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Big surprise! Storm spurs baby boomlet Nine months beyond October, area's stork club keeps growing

The October Surprise snowstorm has begotten one more surprise: a baby boomlet.

Nine months after the storm left hundreds of thousands stuck in their homes without power, area hospitals are reporting a surge in births.

Anticipating the boom, Women and Children's Hospital ordered 20 extra bassinets, hired extra staff and added an overflow unit with seven additional beds, said Julie Polka, director of women's services.

"We are booming," said JoAnn Cavanaugh, director of public relations for the Catholic Health System.

To make sure that they are properly welcomed, all babies born now at Sisters and Mercy hospitals will be going home with a reminder of the storm -- a small tree.

"We ordered about 600 trees and will be giving out baby evergreens until we run out," Cavanaugh said. "The idea is to mark the nine-month anniversary of the October storm."

By the numbers: The June 2006 deliveries at Women and Children's were 220; this year, they jumped to 289, a 31 percent increase. Also, the number of new obstetrical patients at four Kaleida Health System facilities has gone up significantly, from 836 over the first six months last year to 1,066 over the same period this year.

"I'm sure some of those are from the storm," said Polka. "It's the only way to stay warm, I guess."

It turns out there's an increase in births every July, according to Dr. Judith Ortman-Nabi, an obstetrician-gynecologist at All Care for Women.

"That's because things have settled down after the busy summer, children have gone off to school, the weather is cooler," she said. "But this year, beyond that, there's an increase of anywhere from 6 to 10 percent.

"I've had a number of women say, 'How did I get pregnant?' And when I ask if they had electricity during the storm, they say they didn't even think of that."

Hailey Sanfilippo and Owen Elias Donovan are among the first representatives of the baby boomlet.

Angelo and Janet Sanfilippo said they were without heat or electricity for eight days following the storm, prompting their daughter, Samantha, 14, to stay at a friend's house.

So, the couple lighted candles and opened some wine at their North Buffalo home, they said.

"Well, we tried backgammon," said Angelo, who is 40 and a union roofer, "but that didn't work because she kept beating me."

Janet, 42, an employee with the Management Systems Department of the City of Buffalo, said they definitely weren't planning on another baby. In fact, her husband added, they sold their last two Fisher-Price toys at a garage sale last summer.

"But now we couldn't imagine being without her," she said, stroking Hailey, pink bow holding back her thick black hair at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst.

And, yes, they said, they'll tell Hailey about the October/June surprise.

"If we don't, her sister will," Angelo said.

Neither were Cheryl and Pete Donovan of Middleport expecting to be expecting.

While the storm kept her from her job as an English teacher at Williamsville North High School for seven days, her husband worked -- nearly -- around the clock.

"He was working from 7 a.m. to midnight," she said.

"It was a surprise all the way around," said Cheryl of the arrival of son, Owen. The couple also has a 2-year-old son named Dawson. "Even though he was a surprise, it was the best kind of surprise," she said.

On July 18, or sometime thereabouts, Debby Klein, a physical therapist, is expecting her first child, a girl.

But she gives no credit to the October storm.

"No," she said, when asked that nosy question. "The storm made me cranky. And we were so busy trying to keep our cooler cold and clearing the yard."

Though Debby and her husband, John, don't credit the storm with a pregnancy, perhaps it wouldn't be a stretch to think of it that way.

"When the lights came back on," she said. "I was in a great mood."


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