COLUMBIA — Days before the recent snowstorm, some families watched the weather forecasts with more than the usual attention.
Alexandra Cadwell and Andrew Richardson were expecting their first child.
“I kept looking at my phone,” Richardson said, describing his anxiety about the storm predicted on his baby’s due date. “First they said 6 inches, then they said 12 inches, then they said 20 inches."
He waved his phone in a gesture of helplessness.
Cadwell and Richardson remembered their families' worries. “You're going to have to deliver in the living room,” Cadwell repeated.
“You better pack her bags,” Richardson remembered another saying. Some recommended renting a hotel room near the hospital.
Richardson did pack bags, including Cadwell’s clothing and warm, pink sweaters and a sleeper for his expected baby girl.
Monday, as ice formed over the streets, Cadwell went to classes at the Columbia Area Career Center, where she is studying to be a licensed practical nurse. She had contractions throughout the day but could not miss class if she wanted to graduate at the end of February.
A first-time mom, she called her doctor and asked him what to do, then made plans to head to the Boone Hospital Center with Richardson after school.
Richardson, a private first class in the Missouri National Guard, drives a school bus for Columbia Public Schools. He watched children slip over the ice as they got on and off the bus and waited for the moment he would get off work.
At 6 that evening, Richardson drove Cadwell to the hospital. He got a call to go on standby but was excused when he explained that Cadwell was about to deliver.
The roads were slick, but the couple made it. That night the hospital staff induced labor, and at 9:22 p.m. Tuesday, after about 19 hours of labor, Zion Avery Richardson was born.
“It means heaven,” Richardson, who chose the name, said.
He and Cadwell took turns holding Zion as they talked, noticing when she squirmed or started to open her eyes. Baby Richardson weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces and was 19 inches long with a full head of curly black hair at birth. Her parents added a bright pink bow.
“The weather in a sense has been a blessing for us because we got the time off that we need," Richardson said
Richardson had an interview scheduled for Tuesday, but the storm allowed him to stay with Cadwell through her delivery while watching the snow swirling outside the window.
Cadwell won’t have to miss any school, so she can graduate on schedule.
Eleven babies were born at Boone Hospital Center from Monday to Wednesday afternoon. Extra staff members, 340 of them, stayed at the hospital overnight on Tuesday to ensure that all critical positions were filled.
On the south side of town, a more seasoned couple did not worry about the impending storm. They used to live in western New York and had experience with snow.
Emma Beary was not due until Sunday, and she had a delivery plan, which included hopping in the minivan with her two children and husband, Mark, dropping the kids off at a baby sitter’s house and cruising to the MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
The plan did not include snow.
Emma Beary awoke at 8 a.m. Wednesday and knew immediately she was going into labor. Her husband had shoveled their driveway the day before, but he could not shovel the length of their residential street off Route K.
Beary called a neighbor to find out how far the roads were blocked, wondering if she would have to wade out as her contractions increased. The neighbor's roads were blocked, but she called a friend nearby who had a four-wheel drive truck.
He picked up the whole family. The normally 20-minute drive took one hour.
“We were running out of time,” Beary said.
They dropped off the children and reached the hospital by 10 a.m. Beary delivered Oliver Lawrence Beary 45 minutes later. He was 10 pounds, 5 ounces and 22.5 inches long at birth.
Thursday afternoon, Beary sat calmly by a window, holding her healthy, blond boy. He had full cheeks and grimaced as she adjusted to show him off.
Beary expected her other children to visit later in the afternoon. “They are really excited to meet the baby.”
“What we got out of the experience was just the kindness of everybody that helped us get here,” Beary said.
She was impressed with the efforts of the hospital staff, many of whom had spent Tuesday night sleeping on cots at the hospital. Seven babies were born there on Tuesday.
“People were willing to step up,” Beary said.
She described the efforts of their driver, a stranger the day before. “We owe it to him that we made it here. We can’t express how thankful we are.”