Erica Bovino thought she had plenty of time before the baby came. But then her water broke and Bovino realized she was going to have to give birth on her own.
She drew herself inward and did not panic. Summoning all of the relaxation and breathing techniques she knew, she chanted and moaned and stayed calm through the pain of labor.
Somehow, she managed to do what many would find unthinkable: Bovino delivered her daughter with her own hands while her 3-year-old son lay sleeping in a room nearby and her husband was rushing home from his overnight shift as a police officer.
“There was no time to be scared,” said Bovino, 34, of Southington, Conn. “You get into a primal mode. If I had an ounce of fear, I wouldn’t have been able to have a healthy outcome.”
Little Stella was born in the couple’s bathroom early on May 6, five days before her due date.
The birth was not without complications. The umbilical cord was severed during delivery and there was a lot of blood loss, Bovino said. But Stella did not require any special treatment at the hospital where mom and baby were taken after the birth for monitoring.
“I’m blessed that everything turned out the way it did, that she was healthy and I was healthy because, who knows, any number of things could go wrong in childbirth,” Bovino said.
Still, Bovino said, she hopes her unique experience will inspire pregnant women “to trust themselves and trust their bodies. For thousands of years, women birthed naturally. Now women don’t trust themselves and they fear the unknown of it.”
Dr. Mary Rosser, an obstetrician who did not treat Bovino, credits the new mom for staying calm and focused in a situation that could have been deadly. Rosser said the potential complications include problems with the placenta or uterus (which could be deadly for the mother), a severed umbilical cord like Bovino had (which could have been fatal for the baby), or the baby crashing to the floor.
“This was a story where you know that miracles really do occur,” said Rosser, an attending physician at Montefiore Medical Center who practices in Larchmont, N.Y. “But doing this alone at home is very dangerous and could potentially be catastrophic.”
Bovino’s original plan was to deliver at the hospital with a midwife, just as she’d done with her son.
When she went into labor at about 1 a.m., she thought she had many hours to go before giving birth. With her son Jack, the labor spanned 30 hours. She figured that even if her labor the second time around was half that of the first, she still had plenty of time.
“I didn’t want my husband to come home early if I was going to labor for another 10 hours,” she said. “I figured I’d do it myself for a while until I felt like it was unbearable.”
She called her husband, Paul Sulzicki, shortly before 5 a.m., and told him not to rush the 30-minute trip home. But about at about 5:20 a.m., her water broke and she felt the baby coming urgently.
She knew there wasn’t enough time to make the 40-minute trip to the hospital.
“In that moment, I was like, this baby is coming and I’m going to have to deliver her myself,” Bovino said.
She got on all fours on her bed and rocked back and forth. Then, following her instincts she went into the bathroom and squatted. “I remember saying, ‘Come on, Baby. Come on, Baby,’” Bovino recalled. “I was kind of trying to breathe her out and do deep moaning to get her out and not be fearful of the pain. I went inside myself.”
The exact moment of delivery is a hazy memory now. But after several minutes “I reached down and grabbed her,” Bovino said
She lifted her daughter up just as her husband was nearing home. Then she saw Stella open her eyes, and “it was a confirmation that she was alive.”
Sulzicki feared the worst when he opened the door and heard a baby crying. He ran to his wife’s side and realized everything was fine.
“It was amazing to come home and see Erica holding a baby in her arms,” he said, adding that he was concerned for both of them because of all of the blood on the floor. His wife, he said, looked shell-shocked.
Sulzicki brought his wife and daughter into the bedroom, warmed them up, and then called 911 and their midwife. Once Stella began to nurse and make noise, he thought, “We’re going to be OK.”
Though Sulzicki wasn’t expecting to have his daughter born at home, he wasn’t surprised that his wife could handle such an intense experience.
“That’s who she is,” said Sulzicki, 34. “She’s very strong.”