THE BIRTH OF CHRISTIAN PAUL FARRAND during the ICE STORM OF December 16, 17 & 18 1973

                                             Written for his birthday December 18, 2020

I’d been home for about a week, having ended my full time job.  I was happily nesting in our one-bedroom apartment. I was collecting and arranging newborn supplies and clothing in anticipation of the birth of my first born. He/she was due to arrive on December 23, 1973.  I’d been feeling a touch of morning sickness this last month of pregnancy.  As during the first 3 months, I only had nausea and lack of appetite.  It was the morning of December 17 when I had my first one-time episode of vomiting.  I felt a little different but recuperated quickly.  Of course, my body had all the usual changes and discomforts of the ninth month of pregnancy. Being a Registered Nurse, I understood and accepted it all.  I was just so happy to be expecting my first child. I was concentrating on getting ready for a noon appointment with my Obstetrician so I could find out his latest assessment of signs which might indicate an approaching delivery. 

In those days, there was no ultrasound to determine the sex of your baby.  I thought either would be fine.  But somewhere deep inside there was the belief that it would be nice if the first born were a boy. This may have been so because I had two older brothers to look up to, and males were considered to be the dominant stronger sex.

I was happily anticipated driving to my MD apt in Hartford Connecticut from our apartment in the eastern end of Manchester.  I’d chosen Hartford Hospital for delivery rather than the local one in Manchester, as my OB/GYN MD was there, and it was the hospital of choice for complications.  I also knew this hospital well. While attending the University of Connecticut for my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, I’d done some of my training there.

 As I prepared to leave, I received a call from your dad; he was working at the Traveler Insurance Company in Hartford. He told me to cancel my appointment as the weather was bad with slippery conditions. I had no clue about the brewing storm in the outside world, and I argued with him stating I’d driven in all kinds of snowy weather. He adamantly insisted I not drive anywhere.  I reluctantly called and canceled my appointment.  Soon after, about 10 am, the electricity went out. This was an inconvenience as there was no heat or lights and the sky was darkening. I felt casual about this event; I truly believed the electricity would soon return as it usually did after an outage. I had no idea that outages were beginning all over the state, and were being caused by a monumental event. The house was getting cooler so I went to bed under the covers and read a book.  The window in my bedroom gave enough light for reading.  I truly felt calm and relaxed. Soon I realized the telephone service was out.  This made me a little uneasy because I was now unable to even call my doctor if I felt I needed advice, and I couldn’t call my husband or anyone.  I was alone in the cold.  I just kept reading.  As the day went on, the electricity and phone service didn’t return.  I presume I must have done my usual gathering of flashlights and candles for such an event. I think I still was calm.?

At about 4pm, my close friend Eileen came to my apartment to check on me.  She was on her way home to her apartment, which was only a few miles away in the next town, Vernon.  She was worried about my welfare. She then told me how bad it was outside, stating there was ice everywhere, and driving was extremely dangerous. She told me businesses were letting employees leave, there were downed trees and power lines everywhere. Telling me that the damage was extensive, she also said that there was an enormous tree blocking the access road to my apartment. She had to use an alternate route…the only way left to enter the area.  She told me that she and her husband Fran had camping equipment to cook food; and if possible, we should go to their apartment for supper. She left to go home after this brief visit.  I was thankful for such a good friend.

I began to worry and feel nervous. It was getting dark. My husband had not arrived home, and I had no way of contacting him to know if he was safe and heading home. There were no cell telephones then. I realized many of the roads were blocked and even emergency vehicles could not get through to many places. I had no telephone access to call anyone if I did go into labor, no means of communication with the outside world.  Even walking outside on the ice was dangerous, especially for a 9 month pregnant women, whose balance was compromised. I felt isolated and alone.

Finally, your father arrived late, wet and nervous.  He’d taken a commuter bus from Hartford to his car at a Caldor Center parking lot, a few miles from home. He’d gotten safely to his car, and found that there were downed live electric wires across his car and others. He began the treacherous walk home on an icy road.  Thankfully a good Samaritan driving his way gave him a ride closer to home.  He spoke of downed trees and live wires everywhere as the ice was thick and heavy. He too told me of the giant tree blocking our main access to the apartment.  Luckily the other access road to our parking lot and apartment was still open. I feared that this road might too become blocked.

Oh! Did I mention that all day long I was having Braxton Hicks Contractions that by this time seemed stronger. I took this in stride, and I didn’t say much to your father about this.  I knew these contractions could be strong and were not unusual at this stage of pregnancy. However, I also felt they were different than the ones of recent past, and might possibly indicate a sign of very early labor. But I thought first babies are often late, not early.  My due date was a week away. Perhaps I was in denial?

