, Newburyport, MA

February 11, 2013

Blizzard babies arrive in a bundle of snow

By Sonya Vartabedian
Staff Writer

---- — Two area babies can always say they entered the world in dramatic fashion — on either end of the Blizzard of 2013.

For little Abigail Margaret Howard, it would have been neat to simply share a birth date with her grandfather.

But now she’ll also be able to share her arrival with that of the storm better known as Nemo.

It was weeks ago that William Howard and Cassandra Welcome had made the plans to welcome their daughter to the world. But the Amesbury couple didn’t exactly plan on contending with the fifth biggest recorded snowstorm in Boston.

Luckily, the storm was just beginning as they arrived at Tufts Medical Center Friday morning, as scheduled. But just as Gov. Deval Patrick was ordering everyone off the state’s roads, Abigail was making her debut.

She arrived at 3:32 p.m. Friday — 28 minutes before the travel ban went into effect — weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces; measuring 20 inches long and sporting a full head of hair.

While mom and dad welcomed her into their arms, she would have to wait almost two days before being introduced to her big sister, 2-year-old Sabrina, grandparents and other family members since no one was allowed to drive from their homes in Greater Newburyport to meet her.

William Howard said he and his wife got very friendly with the nurses at Tufts Medical, who were forced to spend the night due to the storm. Because all elective surgeries and many appointments scheduled for Friday had been canceled, he said the hospital was pretty quiet, with few patients spending the night. The couple praised the hospital staff for their care throughout the entire pregnancy.

“It’s been a close-knit few of us here,” William Howard said Saturday night from their hospital room. “The hospital has been a ghost town. It’s been nice, but it would have been nice to have people come in.”

Abigail is named after William Howard’s grandmother. She will share a birthday with her grandfather, Jim Howard, who with his wife, Judy, will live adjacent to their new granddaughter in Amesbury. Abigail’s other grandparents include Marie Ann Cote and Dennis Leavitt of Salisbury.

Over at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, Phoebe Elise Samatis opted to wait until the blizzard was good and over before making her arrival — a week after her due date.

What’s more, when mom Elise Samatis showed up at Anna Jaques Friday around noon for a regular checkup, she wasn’t expecting to be told they weren’t letting her go home. With Phoebe’s birth imminent, they admitted the first-time mother-to-be, while her husband, James, raced over from work to meet her.

“They were nervous about the storm and didn’t want her leaving,” James Samatis said. “We wouldn’t have wanted (Elise) to be caught out there in a blizzard going into labor.”

But Phoebe took her sweet time, waiting until yesterday morning at 9:21 to finally greet her tired, but thrilled parents. She weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces, and measured 19.25 inches.

While no visitors could get to them, Elise Samatis’ mother camped out with the couple for the duration to await her granddaughter. The Haverhill couple said the staff couldn’t have been better.

“We got to know everyone,” James Samatis said. “The same shift would return the next day and it started to feel a little like Groundhog Day repeating itself as we waited.”

The couple expect to go home tomorrow. Phoebe’s grandparents are William and Paula Desmarais of Haverhill, Paula Samatis of Wilmington and Charles Samatis of Wakefield.

In addition to being the first granddaughter on the Desmarais side, Phoebe will be able to stand her own against her cousins on the Samatis side. James Samatis’ oldest nephew was born on Thanksgiving Day, another nephew was born during a bad storm in January 2011 and a niece was almost born in the car on the way to the hospital and enjoyed a police escort to the delivery room last July.

Phoebe will now have the title of blizzard baby.

“We’re happy to be blessed,” Jamie Samatis said. “She’s everything we ever wanted.”