn't have a home to come home to. We didn't have a normal. We had a baby and we just had a lot of adjusting we had to do and figuring out our new life," says Rachel.

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Standfest</p> Rachel and Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

Courtesy of Rachel Standfest

Rachel and Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

For the first six months of Brynlee's life, the couple relied heavily on help from their families. "We had people stay with us after the hospital. There was a rotation of parents while we were in the hospital just because all of our parents had already been through the part of having children, so they weren't really ready to do the all-nighters again. So they all helped each other where they could."

Since the accident, Rachel says she and Travis have "gotten to learn to serve each other in ways that we never have before."

"Travis did my dressing changes and they weren't pretty at all. They were very bloody and he took staples out for me. It's just stuff that you never anticipate doing for your spouse," she explains. "And he can't bathe Brynlee because of his hands. The soap and the water bother him, so I'm able to bathe her every night. Early on he had to do that because I couldn't stand for long periods of time."

<p>Courtesy of Rachel Standfest</p> Rachel and Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

Courtesy of Rachel Standfest

Rachel and Travis Standfest and daughter Brynlee

Now, nearly a year after the fire, the couple feels "so blessed because we're alive and we're here."

Both Rachel and Travis share that doctors were "blown away" by their recovery speed. "Doctors were very impressed, especially with Rachel's recovery. She's 36 weeks pregnant, she has a brain injury, she's got a large portion of her body with third-degree burns, yet she's healing at a pace that's triple the speed of what she should be," says Travis.

"One of our surgeons practically jumped for joy the last time I saw him before my surgery because he could not believe the speed of my recovery. And he told me when I left the hospital at 29 days, my healing was where it should be at four and a half months," adds Travis.

As for Brynlee, "she's perfect," the couple tells PEOPLE.

For now, the couple is relishing their time as a family of three — which is soon to become a family of four this summer.

"We’ve been keeping a secret … Sometimes the best things in life come when you’re least expecting them. Baby Standfest coming July 2024! We are so blessed and excited to become a family of 4!🤍," the couple recently announced on Instagram.

They are also working on a book about their experience and their faith, which the pair says they're really excited about."

"We're excited to share not only about our faith but also just to be a support team for others and advocate for other people that are either going through similar situations or have been through it and are still struggling."

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