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Brenda's Journey
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Summer 1997

Brenda's Journey
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The baby, born February 28 at 7:02 p.m., is a girl. She weighs 7 pounds and is 20 inches long. She is named Alexandra Carlotta, for Brenda's maternal grandmother.

"I had her normal. It hurt," Brenda laughs. "But it was wonderful because I had two really good nurses. They were with me the whole time. It was about 5:30 when I started pushing. They had to use forceps, and then she came out in two pushes. I remember being relieved, thinking, ‘Oh, she's fine.' It was good to be in the hospital for the weekend. My mom was with me.

"The first thing I noticed when I looked at her was her big cheeks," says Brenda of her baby. "She looks kind of like me. She wakes up at 3 for her bottle, then she doesn't go back to sleep."

Alexandra must take AZT. "She likes it," says Brenda. "They said not all babies do. I have to give it to her every six hours. Every time I give her the medicine I say God's name." It will be four months before a series of blood tests determine whether Brenda's baby has been spared.

At 11 days old, Alexandra makes her first trip to the clinic. Tiny and wrinkled and red, she has a tuft of black hair. "She looks just like you," a nurse practitioner tells Brenda admiringly. Alexandra, wrapped in layers of white cotton sprinkled with tiny pastel clouds and stars, dozes peacefully. Brenda, dressed in blue jeans and a dark plaid shirt, smiles.

This afternoon, Alexandra will be weighed and measured and inspected like any other newborn on her first official doctor visit. But she will also have blood drawn to test for the virus.

As Brenda watches, a clinical assistant straps a cuff around the baby's ankle and takes her blood pressure. He removes her little white cap and winds a tape measure around her tiny head.

"I'm so nervous," Brenda says.

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