Your Dad agreed to go to Eileen and Fran’s apartment for supper. He went out to the parking lot to remove ice from my car and start its heat. I bundled up and stepped out into this winter wonderland for the first time. It was amazing!   Your dad drove very slow and extremely carefully. Our friends welcomed us with hot soup and wine.  I decided to eat very little as my body felt different and my Braxton Hicks contractions felt strong and steady. I did not drink wine. I asked Eileen to feel the hardness of my expanded belly when contractions occurred. I told her I was wondering if this was a sign that labor would be soon?  I did not tell your Dad this, as I did not want to worry him.  So he and Fran merrily celebrated the Ice Storm with lots of wine. 

 After the merriment, we headed home. The driving conditions were now worse.  We’d somehow made it up the hill to arrive at their apartment.  Now our car was sliding uncontrollably down the hill on sheer ice. As this was happening, a loud massive firework-like explosion appeared directly in front of us; the light flashed like a bomb.  I screamed: “Go back!”  Your dad yelled: “I can’t!”  He had no control of the car’s momentum as it cascaded down the hill.  It was a miracle that we did not get into the midst of the explosion; it all happened in seconds. I was terrified. What had happened in front of us was an electric transformer exploded from the Ice Storm. Later I would say: “It was a miracle that I didn’t give birth then & there!”  Thank God the road leveled and we survived. I saw the devastation of downed power lines, poles and trees. Don’t ask me how, but we somehow made it home. Again I saw the enormous tree blocking the apartment building entrance. It was a world of ICE!

Once home, we went to bed, and your father fell asleep.  As I lay there in the quiet cold dark, I realized my contractions were stronger. I was worried about getting to the hospital if needed. I’d chosen Hartford Hospital as my Obstetrician was there, and I preferred this hospital for its expertise in medical intervention if needed. It was at least 20 miles away. I could not call the doctor to discuss my condition. I could not call for help.  I was also sure that emergency responders were having difficulty with the road conditions and probably could not get to us.  About 1am I awoke your father to tell him how I felt and suggest maybe I should go to the hospital.  He’d had a fair amount of wine, so he took control by saying: “It’s too early to go…I know. I took the classes.” He spoke of our Lamaze Childbirth classes.  At first I was somewhat shocked by his response, but thought he might have a point.  This scene was certainly not like the television scenes where the expectant father rushed off to take his wife to the delivery room. I figured he was in no shape to drive to the hospital; he needed to sleep it off more. So I tried to sleep for a short time. At 5am I again felt nauseous and got up and had a spell of vomiting.  That woke your father and he realized it was truly time to go to the hospital.  I took a quick cold shower, dressed, and we left for the slow dangerous trip to Hartford. I’d hoped I was in labor and ready to deliver, but more than anything, I just craved a warm hospital bed in which to rest and feel safe. 

Interestingly, my contractions had lessoned in severity, duration and frequency when I arrived in the delivery room. I felt embarrassed, as I was a nurse. I was aware that the nurses there questioned my judgement thinking I was an anxiety case and came to the hospital prematurely. I was asked: Do you think you felt this way because you were nervous about the storm. I replied that I started feeling this way yesterday before I was even aware there was such a storm, and I wasn’t nervous then. {As a side note: The same thing happened with the delivery of my second son.  My advanced labor totally stopped for a time when I got to the delivery room…but this second time, I surprised the staff with a very rapid delivery.} 

 I was disappointed to learn that the doctor on call was not my Obstetrician, but his associate, Dr. M who was known to be an excellent clinician, but lacked empathy and bedside manner. He also preferred to have his patients sedated for delivery, he was not a fan of Natural Childbirth, my method of choice. This was a new trend and not many clinicians in Hartford Hospital were trained to be supportive in this type of delivery. The doctor examined me and said to the nurse: “give her the needle” then abruptly left the room. As a nurse, I knew this meant stimulation of labor with IV Pitocin, a medication that produces stronger more uncomfortable contractions.”  I told the nurse I did not want this medication. She let me know that the doctor would not change his mind. In this era, it was thought that doctors ruled, and their rules were rarely questioned. As previously stated, I just wanted to stay in a warm hospital bed and rest and wait for the natural progression of labor. I was used to being a more assertive nurse. Now I felt vulnerable as a patient, with lack of control.  I also recognised there were challenges amidst.  Many nurses and hospital personnel had already worked more than two shifts and were on their third. Relief staff could not travel to the hospital on icy roads.  

