Analysis

Pregnant soldier gives birth at 22 weeks after being refused accommodations

preemie, premature labor

Neshia Bivens, 29, serves in the 49th Transportation Battalion at Fort Hood, and claims that negligence from Army officials and the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center led to her premature labor.

In a public post on her Facebook page, Bivens discussed her daughter’s premature birth at just 22 weeks and five days. “She’s the youngest baby in the NICU. Her nurses call her ‘tiny and mighty,'” she wrote. “She came to me 18 weeks early, I had her all natural, and painful it was. I was told while lying in the hospital bed in active labor by a doctor that he was sorry, she is just too early and she was not going to make it, I felt like I was literally living a nightmare. After she was born she was given a 5 percent chance of survival.”

Yet the baby girl, who the Bivenses named Jane, has held on.

Bivens and her husband, Darrion, already had two children when they learned they were pregnant with their third child, Jane. Yet their excitement turned to fear when Bivens began experiencing complications, and her pleas for help reportedly went unheard. In an interview with the Killeen Daily Herald, the family said Bivens began experiencing migraines and bleeding early in her pregnancy. Yet she was expected to continue on working as usual, with no special accommodations given.

“She shouldn’t have been exposed to anything,” Darrion said. “But she was exposed to diesel fumes, paint fumes. She was doing unit-level (physical training) when she was training, when she wasn’t supposed to.”

Eventually, Bivens sought help at the Darnall Army Medical Center, right before she went into premature labor. She said they shrugged her off. “The doctor took a look at me and it really wasn’t taken too seriously,” Spc. Neshia Bivens said. “They said it was normal that I was losing the mucus plug. They said my pain was just her being low in my belly. This was the day before she was born, so, obviously, I was probably in labor.”

READ: Premature baby weighed just one pound, but is thriving: ‘She is a dream’

The family then decided to drive to San Antonio for a second opinion, but never made it there. Bivens was, in fact, in labor, and an ambulance took her back to Darnall Army Medical Center, where their daughter Jane was born, weighing less than two pounds.

Even now, as Jane is hospitalized, Darrion Bivens says he is still fighting to have his wife officially placed on temporary duty assignment so she can stay in Austin with Jane. “When a soldier has to go away from their permanent duty station, they go on temporary duty assignment where they pay for their lodging, their food, rental car — lots of those things,” Bivens said. “But for the past 11 days we’ve had to pay for everything out of pocket. Right now, we’re pretty much broke and not getting any assistance.”

It was only after Darrion’s advocacy for his wife that the assignment was approved — and so far, it has only been approved for two weeks, according to a follow-up interview.

Yet the Bivenses said Jane is fighting to survive, and has been slowly gaining weight. “She is still in an enclosed incubator because she can’t be in an open bed yet — she still can’t regulate her own body temperature,” Darrion said. “Jane is doing a lot better than she should be doing. She has a long way to go, but she’s still alive and she’s still fighting.”

The Bivenses are hoping that because of their fight, changes will be made so other pregnant soldiers will not experience the same thing Neshia did.

“I would hope that all women, but especially women that serve, make sure that they are heard when they feel something is wrong,” Neshia Bivens concluded in her Facebook post. “Don’t let anyone downplay your concerns or understate your calls for help. Pregnancy is such a delicate and beautiful thing, and it should be treated as such, no matter what your profession is. I can’t keep count on how many times the comment ‘you are still a soldier’ was made when I would tell military health professionals and my superiors at work about my pregnancy conditions and warning signs I was getting, as if my concerns meant nothing; as long as I was tasked out and present at work, I was ignored like many others are. Too many times pregnant soldiers are mistreated and concerns dismissed, and I hope this opens someone’s eyes who is in this situation to speak up, or has soldiers who are pregnant and trying to ask for mercy and help to listen. Treat them as if they were someone you actually cared about.”

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