The recent news out of Buffalo, New York, has been grim. A horrendous snowstorm has already claimed dozens of lives, including a 22-year-old woman who was found dead in her car. However, amid all of the gloom is a ray of hope. One married couple in Buffalo has just become a family of three, thanks to some strangers on Facebook and some long-distance guidance from two birthing coaches, known as doulas.
Erica and Davon Thomas of Buffalo were expecting their first child to be born on Christmas Day. However, when Erica's contractions began late in the evening on December 23 and the snow started to pile up outside their home, the couple became nervous. The contractions only worsened on the morning of Christmas Eve, and Davon realized that he would have to find help — fast. He contacted first responders a number of times, but the weather conditions prevented them from reaching the house.
"At that point, I was like, 'This is going to be me,'" Davon later recalled. "I'm going to have to put my big boy pants on and figure this out."
So Davon reached out in the best way he knew how: through Facebook. And he received a number of responses, including from Raymonda Reynolds, a doula with five years' experience. Davon began speaking with Reynolds through a Facebook video chat, and she advised him to collect some towels, sanitized scissors, and a bowl for the placenta.
"It was straight tunnel vision," Davon stated. "I realized how important this was, and all my nerves went away."
Reynolds suggested that Erica take a hot shower for the pain and then walk around the house "to get the gravity going." Reynolds also decided to contact another doula friend of hers, Iva Michelle Blackburn, who is also a nurse. Blackburn's medical expertise brought the group even more comfort.
"I just immediately went into my role," Blackburn said. "Because this is all virtual, I said, 'Let me see what mom looks like,' because based on how she's sounding and what she's wearing, I can kind of tell where we are in the labor process. So just based on what she was doing and what she was wearing, I just knew, OK, this birth is definitely happening. So I told Dad, 'Everything is under control. The most important thing I need from you is to just be calm and to listen.'"
Reynolds and Blackburn then directed Davon to take a look at Erica's progress with a flashlight.
"The baby's crowning," Erica insisted. She then described a burning sensation and gave what Reynolds described as a "primal moan," while Davon was poised underneath her with the towels, ready for the delivery. Then, the room went quiet.
"She's here," Erica reported. Because the parents initially seemed to be in shock, the two doulas advised Davon to clean the baby's mouth and nose and to place her in her mother's arms. Once he did, little Devynn Brielle Thomas, named after her father, gave her first cry.
"We started screaming like it was a Buffalo Bills touchdown," Reynolds said. "It was the most beautiful thing I’ve been a part of."
Devynn Brielle was born at 3:31 p.m. on Christmas Eve, weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces and measuring 20 inches long. She seemed perfectly healthy, but she and mom still had to find a way to the hospital to be sure.
Luckily, another Facebook user came to the rescue. The following day, Angel Lugo and his friend did what first responders could not: retrieve the Thomases safely from their home and bring them to the hospital.
"[Lugo] wasn't able to get all the way to my house," Davon said. "So what he did was he parked his truck about three streets away from where I live at, and then his friend came to my house and helped me get my wife and the newborn to his vehicle. We literally had to walk through mountains of snow. It was like something out of a movie."
Mom and baby both appear to be fine. Later on Christmas Day, Erica posted a shout-out to her husband on Facebook: "Can i brag real quick my husband is the goat he really was on video chat with a nurse and doula and delivered our baby girl at home we are safe and alive thanks to him love u Davon Thomas."