MARYSVILLE — Elisabeth and Steve Strom were just beginning to decorate the family’s Christmas tree on the evening of Dec. 2.
“We got as far getting the bins out,” she said. They had added about half the lights to the tree when there was sudden pain in her hips.
She was 30 weeks pregnant with her fourth child. The pain seemed to diminish as she prepared to have dinner.
Then intense contractions began, lasting about two-and-a-half minutes. There would be a pause for about 30 seconds, then they would begin again.
She knew her baby was about to be born — 10 weeks earlier than predicted. They needed to get to the hospital quickly.
All she could think of was the challenge her husband would face trying to organize their three children to get ready to go.
Five minutes passed. The contractions were so strong she laid down on the floor, the only way she could get comfortable.
As the contractions grew faster and even more intense, she told her husband she couldn’t move.
While he was calling 911 for help, her water broke. She tried to rein in her panic over a baby she knew would be born small and fragile.
“I’m supposed to protect my child and I can’t,” she remembers thinking.
While she was being loaded into an ambulance, the driver told the paramedic to be sure to get out the baby delivery kit.
They were about five minutes away from Providence Regional Medical Center Everett when the paramedic told her: “Let me know if anything changes.”
“I’m pretty sure the baby’s coming,” she said. Moments later, her infant was born.
“It’s a boy,” the paramedic told her, delivering the answer to the secret she and her husband had decided to keep until the birth.
Elisabeth Strom heard her baby gasping for air, trying to breathe. She listened intently.
“As a mom that’s something you’re always listening for — let me hear that first cry,” she said.
The paramedic cut the baby’s cord and laid him on her chest so she could hold him in her arms.
Strom said all she could think of was she just delivered a baby on a bumpy ride to the hospital in the back of an ambulance.
“What just happened?” she wondered. “You never expect to have your baby at 30 weeks.”
“I’m not worried Daddy”
Baby Hugo was born at 8:02 p.m. weighing 3 pounds, 11.6 ounces.
Husband Steve Strom had dashed off in his car in pursuit after finding a relative to watch two of their three kids.
As his wife was being lifted into the ambulance, he was told they would probably go to Everett’s hospital. So he headed south, nervously hoping it was the right destination.
For about 20 minutes, he had no idea what was happening to his wife and baby.
“I was a nervous wreck,” he said.
The oldest of their three children, 5-year-old son Jethro, had jumped in the car with him, and tried to provide comfort.
“I’m not worried Daddy; they’ll take care of him,” he said.
After arriving at the Everett hospital, Steve Strom confirmed his wife in fact was there. He saw a baby being wheeled out a door on its way to the hospital’s infant intensive care unit.
“Your wife and son are doing fine,” he was told — the first he learned of the birth and that the baby was a boy.
“He was very, very small,” Steve Strom said. “I knew he was in good hands.”
The next day at Marysville Community Church, Pastor Chris Taylor led church members in prayers of faith and strength for the family, for health for baby Hugo to pull through and for the doctors and nurses caring for him.
It was a hard first week for the infant. His challenges weren’t just that he was born early, small, and weighing less than half of what’s typical for babies.
Being born so early meant his lungs were underdeveloped. A special mask was strapped to his face to help push air into his lungs and keep them open.
Two days after he was born, as doctors were preparing to insert a breathing tube, they discovered a hole in one of his lungs. “It was a very scary day,” his mom said.
Elisabeth is torn. She has three kids at home. But it’s hard for her to be away from her infant son. She spends each night at the hospital sleeping near his enclosed medical isolette.
So she and her husband take turns, one staying home with Jethro, Josephine, 3, and Konrad, 17 months old, while the other is at the hospital.
“You feel like something is missing when you’re home without him,” she said.
Their infant’s health is improving, but he may not leave the hospital until mid-to-late January. He still needs a feeding tube for nourishment.
A stocking hangs on the door to his hospital room, with his name and the words “baby’s first Christmas” written in glitter. His parents say their family Christmas photos will be taken at the hospital and they’ll gather there on Christmas day.
Elisabeth Strom now can smile as she recalls some moments on the evening of Hugo’s birth.
With the delivery occurring while they were en route to Everett, the paramedic didn’t have time to radio ahead to hospital staff advising them of the birth.
“Well, the baby kind of fell out on the way here,” is the way Elisabeth Strom remembers his explanation when they arrived at the hospital.
“It still makes me laugh,” she said. “Kind of a guy’s perspective. Babies don’t just fall out.”
She said she hopes to meet and thank the Marysville paramedic who assisted her the evening Hugo was born. When she asked how many babies he previously had delivered, he said “none.”
“I congratulated him on his first delivery,” she said. “I don’t think it will be something he forgets.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.