A late summer "baby boom"
Jonah Jay Saunier was born on Sept. 21 at home in West Tisbury. He weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce. Courtesy of Kerry Saunier
Islanders often ring in the New Year quietly. No ball dropping, and it's not Times Square. A Times article from the first week of this year reported that the Island was cloaked in "cold rainy weather that kept folks in" throughout the holiday weekend. Police scanners were mostly quiet.
Perhaps that blustery beginning to the year contributed to the unusually high number of babies born here last week. Eight babies arrived at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital between Sept. 25 and Sept. 30, about double the average amount of births in a typical week, according to Carol Bardwell, chief nurse executive at the hospital. One home birth also occurred on Sept. 21 in West Tisbury.
According to a conception calculator provided by the College of Wisconsin's Healthlink website, babies born last week were most likely conceived between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7, although experts admit that pinning down a conception date is not an exact science, and Ms. Bardwell said most of the births were either "a little bit early or a little bit late."
Sophia Grace Arroyo was born on Sept. 28 at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital. She weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Courtesy of Heidi Larsen-Arroyo
Perhaps it was the amorous effect of a second glass of champagne, or the prospect of starting the New Year afresh, who knows? The reasons for creating - or expanding - a family are vast.
President George Bush proclaimed that week in January that two million new jobs had been created the previous year and the economy was in a healthy upswing, while The Boston Globe announced that residents of nearly one in 20 Boston-area households were millionaires. Perhaps Islanders were feeling positive about their economic situations?
Whatever the reason, this baby boom challenged the small but prepared hospital nursing staff, and brought a bit of noise to the Island community, which was otherwise enjoying some post-Labor Day tranquility.
Ellie Elizabeth Tomkins was born on Sept. 30 at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital. Ellie weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces. Courtesy of Amy Tomkins
The maternity ward
While eight births in one week is not a hospital record, Ms. Bardwell said it is a curiously high number for the small Island hospital. She recalled another time when all six "mother beds" in the maternity ward were occupied, and more were wheeled into the waiting room to hold the latest bunch of Island mothers.
At the peak of this late September baby boom, five of the beds were occupied. The hospital handles between 135 and 150 births each year, Ms. Bardwell said.
Ms. Bardwell explained that the maternity ward currently has three "semi-private" rooms with two beds each. "That is one of the reasons we are looking for a new hospital, so we can have some private rooms," she said, noting that currently about 90 percent of women who come into the ward to give birth have a semi-private room to themselves.
Maternity wards are commonly split into three levels of care, ranging from level 1 through 3. The Martha's Vineyard Hospital maternity ward offers level 1 care, which means they provide basic care for low-risk pregnancies. If a high-risk pregnancy comes into the ward, Ms. Bardwell said they are prepared to stabilize the mother, and then fly her off to a Boston-area hospital with more specialized services.
After giving birth, Island women typically stay between two and three days, and two nurses are on at all times to care for the new mothers and their babies. Deliveries performed by C-section often require a longer stay, Ms. Bardwell said, adding that most babies room with their mothers, but a nursery is also available for additional care.
While visiting hours pertain to outside guests, Ms. Bardwell said spouses, siblings, and grandparents normally have free reign to visit the newest members of their family.
The chapter of this end-of-summer baby boom narrative can officially be considered closed: a call to the maternity ward yesterday produced a nurse who said the ward was closed because there were no mothers or babies to care for.
Part of a special group
The eight mothers who gave birth to four boys and four girls last week were all Island residents, save for one woman from Tokyo, Japan, according to hospital records. The woman who gave birth at home had a boy.
Although statistics vary, it is widely reported that the average newborn weighs 7 1/2 pounds at birth. The Vineyard youngsters didn't stray too far from that norm, ranging in weight from 7 pounds, 1 ounce to 9 pounds, 8 ounces. The families of three of the babies live in Tisbury, two in West Tisbury, two in Oak Bluffs, and one in Edgartown.