Colleen Santarsiero of Dingley Dell Road was pregnant with she and her husband Dave's first child four days after her due date. Colleen was uncomfortable at the hospital, so the couple went home hoping the baby could wait until after Halloween. One thing that definitely would not wait was the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.
It was Monday, Oct. 29, and the Santarsieros fell asleep while watching a movie as the rain and powerful winds of the hurricane blew into town.
"We woke up to a transformer blowing up around 7 or 8 o'clock," Colleen recalled. "My husband went outside to see what kind of damage was done."
She said several trees had been knocked over.
"He spoke to my neighbor and four more fell and Dave said, 'We're going back into our houses and I'll get my wife,'" Colleen recalled. "My husband told me to get dressed. 'We're going to call an ambulance.'"
Colleen started having back contractions.
"I was in a good amount of pain," she said. "It had been a couple of hours and the pain had gotten worse. It made us nervous."
A police officer responded to the call just as an ambulance was coming back from Danbury. Colleen said the ambulance driver had stopped on Route 25 to put out a small fire, when the officer told him, "A woman's in labor."
Town firefighters and EMS volunteers also responded, but Colleen said the emergency vehicles could not get onto Dingley Dell because of the downed trees. They parked at All-Star Driving School and at 605 Main St. and walked over with their equipment.
"I was having my contractions two minutes apart, rather than five the day before," Colleen said. "They brought a stretcher up and got me on it."
The mother-to-be was carried down the road toward the ambulance with police officers carrying flashlights leading the way. They walked through yards to get around fallen trees, as the storm raged.
"It felt like the longest walk," Colleen said. "Even though it was only two houses away, it felt like it was forever because the contractions were so close it hurt. Every time I had one I was like, 'Can we please stop?'"
"They took us through a neighbor's property, up a hill," she said. "It got steep, about 30 feet from the ambulance I asked if I could get off the stretcher and walk."
Inside the ambulance, medics checked to make sure the baby wasn't crowning.
"She wasn’t, and we started to make our way to Bridgeport Hospital," Colleen said.
A Fairytale Ending
Alice Margaret Santarsiero was born at 6 a.m. on Oct. 30. She weighed seven pounds and 12 ounces.
"Everybody was asking us if we were going to name her Sandy, but we already had a name picked out during the pregnancy," Colleen said.
The Santarsiero's daughter's name is a combination of Colleen's sister Alison and Dave's sister Margeaux.
"Alice and Margaret, these are the names of the two sisters in the storybook 'Alice in Wonderland'," Colleen said. "That's my favorite story in the whole world — ever since I was a kid. It was always nice to think of a place where you could get away. For a longtime I thought Wonderland was real."
Colleen said the name Alice seems to suit her daughter well.
"She came out with blonde hair. She has my husband's hair, so it's very fitting," Colleen said. "She looks like an Alice. The blonde hair definitely helps."
Colleen said Alice sleeps well at night and now weighs 9.5 pounds.
'You Guys Did Great'
The Santarsieros had lost power for a week, but were able to stay at Dave's grandparents' house in Shelton with their new baby.
"They had power and extra room," Colleen said. "They loved having us there for the first week. We couldn't ask for anything better."
The new parents are grateful to the emergency responders who brought them to the hospital on the night of the hurricane.
"Keep it up. You guys did great," Colleen said. "They really, really did. Between the EMS, police and fire they work so well together. We were so thankful. They came and they found an easy way to get me out."
Colleen said the ambulance had to turn around four times on the way to the hospital when fallen trees and limbs blocked roads.
"We were glad we left early," she said. "My doctor couldn't even make it to the hospital. The doctor on call and the head nurse of Bridgeport Hospital did the delivery."
Leading up to their daughter's birth, Colleen said everything was going well. In fact, she worked at her job at The Waterview in Monroe right up until the Saturday before the storm.
"I'm definitely not going to forget my first pregnancy — definitely not," Colleen said. "The irony of it was I had such an easy pregnancy that we anticipated that's how it would end. Then I have all this back labor and the storm. 'Let's get into the car. Oh, this is so nice. Let's drive to the hospital.' No it wasn't like that."