Couple welcome 1st child in unexpected home birth amid blizzard

Baby Devynn arrived on Christmas Eve.

December 28, 2022, 5:46 PM

As a massive blizzard came down on Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, dad-to-be Davon Thomas was trying to figure out what to do as his expecting wife, Erica, had started going into labor the night before. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown had issued a driving ban on Friday, and Thomas was having trouble getting emergency services to come to their house despite calling 911 multiple times.

"The first time that I called them, they told me they'd be there within an hour or two. I'm thinking, maybe they didn't realize how bad the storm was about to get," Davon Thomas told "Good Morning America." "I heard back from an EMT. He had told me multiple rescue vehicles had tried to get to me but they got stuck trying to get to my house because of all the snow."

One of Davon Thomas' friends then posted in a local Buffalo Facebook group and asked for help. Another friend saw the post and connected him to a doula named Raymonda Reynolds and soon, the two Buffalo residents started a video call through Facebook Messenger.

When Davon Thomas told Reynolds what was going on, she then asked to bring in another doula friend of hers for more assistance, Iva Michelle Blackburn.

PHOTO: Raymonda Reynolds and Iva Michelle Blackburn are both doulas in Buffalo, New York. They recently teamed up to guide a couple through an unexpected home birth via video call.
Raymonda Reynolds and Iva Michelle Blackburn are both doulas in Buffalo, New York. They recently teamed up to guide a couple through an unexpected home birth via video call.
Courtesy of Raymonda Reynolds

"A lot of people are still more comfortable if there's a doctor, somebody really medical on the scene, and since I knew that my friend was also a nurse, I said, 'Is it OK if I call another doula who was also a nurse?' And he said, 'yes,' so I called her into the video," Reynolds told "GMA."

Blackburn is an independent doula, a midwifery assistant and a birth center coordinator at Fika Midwifery at The Coit House, but she's also been a licensed practical nurse since 2015.

"I was literally sitting in the living room with my family watching the [Buffalo] Bills game," Blackburn said. "Raymonda is a friend of mine, a fellow doula, and she called me and I just figured she was calling me to check in, you know, in the middle of this whole storm. But she called me and she was like, 'Hey, I have a dad on the phone. They're snowed in. His wife is in labor and this is what's going on.'"

The doulas then went to work, making sure the Thomases stayed as calm as possible and guided them through what they knew would likely happen.

"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.'"

Blackburn and Reynolds said they instructed Davon Thomas to get towels, prepare some boiling water and fetch a bowl, as they then walked Erica Thomas through an unexpected home birth.

"I'm calming Mom down. I'm letting her know, 'You can do this. It's going to be OK. You know, we've been doing this since the beginning of time. Your body knows what to do. We just have to listen to your body,'" Reynolds told "GMA."

About an hour and a half after the video call first started, Erica Thomas delivered baby Devynn, the first child for her and her husband. Devynn, who is named after her dad, was born on Christmas Eve, one day before her due date, at approximately 3:31 p.m.

PHOTO: Baby Devynn was born at home on Christmas Eve.
Baby Devynn was born at home on Christmas Eve.
Courtesy of Davon Thomas

"The baby was born before the game went off. When I looked up, it was like 10 seconds left in the game," Blackburn said. "I missed the entire second half of the game."

But the kindness of strangers didn't stop there. Davon Thomas said that later, another man reached out and was able to help him and his family get to the hospital on Christmas morning.

"Somebody had seen [the Facebook post] and had contacted him, and then he had called me and he told me he would get to me," Davon Thomas said. "But he wasn't able to get all the way to my house. 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."

PHOTO: Erica and Davon Thomas with their newborn daughter Devynn.
Erica and Davon Thomas with their newborn daughter Devynn.
Courtesy of Davon Thomas

Baby Devynn and Erica thankfully did not experience any complications, and the family returned home Tuesday.

Both Reynolds and Blackburn said they were "really proud" of the couple.

"We both gave them the biggest props," Reynolds said. "We were so proud of them because they did such a great job."

"They did absolutely amazing, to be first-time parents to have an unplanned, out-of-hospital birth," Blackburn added.

Everyone agreed that it took a village for this birth to go off without a hitch.

"This is an example of why Buffalo is called the City of Good Neighbors," Davon Thomas added.

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