Moriah Sevier wasn’t due to give birth until Sept. 17, so when Hurricane Irma began barreling down on the U.S Virgin Islands last week, she and her partner prepared for the storm and hoped for the best.
But on Wednesday, September 6, the 33-year-old marine biologist went into labor just as the Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles an hour approached St. Thomas.
“We have been told by multiple doctor friends ‘be aware that barometric pressure changes can cause deliveries or labor to start.’ I went online and read some scholar’s papers about it and it’s 50-50. Some of them say there’s no relationship and some say there is a relationship between pressure and labor induction,” Sevier told Heavy in a phone interview from the tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean.
“I was hoping that was not going to be the case, but surprise, surprise! 3:30 in the morning my water broke,” she said. Sevier and her partner Duncan Bass, who has lived on the island for about 11 years, made their way to the hospital.
Julien Storm Bass was born at 12:24 p.m. at Schneider Regional Medical Center. He was 6 lbs. 11 oz.
“That was about a half an hour before probably the heaviest winds came,” Sevier said. “Pretty much right after he was born, the hospital experienced their windows blowing out on the 4th floor and part of the roof blowing away.”
The delivery room was on the 3rd floor.
“Then they started bringing everybody down from upstairs down the staircase on beds and on blankets and on whatever else they could and pouring them all into the hallway,” she said. “It was more safe. There’s no windows in the labor and delivery center there. That isn’t to say it was a safe area. All of the water was running through the 4th floor and into the 3rd floor and different sections of the labor and delivery center were flooded.”
“The walls were shaking while I was delivering,” she said. “It was pretty intense. But it all worked out.”
Sevier is calm as she recalls giving birth for the first time during one of the worst hurricanes ever recorded in Atlantic history. Hurricane Irma has killed dozens of people and caused billions of dollars in damage across the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida.
“There was no time for discussion or worrying about what was going on,” she said. “I was focused on bringing a baby into this world and nothing else. The world can crash around you and you have one goal and that is to get the baby out of you and in your arms.”
Once she had little Julien Storm safely in her arms, she was supposed to be moved to a recovery room but “that whole section of the hospital was destroyed while I was delivering.”
The couple said they had a name picked out for the baby but that changed once he arrived. “We had a different middle name, actually, that we were thinking about as a primary contender but as soon as the storm was there and everything we decided well, Storm would be a fantastic middle name,” Sevier said.
Bass was able to post a picture of the baby to Facebook, but then the phones and Internet service were out for two days before they could contact their friends and family again. “They had no way of knowing we were ok at all,” Sevier said.
The couple is back in their apartment, which is fairly intact but experienced some flooding because the apartment upstairs lost its roof during the hurricane. She said they tried to get medically evacuated off the island but were told that Bass could not come with them. “Mothers and children only,” she said.
That was not an option for the new family. “We wanted to stay together as a family unit,” she said.
So now they are hunkering down until the local airport reopens, hopefully this weekend, to take a flight back to the mainland United States. They plan to return to St. Thomas soon.
Sevier said they fully stocked up on supplies in anticipation of the storm, but she has been unable to get a breast pump. She said she’s more concerned about other residents on the island who lost their homes and, in some cases, their lives.
As for the proud father, he knows the new mom always gets the most attention. “Just happy he’s healthy,” he said.