Restaurant owner Stela Borbas was on her way to work in downtown Miami after yoga class when she came across a startling sight.
As she watched other drivers speed by the scene at about 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 7, Borbas decided to stop. Her yoga instructor’s words were fresh in her mind.
“He told me that my intention was to do good for someone that day,” Borbas, 29, said. “I figured, ‘Okay, this is my opportunity.’ It was clear these people needed some help.”
There was nowhere to park next to the curb, so she pulled up behind the family’s car. That was when she discovered what was happening.
The woman was in active labor. Her water had broken and she was apparently bleeding because her baby was about to make her entrance into the world, Borbas said.
The couple didn’t understand English, but they spoke Spanish. So did Borbas.
“But I was so panicked when I saw that she was pregnant and about to have a baby, that I suddenly couldn’t remember a single word,” she said. “All I could think of was to call 911.”
The couple was with a neighbor, who spoke limited English and was driving them to a morning appointment with immigration authorities, Borbas said. They were Haitian immigrants who had recently been in Chile and then come to Miami.
The neighbor had panicked and stopped the car at about 8 a.m. in the middle of the road when the woman started bleeding and it was obvious that she was in labor and severe pain, Borbas said.
Borbas called 911, and as she began to speak into her phone, she realized that the couple’s 4-year-old daughter was screaming.
“I asked the neighbor to take her away from the scene a little bit so I could calm down the situation and hear the 911 operator,” Borbas said.
She assumed that she would wait with the family until an ambulance arrived and the mom could be rushed to a hospital to safely give birth.
“The 911 operator told me to take a deep breath,” Borbas said. “She told me, ‘I need you to deliver this baby.’ ”
Borbas is a mother of two children, ages 6 and 4, and had given birth naturally both times, she said.
“So I knew what that was like,” she said. “But deliver a baby? On a street curb? I told the woman helping me on the phone, ‘Wait! I didn’t even sanitize my hands.’ ”
There wasn’t time, said the operator, who informed her that the ambulance was still five or 10 minutes away.
“The woman was now lying on the side of the road with her head in her husband’s lap,” Borbas said. “She was in pain, but not screaming. I was the only one who was panicking.”
The 911 operator asked her if she had something in her car that the woman could lie on to give birth, and Borbas suddenly remembered that she had a yoga mat. It was a limited edition Lululemon mat.
“It has little sayings on it, like ‘Live in the moment.’ ‘Be Grateful.’ ‘Be Kind,’ ” she said. “So I guess it was entirely appropriate.”
Borbas fetched the mat and also found some freshly laundered rags in the back of her car from the all-day breakfast cafe she’d opened two and a half years ago, Chicken and the Egg.
“I wrapped some of the rags around my hands, and by that point, the baby’s head was already showing,” Borbas said.
“The operator told me to encourage the mom to keep pushing, but I could tell she was fading a bit,” she added. “She wasn’t very responsive, and I was afraid she was going to pass out.”
To keep her awake, Borbas said she slapped the woman’s legs and screamed, “Keep pushing, Mom! C’mon! You’ve got this!”
She didn’t notice whether anyone driving by was watching, and she didn’t care, she said.
“I was screaming like crazy and she kept pushing, and all of a sudden the baby landed perfectly in my hands,” Borbas said, noting that the official time of birth was 8:45 a.m.
When the baby girl didn’t cry, Borbas gently moved her up and down and was relieved when she let out a wail, she said.
“She was a miracle yoga mat baby,” said Borbas, who immediately started crying when she looked at the baby’s tiny, perfect face.
Seconds later, the ambulance arrived and paramedics cut the baby’s umbilical cord and whisked her and the mother away to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“The dad was all smiles and thanked me, and we decided to exchange phone numbers,” said Borbas, who then drove on to her cafe to scrub the blood off her hands and arms. “I wanted to follow up to see how they were doing.”
Two days later, she visited the mother and baby in the hospital before they were discharged.
“I was happy to see they were both doing well,” she said. “The baby is beautiful — her name is Darlie and she weighs 5.2 pounds.”
Borbas learned that the couple, Roche and Tatie, had been in Miami since Christmas Day last year. They agreed to be interviewed on the condition that their last names would not be used because of their immigration status.
The couple left Haiti for Chile with their daughter to look for a better life because it was difficult to find work during the pandemic, Borbas said. When coronavirus cases kept rising in Chile, they decided to make their way to the United States via bus and on foot over three months, she said.
The family was robbed on their journey multiple times, said Borbas, who has started a GoFundMe account for the family.
“They have relatives in Miami, but they’re now staying about an hour and a half from the city, renting a small room,” she said. “They were going to the immigration office that day because they want to stay here, where there are more opportunities.”
The couple is unemployed, she added.
In a brief interview with The Washington Post interpreted by Borbas, Tatie said she will forever be thankful that Borbas took the time to help that morning.
“Nobody else stopped or called 911,” she said. “They just kept driving. We believe that God sent Stela to help deliver our daughter. She not only delivered our baby, she is helping us to build a better life for both of our daughters.”
“There is no doubt that Stela is our friend for life,” Tatie added.
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