Regardless of what the future holds, the resilience Dwana Harris is developing proved invaluable when, on Friday, April 19, she went to the Chicago clinic
for a routine ultrasound, and the doctors didn't detect enough motion. They directed her to the labor and delivery unit, a month early. Rather than going
along without question, Harris called her doula, Sonia Collins. She put Collins on speakerphone with the doctors as Collins began driving to the hospital.
Then Harris agreed to be induced.
Physicians tried to deliver vaginally, but Harris wasn't dilating enough and the baby's heart rate wasn't recovering quickly enough after dropping with
contractions. Harris consented to a Caesarean section.
Jaid Destini Jones was born at 1:43 p.m. on Sunday, April 21. At 4 pounds and 2 ounces, she went straight to neonatal intensive care while her mother went
to adult intensive care, undergoing another surgery to remove a blood clot and receiving several transfusions. Two days passed before Harris was able to
get up and hold her baby. Her boyfriend, who has three older children, was afraid to hold a person so tiny, but he took a video of her on his phone to show
Harris at her bedside. Her parents were also there through it all, her father also too scared to carry little Jaid.
The new mother was discharged from the hospital on April 24. While Jaid remained, Harris finished her final exams less than a week after
her Caesarean. The exams had been due on the 21st, and her professors granted an extension. She attended her baby shower on April 27.
She tried to pump as much breast milk as she could while the hospital gave Jaid a formula in her absence. Getting back to the hospital was difficult for
Harris, driving over potholes with fresh surgical wounds. For the first few days, "I just called every 20 minutes," she said. Then she couldn't stand it
anymore. Each morning she would go, armed with the children's books that her doula and home visitor had given her.
Sitting by the incubator, she passed the days reading to her daughter.
On Saturday, May 4, at last, Jaid was scheduled to be released. Harris thought she had completed mandatory hospital training on feeding, bathing and
changing premature babies, including a CPR class. Then that morning, she awoke to a call that Jaid would remain hospitalized until Monday because no one
had showed Harris how to use a special car seat the hospital loans out for babies less than 5 pounds. The person responsible for that part of the training
was off for the weekend.
Highly upset, Harris called Collins, who told her she had the right as a parent to discharge her baby. "Because I spoke up and demanded that something be
done about it, the doctor actually went on Google and learned how to train me to put the seat in the car," Harris said. "Because I was not leaving without
By June 8, Jaid was up to 7 pounds, strong enough for her father and grandparents to hold her in the audience as her mother walked across a stage to
collect her associate's degree.
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.