Texas’ historic recent snowfall and freezing temperatures were already causing problems when Helen Woldemichael thought her Braxton-Hicks contractions might be actual labor. But she never expected to give birth to a 25-week preemie in her SUV.
The 33-year-old mom wasn’t due until May. She had never experienced preterm labor before — both of her other babies were born at term. But her contractions kept coming. “They were starting to get stronger, but I didn’t think it was the real deal,” she told News Nation Now. “I didn’t think they were actually labor contractions.”
But soon she realized she would have to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. “I kind of freaked out a little bit,” Helen’s husband, Abiey, said. “The roads were slippery. The snow actually turned to ice… black ice. So it was in a pretty bad condition.” As they made their way to the hospital, Abeiy was placed on hold after he called 911 in hopes an ambulance could meet them.
Soon, it was too late, and Helen gave birth to the couple’s 25-week-old daughter in the back seat of their SUV. “I remember pushing… but it happened so fast,” Helen told Today Parents. “She was so little; she was less than two pounds. I didn’t have to push for minutes and hours — as I did with the previous two.”
She recalled being in total shock as Abeiy coached her through her next steps. The preemie was so tiny, Helen could hold her in her hand. They cranked up the heat and kept the baby as warm as they could against the below-freezing temperatures before they reached Baylor University Medical Center, where more than 30 staff members from the NICU were waiting to greet them.
Baylor’s NICU director, Dr. Vijay Nama, said it was remarkable the tiny preemie did well in such unusual circumstances. “To be born in a car, when it’s freezing outside and no help, these babies often get really cold. They get sick. They have breathing problems. So it’s pretty amazing that a baby who had no medical care at birth is doing so well. So that is very unusual.”
Helen knew her daughter’s fight was only just beginning when they finally got her to specialists at Baylor. “I was worried we were going to lose her. She was so tiny. I didn’t think she was going to make it,” Helen said. “That was terrifying.”
But now not only is she surviving, but she is also thriving, her doctors say. At two weeks old, she weighs more than two pounds and is breathing on her own. She’s doing so well, her doctors expect she should be able to go home in May.
And the baby’s name? “Amari means miracle in Hebrew,” said Abeiy. “And that’s what she is.”
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