The devastating blizzard in Buffalo, New York, left residents trapped inside their homes, some without power, food, and water during what was supposed to be a joyous holiday season. And for two of those residents, a baby was on the way.
Davon Thomas was comforting his pregnant wife, Erica, as she went into labor during the height of winter storm Elliott on Christmas Eve. As heavy snow fell and wind gusts reached up to 60 mph, the authorities and ambulances had no way of reaching the couple.
Snowbound with little chance of getting to Oishei Children's Hospital five miles away, Davon reached out for help. His friend posted in a Buffalo Blizzard Facebook group, which eventually led him to two doulas — Raymonda Reynolds and Iva Michelle Blackburn — who talked him through the labor and delivery process over the phone.
Erica was able to safely deliver a healthy baby girl — Devynn Brielle Thomas.
“We were using Facebook Messenger to communicate with [Devynn’s] parents and coached them through the delivery, so I watched her being delivered on my cellphone,” doula Blackburn told NBC News. “I was in my living room with my mother and my kids while all this was happening. And when that baby started crying, we all started cheering. You would have thought the Bills made a touchdown.”
“We’re all OK, thanks to them,” Davon added to NBC News. “As a matter of fact, we’re all leaving the hospital in a couple of minutes. We’re going home.”
Blackburn said that she and her family were wrapping presents and watching football when she received a call Reynolds.
“I thought she was calling to check in, you know a girlfriend check-in because we were all trapped in our houses,” Blackburn said. “It turned out to be something totally unexpected.”
Davon, who is a sanitation worker, said he called 911 repeatedly but was told by the dispatchers they could not send anybody due to the storm. A few hours later, Erica’s contractions were three minutes apart. That’s when Facebook came into play, and Reynolds and Blackburn got to work.
After being instructed to collect towels, find a bowl, and boil some water, the doulas told Davon to help his wife take a hot shower to ease her labor pain and “to get the gravity going,” Blackburn said.
“Most importantly, Raye had calmed him down,” Blackburn said of Davon. “He was very nervous, but he was very open and he was listening carefully and following instructions.”
When Erica’s contractions started getting more intense and closer together, Blackburn and Reynolds directed Davon to get a flashlight so they could see how she was progressing.
Soon enough, Erica squatted down and when the baby came out, Davon was there to catch his newborn daughter in his arms.
“At first mom and dad looked like they were both in shock and the baby looked like she was in shock, too, because she was alert but not crying,” Blackburn said. “But as soon as they picked her up, she started crying and we all started cheering.”
Weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces, and measuring 20 inches long, Devynn Brielle Thomas made her debut at 3:31 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Day, Erica, Davon, and little Devynn were able to make it to a hospital thanks to a truck driver named (wait for it) Angel Lugo.
“Last I heard everybody was healthy,” Blackburn said.
She has been the sole doula being interviewed about this incredible story, leaving some to wonder where Reynolds has been since the amazing birth took place. Turns out, she’s on vacation.
“She’s flying to Florida to take a cruise,” Blackburn said. “She deserves it.”