My daughter’s name is Alessandra Bella.  She was born on July 22nd 2004, two days after my 29th birthday.  She is my only child.  From the time I found out I was pregnant, I called her Bella; I just knew that I was having a little girl.  When I was three months pregnant, my mother called to tell me that she and my grandmother had determined the name of the baby: “If it was a girl, her name should be Isabella”.  I thought this was very strange, because I had not told anyone that I had decided to name her Bella.  A few weeks later, my mother-in-law asked me, “What do you want to name the baby?”  I told her “the baby’s name is Bella”.  She then asked me, “What do you want to name the baby if it is a boy?”  I told her that I did not really have any boy names picked out, because I did not think I was having a boy.  Now my mother-in-law thought that my choice of name was strange, because my sister-in-law wanted to name her second child Bella, but she ended up having a boy.  So when we found out at my 20 week ultrasound that I was in fact pregnant with a little girl, my mother-in-law proclaimed, “Well, I guess this family is supposed to have a Bella in it.”  Until my daughter was born, my husband was adamantly against the name Bella.  He thought we would be jinxing her with such a name, and that she was sure to be ugly.  For months we argued over her name, and when she was born, he still had not accepted that her name was to be Bella.

I was very fortunate and had an easy pregnancy.  I never suffered from morning sickness, I felt and looked great.  Every check-up was perfect, and every test came back completely normal.  When I was 37 weeks pregnant, my doctor determined that I should have another ultrasound.  She was concerned that Bella was a very large baby, and wanted to do a “fetal weight estimate.”  She told me to come back the following week for the test, and said “if Bella is too big, we can induce labor at 39 weeks.”  The day before my ultrasound, I had a terrible headache and my back was killing me.  I kept taking Tylenol, but could not get rid of my headache.  I still had not even packed my bag for the delivery, even though everyone had been telling me for weeks to have my bag ready “just in case”.  That night I packed my bag, took some more Tylenol, and tried to sleep, but my head and back hurt too much.  In the morning, I told my husband and my best friend that I was going to ask the doctor “to take this baby out of me that day”, because I felt so miserable.

When I got to the doctor’s office, I was forced to wait over an hour for my ultrasound.  I felt so terrible, my headache was getting worse, and I was in no mood to wait.  In the nine months that I had been going to the doctor, I never had to wait that long.  I told the receptionist that “I felt terrible, I had been waiting for over an hour, and that they had ten minutes to get me back there for my test or else I was leaving”.  For the next ten minutes, I sat there rationalizing the fact that I hadn’t had a difficult pregnancy, my tests were always fine, and that this ultrasound was probably a waste of time.  Besides, I had things to do.  I should just leave.  Just as I stood up to go, my favorite nurse walked into the waiting area.  She asked me where I was going.  I told her “I’m leaving, I’ve waited long enough.”  I explained that my head and back were killing me, that I was angry, and I had things to do.  “Oh, no you don’t,” she said.  “Wait right here, I’ll get you back right away.”

I angrily followed her to the ultrasound exam room, and sat there pouting while the ultrasound tech performed my test.  As she was performing the test, she told me that she thought she saw some fluid on the baby’s brain, but told me not to worry; maybe it was just her machine.  After all, my other ultrasounds were always fine.  She called for the doctor.  As she kept looking, her facial expressions became more and more serious.  When the doctor entered the room, I was already in a panic.  The doctor took one look and said, “I think we better send you across to the hospital, so that we can have a specialist perform an ultrasound.”  She asked me to call my husband, but I was crying too hard to speak.  She called him for me and told him to meet at the hospital right away.  My husband later told me that all he heard was my wailing in the background, and he rushed home for my things and then to the hospital.

