Our polar vortex baby

Photo credit: By Rebecca Studios


As the snowstorm picked up intensity last Sunday night, so did my contractions. 

They were short in duration (about 20 seconds) but painful and close together (every minute and a half or so). After exchanging a few texts with my OB, Ted and I decided to head to the hospital. 

We might've waited it out a bit longer -- we were watching a fascinating documentary -- but the snow prodded us to hit the road before conditions worsened. It was time for that four-wheel drive on our Toyota Sienna to prove its mettle. 

But first, Ted had to shovel. 

My dad showed up at midnight, ready to hold down the fort for the three sleeping kids upstairs. He couldn't resist passing on one piece of advice to his son-in-law: Take it easy on those roads!

It was hard to see which lane we were in, but Ted managed skillfully, and the roads were pretty empty as we made our way downtown. 

Our baby was born two hours after we were admitted at United Hospital in St. Paul — fast and furious!

It's a girl!

Katherine Marie. Eight pounds even, 20.5 inches. 

While the temperature plunged to record lows -- colder than Antarctica, headlines boasted -- we snuggled our newborn and enjoyed lots of skin to skin. Nurses closely monitored her temp, which held steady right at 98. 

Our room was toasty, but there was so much condensation on the windows that it melted on the sill and froze. Icicles formed on a blue-and-pink hospital-issued receiving blanket that Ted had set there. 

Our birth photographer, Rebecca Slater, is a Minnesota native, so she was undeterred by the news-making weather. (More of her photos to come! She was UH-mazing, bringing to a challenging setting her keen eye, quick thinking and intuition – plus, as polar-vortex postpartum gifts, Gatorade, wool socks and much-needed chapstick.)    

It worked out well for our family that four days of school were canceled last week, corresponding with our three-day hospital stay. It eliminated the stress of school mornings for my parents, who were home with the kids -- and lent us an extra day to ease back into things without an alarm clock. 

We discharged on Wednesday, the most frigid day of the vortex, when the wind chill bottomed out at 55. (The last time it dipped that low here was in 1983.)

The parting words from the in-house pediatrician: "Make sure your husband warms your car up. You have a really cute baby; I don’t want it breathing in any cold air.” 

Ted and I were determined to maintain our tradition of having the whole family come to the hospital to bring Baby home together. We think it helps with bonding and providing a clear sense of before/after: Baby is now home with us as a family. 

I'll never forget the sight of those three bundled-up kids charging down the hallway toward their new sibling, Archie waddling in his snow pants.

Ted had left the van running in the parking ramp, and they scurried in while I zipped up Kate under her fleece car-seat liner. 

Changes in weather, it turns out, tend to induce labor. The body senses the shift in barometric pressure. More babies are born during a full-moon, a longtime United nurse told me. And rising barometric pressure, in particular -- resulting from plummeting temps -- can trigger labor. The Mother Baby Center at United was certainly hopping last week.

I hadn't expected to be among them. At my last OB appointment, I wasn't dilated at all. But three short days later, there we were, driving through a blizzard to have our baby. (I was already 7 cm when we arrived!)

Katie Dohman, Minnesota Parent's World's Okayest Mom columnist, had a polar vortex baby two winters ago. We’re in good company. We join a tribe of hardy Minnesotans with memorable birth stories to tell.  



Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and four children in Inver Grove Heights. Read all her posts at mnparent.com/charmed