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On the morning that Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, the small, southwestern beach town of Cabo Rojo was witness to something miraculous. Rosemary Gutierrez Cruz, 24, gave birth to her baby boy, Rayner, the first child to be born in the town in four decades.
The story of Rayner’s precipitous birth was reported by the local newspaper La Isla Oeste. Reporter Daileen Joan Rodríguez described the treacherous situation the family found themselves in during the peak of the storm, as Gutierrez Cruz went into labor, and how police officers came to their aid.
According to La Isla Oeste, Gutierrez Cruz and her husband, Julio Cintrón, were traveling through the punishing winds in their white Chevy Malibu, trying to reach the hospital. Conditions were quickly deteriorating, and Cintrón had to stop often to clear the path of fallen trees and debris using his bare hands and a machete. His mother-in-law, Rosalina Cruz Feliciano, was also in the vehicle, trying to soothe her daughter amid her labor pains. The family had to reroute away from numerous impassable roads, and a shelter they located was no longer open. Sensing the situation becoming desperate, Cruz Feliciano remembered that there was a police station nearby.
The family sought help at the station, a vice unit specializing in narcotics, much to the shock of the officers stationed there.
“She [Ms. Cruz Feliciano] arrives to the drugs division and says, ‘My girl is in labor. It seems the situation with the hurricane has made her go sooner,’” officer José Miguel Vázquez Cáceres told La Isla Oeste. The officer asked his colleague, Olga Pérez, to help and they got permission from a superior to escort the family to the local hospital.
The 45-minute drive was treacherous, with debris and fallen trees obstructing the path. And eventually, Gutierrez Cruz could not wait any longer. “The head is out!” yelled Cruz Feliciano, while Officer Valle Valentín ran to the backseat of the car to assist in the delivery.
Valle Valentin described the scene to La Isla Oeste. He told the pregnant mom, “I am going to count one…two…three…I put my hand on her belly and there the baby came out, right in my hand! I put my hand on his back and when I turned him over, he started to cry! I said to him, you are born now, welcome to this world.”
Paramedics arrived to transport Gutierrez Cruz and the baby to the closest hospital with a maternity ward, where her physician, Dr. José Alemar Ulloa, was able to evaluate her. On the day of the birth, he told La Isla Oeste, “Baby and mother are fine, stable,” and noted that they would be observed for several days.
Once the initial crisis had passed, the family expressed their joy and gratitude. Gutierrez Cruz told La Isla Oeste, “It was very difficult. All I can say is that the pain was very strong.” She added that her husband was “also a champion” and thanked the police “for everything, for helping us at every moment.”
Roberto Ramírez Kurtz, mayor of Cabo Rojo, which has a population of 50,000, told the newspaper that Rayner is the first baby born in Cabo Rojo in four decades, as the hospital there has no maternity facilities.
Today.com has attempted to reach out to the parties involved and to verify the health status of the mother and child in the aftermath of the hurricane, but were unable to reach them due to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico. Joan Rodríguez, the reporter who published the earliest story on the family in La Isla Oeste, confirms that contact with them has been lost as journalists, particularly those in the western and inland areas, struggle to both survive and report on events.
Power outages are still widespread throughout the island, communications are spotty or entirely unavailable, food and water supplies are dwindling, and many hospitals remain non-operational, posing great dangers.
As Cabo Rojo assesses damage, it celebrates the child’s birth as a small triumph, its own “granito de arena,” (little grain of sand) in the vast task of rebirth and renewal ahead for the island.