The day that I became a mother came much more quickly than I expected. But delivering early was the best decision we could have made for my and her health.

I was diagnosed with preeclampsia when I was 33 weeks pregnant, after a worry-free and normal pregnancy. Though it took us by surprise, the diagnosis didn’t scare my husband and me. Mainly because we didn’t know what preeclampsia was or what risks it posed. But it took over very quickly, and all of the sudden, doctors were doing their very best to keep my little girl in my belly as long as possible. “The longer, the better,” they said, “so she can fully develop her lungs.” I still had so much to do to prepare for her arrival, but all I felt like doing was to allow my doctors to do their jobs and keep my baby girl healthy. It wasn’t about my health, but it was all about hers — I wanted to make sure that she was safe and had everything she needed to come into the world.

By then, I had to stay at the hospital to be monitored. The doctor asked to draw my blood, do urine tests and monitor my kidneys continuously. Though the test results always came back fine, I was in a lot of pain, as if I had poison inside of me. So by the end of the week, the doctor agreed that it was time to give birth. Seven weeks early.

I tried to give birth naturally, but my body wasn’t ready for it, and I couldn’t take the pain any longer. So on May 29th, 2017 at 7:08 pm, our beautiful daughter Amabelle Luna was born via an amazingly calm c-section. She was only 2 lbs 9 oz.

After a moment of silence, Amabelle came out kicking and crying. “Her lungs are fully developed!!!,” I remember telling myself. Irving and I were able to see Amabelle for a couple of seconds before she was rushed off to the NICU. She was so tiny. The nurse held her in the palm of her hands, her face was red and wrinkly, she was wearing a beanie, and her little body was wrapped in a blanket.

After the delivery, my blood pressure was through the roof, and I had to be constantly monitored and continue to have magnesium IVs in case of seizures. I was still unaware of what was happening or what could happen to me. Once again, I just knew that I had to let the doctors and nurses do their job. I spent another week in the hospital post delivery, with occasional opportunities to visit Amabelle in the NICU. It wasn’t easy, but our daughter was my drive to get better so that I could be there for her; so that I could be the strong healthy mother that I knew I needed to be for her and that she needed more than ever.

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Amabelle spent a month in the NICU. She had the doctors’ and nurses’ loving eyes on her 24/7. She underwent multiple head scans, eye exams, daily monitoring of her weight, length, and vital signs consistency. Every dirty diaper was a sign of progress and success! Her daily advancements were astonishing, according to the doctors and nurses. So much so that we nicknamed uer our “little lion.”

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Spending at least eight hours a day with her was a must for us — we were inseparable. Leaving her in the evening to go home was painful. When we were home, we had to remind ourselves that she wasn’t alone in the incubator, that doctors and nurses were taking care of her, and she was going to be home with us very soon. Her time at the NICU, with all the doctors and nurses supporting her, was just the foundation she needed to come and live her life with us, at home.

Anabelle has been home with us for a few months now, and she’s continued to make strides in her development. Despite the fact that she was prematured, she quickly reached the average growth and development curve!

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Before Amabelle made it earthside, I thought that I was being robbed of my last few weeks of pregnancy. I didn’t get to take all the cute belly pictures I wanted to take, and her nursery was nowhere near being done. I would have loved more time to feel stronger kicks, too. But now I know… giving birth early was the right choice for us — for Amabelle’s health, and for mine. It shows not only that modern medicine can be helpful at assisting your body when it needs it, but also that birth comes in many various forms, and it’s beautiful no matter what.

Jelena has always been a career-driven girl. She moved from London to Florence to NYC and got married at the age of 37. She had Amabelle at 38 years old. She’s a footwear designer and owns her company with her husband.