Like so many immigrants who come to the United States, Vardges Hakopian and Siranoush Amirian expected to find freedom when they left the strife and hardship of Armenia and landed at Dulles International Airport on New Year's Day.

So when their daughter was born under dramatic circumstances just 2 1/2 hours after her young parents stepped off an Aeroflot jet, they named her "Freedom" -- or Angelika Azadouhi to be exact. That is Armenian for "Angel Freedom."

"This is considered like an angelic gift," Hakopian said through an interpreter yesterday at Reston Hospital Center as his 6-pound 9-ounce daughter slept in a soft white blanket. "I feel very happy that everything turned out okay. I did have some moments of fear in the airport."

He wasn't the only one.

The first baby of the New Year born at Reston Hospital arrived after paramedics in the ambulance racing to the emergency room could not detect her heartbeat, and feared she might be dead.

The placenta had separated from the mother's uterine wall, meaning that the unborn child was cut off from her blood supply, officials said.

Paramedics came into the hospital "assuming this was a catastrophe about to happen," said Susan Sigleo, the physician who delivered the child. "By the time {Amirian} arrived, she was lying in a pool of blood."

The Armenian couple do not speak English, but while hospital workers tried to communicate with them, Sigleo determined that the child was still alive and delivered the baby by Caesarean section. Hospital officials are calling the infant a "miracle baby."

Amirian, 20, who suffered from toxemia, a potentially fatal complication of childbirth, could not speak to reporters yesterday. Doctors said her condition is improving, and they expected her to be moved out of intensive care last night.

For Amirian, a preschool teacher, and her husband, a carpenter, the story began 18 months ago when they began trying to leave Armenia, a troubled republic in the southern part of the Soviet Union.

Hoping to find work and join relatives in Los Angeles, they waited two months to get airline tickets. Eventually, Hakopian said, they bought four tickets in a "roundabout way" for 4,000 rubles, or about $670, each for themselves and his mother and brother -- about four times the normal price.

Amirian felt uncomfortable on the 12-hour flight from Moscow to Dulles, where they were to change planes, but because the baby was not due until Jan. 15, she did not suspect she was in labor, her husband said.

After the couple arrived at Dulles at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, an immigration office worker noticed her discomfort and called for emergency medical help.

"Most of us might think, 'Why would you fly under those circumstances?' But their situation was so different," said Claudia Smith, a spokeswoman for the nearly two-year-old hospital, which delivered 1,130 babies in 1990. "This was their opportunity to get out, and they were waiting and they needed to take it."

The parents chose the first name and Smith said she suggested "Freedom" for the middle name.

By waiting to be born until after the plane landed at Dulles, Angelika has automatically won what her parents will seek once they settle on the West Coast: U.S. citizenship.

"Angelika Azadouhi Hakopian, president of the United States. How do you like that?" asked a smiling Vertanes Kalayjian, pastor at St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church in Northwest Washington. Kalayjian was summoned by the hospital to translate and help the family find temporary housing.

Hakopian laughed at the thought.