Baby born inside L’Enfant Plaza Metro station

L’Enfant Plaza Metro station manager Saa Alpha describes the scene at the Metro station Thursday morning when a woman unexpectedly gave birth to a baby boy inside the station. (Dana Hedgpeth/The Washington Post)

Giving birth in a dark and dirty Metro station wasn’t Shavonnte Taylor’s plan, but the L’Enfant Plaza stop seemed an oddly fitting place to give birth. L’Enfant is French for “the child.”

Taylor delivered a baby boy on the platform Thursday morning, introducing her fourth child to the world of broken escalators and sweltering subway cars.

“I was just happy that he was healthy,” Taylor, 23, a District resident, said in an interview at George Washington University Hospital on Thursday night. “It wasn’t the way I wanted to have him, but it went fine.”

Taylor’s due date was Aug. 17. She was taking Metro from her home in Southeast to an obstetrician’s appointment near the Foggy Bottom station when she noticed she was having contractions.

She stepped out of a Green Line train and tried to head to the platform with Orange and Blue Line trains, but she didn’t make it very far.


Shavonnte Taylor delivered Amir Mason on the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station platform Aug. 1, 2013, introducing her fourth child to the world of broken escalators and sweltering subway cars. (Handout/Courtesy of Shavonnte Taylor)

“Once I got off the train, they got worse and they were coming back to back,” Taylor said of her contractions. “It took me down to my knees.”

Taylor said she was wearing a black and white maxi dress and that was the “only thing separating me from the platform floor.”

At that point, a stranger came to her aid.

Autumn Manka, who moved to Dumfries with her husband on July 1, was switching trains at the station with a visiting friend when she heard screaming from another platform.

Manka, 34, is a licensed emergency medical technician, and that training covered labor and childbirth. She also has a 4-year-old son.

She asked if anyone else near Taylor had medical training, but no one else did, so she began helping. Manka moved Taylor from her side to her back and used a shirt from another Metro rider to make sure the baby never touched the station’s floor.

“It was amazing,” Manka said in a telephone interview on Thursday afternoon. “It was a baby coming into the world. Definitely the experience of a lifetime.”

The baby was born at 10:31 a.m., Manka said, and paramedics arrived within minutes. He was delivered near the Seventh Street and Maryland Avenue exit in a darkened area next to a broken escalator.

“Everything went as well as it could have, and . . . nothing really went wrong,” Manka said. “Other than the location.”

Saa Alpha of Upper Marlboro was one of the station managers at L’Enfant when Taylor gave birth. He said he was near the kiosk at the Seventh Street exit when he heard someone moaning loudly.

Alpha went down a broken escalator to the mezzanine level and saw a woman leaning over in pain and another rider with her.

“She said, ‘I’m having my baby,’ ” said Alpha, a father of five who has never seen a woman give birth.

Alpha said trains kept coming into the station and that about 10 people, including Manka, another station manager, two Metro Transit Police officers and a few customers, helped assist the woman.

“Everybody was like, ‘I can’t believe this happened,’ ” he said. “Everybody was concerned about the well-being of the mother and her baby.”

When the baby came out, he said, the boy was crying, and everyone who was helping was quiet for a moment. Manka said she placed the boy on his mother’s chest to keep him warm.

“It just popped out,” Alpha said. “It was just awesome.”

Taylor and her son were taken to the hospital a short time later. Her son, who was dubbed “Metro Baby” on Twitter, is named Amir Mason and weighed 8 pounds and 5 ounces.

News of the birth quickly spread across social media, with many Twitter users sharing tongue-in-cheek suggestions for potential baby names including L’Enfant and Pierre.

Taylor said she never considered naming her baby L’Enfant. His name is “just something I made up.” She also has two girls, ages 5 and 3, and a 1-year-old boy.

On Thursday night, Taylor said, “I’m fine. The baby’s fine. I’m just tired.”

Metro announced that the transit agency was giving Taylor a SmarTrip card worth $100 as a gift, tweeting a photo of the card along with a handwritten note of congratulations from general manager Richard Sarles. In addition, the agency sent Taylor a gift basket with a Metro system map, a mouse pad and other trinkets.

While the location is certainly unusual, this isn’t the first time something like this has occurred. A woman went into labor on a platform at Congress Heights in July 2012; another went into labor on a Red Line train in December. And women have also given birth to babies in locations as varied as airports, the Beltway and the Dulles Toll Road.

Shannon Cheeks, while waiting for a train at L’Enfant on Thursday afternoon, said she would be overwhelmed if she went into labor while riding Metro.

“I don’t know how close she was to be due, but if I know I’m close I would just stay home,” said Cheeks, 29, who is pregnant with her sixth child.

“I would try so hard not to push,” said Shamae Taylor, 27, while riding Metro with her two young children. “It’s such a high risk, everything can go wrong.”

Nicole Chavez, Lori Aratani, Nikki Kahn and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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