It Was a Dark and Stormy Night by
(79 Stories)

Prompted By Hello Darkness

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/ Stories

December 14th, 1997. One of the longest droughts in California history ended the night my daughter was born. The rain started sometime in the afternoon. I couldn’t tell you when, exactly. We were waiting to find out what was wrong with her and why she had failed her first test: the Apgar. One of the scores on this test given to newborns relates to color. If you are pink, good for you–you get a score of two. If you are bluish-gray, you get a zero. I had never seen a brand-new baby and didn’t know what she should’ve looked like, but the nurses and my doctor called it immediately. Something wasn’t right and they didn’t know if it was her heart or her lungs, but she was not by any stretch of the imagination “pink”–not her fingernails, not her perfect little lips, nothing.

The medical staff advised us that she should go by ambulance to UCSF across town. My husband would, of course, go with her. Which left me all alone on a stormy night with no baby to hold, her future uncertain.

I cannot remember a time when I felt more alone or frightened. One of the nurses came in and asked me if there was someone I could call. “Just my sister,” I said, “but it’s almost midnight.” Call her, the nurse said. And I did.

There wasn’t anything she could do except listen and try to absorb the little information I was able to give her. First: it’s a girl, her name is Caitlin. Something isn’t right and we don’t know what it is yet, and I’m here all by myself, and then I started crying. There would be a lot of crying in the days to come, along with the rain that we’d waited such a long time to see.

In the next few days, we would learn about her heart defect and what the doctors would do to correct it.

About six weeks later, we watched her get wheeled into surgery–with an uncertain future once again.

Four months after she was born, we were able to bring home a pink baby. The dark, lonely nights ended.

We were able to look ahead for the first time.

One of the doctors took a few pictures of us during the many hours we spent in the Intensive Care Nursery rocking chair

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. A wonderful use of the motif of darkness (and storms) and light and some shades in between. A riveting story that brings us right into that difficult time. So glad for the positive turn at the end.

  2. Suzy says:

    Risa, what a dark and stormy experience you had! We have read about Caitlin in other stories, so I knew she would be okay, but of course you didn’t know that at the time. Thanks for this moving story – and great pictures!

  3. Wonderful happy ending Risa, so glad to read it!

  4. Not to diminish the strength and impact of your entire story, those first five sentences are so enthralling I read them three times before moving on. Just wow. What a moving story, Risa…and I’m so happy to see those big smiles.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Oh my goodness, Risa. That was a dark night for you…in every way possible! The weather, the time of day, and the condition of you beloved child. What an awful situation for you. You describe it perfectly and I am so happy that it had a good outcome for all.

    May be all get through these dark times together, just as you called your sister that night and cried and were comforted.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I can totally empathize with the darkness you experienced after the birth of your daughter. It’s every parent’s nightmare. So happy to see her smile in the last photo.

    • Risa Nye says:

      Thanks, Laurie. Through the wonders of Facebook, Caitlin has connected with one of the NICU nurses who took care of her! We are so grateful for the attentive care she was given through all those dark hours.

  7. Marian says:

    Your rendition of being alone in a hospital at midnight pierced my heart, Risa. It must have been the most agonizing four months, and I’m so relieved to learn that Caitlin’s surgery was successful and you could look forward to your life.

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