Sixteen years ago tonight I was a one week overdue, way too old pregnant lady, staring out the window at a 60 mile per hour northeaster, with horizontal snow. I was pondering whether I’d be delivering my own baby at home since it was looking more and more dismal that the roads would be passable with the piling snowdrifts. Recognizing some very minor early hints of labor, I called my obstetrician in town 10 miles away, and begged that I be allowed to come in “preventatively” to the hospital, so I wouldn’t have to sweat it out wondering if I would make it or not in time, or deliver in the middle of a snowdrift along the way.
Our faithful neighbor Sara Watson came with her daughter Kara to stay with the boys, and got quick lessons in how to run the generator if the power went out. Dan and I set out in the dark, with chains on our little Toyota, and hoped we could skim through the drifts. We crept down the road trying to feel our way in the white out conditions. A mile from home we high centered in a three foot drift with snow banks up to 6 feet on either side and sat there, completely helpless. Dan starting digging around the tires, but it was fruitless. So he hiked down a long driveway to a neighbor and asked if they had a tractor to pull us out. Better than a tractor, they had a bulldozer! Out they came and dozed away the snow around us so we were free to move ahead to the main roads and get to the hospital. Once there, I was checked and all was well, with no imminent signs of labor so we tucked in for the night, anticipating induction in the morning to get labor started in earnest and finally have this long awaited baby.
In the morning, as they checked my baby’s heartbeat, something was amiss even before induction was initiated. I had no change in how I was feeling and no serious contractions, but the baby’s heart rate was lower than the previous night with some ominous dips that herald stress and potential problems. They shifted me around, gave me oxygen but nothing seemed to help. It was not a good sign and as a family doctor who had done many deliveries myself, I knew it all too well and began to panic. A quick ultrasound showed a marked decrease in amniotic fluid, another sign of a failing placenta and/or a baby with significant defects, so things started to look even more urgent. Within minutes, our decision was made for us–the heart rate dropped to a perilous 20-30 and stayed there. I got much calmer when I knew I had to accept whatever was to happen, as there was no changing the outcome, whatever it would be. It is not a natural thing for me to relinquish control but in such a circumstance, I was merely the vessel and I had to believe I had the strength to cope with whatever lay before me. An emergency C section was done and 15 minutes later, Eleanor Sarah Gibson was born, looking pink and vigorous when what we expected was a blue, floppy and critically stressed infant. Lea, as we nicknamed her, had given us an early warning that she was one sensitive kid to things not being right, in this case with her blood supply (my placenta was officially declared “senile”–not a nice term to hear when you are 38 ) and 16 years later, she still has a very sensitive emotional barometer when things aren’t quite “right” but I can appreciate it for what it is.
The storm saved her. Clear and simple. This nasty nuisance of a drifting-white out-conditions-northeaster compelled me to go into the hospital when I ordinarily would have waited it out at home as long as possible, certainly causing her to be compromised or stillborn as I went through labor unmonitored. I marvel at this now, pondering these things in my heart. My daughter knows this story and understands that she is a healthy 16 year old because of a windstorm on that frosty night. She even knows the exact spot on our road where the “Lea drift” was and the neighbor who helped bail her worried parents out of trouble. When the wind blows and the snow drifts, we will always remember and celebrate her life when others are grumbling about the hassle, the cold, the inconvenience, and yes, even the danger. She positively beams on days like this, knowing she was touched by the grace of a God that was watching over her that night. It wasn’t deserved, or earned, but simply happened. Too much to fathom and too much to comprehend.
Happy Birthday, Lea, the snowdrift baby. I love you!! Mom