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Two doulas, working remotely, help deliver a Christmas Eve blizzard baby

"We're all OK, thanks to them," says a relieved Buffalo dad who followed their instructions.
Image: First responders check on abandoned vehicles along a road on Dec. 26, 2022 in Buffalo, N.Y.
First responders check on abandoned vehicles Monday in Buffalo, N.Y.John Normile / Getty Images

Talk about working remotely.

Two doulas helped a nervous Buffalo mom and dad, who were trapped inside their home by an epic Christmas Eve blizzard, deliver their baby girl by talking them through the process via the phone.

And one day, doula Iva Michelle Blackburn said, she hopes to meet now 3-day-old Devynn Brielle Thomas in person.

“We were using Facebook Messenger to communicate with her parents and coached them through the delivery, so I watched her being delivered on my cellphone," 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.”

Devynn's dad, Davon Thomas, said he would be delighted to formally introduce his new daughter to the two ladies who talked him through the delivery.

Davon Thomas with his wife, Erica Thomas, and their newborn, Devynn Brielle Thomas.
Davon Thomas with his wife, Erica Thomas, and their newborn, Devynn Brielle Thomas.Courtesy Davon Thomas

"We're all OK, thanks to them," he told NBC News. "As a matter of fact, we're all leaving the hospital in a couple of minutes. We're going home."

Blackburn said they were wrapping presents and watching the Buffalo Bills take on the Chicago Bears when she received a call around 2 p.m. Saturday from her friend and fellow doula Raymonda Reynolds.

For Blackburn, it was the start of a chain of events that ended with little Devynn, weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces and measuring 20 inches long, making her debut at 3:31 p.m. Saturday.

“I thought she was calling to check in, you know a girlfriend check-in because we were all trapped in our houses,” Blackburn said of Reynolds. “It turned out to be something totally unexpected.”

Devynn’s due date was Sunday, Christmas Day, and she was supposed to be delivered at Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. But Mother Nature had other plans.

Erica and Davon Thomas were trapped in their house by snow when Erica suddenly went into labor, Blackburn said.

Davon Thomas, who is a sanitation worker, called 911 repeatedly but was told by the dispatchers they could not send anybody, she said. And by 11:30 a.m., Erica’s contractions were three minutes apart.

“At that point, I was like: ‘This is going to be me. I’m going to have to put my big boy pants on and figure this out,’" Davon Thomas told The Buffalo News, which broke the story. 

With the help of a friend, Davon Thomas got in touch with a Facebook group of fellow Buffalo residents weathering the storm who directed him to Reynolds.

Reynolds, in turn, contacted Blackburn for backup.

Blackburn, who is also a licensed practicing nurse, said she has helped deliver anywhere from 50 to 100 babies during her career.

Raymonda Reynolds, left, and Iva Blackburn.
Raymonda Reynolds, left, and Iva Blackburn.Raymonda Reynolds

“But those were hospital deliveries,” she said. “I had never done it over the phone.”

When Reynolds and Davon Thomas flickered onscreen, Blackburn said the soon-to-be-dad looked “nervous but calm.”

“I said to him, ‘Can you show me what Mom looks like?”Blackburn said. “When I saw her, I was like, 'This is going to be happening soon.'”

Reynolds had already instructed Davon Thomas to collect towels, find a bowl and boil some water. She had also instructed him to help his wife take a hot shower to ease her pain and help her move around “to get the gravity going,” Blackburn said.

“Most importantly, Raye had calmed him down,” Blackburn said. “He was very nervous, but he was very open and he was listening carefully and following instructions.”

Erica’s contractions were coming fast and furious, Blackburn said, and Thomas was dispatched to find a flashlight so the doulas could see how she was progressing.

“She let us know with a loud moan,” Blackburn said of Erica.

Moments later, Erica squatted down and when the baby came out, Davon Thomas was there to receive his daughter with towels 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.”

It wasn’t until the next day that Erica and Davon Thomas and their new daughter were able to get to the hospital, Blackburn said.

“Last I heard everybody was healthy,” she said.

Thomas, in an interview with his hometown newspaper, had nothing but praise for Blackburn, Reynolds and the aptly named truck driver who wound up driving them to the hospital, Angel Lugo. He also marveled at the technology that aided in the delivery of his daughter.

“Twenty years ago we had no video chat,” he told The Buffalo News. “And even though Facebook can be messy sometimes, it’s amazing what we can do when it’s time to help somebody.”

Reynolds could not be immediately reached for comment.

"She’s flying to Florida to take a cruise,” Blackburn said. “She deserves it.”