By BRANDON CHASE and ENJOLI FRANCIS, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — It was a moment that Iris Nolasco had been anticipating for nearly a month, but at the same time could not believe was happening: She was finally meeting her baby girl for the first time, face-to-face, 25 days after the infant has been born.
“Can I touch?” Nolasco asked the doctors and nurses at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday, after Isabella Michelle was wheeled over to her in a bassinet bearing the sign “Maimonides NICU Graduate.”
Staff stood by and clapped as Nolasco was brought Isabella Michelle, who appeared sound asleep.
“Oh my God. My little baby. … Oh my God. I know she’s giving me a smile, I think,” Nolasco said. “OK. How are we gonna do it? I could pick her up?”
As she cradled her baby, she thanked the nurses and doctors who had kept her abreast of the baby’s progress while she recuperated at home.
“You don’t feel like it’s gonna touch you. … You never think that it’s gonna happen to you. It’s hard going through,” she told ABC News on Tuesday. “But now this is victory. … This is a miracle. Think God’s time is perfect. There’s always a reason for things to happen. It’s hard to accept it but that’s how it is.”
On March 15, Nolasco, originally from Honduras, began getting body aches. After that, came the headaches. Nolasco, who was 30 weeks pregnant at the time, said she thought it was all in her head and tried to ignore it.
“It was the beginning of all this news and I thought it was psychological,” she told ABC News in an interview April 10. “But, then Thursday, I got really — like my cough [worsened].”
When she called her doctor, staff urged her to come in to the hospital.
At Maimonides Medical Center, she met Dr. Viktoriya London, a fellow in maternal fetal medicine. London gave her some antibiotics for sinusitis and a COVID-19 swab to rule out the virus.
Nolasco self-isolated from her family while she waited for the test results. Then, they came back positive for novel coronavirus.
London continued to check on her with daily phone calls, but later Nolasco found she could barely speak as she struggled to breathe. Hours later, she was in Maimonides’ emergency room struggling to get oxygen into her lungs as she breathed for herself and her still unborn baby.
Doctors eventually made the decision to have Nolasco undergo an emergency Caesarean section, though Nolasco feared that she would not survive as she went under anesthesia. She said she also worried about her fiance and two sons who had begun to cough at home.
“I just prayed to God to protect my baby,” she told ABC News in a previous interview.
She said her next memory was little Isabella Michelle crying before the baby was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit without meeting her mother. The baby was born on March 27.
Nolasco, who was still sick with coronavirus, could not be visited by her fiance or her two teenage sons and she could not see Isabella Michelle. Doctors worried that her violent cough would open her newly closed incision.
During a previous interview with ABC News, Nolasco said that her fiance had called her and was scared that she would die. She was in tears recalling how he’d begun to say his goodbyes to her.
“He was saying goodbye to me like, ‘I love you. I’m not ready to lose you.’ It’s just hard,” she said.
Thankfully, she began to recover. Maimonides installed a camera for her to check in on Isabella Michelle as often as she liked. Isabella thrived and was upgraded to another unit. Nolasco was released from the hospital and allowed to return home on April 2.
On Tuesday, she talked to ABC News about how hard it had been to be home without Isabella Michelle.
“We’ve been waiting for too long,” she said. “I knew that she was in good hands but the pain, missing her, wanting to hold her, you can’t explain how much it hurts.”
She said Isabella Michelle would be going home Tuesday to her fiance and the couple’s two sons, 20 and 15.
“I’m still scared … but I have faith that God will — same way God protected us until now — he will continue doing it,” she said.
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