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Awake before the sun. More honestly, I was still up from the night before, the very first in an infinite line of early mornings. As I hear the alarm screech from the bedside, I feel my nerves wash over me, the butterflies swarm inside my belly. Or are those just her little feet?

As we arrived at Saint Anthony’s hospital in Crown Point, Indiana, I couldn’t be more terrified or excited. Today is the day! I have been counting down the months, days, seconds till this revealing moment. My doctors have informed me since early pregnancy that this pregnancy would be “high risk” for both myself and my baby girl growing inside me. I suffer from a rare condition that affects only 1% of women, called hyperemesis gravidarum. The symptoms include severe nausea, vomiting to the extent of losing 5% or more of my body weight, along with battling dehydration from constant loss of fluids. In a nutshell, morning sickness on steroids. My doctors also informed me that my daughter was at high risk for down syndrome, with every test showing the chances getting higher and higher.

As I settle into my hospital bed, the smell of the hospital linen fills the air, and the nurses start my Pitocin drip. My eyes settle on the clock across from me: 5:15 AM. The sleek steel hands of the clock snap to the three, demanding my attention. The fluorescent lights shine off the cool, smooth face of the clock. The clock is teasing me, slowly ticking the time off as I suffer. I feel the first contraction, gripping me from the inside, begging to tear me apart. “Please just let her be healthy!” I repeat over and over in my head, willing that to be her truth. I make it seven hours with no epidural. At this point, I can’t take it anymore. As the needle enters my spine, another contraction starts. I bare down and hold myself as still as possible. Finally, the needle is out, and I can let my body release. My eyes flicker back up to the clock: 12:20 PM.

At last it’s time to push. With my legs in the stirrups, I feel a hand brush my hair back and lips touch my forehead. “You’ve got this baby, I know you do,” Stephen tells me. I scream back to him that I can’t, but we both know there is no turning back now. Thirty minutes (that felt like a lifetime) later, they lay her on my chest. This is the biggest moment in my life. I look down at my beautiful baby girl.

Her features are normal! A full head of luscious thick brown hair, with little furry spots on the top of her ears and back. Dark blue eyes peer back at me. Her cheeks are plump and red, with the sweetest little lips. Her upper lip is bigger than the bottom. She has the most perfect olive skin. I knew as soon as I saw Bella's face, my daughter was healthy! All the stress and worrying, about how I would be able to take care of her if she has special needs as a mother at sixteen years old vanishes from my mind. The staunch time piece glistens at me, striking its next number with a loud click, it tells me it is 12:50 PM, and my heart has changed forever.


"SURPRISE!," written by Amber North, was proffesor-nominated as an outstanding FYE piece published in the Spring 2022 edition of The Crossings "Author's on the Rise."

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