A Miracle Born in the Aftermath of Monstrous Hurricane Maria
Giving birth is an anxiety provoking event for most women, even under the most normal circumstances. You wonder if everything will go according to your carefully and beautifully designed birth plan. You worry about the health of the baby and of course your own. Exactly how painful will this be? How long will I take to heal? How is my body going to change? And so on and so on.
Now, could you imagine enduring your final days of pregnancy in the midst of a category 5 hurricane and then giving birth in an overfilled and understaffed hospital, with minimal electricity or even access to water? This is the plight of expectant and new moms on the island of Puerto Rico, ravished by Hurricane Maria just 10 days ago. The island which suffered mass destruction as a result of the monster storm, is now experiencing an enormous humanitarian crisis.
In a heart-wrenching mass message to her friends and family, amazing and incredibly strong mom Sarah-Leigh Rios, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, shared her harrowing experience of surviving the storm and the aftermath with her family at 38 weeks pregnant. She then goes on to give the details of giving birth in unthinkable conditions just a few days after Hurricane Maria.
In effort to bring awareness to the conditions on her island, Sarah-Leigh has agreed to share her story with ispeakmom.com.
“Exactly a week ago my family and fellow Puerto Ricans were preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Maria. With the passing of Irma, Maria was going to be the first experience of a hurricane for my daughter Leia and me. We did all the preparations we could to secure our home but decided to relocate to my mother in law’s house for the duration of the hurricane.
Maria came with all her fury and what an experience that was. Thankfully my daughter was so brave and we all survived the hurricane safely. I can still hear the roaring of the winds and the sounds of things being thrown around outside. It was such a helpless, and frightening experience, one I wish to never experience again.
By Thursday all the rains and wind ended. Thankfully our families’ homes were not badly damaged and most importantly all our loved ones were safe. We found our home in tact, thank God. However, the entire downstairs and rooms upstairs had water. But that was the extent of the damage. Nothing we couldn't deal with. Our yard was completely devastated, with most of our trees and some material items destroyed. I thank God for his mercy and protection, as things could have been so much worse.
Unfortunately, we have a few friends who were not as lucky and I pray they are able to recover from all their losses. Maria left our beautiful island in pieces. Driving along the road, many places are unrecognizable. Lamp poles adorn the streets and there are fallen trees everywhere. Many business places are devastated, along with people looting and vandalizing. It really makes you think. How do we even start to recover from this devastation? On Most roads only one car could pass and the nights are lonely and dark. The lack of gas, water, lights or cellular service, has made life extremely difficult. Doing anything is difficult and must be strategically planned before executing.
The only source of connection was a battery-operated radio which we listened to continuously to be advised of any developments throughout the island. Those couple of days without cellular service were even more difficult and stressful as we couldn’t contact family to advise about our safety. We knew how worried they must have been.
My mother was scheduled to arrive in Puerto Rico on Monday morning and I was so worried that she would not be able to enter the island considering the horrible conditions. On Saturday afternoon, my husband Emmanuel, drove over an hour to attempt to make connection to my family and I was advised that my mother would not be able to make it to PR. The emotions were incontrollable as we were looking forward to this day so very much. However, again we had to trust in the Lord's plan that everything was happening for a reason, although it was hard to see or accept.
To add to this week of turmoil and 'excitement,' at 1am Sunday morning, I started having contractions. Our baby boy was ready to make his arrival into this world. If only we knew that this would have been our situation 9 months ago, God knows we would have re-thought our decision to try to have a baby. These conditions are hard enough for us to survive far less to bring a new baby into it. But who would have known right? Needless to say, God is always in control, and we trust completely that he has his plan and would never put us in a situation that we could not handle. For this we put everything in his hands, and with a lot of prayers, asked him to take control and ensure the safe arrival of our precious baby boy.
At approximately 4 pm after experiencing contractions for 15 hours, we finally made our way to the hospital. On entry, we were astounded by the number of people in the emergency area, as the other hospital was closed due to the destruction of Maria. All the patients from that hospital were relocated to this one. We were eventually taken to a labor room, where all the action continued.
The hospital is operating on a generator. As such, only a few areas are with air conditioning and lights. The next 17 hours were a nightmare. Firstly, we were not able to reach my doctor due to the connectivity issues. There were no obstetricians available, yet we were visited by 3 other general doctors, who were willing to conduct the delivery. Imagine my horror to this news, as I experienced painful contractions, in unbearable heat.
It is so difficult to even express how helpless I felt. Finally, an obstetrician arrived, as police went out into the dark of the night to locate him, the only OB they could contact. I couldn't thank the Lord enough for this doctor’s presence at that moment. The entire experience thus far was beyond anything I could imagine. The overworked nurses were not helpful and very disgruntled given the conditions. For this my husband was my hero! He is such an amazing man. Emmanuel stood on his feet and fanned me for the next 12 hours. He attended to me, cleaned me, rubbed me and helped me to breathe and push. He was my everything. I could not have survived this if it was not for his support, unwavering love, compassion and undivided attention to me and our baby.
With my daughter, I had a c-section, and I was hoping I could deliver Mateo naturally. However, this wasn't God’s plan. After reaching 10cm and pushing for about three hours, Mateo just wouldn't come out. The feelings were indescribable. After trying so hard, we were advised to deliver by c section. At this point of feeling like I wanted to die, it was music to my ears. I could do it no more. After being in labor for about 30 hours, I was completely exhausted and didn't think I had any life left in me. Thankfully the c-section team was a dream and eventually we delivered our precious bundle of joy. With 10 fingers, 10 toes and the most precious face, Mateo entered our world at 7:45 am on Monday morning.
Emmanuel and I couldn't be more relived and thankful for our blessing. He is healthy and safe. We haven't been able to be with him as the hospital’s operations have been turned upside down after the hurricane. He is two floors down from us but thankfully this morning I started walking and we could spend some time with him. He is the most precious baby, and the feeling of making eye contact with him cannot be expressed in words.
He was so peaceful and content, I can't wait to have him in my arms permanently. This has been quite a whirlwind of emotions for us over the past week. But we continue to thank The Lord for his blessings and protection, and the privilege to bring a precious human being into this world. Despite the difficulty that we will face these next months without water or electricity, I know he will continue to put his hand over us and ensure we are safe and as comfortable as possible, given the situation.
With our amazing extended family, I know we will also receive a lot of help and assistance. For this I can't thank them enough. Thank you all for your love, concern and blessings. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts as we have a long road ahead. We must never take the little things in life for granted. These are the things we realize we value the most in times of difficulty and despair. The Lord our God is a magnificent one and we know it. He will be our guiding force as we continue our lives with our new addition to the, family despite all the odds and obstacles in our way. Love always.”
Sarah-Leigh Rios, shown above with her new baby and husband Emmanuel.
The ispeakmom.com family will keep Sara-Leigh and her loved ones in our thoughts and prayers. Her strength and resilience in this situation is an inspiration to us all!
Please help those affected by this major humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico by making a donation to United for Puerto Rico, an effort led by Beatriz Rossello, the First Lady of Puerto Rico. 100% of the proceeds will go to hurricane relief.
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© Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.