Meanwhile, I was escorted across the street to the hospital for my test.  As I waited in the hospital exam room, I was in shock.  This couldn’t be happening.  This was like a bad dream.  When the ultrasound specialist came to perform the test, he took one look and said, “Well, it doesn’t look that bad to me.”  My doctor entered the room, they discussed ‘in medical terms’ what they were looking at, and the specialist told my doctor that he did not feel “this was a baby that would benefit from labor”.  My doctor responded we’ll perform the C-section today.  “Okay”, I said.  “But I need to go home and get my things, and call my family.”  “No, said my doctor, “you’re going to have this baby in a few hours, you need to stay here.”  I pleaded with her, “tell me that everything is going to be okay.”  I don’t remember her response, or even if she had one.

I was completely numb from panic, but at the same I time, I felt Bella moving around inside me, and I was becoming increasingly excited that today I would finally get to meet my baby.  My husband arrived and then my mother.  We all prayed and sat there quietly waiting for the nurses to take me into delivery.  Before my C-section, my husband thought that C-sections were something women scheduled in order to get out of natural childbirth.  During my C-section, he gained a new appreciation for all women that have had such a procedure.  I could tell that he wanted to look away, but at the same time couldn’t.  I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head.  I kept asking him what was happening, but he could hardly speak.  The doctors couldn’t get the baby out.  They finally had to suction her out of me.  At 5:15 Bella was brought into this world, and I remember hearing her sucking, not yet crying, but sucking so loudly that it made me laugh.  That had to be a good sign, I thought, she’s hungry.

The nurse immediately whisked Bella away, briefly letting me look at her, but she was covering up Bella’s head.  During this time, the suction machine kept quitting, and I was filling up with blood.  The anesthesiologist even jumped in to help fix the machine.  The doctors finally put me back together again, and I was taken to a recovery room.  I kept asking where my baby was.  I was told that a neonatologist was with Bella, and we would have to wait.  When the neonatologist entered my room, she asked my family members to leave.  She turned to my husband and me, and said “In the twenty years that I have been doing this, I have never seen anything like it.”  And she literally had tears in her eyes.  “Your daughter will be transported in about an hour to the neonatal intensive care unit at the local Children’s Hospital.”  “A nurse will come for you in a few minutes and take you to your daughter.”  Fear rushed over me.  I wanted to see my daughter, but at the same time I wanted to get as far away from her as possible.  How could I see her knowing that it might be the first and last time we’d ever be together?  Reluctantly, I realized I had no choice, I had to be brave.  I was her mother, and she needed me.  I was so drugged up, that I can’t even remember what she looked like when they took me to her.  I guess it didn’t really matter.  I thought she was perfect, and the most beautiful person I had ever seen in my life.  They only let me hold her for a minute and then they put her back in her incubator.  I sat there holding her hand until the transport team came for her.  I told my husband to go with her, and to call me as soon as he knew something.  I could tell that my poor husband was in shock.  He still had barely said a word.

That night was the hardest night of my life.  I couldn’t sleep, even though I now hadn’t really slept in 48 hours.  I don’t know if it was all the pain medication, but at least the terrible headache had finally gone away.  I just kept watching the clock and praying.  Every time the phone rang I was terrified.  I laid there listening to all the new babies crying and all the happy parents.  I kept wondering, “Why is this happening to me? To my daughter?”  Sometime after midnight I got a call from my husband.  He said that a neurosurgeon had diagnosed Bella with a subdural hematoma, and had performed surgery.  I don’t remember much more of our conversation.  I kept thinking, my baby has just had surgery at 7 hours old.  The neurosurgeon called me a few hours later to tell me that Bella was doing fine.  I immediately asked him if she was going to have brain damage.  “No, I don’t think so,” he said.  In the morning my doctor came to see me and asked me if I wanted to go home that day; she understood that I needed to be with my daughter.  My husband called to tell me that he was on his way back to the hospital to see me.  I told him not to bother because they were going to release me in a few hours.  He told me he didn’t care, he needed to come.  Why, I asked, “Was something wrong?”  He assured me that the baby was doing fine, but he needed to be with me.  When he arrived at the hospital, the nurse had just brought me the forms for Bella’s birth certificate.  My husband told me that I could name our daughter Bella, because the doctors and the nurses at the Children’s Hospital kept telling him what a beautiful baby she was.  Now that he had seen her with his own two eyes, he no longer worried about her outer appearance.