So this progressed to be a long difficult journey.  Your dad was beside me at all times; he was my coach. The Lamaze techniques were a Godsend. Lamaze training emphasised the use of breathing techniques, concentration and focus; and the avoidance of thinking: “pain.”   My second nurse did understand the natural childbirth philosophy and the Lamaze method.  As the day and my labor progressed, the doctor on call changed to Dr. B, the new partner in the group.  He was there during my second stage of labor, when the infant is in the birth canal traveling to the new world.  This is a difficult pushing stage.  I pushed on cue with all my might for two hours. You were emerging headfirst, but your head was turned at an angle that did not allow your progression in the birth canal no matter what methods or positions were used. Well, Christian, you did not want to leave your mommy. Finally, the doctor advised I may need a spinal for a low forceps delivery. I looked at the nurse with pleading eyes, and she gently advised it was time for this. I truly trusted her. Thus the spinal aesthetic and the use of forceps to help deliver my precious baby. I was so thrilled at your arrival!   When I saw you I felt unbelievable love and excitement.  With a smile, I exclaimed to your dad: “he’s got your nose.” You were my little man. My first born son, Christian Paul Farrand was born Tuesday, December 18, 1973 at 4:16pm weighing 7lbs 8oz and 21 inches long. You were tall with long legs, as you are today. Your dad had chosen Christian for your first name; I agreed.  I chose your middle name Paul to honor your father. As I write this tale, I am smiling with excitement and glee thinking of this precious time.

 It was hospital policy to keep newborns in a Transition Nursery for the first 12 hours.  Those were the longest 12 hours of my life.  I felt so excited, and could not rest well while waiting. Anytime anyone came into my room or walked by it, I constantly asked: “Can I have my baby yet”? During the first few hours, I could not feel or move my legs from the effects of the spinal.  It felt really weird.  Finally, my precious bundle of joy was brought to me. It was such a special loving feeling to have you in my arms, to nurse and care for you.  I was never nervous about infant care or nursing. I’d cared for many babies before, and as a Visiting Nurse, taught newborn care to many new mothers.  My little guy readily nursed with no or minimal problems. The new Rooming-In policy allowed me to have him with me in my room. I was very lucky.

Meanwhile, your father had to deal with everything outside the safe hospital walls. The whole area had lost electricity and the ice prevailed. It was a state of disaster. He had to drive home to our apartment, take care of our small dog Gretel, pack personal items, the dog and baby supplies. He took everything to my parent’s/Grandma’s & Grandpa’s home in West Hartford. There they had a fireplace and he was closer to the hospital. Electricity returned to their home before ours. I spent about 4 days in the hospital. It was evident you would be brought home to Grandma and Grandpa’s home for warm and safe shelter. Our apartment still didn’t have electricity.

On the day we were to leave the hospital, I happily awaited your dad’s arrival. I envisioned the three of us having intimate bonding, and thought of this as a romantic trip. What happened, however, was that your Grandpa arrived also.   Grandpa always wanted to be a part of family events, and was so happy to take his grandson home. I felt a little disappointed and annoyed, but soon got over it.  When we got in the car, I learned that the plan was to first stop at the (somewhat) nearby Moon Bakery in the south end of Hartford to pick up the best Italian bread around.  Driving was still treacherous. I started to see the comedy of this, and realized it would make a good story to tell.  

When we got to your grandparents’ home, I soon realized the responsibility of motherhood.  I was 28 years old and had been an independent woman for many years. It was a bit of a shock to think I could not even go to the drugstore to pick up a bottle of shampoo without taking you with me or arranging for your care. For some reason, I still remember thinking of a bottle of shampoo.  Your dad was a very helpful father, but he would be working full time, and I would be making our supper and waiting to have time together each evening. Stores limited their hours in those days so families could be together.  I’d quit my job to be a full time mother for a while. I loved being a mother. I never missed my work as others thought I would.

We were soon able to return home.  We had to move everything back again. On Christmas day, one week after your birthday, we three attended the large Christmas family celebration at the home of your Uncle Tony and Aunt Sandy. You were the hit of the party!  Uncle Tony placed you in a present box with tissue paper surrounding your precious body. This box was placed under the Christmas tree for photos.  Photography has been and still is a hobby for Uncle Tony. You were the best Christmas present I’ve ever had. 

Now you are a father and understand the special love and bond parents feel with their children.  Your family has also filled my life with a precious daughter and two precious grandchildren. Being a grandmother has also filled my heart with precious grandparent love. My son, as an adult, you are also a special friend. Among many other things, I value your helpfulness, your knowledge, our talks and your love. I am so proud of you.  Fill your life with Joy, Peace, Laughter and Love.

  Love Forever, Your Mom     

[Note, I started hand writing this in the middle of the night on a small pad, as I’d awoken feeling inspired.  When finished I counted the pages I’d written, I discovered I’d written on the 2 sides of 13 papers. I have always considered 13 to be my special number. I was born on the 13th and often this number has been a numerical part of many aspects of my life.]