ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — Monique Jackson of New Orleans certainly has a story to tell her newborn son, Brooks Richard Jackson, about his birth.
“She’ll be able to tell him about it his entire life,” said Dr. Barry Bieber, who delivered Brooks at CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital on Sept. 2. “That she had to go somewhere else to have him. We were certainly glad to help her out.”
Jackson and her family, husband Kelly and daughter Olivia, 2, evacuated New Orleans late Saturday night on Aug. 28, the day before Hurricane Ida hit Southeast Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane.
“I had a planned induction in New Orleans for Aug. 30,” said Jackson from her sister Cortney Alston’s home in Alexandria. “And the storm was supposed to hit that day.”
Because of the planned induction, she called her doctor to see what she should do. Should she stay in town since the storm was supposed to hit the day of her induction or should she risk evacuating?
“This is my second pregnancy,” said Jackson. “And my first pregnancy, my daughter came early at 27 weeks. She was 2 pounds when she was delivered so she was premature.”
Because of that, they also expected Brooks to come early. But Jackson made it to 39 weeks and was preparing for an induction.
Her doctor told her she could stay in New Orleans or evacuate and take the chance of having the baby in another city.
“Had I stayed in New Orleans, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to even get to the hospital because of the flooding around the hospital,” she said. “So there was a gamble of whether to stay and potentially risk having him in a home with no electricity and not being able to get to the hospital.”
She asked the hospital if they would see her early and they told her no because they were canceling appointments in the obstetrics department due to the coming storm and they didn’t know when they would be able to get her back in.
“So I had decided to stay in New Orleans and we were going to bunker down and just kind of take it and see what happens,” Jackson said. “And hope that it cleared and I was able to get in by Tuesday or Wednesday for the induction.”
But at the last minute, on the Saturday night before Hurricane Ida hit, she and her husband decided it would be in their best interest to evacuate to Alexandria, where Jackson is originally from, and pray that the storm didn’t come this way.
“We left at about 10:30 at night and got here about 2:30 in the morning,” she said. “And then the storm came and luckily Alexandria was in the clear.”
After the storm, Jackson started calling around town looking for a doctor. Since she was so far along, some doctors didn’t want to take her on as a patient.
Then, she found Dr. Bieber who came recommended by colleagues of her doctor and who had also delivered babies for three of her sisters.
“I reached out to his office, and prayerfully he saw me. And they planned my induction for that day — Sept. 2,” said Jackson. “So I went into Cabrini, got induced and my baby was delivered. And he’s healthy and we’re still in Alexandria.”
“It was a really special experience for us because anytime we are able to help someone out, I think myself and the nurses who were able to take care of her, probably got almost as much joy out of her birth as she did because it was such a nice time and we just felt so honored to be able to help her out,” said Dr. Bieber.
When he and his staff found out about her situation, they told her they would be happy to take care of her.
“We helped out a lot of people in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina came through. So this was something that we knew we were probably going to have the opportunity to help,” he said. “And while we’re not first responders on the scene in New Orleans helping out down there, we were able to do our part here locally.”
Originally the Jacksons planned on going to Houston.
“I knew the hospitals there were great and reputable and it was more likely that it would hit Alexandria than Houston,” said Jackson referring to Hurricane Ida.
But because of the evacuation, commute times were measuring about 11 1/2-12 hours.
“I have a 2-year-old and a Doberman, and it’s me and my husband,” she said. “And I was 39 weeks pregnant so sitting in a car for 12 hours was just not ideal. So we took the shorter route to Alexandria and just hoped and prayed and it missed Alexandria. So we got lucky here.”
Having Brooks in Alexandria where she has family proved to be a pleasant experience for everyone.
Brooks was born weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 21 inches long. He was healthy and got to go home, though it was to his aunt’s home where the Jacksons stayed in two rooms belonging to her nephews.
Alston rounded up some friends on Facebook and they donated items such as diapers, a bassinet, a baby bathtub and other essential items.
“I think having her here and my family and friends around us to help make it feel like home has been tremendously helpful,” said Jackson.
“Especially for my 2-year-old who’s had family and cousins to distract her so she didn’t feel totally like her world was rocked by bringing home a new baby in addition to being displaced from her home.”
Olivia is taking it to being a big sister like a champ.
“She’s excited to have a new baby brother and we are, too,” said Jackson. “We are happy that he’s here.”
Having her family close by while she gave birth turned out to be a silver lining for the Jacksons because their family wouldn’t have been able to travel to New Orleans because of COVID.
“It would have been just a little bit more difficult for them to meet him and welcome him into this world,” she said.
On Sept. 10, the Jacksons returned to New Orleans with their newest addition.
“He was born at 39 weeks so we made it full term for him,” said Jackson. “Thank God, because my first baby spent 73 days in the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) and that would have been a long stay for us in Alexandria had he had to stay in NICU.”
Their house has electricity and is in good condition despite having some minor damage but there is no flooding.
Dr. Bieber said he hoped that Jackson’s experience here would have been similar to the one she would have had in New Orleans.
“He was a beautiful boy,” he said. “The parents were just as nice as they could be. They just seemed to take it all in stride. They really seemed to adjust well. He was just a healthy boy. He was no worse for the wear, I think.”
The one great thing about Central Louisiana is the location, said Bieber.
“When people on the coast have difficulties with storms and so forth, we’re able to help them,” he said. “We did it a lot in 2005. We did some last year. It’s kind of our mission to be able to help.”