On October 13, the extraordinary story of a mother and her baby girl, born prematurely at only 23 weeks of gestation, was shared by Italian news outlet Avvenire.
The mother, identified only as Jessica, is 27 years old. Before the pregnancy, she was already the mother of two children, Alessandro and Sofia, 6 and 4 years old respectively. This time was more complicated than the previous pregnancies, however, and some doctors suggested she have a therapeutic abortion.
The young mother immediately rejected the proposal. She didn’t believe it was her decision to end her child’s life, and told Avvenire that she was going to accept her baby “with whatever problem” she might have.
Emergency C-section and a one-pound baby
On May 8—the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii—due to a placental abruption, little Nicole Vittoria was born through an emergency cesarean section at the Umberto I Polyclinic in Rome. She weighed just over 1 pound and measured less than 11 inches from head to toe.
Despite being so fragile, she immediately showed a very strong attachment to life, passing from her mother’s womb to the incubator in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She remained in the NICU for four months. It was an emergency delivery, with risks to both mother and daughter, but their first victory (“vittoria” in Italian, like the name of the little girl) is that everything went well.
“I knew she would make it”
The second step was to come to terms with the scary statistics: there was little chance of the girl surviving—not even 30%—and even less chance of her making it without suffering brain damage. Nicole was fine, however, and happily an MRI ruled out brain injuries. That difficult start has been crowned by an important milestone: Vittoria reached a weight of 5.5 pounds, an achievement that signaled she was ready to return home.
Finally, the little girl could enjoy kisses and cuddles from her siblings, who were very eager to meet her. Who knows how many drawings and decorations they put together with their dad, Valentino, to celebrate the arrival of their little sister!
“I knew from the beginning that she would make it,” Jessica told Avvenire. “In these months she has always done the opposite of what the medical statistics were saying. That’s why I wanted to call her Nicole Vittoria.” Nicole is derived from Greek and means “victory of the people,” and Vittoria also means “victory,” as mentioned above, and is derived from Latin.
Nicole’s trials and victories
Nicole’s path has been difficult and full of trials from the beginning. She needed to be resuscitated as soon as she was born; she received supplemental oxygen in order to breathe; and lastly, due to a worsening condition, she was intubated and put on a mechanical ventilator for 2 months.
Her mother lists off a variety of complications and afflictions Nicole has suffered, but adds, “Luckily she immediately proved to be a great warrior and a big eater.”
Prayer gave her strength
We can only imagine Jessica’s suffering, her apprehension, her sense of helplessness, and the pain of being with her baby only for a few hours at a time. Coming home and not being able to take her baby with her, looking at the empty crib ready and waiting, the stuffed animals lined up … sighing without losing hope. Preterm birth and NICU stays are often traumatic for parents, and Jessica was no exception.
Like every mother, Jessica did the best she could during those endless months. She held her daughter’s hand for the time allowed—respecting the measures imposed by the pandemic. She tried to transmit all her love, her strength, and her warmth, as well as praying and entrusting her child to God’s care.
“The strength was given to me by prayer, along with the always comforting words of doctors and nurses, especially the reassuring smiles of Dr. Viviana Cardilli who treated Nicole,” she told Avvenire.
Holding her child for the first time, after one month
After seeing Nicole Vittoria in an incubator for a month, Jessica finally was able embrace her with “kangaroo care” (skin-to-skin contact between the mother and infant). It’s a wonderful, unforgettable memory for her:
The first time they put Nicole in my arms was after a month. She weighed 1.5 lbs … It was as if I had given birth for a second time, since during the birth I was receiving oxygen.
For Nicole Vittoria, there will still be ongoing medical visits and checkups, and probably an operation in her future. Bur for now, she’s at home and doing well. She’s surrounded by her family, who loved her from the beginning without knowing her, or knowing whether she was healthy or sick. The unbreakable love of this family is the real victory!
A simple cuddle from his sibling saved this premature baby’s life