Within no time, the nurse arrived by my bedside and held my hand. With every contraction I felt extreme pain and fear – this was by far my most scariest moment in life!
Suddenly, out of no where, the nurse started humming in an effort to distract me from my pains, she even picked up a magazine from my bedside table and started reading it, “oh, would you look at this, this looks like a good recipe,” she said a couple of pages into the magazine. After she put down the magazine a minute later, I got another contraction; this time she told me to practice my breathing exercises I had learned in prenatal class. PRENATAL CLASS? WHAT prenatal class?? The one I was scheduled to have next week, but I couldn’t go to because I’m in the hospital HAVING A BABY??? Yup, THAT prenatal class. As soon as I told her I didn’t have a chance to attend my prenatal class, she taught me the breathing exercises, and we did them together until my husband and mom arrived shortly after.
My contractions were getting more and more intense and closer together; now it was finally time to be transferred to the labour and delivery room. Initially, I wanted a drug free labour, however because I was really nervous and shaking uncontrollably, I was forced to have morphine as a method of calming me down. My nerves were also calmed upon hearing that the doctor working that night was a female- yeeesssss!
HOURS later my baby girl had arrived, 34 weeks premature and weighing 4 pounds and 13 ounces. She was tiny. I only got to see her for a few minutes before she was transferred to the NICU. Lying there by myself in the hospital bed, I felt empty. It seemed like forever, but I eventually had the chance to take a closer look at my baby girl in the NICU, and I all remember was her hair- there was a lot of it! She was already hooked up to a breathing tube to help her breathe, as her lungs were not fully developed, and she was to be fed through the feeding tube that was taped to her face. Because I wanted to nurse my baby, I had to pump, and the nurses gave her my breast milk through the feeding tube. I really don’t remember much about the rest of that day, as the morphine made me dizzy and sleepy, but I do know that what started out being one of the most scariest days of my life ended up being one of the most special days of my life.
The next morning I went into the NICU to visit my baby, and found the nurses gushing over her – and her hair. She was named the coolest baby in the NICU because she had a mohawk that wouldn’t flatten out despite efforts to comb it down. That morning I was also told that while the nurses were feeding my baby through the feeding tube she was opening her mouth in gulping movements simultaneously, and this was a sign that she was ready to be taken off the feeding tube. After hearing this, I was encouraged to go skin to skin with my daughter and to breastfeed her in the nursing room that was located in the NICU. I have to admit I was intimidated to breastfeed my own daughter while she was hooked up to a breathing machine and tubes! The nurse helped me in getting started, and she even helped me burp my daughter. She also suggested to continue feeding my baby while she was to check on other babies in the NICU, and that she would be back in a couple of minutes. ‘Okay, I can do this,’ I reassured myself as I nervously nursed my daughter. Just a few seconds went by when I noticed my daughter’s eyes rolling back, and that’s when I started to panic! I screamed “help!” but the nurse had shut the door when she exited the room. Walking out of the room and getting help wasn’t an option, as I was holding my baby and she was hooked up to the breathing machine; there was also no place to put her down, for the room only had a rocking chair. After a short while the nurse finally came in, and the first thing she saw was me- a mad woman screaming for help. I immediately shoved my baby into the nurses arms and informed the nurse of my baby’s eyes that had rolled all the way back to her head. The nurse then took the baby and …..burped her. Yes, my baby girl just needed a burp.
I ended up staying in the hospital for a few days before it was time to go home – without my baby. My baby, (who was still nameless at this point) needed assistance in her breathing, furthermore she had not reached a healthy weight yet to be able to go home in a car seat. The night before I left her for the first time, I stood by her in the NICU. There she was, so small, yet big enough to take up the entire space in my heart. Her fingers were so tiny and fragile, yet strong enough to lift my spirits. Although she needed assistance in breathing, she helped me to become stronger. I didn’t want to leave her side, but I knew she would be strong enough to be by herself. In her eyes I saw a sparkle, it was as if she was speaking to me through them: “Be strong mama, I’ll be okay. Go home, but promise me you’ll come back to me in the morning.”
The next morning, I rushed to the hospital to be by my baby’s side – oh, how I had missed her! As soon as I was walked into the NICU and saw her incubator, my heart dropped to my feet. Her incubator was empty. WHERE WAS MY BABY?! I panicked. I couldn’t see my baby anywhere! One of nurses saw the fright in my eyes and approached me right away. She informed me that my baby was in a different incubator, and was now on the other side of the room. I turned around and found my baby, however, I barely recognized her. Her eyes were covered with a huge mask, and she was under a strange light. WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO MY BABY?! I asked myself. The nurse reassured me that everything would be okay; my baby had jaundice and she had to be put under the light for treatment. The nurse also informed me that the mask was put on to protect my baby’s eyes from the light. Phew! My heart slowed down to it’s normal pace and I could breathe again.
The next few days were filled with great memories: On the seventh day, my family and I decided on a name for my little girl: Hafsah. On the eighth day she was taken off the breathing tube and was doing fantastic breathing on her own. And on the tenth day, we were able to bring her home – a night before Eid- Al-Fitr. The next morning, on Eid day, I felt an overwhelming feeling of content, and I felt God showering his blessings upon me and my baby girl. As I held my baby in my arms, she took bits of my heart through her every breath.
You will notice that in the title and throughout this story, I use the term (un) planned pregnancy; the (un) is deliberately placed within brackets because although I had not planned this pregnancy, God had planned it for me. In my eyes, my pregnancy was not a burden, yet a blessing. My daughter has taught me that life is filled with surprises, and more often than not, these surprises will take you on a journey where your strength will lead you to a magical place in life. A few months after I welcomed my baby home, I attended University. A couple of years later, I graduated with my daughter in my arms and my degree in the other. Yes, it was very difficult completing my degree while fulfilling the duties of being a mother, but my daughter’s presence pushed me to do the best I could. I did not want my daughter to become the reason for my failures; on the contrary, I wanted her to know that she was the reason for my success. Even now, my daughter makes me a better person. She asks me if I prayed, she makes me smile, and she tells me she loves me when I doubt myself. She truly is a blessing in my life! © The Muslimah Mommy (2014)