This story is by Sabrina Bryant and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Daniel, it’s time! Get home, my contractions are eleven minutes apart.”
“It’s time? You sure?”
“Whoo! Whoo! OF COURSE I’M SURE! Just get here Daniel,” she blurted, breathing through the contraction.
“I’m heading to the car. I’ll be there in ten minutes. Love you.”
While waiting for Daniel to arrive home, Journey moved through the house, tidying things up for their return home. Her packed bags were by the door. Inside was her favorite lavender satin nightgown that had a pretty lace lattice bottom. She wanted to at least look pretty, even if she felt otherwise. Among her things was a candle that smelled like sweet jasmine to evoke feeling of self-confidence and peace. Both of which she would need since this was her first child after years of failed in vitro attempts. She was nervous and excited that she was finally going to be a mom. Journey had her birthing plan that laid out how she wanted her labor and delivery to go tucked safely in the side pocket of her travel bag.
Dr. Cairns -the obstetrician- told her to head to the hospital when her contractions were coming five minutes apart, so she had some time to kill waiting for Daniel to arrive. Journey was in the midst of another contraction when the doorknob turned.
“Baby, I got here as fast as I could. Are you ok? Have you talked to Dr. Cairns? Let me help you to the car.”
“Whoo! Whoo! I’m fine. The contractions are getting stronger, coming faster. I’ve been timing them since they started and they’re five minutes apart now,” she said as she massaged her sonorous belly from her spot on the black leather recliner next to the bay window.
“Grab my bag by the door,” she breathed as she used the back of the recliner for leverage to push herself up.
“We taking my car or yours?”
“Yours is fine. They both have bases for the car seat. OWW! Whoo! Whoo! My water just broke. We need to go right now!” she said as she gripped the doorknob for support.
Daniel hurried to the front room to find that Journey had already left out the door and was sitting in the front passenger seat of his truck. He swiftly lifted Journey’s purple bag and hoisted the bag that contained his PS5 and games onto his back in one fluid motion as he stepped over the threshold and locked the door behind him. With their bags next to the car seat, they were on their way to Trinity Hospital, which was only a 15 minute drive from their house on Courier Lane. Journey and Daniel were all too familiar with the maternity ward at Trinity. Because her pregnancy was high risk-she had preeclampsia and gestational diabetes- she had made twice weekly visits to the fifth floor every week since her seventh month for fetal monitoring to ensure baby Mariyah was OK.
Once they arrived at Trinity, a nurse’s aide helped Journey into a wheelchair and took her to the labor and delivery suite on the fifth floor of the hospital. The nurse came in, introduce herself as Jaleesa, and instructed Journey to change into the hospital gown or her own if she brought one. After she changed, the nurse had her lay in bed and she watched as Jaleesa rolled a cart that contained tape, gauze, and a short needle to her bedside.
As the nurse took Journey’s blood pressure, prepared the IV, and checked to see how far dilated she was, she scanned the spacious room and noticed the large light above the foot of the bed, the steel sink to her left, and the tan colored sofa and recliner that stretched out beneath the large windows that covered half the wall. In the air wafted the pleasant scent of the jasmine candle that was currently competing with the sterile smell that all hospitals seem to have. Pain snatched her from her observations as a violent torment seared through her body and she felt like she was being cleaved in two. Instantly she knew something was wrong because she no longer heard that familiar whoomp, whoomp, whoomp of the baby’s heartbeat. This silence differed from the silence of the baby’s back turned to the monitors.
Then all hell broke loose as Dr. Cairns rushed in with nurse Jaleesa. They broke the bed down and the overhead light powered on, producing both a blinding light and heat. Journey felt Dr. Cairns’ fingers inside her along with the searing pain.
“The baby is breech and in distress. We have to do emergency surgery, Mr. and Mrs. Arroyo.”
Fear and panic did a tango in her brain as the pain insisted on making the duo a trio. Journey found herself on a gurney rolling through the halls of the maternity ward, with Daniel clenching her hand, keeping pace with the transport. The mom to be couldn’t get her mind to clear away the dark thoughts that had now taken up residence in her head as the anesthesiologist prepped her back to insert the epidural that would deaden the pain. She saw Daniel in a yellow gown and matching cap as he stroked her cheeks and tried to assure her all would turn out right as the procedure began. She felt the baby being lifted out of her body, but she didn’t hear any cries or whimpers.
She looked up at Daniel to ask what was wrong; but she knew when she saw the tears escaping from his eyes. Journey could not see what was happening as her wound was being stitched closed but she could hear the desperation in the Dr.’s voice as she softly commanded the baby to breathe.
“What’s wrong with our baby Daniel?” she eked out through ragged breaths and bitter tears.
“They’re working on her. She’s gonna be OK, God please let her be OK”.
But everything was wrong as she heard the time being called out to the nurse.
“Time of death is 3:15pm” was all she heard as her world exploded, like a nuke had just been detonated; shrapnel piercing her heart.
“I’m so sorry Mr. and Mrs. Arroyo, we did all we could to try and save her, but to no avail. Do you have family in the waiting area?”
Journey didn’t register anything the Dr. was saying. So Daniel gave a weak “yes ma’am” as he pushed the button to tell their family members to come up. The family was moved back to the original room and the baby, who they named Mariyah Uhura Arroyo, after their favorite Star Trek character, was cleaned up and brought back to them wrapped in a tiny pink blanket. In the mournful room it was decided that each member of the family would do skin to skin to cement their bond with this beloved daughter who died before she had a chance to thrive. Journey caressed the soft black hairs that laid flat against Mariyah’s skull as her cold lifeless chest rose and fell with her mother’s weighted breaths. Each family member bared their upper chest and shared their sorrow at what would never be. As Esme, Journey’s grandmother, was holding little Mariyah, she noticed she was starting to feel warm against her skin and her lips were no longer the color of blueberries. Not wanting to give Journey and Daniel false hope, she pulled the nurse aside and showed her Mariyah.
“Jaleesa, she feels warm to the touch and her lips are pink.” But Jaleesa assured her that it was just the kangaroo care that warmed her up. But Esme could feel that something had changed. She whispered a small prayer in her ear ,”God has a purpose for your life and I know it is not your time to leave this earthly plane. There are so many people praying for your life right now, so prove these doctors and nurses wrong and breathe for great grandma.”
Esme kept quietly reciting her prayer and massaging Mariyah’s back. Hoping that the prayers and love of all the prayer warriors she called and all the family surrounding this child would be enough to make the impossible possible. Suddenly she felt a twitch against her chest and then a very faint cry. Immediately she rushed the baby over to her parents and blurted out “Praise God! I just heard her cry Journey! Nurse come in here quick!” Nurse Jaleesa came in and saw the child in her mother’s arm and darted out the door to retrieve Dr. Cairns. The two women heard wailing and were flabbergasted.
The Dr. examined Mariyah and her apgar score was perfect. This child who had been dead two hours prior was now crying. She had no explaination for what was happening as she called other doctors in to witness this miracle. As Journey held Mariyah close as she suckled, Daniel kissed her forehead and whispered “Our little Mariyah truly is our miracle baby”.