Roadside baby is a special delivery

Tanya Freitas with her newborn daughter, Sierra, who was born in an ambulance on the way to French Hospital last week.
Tanya Freitas with her newborn daughter, Sierra, who was born in an ambulance on the way to French Hospital last week. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

At 37 weeks, Tanya Freitas’ pregnancy was normal in every sense of the word. The last several months had not been unlike the first time she was pregnant, with her now 2-year-old son, Denver.

But, parenthood is full of surprises and the Freitas family found out just how unpredictable it can be when the newest addition to their family made an early arrival inside of an ambulance that was parked on a street in Grover Beach.

It all began the afternoon of Dec. 15, when 33-year-old Tanya was having lunch with her husband, Travis, in San Luis Obispo. “I started experiencing some mild cramping,” Tanya said. “I thought it was Braxton Hicks.”

False labor pains, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions, are common over the course of pregnancy. They are thought to be nature’s way of preparing the body for child birth.

Tanya went about her day thinking she was having more false labor pains. Over the course of the night, she was awakened by mild, sometimes slightly more moderate cramps that lasted only about 10 seconds.

“It was nothing consistent,” Tanya said. “They lasted 15 seconds at most. So, I thought, this is nothing. I could do this for weeks.”

After a less than restful night’s sleep, last Friday morning began as usual. Travis left for work, and Tanya and Denver started about their daily routine — all the while Tanya’s stomach was still mildly cramping.

“I didn’t want to be the boy who cried wolf,” Tanya said. “I really didn’t want my husband to take time off work and come home if it wasn’t anything.”

But, Tanya had started to think it may be something. She called Travis, who headed directly home. Over the course of the next two hours, Tanya continued to experience short, mild cramping.

At 2 p.m., Tanya and Travis laid down to relax. Six minutes later, Tanya said she felt another, stronger, but still not-so-bad contraction.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, this one was a little worse,” Tanya said.

Tanya was in labor with her first child for 16 hours. Even though she didn’t think she was having “true labor” pains, if they turned out to be real she believed she had plenty of time to get to the hospital — or maybe not. About 20 minutes later, Tanya said she felt her water break. Still feeling normal, or relatively so, she started going over her delivery-day checklist. But that task was cut short. At 2:50 p.m. the baby was on its way.

“I remember saying, ‘I’m going to pass out,’ ” Tanya said. “I heard my husband on the phone with the 911 operator screaming our address.”

Tanya said she laid down on the bathroom floor because she was no longer able to stand.

When the emergency workers arrived, they realized they had little time to spare. They picked Tanya up and placed her inside the ambulance. Just three miles away from the house, it soon became apparent to everyone — ready or not — this baby was coming.

The ambulance driver pulled over near the intersection of Fourth Street and Oak Park Boulevard in Grover Beach knowing Tanya could never make it to French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo in time. A few minutes later, Sierra Raine Freitas was born, right under a sign that appropriately read, “Welcome to Grover Beach.”

When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, a team of doctors and medical staff greeted the exhausted mom and newborn. The tiny tot weighed in at 5 pounds, 12 ounces and measured 18 1⁄2 inches long.

Both mother and daughter were given a clean bill of health and the Freitas family headed home with one heck of a story to tell.