While I waited to be released, I kept thinking about how I almost didn’t have the ultrasound that day.  I shudder when I think about it.  I felt guilty that I had almost jeopardized my daughter’s life because of my haste (and my headache).  I also wonder if my head hurt so terribly, because I was feeling my daughter’s pain.  I later learned, and saw from the CT scan, that my daughter’s brain was pushed to one side of her skull because of the pressure from all the blood that had collected.  I guess I was supposed to take all that Tylenol for her sake; imagine the pain she must have been feeling!

When I was released from the hospital later that day, I went directly to see my daughter.  My mother warned me about Bella’s appearance before I saw her.  My Mom told me that when she saw Bella shortly after her birth, she at first thought that Bella was missing the right side of her forehead (she had such severe molding), and that she had two large blood spots on the left side of her skull.  When I saw my daughter lying there in the NICU, I bawled.  Not because of her appearance, she had the prettiest face I had ever seen.  She had a shunt in her head, draining the fluid, and tubes coming out of her everywhere.  She looked so small, and fragile.  I didn’t know how such a little person could endure so much.  I couldn’t hold her, so I just talked to her and rubbed her hand.  I know that she knew I was with her.

The doctors couldn’t figure out why Bella had developed a subdural hematoma.  They kept asking me if I had been through any kind of trauma, but I hadn’t.  They did so many tests, that my daughter was literally black and blue all over from all the needle sticks.  They brought in specialists, but no one could figure out why this happened to my daughter.  A few days after Bella’s birth, I found out from my husband that after her surgery, Bella stopped breathing and had to be recessitated.  He didn’t want me to know about it until he felt that she was going to make it.  That night I prayed like I have never prayed in my life.  I could no longer stand seeing my baby go through so much.  I had reached my breaking point, and pleaded with God to save my daughter.

Even though my family made me go home at night to rest, my husband never left Bella’s side.  And the time that she spent in the hospital, she was never alone.  In a few days, the doctor’s were able to take the shunt out, because they determined that the blood that had been draining out of her was old.  In a few more days she was able to eat from a bottle.  Every day she grew stronger and stronger.  In just a week I was able to take her home.  God had answered my prayers.

One day when I was at the hospital, the hematologist that was studying my daughter said to me, “I want you to know that your daughter is a miracle.  I have researched your daughter’s condition and the outcome is never good.”  When he left, I was noticeably shaken and I told Bella’s nurse what he had said.  She looked at me and told me “He’s right.  If you had not had that ultrasound that day, your daughter would probably not be alive.”  The doctor that delivered my daughter wanted to publish a paper about her condition, because none of the doctors she talked to had ever heard of such a thing happening to a full term baby that had not been through any kind of trauma.  In fact, she is so shaken up about it, she told me that she wants to order ultrasounds for all of her pregnant patients at 38 weeks.  The doctors never did discover what caused my daughter’s subdural hematoma.

But, what I do know is that my daughter is living proof that miracles do happen!  I have been told that she is a miracle, and in my heart I know it to be true.    She is now 4 months old and doing very well.  Her pediatrician told me when she was a month old that “we would have to watch her developmentally.”  Well, she is already doing some things that babies don’t do until 6 months of age.  She has the sweetest personality, and is always smiling.  My daughter is absolutely beautiful inside and out, she truly is my ‘Bella’.  She brings so much love and joy into our lives.  And she has taught us what truly matters in life: the people we love and our faith in God.  Bella had lots of people praying for her.  We also prayed to St. Jude, the patron Saint of hopeless causes, and he will always be mine and my daughter’s patron Saint.

When you are in need, may God bless you with miracles!

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