CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - What started as a short trip across town for a Carrboro woman has captured the attention of millions.
Elizabeth Aguilar Lopez, 27, and her baby girl Emily returned home Friday. Emily, who weighs 5 pounds and 9 ounces, was born at a UNC bus stop at 12:13 p.m. Wednesday.
She was named for the “angel” who stopped to help, Aguilar said.
Emily Brewer, a 36-year-old UNC doctoral student from Carrboro, and her 2-year-old son, Dylan, were headed to the bus stop near Abernethy Hall when she spotted Aguilar in distress. Aguilar and her friend spoke very little English, and Brewer doesn’t speak Spanish, but she managed to understand what had happened, she said.
That’s when the baby fell out, landing inside Aguilar’s loose pants, she said.
“It was the most improbable place, with cars zooming by,” Brewer said.
She called 911, while Aguilar’s friend held up the baby. They helped Aguilar remove her pants and the baby, and the 911 operator talked Brewer through the rest of the delivery, she said.
She cleaned the baby, using Aguilar’s scarf, and then removed the friend’s shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord. Several medics with Orange County EMS and Chapel Hill police officers arrived a few minutes later. The medics took the baby and loaded Aguilar onto a stretcher, Brewer said.
The whole experience took less than 10 minutes, she said. Her own labor lasted 20 hours, but Aguilar just seemed to exhale, she said.
Aguilar said Thursday that she was worried when her water broke but her daughter arrived with very little pain.
She and her husband Antonio have been married 10 years and have a 6-year-old son Serguio, she said. Many friends have come to see her, including Brewer, she said.
It was only by chance that Brewer, a student of 19th-century British literature, was on campus Wednesday. She turned her dissertation in Monday and was headed to the library to work, but Dylan’s babysitter missed her appointment and she took him with her. Along the way, they stopped by the Bell Tower to see the clock and listen to the noon chimes, she said.
Brewer said she thinks it was meant to happen that way, and she did what any mother would do in a similar situation.
She visited Aguilar and the baby Wednesday night at the UNC Women’s Hospital and felt better to see they were resting peacefully, she said.
“I was happy for Elizabeth that she finally got a sanitized, private room,” she said.
Brewer asked the baby’s name, but instead of answering, Aguilar asked Brewer’s name and wrote it down, she said. Brewer said she suggested Amelia, which is the Spanish equivalent, but Aguilar insisted on Emily, she said.
“How do you put that into words? I was so honored,” she said.
Aguilar then asked her to hold the baby, and while she felt bad removing Emily from her warm crib blankets, “I felt radiating love from my heart for this little baby,” Brewer said.
Aguilar took her phone number, and Brewer said she plans to stay in touch.
“Once I get her address, I’m going to send that baby birthday gifts every year,” she said.
The story of Emily’s birth, first reported by The News & Observer on Wednesday night, has gone viral, and Brewer said she has been inundated with interview requests from local and international news agencies including National Public Radio and The London Times.
Orange County EMS Capt. Dinah Jeffries said in her 29 years with the department, she has only delivered two or three babies over the phone, she said. Most of them make it to the hospital first, she said.
Brewer said she never expected to be thrown into a media storm when she stopped to help.
“I think the story struck a chord. After Hurricane Sandy and the election ... I think people need to have something to believe in right now,” she said.