Twins are born! The mountains are on fire! Our family is evacuated! Read on for part one of the epic saga…
June 23rd was a Thursday. That night Julia’s parents came over for dinner and they ended up taking Emmy and Kaylee with them so that the girls could have a sleepover while Mommy and Daddy got ready for the hospital since the c-section was scheduled for the next morning.
We didn’t sleep great that night (Julia was pretty anxious for the c-section), but by the next morning we found ourselves at the local hospital here in Los Alamos, the same hospital where our other daughters had been born. They had each had interesting birth stories (Emmy was born during my student symposium at work and Kaylee was born in between two finals I had one snowy December day), but the twins had other plans. I think they wanted to have a pretty good story of their own.
Once we were in the hospital, we went upstairs to get ready. There were several nurses, an anesthesiologist, and others who came to ask Julia lots of questions. She got dressed in her gown and hair net, and I got to wear an interesting suit, hair net, and mask as well.
When they took her back into the operating room they said they would be right back to get me, but it seemed like forever when I saw a nurse that had been looking for me and I came into the O.R. to hear Dr. Combs say that they were almost ready. At this point it was almost exactly 9:00 and they had already made the primary incision. I quickly scanned the room and saw a bunch of people, but then the anesthesiologist (who had been making pretty good small talk with Julia) noted that I needed to look up and get a picture. I can’t say I was really prepared to see all that at that moment – things felt like they were happening a mile a minute – but I obeyed and took a picture, since I figured I didn’t have to look at it then anyway. It was 9:02 and Leah was born!
Mayzie wasn’t far behind. Dr. Combs reached right back in and grabbed her, and I didn’t expect it to be that fast. They asked for time of birth, which was given at 9:02 and 30 seconds. We took a few pictures after that, and within ten minutes or so the twins and I were off to the OB floor while they stitched Julia up, and then her mom came to wait with her in the recovery room.
Everything about the twins went great after this! There were the usual newborn concerns, and Leah was a little bit “stunned” from being pulled out of her comfy home into a strange new world, but within a couple of hours we got to hold both of them and have them in our room.
My brother Ray came to bring me lunch and see the twins, and Emmy and Kaylee were a little concerned when the twins weren’t in our room when they first arrived with Grandpa Bruce and Christian, but soon they got to hold them themselves!
Emmy and Kaylee stayed Friday night with Grandpa and Grandma Layman again, and I stayed with Julia at the hospital. We tried a different configuration Saturday night – I was home with Emmy and Kaylee, but Julia was at the hospital alone, which was a lot of work for someone who just had surgery, even though the nurses were around to help. For Emmy, Kaylee and I that would be our last night at home for a while (Julia hadn’t been home since early Friday morning)…
Sunday was a good day, too. We went to church and Emmy and Kaylee proudly shared a picture of their new baby sisters. We ate a quick lunch and home and then changed to go over to the hospital so that we could see the twins again! The Laymans took the big girls home again for a little bit, and then it was time to rest and relax with our twins. We got a phone call from Bruce at 2:06 saying to look out the window at a smoke cloud, which we didn’t think too much of at first. Later that smoke cloud would grow, and we would learn that it was the start of the Las Conchas fire, which had started about an hour before Bruce called us.
As the afternoon went on, we were starting to worry more about the fire. The sky became filled with smoke, and we decided that I should go home and pack a few things into our car in case we were evacuated. I did that around 6:00, grabbing as much as I could that the babies would need (Julia said I basically packed all of their clothes that they would need for the next six months). I grabbed a few things for us and the big girls, too, and a few other things like our photo albums and important documents and put gas in the van on the way back, just in case something were to happen. Just as I usually do, I reset the tripometer, which would read 2396 miles before we would be able to really “come home”.
When I got back the hospital had moved to “divert” status, which means that they weren’t taking any non-emergency patients. A few doctors came by and said that they would discharge us from the hospital early in case we had to be evacuated, and we also learned that Los Alamos was on a voluntary evacuation. I still wasn’t too worried about being evacuated at that point, thinking that the Cerro Grande fire that had come to Los Alamos back in May 2000 had taken its time to become a threat to the town (I was evacuated in that fire along with the rest of my family).
Everything was still going great with the twins. They gave us the option to stay at the hospital Sunday night, and we figured that we might as well try to stay there and get some rest in case we had to evacuate.
By Monday morning the fire was much bigger, but we kept hearing that we wouldn’t have to evacuate. Los Alamos National Laboratory was closed, so we all planned on going to our house. After filling out a lot of paperwork, we came home at around 11:30 AM to a smoky house and ash falling around us. I went to Sonic to satisfy Julia’s last pregnancy cravings, and I had definitely never seen Sonic so empty at noontime on a Monday.
We finished our Sonic meals and were settling in and planning to bunker down at home with small air conditioners and HEPA filters. I had ordered slushes and kids meals for the girls, who had arrived with the Laymans around 12:30 PM. They ate and played downstairs with dress-ups while their Grandpa and Christian watched a movie with them. At 1:43 PM our phone rang, this time with a recorded message stating that Los Alamos was now under a mandatory evacuation starting with Western Area (where we live). We packed up the rest of our gear (most of it was still in our van) and left our house within an hour. It had barely been two hours since we got home from the hospital, and already it was time to go.
Leaving town everything was busy. They shut down Canyon Road at Diamond, so we all took Trinity over to the Laymans house where they packed up a few things. The twins slept in their car seats in the car, and we made plans to leave the hill in three cars: Emmy, Kaylee, and Christian rode with Bruce in Cathie’s car (Bruce wanted to watch it in case it had a leak, and the girls always love driving with their Papa), Cathie drove Bruce’s car, and I drove the van with Julia, Leah, and Mayzie. At that point we only knew we were headed to Albuquerque – we didn’t want to stay in Santa Fe because of the smoke, which was already very bad in Los Alamos at this point. Julia called around to hotels, and we ended up at a hotel in Albuquerque where Julia and I had stayed last December with an “evacuation” rate.
On Monday, June 27th, the twins were the youngest Las Conchas fire evacuees at just three days old. It was another three weeks and over two thousand miles before we got back home.