The Baby I Never Expected

A Long First Night

Brett holding Nella

Heidi Darwish and Laura Richardson

Brett eventually took Lainey home. Then people started trickling out, and I felt paranoid -- so completely afraid because I knew that the grief would come when darkness set in outside. I was left in the hospital with my two amazing, wonderful friends who will never, ever know how special they are because of what they did for me that night. They heard and saw things that no one else will, and I could never have made it through the night without them. I suppose it's horrible to say you spent the first night of your daughter's life in agony, but I know it was necessary for me to get through it and move on.

I cried out that I wanted to leave Nella and run away. I said that I wanted to take Lainey and our perfect world of art projects and cupcake-baking, and I wanted to run like hell. I wanted it to be the morning, before Nella was born, when I was happy and excited and when I wore the white ruffled skirt and black shirt and put them in the plastic bag, knowing joy was on its way. I wanted to go back.

I think I cried for seven hours straight. I held Nella and kissed her, but I literally writhed in emotional pain on that bed in the dark with our candles and my friends by my side. I begged for morning, even once mistaking a streetlight for sunlight only to find out it was 3 a.m. and I still had hours left to make it through.

Morning finally came, and with it, hope.

My sister Carin arrived. She told me that I could never go back, and, with tears in her eyes, she told me how lucky I was. She told me that I had been chosen and that we were going to be just fine.

There have been lots of tears since that day. There will be many more to come. But Nella's birth has charted a new, challenging journey for our family. Although it still seems surreal and so off course from what I had planned for my life, I know that only one thing is required of me: to love my beautiful daughters.

Originally published in the October 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

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