Delivering a baby in the middle of a historic storm is snow joke. Just ask Crystal Wade who navigated four foot snow drifts down the side of a mountain to deliver her daughter, aptly named Winter, during California's February 2023 blizzard.
When the forecast for Lake Arrowhead, Calif. initially showed snow, Brady Wade, 39, tells TODAY.com that he and wife Crystal, who was 9-months-pregnant, were alarmed.
"We were very concerned about getting off the mountain," Brady, who is an essential emergency worker, tells TODAY.com. "We didn't really have an alternative, because of my job, I have to be in the storm. We figured we would just hope and pray that we would be able to make it down when we needed to."
As it turns out, they would need to navigate the snow and ice covered San Bernardino Mountains to deliver their daughter.
Crystal began having contractions around 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23 while Brady was still at work.
"My contractions were ten minutes apart, so I started getting everything ready," Crystal tells TODAY.com.
The couple, who are also parents to Braden, 4, knew they needed to navigate down the mountain, but the snow was making impossible conditions.
Brady was unable to make it all the way home to his wife and son, so he parked the family's car about four blocks away.
"We're on an access roads," Brady says of their home's location. "I didn't want to get stuck knowing that my wife might go into labor."
The Wades planned on having Braden stay with a friend for safety.
"In the event that we got stuck or if we crashed or something like that, we wanted our kid to be secure," Brady says. "And I called him and my anticipation was I was going to drop him off on the way, but (our friend) very literally ran here a mile away in a blizzard and showed up just in time."
At this point, Crystal's contractions were getting closer together, so the couple trekked to their car parked down the road.
"It hurt to be outside. You couldn't even see," Crystal says of walking to their truck. "You had to close your eyes and the snow was whipping you in the face."
Once inside their vehicle, Wade and Crystal began the harrowing drive down the mountain.
"I was in a lot of pain and the roads were unplowed, all the way down," Crystal tells TODAY.com. "So all the bumps were making the contractions so much more intense."
While Wade navigated the unplowed roads, Crystal was breathing through contractions, which were now five minutes apart, with one hope: "I hope we have cell phone reception if this baby comes in the car."
"Halfway down the mountain you don't have reception for a good 15-20 minutes," she tells TODAY.com. "And so I just told Brady, 'We might have the baby in the car.'"
Brady tells TODAY.com that even without snow, the drive to the nearest hospital is "substantial" (more than 50 miles away), but unplowed roads made the journey even more treacherous as snow continued to fall.
"I'm going past the last place that even remotely resembles a medical facility and that was the fire station," Brady says."We just kind of had to make the decision. We're either going for it or we're stopping right now and we decided to go for it. Luckily, it worked out."
The couple made it safely down the mountain and into the hospital parking lot just in time.
"They got us into a room and I was eight centimeters dilated," Crystal says.
Baby Winter was born around 5 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24.
"She came out with the cord wrapped around her neck," Crystal tells TODAY.com. "So I was so thankful that we were at the hospital, because if we were in the car and the cord was wrapped around her neck I would have freaked out not knowing what to do."
But the odyssey wasn't over. Mom and baby were cleared to return home Sunday night and the Wades needed to get back up the mountain.
"We got a window to come up and we left at the bottom of the hill at 6 p.m. It's usually an hour drive, but it ended up being a two hour drive because the highway was such a bad shape," Brady explains. "A lot of the highway was literally just one lane road. You're just hoping someone doesn't come at the same time."
Crystal tells TODAY.com that the snow berms on each side of the truck were “at least seven or eight feet high” and the couple would not have attempted to go back up the mountain, except their little boy needed them.
“Our son was with our friends and they were running out of food,” Crystal says.
Determined to get home, Brady drove his truck as far as it could go up the mountain before getting stuck. From there, the couple walked.
"My wife, literally two days after giving birth, carried a baby in her jacket through massive snow drifts," Brady tells TODAY.com
Reunited with Braden, the family made their way home.
"I went ahead and cut as best of a pathway as I could, because I knew it was going to hurt and be tremendously hard on Crystal," Brady says, adding Braden Army-crawled over snow to help forge a path for his mom. "And and she followed and we eventually got home, but (getting home) was probably the hardest, craziest part of the whole ordeal."