My daugher was born today: during the blizzard of 1990

Worst cold spell since December of 1990, so we are told.     Well, I remember the snow storm of 1990 quite well:  my daughter was born on the night December 18, 1990.  On the morning of December 17th , we grabbed the hospital bag and headed  to Virginia Mason across the West Seattle bridge after a sleepless night of painful contractions.   We had no idea as we drove west that we would be one of the last cars allowed on the bridge before it was closed due to ice, effectively sealing off West Seattle.

We arrived at Virginia Mason and went up to the delivery wing.  The attending nurse was skeptical that it was time for the baby to arrive, I guess D wasn’t moaning loud enough.  The nurse put a sheet over the bed, no doubt anticipating that it would be a false alarm and that we would shortly be sent home, as we had two previous times.  When the doctor arrived, she said, “no she’s dilated, this one’s coming out today.”  The midwife was called and the delivery nurses went through the routine to start the watch.  First time deliveries always last forever, even when they don’t.

After hours and hours and hours of hot baths, walking and pushing, they decided to call the guy who delivers the spinal epidural.  The horrible drug, pitocin, was applied making the contractions more intense and painful.  I remember a friend saying that watching delivery is like witnessing your wife being skinned alive.  It was.

By then we had been in Virginia Mason over twelve hours.  We could look out west as the City was blanketed with layer after layer of snow.  Freeways become parking lots as commuters frustrated by hours on the road decided to hoof it in the snow, rather than sleep in their car on the freeway.  And still the snow kept coming.  Nothing was moving.  The VM Chief came to the delivery area and lent a hand to the overworked and understaffed nurses, doctors and midwifes who made it in before the storm hit.  One positive effect of being stranded by a blizzard:  continuity of care, we still had the nurses that we started with.

After the epidural hit, the delivery began in earnest.  It was now way past 15 hours, and we were still struggling.  At 1 a.m. on December 18, 1990, Gabrielle shot out.  The night was bitterly cold and neither D nor I, had eaten anything all day long.  After cutting the umbilical chord and while the nurses were cleaning her up, I ran down and got a bagel with cream cheese for D.  She was ravenous, that stale bagel was the best she had ever tasted.  We were high from watching our daughter arrive and, of course, kept admiring the little bug.  The City outside was shut down, bitterly cold, covered with snow and utterly still, nothing was moving outside.   It was 2 a.m., the head nurse approached me and said, with full gravity, “ok, you can go home now.”

I looked at her as if she just asked me to jump out of the 9th story window.  “What?”

“You can go home now,” she repeated.

The hell I am, I just spent the last 24 hours delivering my daughter and I’ll be damned if I’m leaving.  Get me cot.

D, Gabrielle and I spent the next two days at VM.  Two days later, a friend in a big car drove us to our West Seattle apartment.  The temperature did not rise above freezing for the next 10 days.  We were stuck in a small apartment with a newborn.  No sleep and shifts walking Gabrielle to sleep made us completely batty.  Cabin fever does not begin to describe our delirium.  We would break out crying over the dumbest thing.  But we were delighted with our angel.  And we were not going to forget the blizzard of 1990.   Happy birthday sweetheart.

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3 Responses to “My daugher was born today: during the blizzard of 1990”

  1. What a sweet story, Ricardo! I hope your daughter has a very happy birthday.


  3. What a sweetie! Happy Birthday to Gabrielle.
    What was that nurse thinking?