On Friday, Oct. 6, a very pregnant Nicole Veum made her way to Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital in Santa Rosa, California. Veum was past her due date, and her doctor had called her in to see if they could make some headway in getting her labor started.
The universe — or more specifically, the California wildfires — had other plans.
After three days and three different ways of attempting to induce labor, Nicole was finally beginning to make progress in the wee hours of Monday morning.
“Things are rolling,” Ben Veum, Nicole's husband, told San Francisco's KQED. “We’re getting good checks from the nurses. We started to get in the mood to play some music — a little bit of opera.”
Meanwhile, the wildfires outside had crept closer, illuminating the sky outside the hospital. As Nicole began pushing to Pavarotti, the power went out.
Though the hospital had a generator, nurses informed them that surrounding buildings were burning, posing an immediate threat to their safety. The hospital would have to be evacuated.
Nicole, who had just been given an epidural, couldn’t walk or move. "I felt really vulnerable,” she told KQED.
Even more frustratingly, Nicole received medication to stop her contractions while they moved her to safety.
“We were like ‘Noooo.’ It was the worst news,” she said. “To have tried for three days and then OK, here’s the shot that’s going to end all of that.”
Nicole waited, helplessly strapped to a gurney, in a line full of would-be evacuees — only to be separated from her husband for the overcrowded ambulance ride.
“The charge nurse explained that ‘This is a disaster. We’re following disaster protocol and no spouses or birth teams or anything are going along on the ambulance,’” Ben told KQED.
He added, “There was a part of me briefly that was like — but I’m a dad. I’m going to be a dad. This is us.”
Ben caught a city bus over to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, and the couple was soon reunited. Happily, Adrian Dodger Veum was delivered by C-section at 5:50 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 9.
"After the last 4 days of labor we hit a wall of exhaustion and I knew it was time to end labor and meet this magnificent one," Nicole wrote in a Facebook post. "We sure do love him and yes, we do have one heck of a birth story."
The Veums, who are now home and resting, declined to comment for this story. But Nicole addressed the hospital staff and the local community in a heartfelt Facebook post.
"Thank you to everyone who prayed for us and participated in the birth of our new favorite person," Nicole wrote. "I'm so thankful for my birthing team and for all the medical staff and ambulance drivers and those helping out through these horrific fires. I am very humbled by those of you who stepped into the danger to help others. Thank you. And we love our new boy."