The Victory Daughter - a memoir
Excerpt from The Victory Daughter, for which Elissa Cottle collaborated
with Laura Scott to write her life story:
CHAPTER 1 Ocean Deep I begin the birth rumble far too early. It’s only 27 weeks into the 38-week journey my parents are wishing for, conception to healthy baby. The first two children in my family of origin perish at their births. My mother and father cling to hope that I will come to them alive. But they brace themselves for another childbirth tragedy. My mother has developed preeclampsia during the pregnancy, which threatens her liver and heart. The doctors tell my parents that my impending premature birth is dangerous to both mother and child, and that they may face the choice of which of us would die, in order for the other to be saved. It is an awful, but immediate decision. Before they wheel my mother into the operating room to split her open in a long vertical emergency C-section,
my parents say their goodbyes to each other and instruct the doctors to save me, if it comes down to that.
In utero the force of me almost kills my mother. I am torn from her body nearly three months too soon. We both emerge from the birthing battlefield of Loyola Medical Center in Chicago still breathing. I am hooked up to an incubator, given a 20 percent chance of survival. My mother’s chances are no better. After the birth, my mother’s body fills up with fluid, and she temporarily goes blind. In the first three days, her doctors give no assurances that she will live. My father is the only member of the family on his feet, going back and forth between the near-death beds of wife and daughter. As if a desperate token of love, my dad gives me his wedding ring. My little arm fits entirely through the ring, up to my elbow. Mom is hospitalized for a month after my birth; I manage to make it out of there in three months. In the years that follow, there are periods when my mother is well. Then her end of the teeter-totter dips again. Suddenly the playground where she loves being a
mother turns into a war zone where she fights for her lungs, liver, bones and blood.
Her sickness is a rogue member of our household that keeps my father and I on call to administer damage control. Every winter pneumonia kidnaps my mother and holds her hostage in the hospital.
Loyalty to my mother runs deep. Yet sometimes I am engulfed, gripping a life raft with my fingernails, hoping to save her from what lurks in her body. My love for her is an ocean, but I am drowning in it, knowing I can’t do for her what she did for me—save my life.