EXCLUSIVE: Meet The Woman Who Gave Birth While Stuck In Metro Manila Traffic
Fearless females come in abundance and fitness trainer Irene Rafil is no different especially after facing one of the toughest motherhood challenges: giving birth in a car while marooned in the sea of seemingly endless traffic.
Metro Manila traffic is notorious for being one of the worst in the world. Now, imagine dealing with morning rush hour traffic while delivering a baby at the same time. It was certainly an extraordinary experience for a mom like Irene. Thankfully, Irene is one tough cookie. In fact, she was spotted sporting a baby bump even when at work as a trainer at a sports gym in BGC.
One fateful day in September 2018, she experienced labor pains and asked her fiancé Ronald Alava to take her to the hospital. However, it turned out to be a false alarm. “We took a detour and went to the mall instead. We just walked around and ironically, even went looking at cars [in showrooms],” Irene shared.
The following morning, she felt the labor pains intensifying and decided to finally leave the house and head straight to the hospital with Ronald driving the car. In hindsight, having given birth to her first child Richard Alister (now three years old) might have clouded her judgment.
“I started to do timing [of the contraction] and the intervals were faster than I thought. It dawned on me that it’s true how they said that the second child comes faster than the first child,” she said. During her first childbirth, it took her 12 hours of labor so she expected that it was more or less going to be the same experience.
She first felt the pain at 4 a.m. and the pain went on between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. which ultimately led them to finally leave the house and set out for the hospital.
“My water broke before getting into the car. We live in Bayani Road [Taguig City] and that same day was also the construction of Lawton Road at McKinley Road. Coming in, the road was closed off to vehicular traffic so it was just a two-lane road and we’re on our way. The pain was really getting too much to bear. I think it was around Bayani Road when I gave birth, it was before we even got to Lawton,” Irene narrated.
She vividly recalled the details of that fateful day.
“Even when I was having labor pain, we took a shower and got ready. It was hard for me to even walk to the car. I have a high pain tolerance, I can handle it but I can feel [the baby] lowering. I was having massive contractions. I couldn’t push because I’ve got to keep her in [until we reach the hospital]. The feeling for me was like a bad LBM—that was my labor pain. I was at the backseat of the car trying to find a comfortable position to manage the pain. I only knew the labor’s done when the pain subsided. I was wearing this baggy jogging pants and it served like a basket to catch the baby. I felt the relief but then it was more of like 'Where is she?!' next. I wasn’t even sure which leg because the baby was quiet. I was a bit concerned because there was no crying,” she began.
“I was trying to feel where she was, she was on my left leg and pulled out. Then I just tucked her into my shirt so it’s skin-to-skin and body heat. She gave a little cry when it’s finally skin-to-skin then I told my fiancé to lower the aircon as it could be too cold for the baby,” she continued.
Irene had the presence of mind to remember how she was told to not cut the umbilical cord so the blood could continuously flow between the mother and the child. She admitted she was calm and practical that time but she seemed to think her fiancé was feeling the complete opposite.
“I think he was freaking out. I didn’t tell him until he heard the baby cry or gave that little whimper. He was like, ‘Oh my God, she’s out?!’ I really haven’t seen his face during that time but he handled it well. He cried while he was driving. I can hear his voice with emotions,” she laughed.
Irene was mesmerized by her baby when she came out. They named her Ananda Tala. Ananda is Sanskrit for “bliss” while Tala means “star.”
“She cried for like a minute or two then she just opened her pretty brown eyes and looked at me. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I was sleepy, happy, worried and then hoping she was okay. I wasn’t concerned about me, I was more concerned about the baby. ‘Is she breathing? Is she warm? Now let’s get to the hospital!’” she shared.
When the couple got to an intersection heading to Lawton, they decided to make a turnaround and take the alternative route taking C5 going to St. Luke’s Hospital. Even then, the traffic situation was worse and the traffic enforcers couldn’t help them. After two hours, they were finally able to reach the hospital.
“My pants were around my knees when we got to St. Luke’s. They singled out an elevator for me to take me to the delivery ward. They were surprised but very professional about the whole thing,” she explained.
Thankfully, baby Ananda passed the whole health score with the pediatrician.
Even Irene’s physician, Dr. Maria Julieta Germar, was amazed at her patient’s birth experience.
“I was so worried for her and the baby but she assured me that she was well and the baby was fine. As she narrated what she did, I was quite amazed at Irene’s presence of mind, resilience, strength and courage,” Dr. Germar said.
“In the past, when my patients ask if they can give birth on the way to the hospital, I always assured them that no, those things happen only in movies or teleseryes. Well, Irene just changed that. Now I tell them about her story and what they should do in case that happens,” she continued, beaming and optimistic, still sounding quite incredulous but impressed at Irene’s maternal courage and resilience.
Having been in an incredible and extraordinary emergency situation, Irene shared some pieces of advice to soon-to-be moms who might encounter similar delivery challenges.
“Own the moment. Yes, you’re in pain. Don’t deny it. Go through it. Accept it. This is a normal thing. If you’re not feeling it, there’s something wrong. Through pain, you know you’re alive,” she started.
“Make sure the whole focus is on the safety and delivery of the child. Read up if you can prior to giving birth. Knowledge is the key. If you know something is not according to plan, then you should be ready for what to do. For me, my delivery was as planned in a way that the baby came out head first so it wasn’t a breech baby,” she added.
Irene continued that it’s important to be present in the moment.
“Take note of everything that happened, and you relay that information to the doctor. They will ask you details and you are the only who’s going to help them out in helping your baby,” she said firmly.
As she looked back at the turn of events one year later, Irene couldn’t help but feel grateful despite having gone through the emergency situation.
“In a way, it’s kind of good that there was no epidural because at least you know what’s going on. It was a sudden reality that there’s a baby,” she beamed, seemingly grateful that though giving birth in a car wasn’t pain-free, it gave her the opportunity to experience the whole process of giving birth and savor the extraordinary moment of motherhood.
Photos courtesy of Irene Rafil