Woman Gives Birth on California Freeway Shoulder

Woman Gives Birth on California Freeway
Sandra Vilchez and her newborn daughter Savannah
Nick Agro/The Orange County Register/AP

updated 09/22/2014 AT 02:45 PM EDT

originally published 09/22/2014 AT 01:55 PM EDT

Marine Corps veteran Bolivar Vilchez was terrified as he helped his wife deliver their daughter on the side of a Southern California freeway.

The Orange County Register reports that 29-year-old Sandra Vilchez of Riverside County was on the way to her mother's home early Saturday when she delivered baby Savannah.

She was due Sept. 26, but because Sandra Vilchez had to have all three previous children induced after carrying them to full term she had not been worried about an early birth.

But after leaving their home in a neighboring county for the drive, the contractions began and grew stronger quickly.

"I told my husband, 'I think she's coming now,' " she said. As the 18-year Marine Corps veteran rushed down the road, her water broke.

Meanwhile, their three kids, ages 6, 4, and 3, worriedly asked, "Is Savannah doing this to you?" Vilchez assured them, "We're fine, we're fine."

And it soon became clear the baby would not wait. As they drove onward, she said, "Her head popped out."

Bolivar Vilchez, 35, swung across the freeway to its shoulder and ran to the passenger side of their Chevy Tahoe to help his wife. In seconds he had a fire emergency dispatcher on the phone, and at the next contraction, his newborn daughter's head in his hands.

Savannah was born at 4:21 a.m., measuring 11 pounds, 6 ounces, and 22 inches.

Woman Gives Birth on California Freeway Shoulder| Birth, Real People Stories

Bolivar and Sandra Vilchez with their newborn daughter Savannah

Nick Agro / The Orange County Register / AP

He checked to make sure the umbilical cord wasn't wrapped around the baby's neck and then placed her gently on his wife's chest.

Firefighters arrived soon afterward and helped cut the cord.

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Shane Sherwood said roadside births are more common than thought. Another woman also gave birth on a different freeway shoulder last October.

Firefighters are trained annually on how to assist in a birth. Sherwood said he's helped deliver three children in his 20 years – one on the freeway and two in homes.

"It's a great feeling to be part of it," he said.


Woman Gives Birth on California Freeway Shoulder| Birth, Real People Stories

Polly McCourt and Ila Isabelle



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