Baby born in Florida during Hurricane Ian is a ‘bright light’ in a dark time

As It Happens6:27Baby born in Florida during Hurricane Ian is ‘a bright light’ in a dark time

Amanda and Matthew Mahr have had one heck of a week.

The Cape Coral, Fla., couple welcomed their baby boy, George Bentley, into the world on Wednesday morning, just as Hurricane Ian was making landfall in the state.

“I am doing the best that can be expected,” Amanda told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.  “Between giving birth five days ago, and going through [one of the] the biggest hurricane[s] in Florida history, I’m holding it together the best that I can.”

Ian crashed ashore last Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 240 km/h. As of Monday, there were at least 85 deaths reported. Lee County, where the Mahrs live, was among the hardest hit. 

But the family was lucky. Their home is still standing. Both parents are doing just fine. And baby George is healthy and happy at 10 pounds and six ounces, with a full head of lush black hair — “more hair than I’ve ever seen on any baby, any newborn, ever,” Matthew said.

“There’s been just such despair,” the father told CBC Radio. “And out of all, something gorgeous and happy and amazing was also happening.”

Change in plans

But George was never supposed to be a hurricane baby. 

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Amanda was already four days past her due date. She was scheduled for a C-section on Friday at the Cape Coral Hospital. 

But on Tuesday evening, their doctor noticed low fluid levels on her latest ultrasound, and asked them to come in right away, just to be safe. So they gathered their things and headed to the hospital. 

By then, they knew Ian was coming, but they didn’t know exactly where it would make landfall or how bad it would be. 

A baby sleeping in a clear plastic hospital crib, swaddled in a white blanket. A Baby Yoda plushie is propped up beside him. Above him is a hear-shaped sign that reads: George Bentley Date: 9/28/22 Time: 8:49 a.m. Weight: 10 lbs 6 oz. Length: 21 3/4 inches
George Bentley was born in Cape Coral, Fla., as Hurricane Ian made landfall — then he peacefully slept through the storm. (Submitted by Amanda Mahr )

About a half-hour after they arrived at the hospital, it went into lockdown. At first, the staff told them they would ride out the hurricane, keep an eye on Amanda, and perform the C-section after it passed — maybe on Thursday.

Then it became clear that Ian was coming straight for them and Cape Coral would take a direct hit. The C-section couldn’t wait. They would have to do it right now. 

“My feelings were just … all over the place,” Amanda said. “I was nervous and anxious and excited and just scared.”

CBC reached out to the hospital for comment, but did not hear back before deadline. 

Everything happened so fast, says Matthew. But he remembers the moment his son came into the world on Wednesday morning with perfect clarity. 

“I was just looking at [Amanda], and then it was almost as if time itself stopped,” he said. “We hear this distinctive cry. And we just both looked at each other, and we both started just having instant tears and smiles. Like, this is what we’ve been working so hard for.”

Riding out the storm in a hospital hallway

But the parents didn’t have long to bask in the glow. A few hours after George was born, Ian was hitting its peak, and the hospital was getting battered by wind and rain.

Staff quickly moved the family — and all the other patients in the ward — out into the hall and away from the windows. 

That’s where they spent the next seven hours, riding out the storm.

“I was in a lot of pain. They were really good about keeping me up on my pain medicine and making sure that I was comfortable,” Amanda said. “We ate dinner in the hallway, and I breastfed in the hallway. And it was just kind of a once-in-a-lifetime crazy experience. Something that I definitely did not plan for.”

It was eerie, says Matthew, to be able to hear the hurricane, but not see it.

“It was an experience that is best described as something kind of like channelling Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho experience,” he said. “You could hear this incredible, like, just howling.”

Meanwhile, they had no idea if their house was damaged. And they fretted about their one-year-old cat, Mazikeen, who they left behind when they rushed to the hospital.

“It was just so tense and stressful,” Amanda said.

But George, born into chaos, kept his cool. 

“George didn’t make a peep,” Matthew said. “He just kept on sleeping right through it.”

‘Miracle in a horrible, dark, devastating time’

But in the end, they were all just fine. The hospital, unlike some others in the area, was relatively unscathed.

As soon as the coast was clear, Matthew headed back to their house to check on things. Two windows were busted out, but the home was still standing.

Most of the house, he said, looked like “a tornado just went through it,” but the nursery was just as he left it. That’s where he found Mazikeen, looking no worse for wear.

“You could hear her chirping, like meowing. I opened up the door, and she gives me an earful,” he said with a laugh.

A woman with glasses and a messy bun sits in a hospital chair with a blanket pulled up to her chest, smiling and cradling a baby.
Amanda Mahr says George is a bright light in a dark time. (Submitted by Amanda Mahr)

The Mahrs are now staying with Amanda’s mother as they get their own place repaired. 

Amanda says she feels incredibly blessed, and called her baby “a miracle in a horrible, dark, devastating time.”

Post-hurricane rescue and recovery operations are still in full swing in Florida. And Ian, now a nor’easter, continues to lash the U.S. mid-Atlantic and northeast coasts. Parts of Virginia have declared local states of emergency as they brace for flooding.

“He is a bright light. That’s why I’ve been wanting to share our story,” she said. “Because I want to show that there is some positivity that comes in every negative thing. You have to look for the light — and, thankfully, he is our light.”

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