birth story

When You Give Birth During a Hurricane & There’s No Power

A mother holding her son, who is just minutes old.

It should have been the easiest birth—it was my second child, I knew the sex this time around, and I had a scheduled C-section on Election Day 2012 when I was to be 39 weeks and 2 days, waiting a few extra days for my preferred obstetrician who had been phenomenal during a difficult labor and eventual emergency C-section with my first child.

That summer we had moved to Long Island, but I chose to stay with my NYC practice because I was still working in Manhattan. Besides, I was being scheduled, so as my doctor had explained, I come in “like a lady” to have a baby. There was something extremely reassuring about having both of my baby girls in the same hospital, with the same doctor. In fact, I was even prepared to request the same room if I could!

A week or so before I planned to go in, I was told it was time to stop commuting into Manhattan—I needed to rest, relax, and take care of me before the baby came. So I did, although I used that time to plan how everything would work out leading up to her birth: what my older daughter would wear to the hospital, who would bring her, where she would stay so my husband wasn’t running back and forth to the city each day… I literally sat and planned.

All that planning was useless when Hurricane Sandy hit the New York area on October 22, 2012. Suddenly, we were thrust into our first catastrophe as homeowners: We had no electricity and our tree had fallen on our neighbors’ house (and they were in Hawaii).

A week later, still with no power and no approximate estimated return on the electricity and heat, we realized I had missed two appointments in the city to be checked out. To say I began to get nervous was an understatement. After waiting for eight hours (and leaving five messages) for a doctor in my OB/GYN practice to call me back, I learned that they were inundated at Mount Sinai because NYU was shut down. The doctor on call told me it was like a war zone there—women were sleeping in beds in the hallways—and said if I thought I was in labor I should go to a local hospital where I would be seen in a clinical setting with a resident doing my C-section. She then let me know that I had to come in that day for pre-operative testing, which I told her was impossible because the bridges and tunnels were at that time restricted to cars with four passengers. She wished me well, I hung up, and began to panic.

So like any normal, rationally-thinking pregnant woman would do, I drove over to the OB/GYN practice I was planning to switch to locally. My husband thought I was out getting new phone chargers, LOL. On the way, I called my insurance company and asked if it would be OK if I switched doctors this late. Once they gave me the approval, I walked in and asked for a C-section. The receptionist looked at me like I was insane. My heart racing, I began to plead my case. Loudly. Begging.

One of the doctors overheard and came to listen earnestly. Her partner quickly joined her and they ushered me into the back to lie down. With a blood pressure that was now through the roof, they assured me that they would take care of me, promising my daughter would be born safely on Long Island and I wouldn’t have to worry about picking up hitchhikers to join my husband and I as we drove in to have a baby.

Since their computers were down, they took my health history on blank computer paper and let me vent about how dismissive the city practice had been towards my care (if you didn’t catch my sarcasm earlier than you know my feelings now!) and most importantly, shared that I wouldn’t have to been seen in a clinical setting by a resident for a C-section—they were the practice on call at North Shore and would’ve been the ones to deliver me had I walked in in labor. We scheduled the surgery for that Sunday, three days later, when I would be 39 weeks and good to go.

After a quick call to my husband to explain my whereabouts AND our change in weekend plans (sitting around a cold house was getting boring anyway), we headed over to the hospital. I got to relax and watch TV and doze in a warm bed while my blood pressure went down and I relaxed. The doctor on call from my new practice insisted on giving me a tour, introducing me to every single nurse and attendant. And even better, all the rooms were private! Who cares if it overlooked Community Drive instead of Central Park—after sleeping in a house with no heat this looked better than the Four Seasons!

baby

Now we were left with another issue: Where would we be bringing this baby home to? Neither of our parents had power, the friends who did had at least 17 people living in their homes, and our toasty 43-degree home wasn’t exactly conducive for a newborn. The night before I was to go in, we drove around to the local hotels, begging to be added to the waiting lists for rooms.

The next morning, we headed to the hospital to meet our new baby. After introducing my husband to my new doctor, who had to introduce herself to me since I’d forgotten what she looked like, we welcomed Emerson into the world with ease (and a lot of drugs). This perfect little baby had no idea of the chaos she had arrived amidst!

The hospital reassured every woman that they would be able to stay until they had a place to go to that was warm and safe. Despite feeling like a prisoner, with my older daughter and husband camping out at a friend’s house, Emerson and I prepared for an indefinite stay. Thankfully, the receptionist from the Holiday Inn in Plainview had remembered me walking in, pleading my story, and made sure we got the first room that opened up.

And so this new baby headed home from the hospital…to a hotel. The upshot? She got to wear her take-home outfit twice, because four days later we were able to go home for real.

So the lesson learned here: You can plan as much as you want, but sometimes the unplanned is OK, too. During the chaos of the storm, I watched our community come together to help those terribly impacted by the storm. My story quickly spread, as my frantic tweeting to LIPA about the status of our electricity landed us in Newsday, and a stranger called us at the hotel offering to take us in and help care for the baby (OK, that was really weird). But nevertheless, our strength as parents and a family became apparent, and we made it through.

school

As we approach Emerson’s 4th birthday, and another strong storm looms over our area, I am once again haunted by the threatened loss of power. Perhaps it’s minor PTSD, but now I always make a reservation at a local hotel when a storm like this looms. Just in case, you know, to plan ahead…


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Lisa Bloom

Lisa Bloom is a 5th grade teacher in Jackson Heights, NY. She had been teaching for 15 years. She lives in Old Bethpage on Long Island, NY with her husband Noah and her two daughters, Dylan and Emerson, aged 8.5 and 3.5. Outside of carpooling, dance and soccer games, in her (rare) spare time she enjoys the beach, traveling, and spending time with friends.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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