With the hurricane barreling toward their stretch of the Florida coast on Tuesday afternoon, Amanda Mahr and her husband, Matthew Mahr, got an urgent call from their doctor: They had to schedule an emergency C-section.
The baby was four days past due, and the ultrasound that morning had showed fluid levels that were too low for them to wait until after the storm for delivery. Hurricane or not, the baby was going to have to come.
They rushed to the hospital through a drizzle and under slate-gray skies, nervously eyeing neighbors in Cape Coral who were putting up shutters in last-minute preparations. The storm was coming ashore farther south than previously projected. By the next morning, with Hurricane Ian lapping at the coast, power started cutting out across the region and wind gusts of more than 60 mph were whipping their city.
“We’re getting a direct hit. We want to schedule you right now,” hospital staff told the Mahrs, Amanda Mahr recalled.
Shortly before 9 a.m., George was born — a robust 10 pound, 6 ounce baby boy with a full head of black hair. Hospital staff told the exhausted patients not to look out their second-floor window because it would only make them anxious.
Around 2:30 p.m., with their almost-6-hour-old baby, the Mahrs and other expectant mothers and parents with newborns were shuffled into the hallways to ride out the worst of the storm away from any windows. Ian, after peaking at 155 mph wind speeds, was about to make landfall.
For hours, they listened through the closed doors to pummeling rain, howling wind, thrashing trees. They wondered whether they would have a home to take George back to, and what may have become of the nursery they had readied for him. They fretted about their year-old cat, Mazikeen, whom they had no choice but to leave behind.
By about 9 p.m., they were allowed back in their birthing suite. The hospital appeared to have weathered the storm largely intact, and the couple and their newborn were in good spirits.
“He’s literally the talk of the hospital because he’s so chunky and so cute,” said Amanda Mahr, 36, who runs a gourmet cupcake business, in a phone interview Thursday evening from her hospital bed. “He has the most incredible hair.”
On Thursday afternoon, her husband, 37, ventured out of the hospital to find a city that looked like a monster truck rally had gone through it, he said. The streets were littered with all manner of debris — fallen electric poles, pieces of roofing, artificial grass turf. Every single street sign and billboard appeared to have been blown away.
Their ground-floor apartment was strewn with glass from two shattered windows but without much other damage, Matthew Mahr said. Mazikeen was agitated but safely huddled inside the nursery. That room was pristine, exactly as they had left it, Matthew Mahr said.
Nearby hospitals in the same health system were having to evacuate patients Thursday because of problems with water and power supply. The Mahrs’ hospital, Cape Coral, lost power Thursday afternoon but was stable and running on a generator, the couple said.
Throughout, people have been asking whether they would add Ian to the boy’s name. They’re happily sticking with George Bentley, both family names, they said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.