Photo by Bastien Jaillot on Unsplash

I had spent the Thanksgiving holiday a little under the weather fluctuating between being okay and not. A friend suggested that I take a pregnancy test and when I did it came out positive. I was in such disbelief that I asked my friend to get me 12 more tests, and all of them were positive. 

I had suffered several miscarriages before and so being pregnant was a scary experience, but maybe this time would be different. I told my sisters immediately. I had lost my last pregnancy the day after I took the test, and when I took this one, it was almost a year to the day, but I held on to hope. 

The first week of December I went to the local pregnancy resource center and was given a free ultrasound and there she was. I was six weeks along at the time. I made an appointment with an OB/GYN and had another ultrasound where I was able to hear the baby’s heart beating and the sound gave me hope.

I joined an online pregnancy group; my heart grieved with each expectant mother who announced a miscarriage and dropped from the list. I prayed that this time I could meet my baby.

I began working on the nursery and bought all the baby’s clothes. At first everyone said the baby would be a boy so I bought many cute little denim outfits and was decorating the nursery with United States Marine Corps cammies. When I found out I was having a little girl, I added pink material and ruffles to the cammies. 

I toured my local hospital and filled out an extensive birthing plan. I decided who would be around me, and who would get to hold the baby first. I picked the song that would play to comfort me during labour and secured a doula who also happened to be a close friend. I filled out a list of “what ifs” and even chose what would be the first thing that my baby wore. At the time, I didn’t know that none of these things would happen as planned.

I was five months pregnant, when my baby’s father was arrested and a month later I was arrested on suspicion and for non-cooperation. I was 36 years old at the time, had never been arrested. I had absolute faith in the justice system and knew that the people who were involved in the crime would do the right thing; I just needed to be patient. I believed that I would be able to go home well before my baby was born. 

The first week, I slept in an administrative segregation cell. I was taken to hospital when stress and dehydration caused stress on the baby; I was chained the whole time, and then was returned to my cell. I laid on the bunk bed believing that any minute the door would open and I would be free. 

Days turned into weeks and I would tell myself that it was just a delay whenever I began to panic. As I lay in my bunk, I would lay my hands on my belly protectively and use blankets to block any screams of anger or desperation from other inmates from reaching my baby. I sang to her softly and did my best to make sure that she was safe, after all, we would be home soon; I just needed to keep the faith.

Weeks turned into months and my spirit began to crack. My daughter, the one I’ve prayed for and waited so long for would be born to a jailhouse detainee. She would not have a special welcome into the world. Everything I had planned disappeared as soon as the cuffs were put around my wrists. Since I could not afford to post my bail, the circumstances under which my child would be born depended on the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

As she entered into the world there would be minimal medical staff and two deputies. My pleas to be allowed my mom, my sister, or a friend in the delivery room were all denied; my daughter’s family would not be allowed to greet her. 

The day arrived for my scheduled C-section. In preparation for the journey, they placed shackles and leg irons on me. I signed a paper that allowed a Good Samaritan — someone I had met only once, but had been a good friend — to take my daughter home, where her nursery awaited her. 

I imagined her in her crib with the sock monkey doll I had bought. The curtains in her room were made out of her father’s military uniform, and the walls were the perfect shade of butterscotch. One of my loved ones had painted the wooden floors and my little girl would sleep in clothes that had been gifted to her by those closest to us. But all these things never happened. 

I was taken to the University of California San Diego (UCSD) hospital in a law enforcement vehicle. I was blessed to have two incredible women deputies assigned to escort me; they treated the inmates with such respect and kindness. I respected and appreciated them among the sea of indifference wearing the same uniform. We arrived at the hospital, and I was chained to the bed. I remained chained to a bed until it was time to go to the surgical ward.

I lay hooked to fetal monitors and vital readers so I could watch and listen to my baby’s heartbeat. The monitor showed that I was having contractions, but I could not feel them. My body felt so disconnected from me. The whole experience felt like it was happening to someone else, except for brief moments when I would be overwhelmed  by reality. 

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Dorothy Maraglino

Dorothy Maraglino is a writer incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California. She is serving a life-without-parole sentence under the state’s felony murder rule. Writing is how she processes the world around her to remain sane. She devotes most of her time to short works that share the realities of prison.