Notes on Being Semi-Unprepared for the Latest Blizzard

Photo: Our nonfunctional fireplace.

It’s much colder than the 65 degrees it should be. Holding my swelling belly with both hands, I heave myself onto my back and eventually achieve a position where I can glance at the digital clock on my nightstand. Blank. I know it’s after 4:30 a.m., but it’s still dark.

After about half an hour of fading in and out of sleep, I manage to roll onto my right side and throw back the heavy comforter with my feet. Swinging my legs to gain inertia, I push myself and the 30 pounds of baby weight to a sitting position. I guess it’s 50 degrees, or colder.

In the office, I root around in my purse for my flashlight. Check the power mains. Nothing. I know our gas heater is powered by an electric switch, but I try turning it on anyway. Nothing. At least 12 inches of heavy snow sits molded atop the cars in the driveway. It’s 6:30 a.m. Normally I would just get up now, but it’s still dark, I’m cold, and I can’t think of much I can accomplish without electricity.

Getting back in bed is easier than getting out. Feeling the baby’s heartbeat in my abdomen, I’m glad the baby is being kept warm inside the womb. What would I do in this situation if he was out? Move him into bed with me so my body heat can warm him? What if I fall asleep and the thick covers end up over his head? Maybe I should rock with him in the glider, both of us covered with warm blankets. I might be a bit cold and frustrated with the situation, but he would be warm and well fed.

My husband and I had previously decided not to use the apartment fireplace this winter; I add ‘buy firewood’ and ‘test out fireplace’ to my mental before-baby-arrives to do list.

Waking up again, I check the clock. Blank. Can’t just stay bundled in bed all day. Duarte hates waking up in the cold; I throw an extra blanket over him and put a hoodie next to his pillow before grabbing my hand crank radio out of the closet.

NPR informs me 51,000 households in my area are without power, the snow will keep falling for another 12 hours, and emergency efforts are underway to clear the roads. The baby moves vigorously, stretching out and pushing his feet into my left hip while his back causes the right side of my stomach to pop out a few inches.

I could really go for a hot cup of tea, but our stove is electric. When my husband and I put together our emergency kit and go-bags, he vehemently insisted we should not buy camping stoves. His picture of ‘emergency’ involved us taking off with our backpacks, finding shelter in the woods and ‘learning to deal’ with the elements as if we were on some show on the National Geographic Adventure channel.

I disagreed with this approach, but he was so insistent that I gave up each of the half-dozen times I tried to buy a stove. I now resolve that as soon as the power and the internet comes back, I’m going to order one along with a good supply of gas canisters.

It’s ridiculous to have 12 boxes of extra pasta and all sorts of emergency food supplies if you can’t boil water to cook it. I resist the urge to wake him up and explain this. Being able to start a fire with flint and steel is great, but what would we do, start burning the furniture in order to make food? It’s not like we’re going to find any dry wood outside under a foot of snow.

For now, I’m kind of appreciative that our power went out. I’m realizing how unprepared we are to face more than a few days of it. We have a stock of self-heating MREs and calorie bars, but it would be silly to use those when all we’d need to cook our other food is a source of heat.

My belly button pulses with the baby’s in untero gymnastics. I tell myself that even if my labor starts right now, the roads would likely be clear before I’d need to leave for the hospital. It’s 10:30 a.m. and there is still no power. I need to put on some warmer socks.

11:30 a.m., I decide to wake up Duarte, tell him the situation and ask him to shovel before the snow freezes in late afternoon. He laments not being able to make his morning coffee: “Oh man, I could start a fire to boil water…if only we had something to burn.”

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