Young SEPTA passenger gives birth

SEPTA Police Officer Loyd Rodgers was one of two who spotted the young woman with her newborn at the Olney station. Mother and child were reportedly doing well.
SEPTA Police Officer Loyd Rodgers was one of two who spotted the young woman with her newborn at the Olney station. Mother and child were reportedly doing well. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 19, 2012

The young mother, a 21-year-old student at a university in South Philadelphia, left class Tuesday afternoon and boarded the Broad Street Subway, headed north. She said she thought she might be in labor and was going to see her doctor.

After taking a seat in a car with only a few other passengers, she said, she felt a twinge of discomfort, but nothing so insistent that it made her cry out. Somewhere along the way, as the train rumbled beneath the city, she gave birth.

At the Olney station, SEPTA Officers Loyd Rodgers and Michael Haywood had just started their rush-hour shift.

"I saw her coming up the escalator holding a baby," Rodgers said Wednesday. "They were both quiet. There was no sign of pain or discomfort." Nor, he said, did he see any more visceral traces of childbirth.

The woman, wearing clean gray sweat pants, was cradling her infant son in the hem of her red T-shirt, which read "Daddy" across the front, Rodgers said. He could see the baby's thick curly hair in the crook of the woman's arm and, as she got closer, the child's face.

"We noticed that the kid was a milky color," Rodgers said. "So we knew it was urgent."

"Ma'am," Rodgers asked her. "Are you OK?"

"I just had a baby," she answered matter-of-factly. "It just popped out."

Flummoxed by her calm, Rodgers didn't know what to say. "Ma'am," he told her. "You need to sit down."

As a crowd gathered around them and the young mother took out her cellphone to take pictures of her newborn, Rodgers said he and Haywood examined the infant, checking his pulse, and radioed for help.

The baby, Rodgers said, "must have inherited his mom's personality, because he never cried. Not once."

The woman held on to her son tightly, allowing the officers to wrap him in her gray hooded sweatshirt but not to take him from her arms.

Paramedics arrived and cut the umbilical cord, then helped the young woman onto a gurney. Rodgers watched them wheel her and the infant to a waiting ambulance. Near the exit, he said, she turned to him and waved goodbye.

In a telephone interview Wednesday from her room in Einstein Hospital, where she and her baby were reported in good condition, the young woman said she wanted no publicity and would answer only a few questions.

When she gave birth to her first son, who is now 2, she said, her labor was not particularly painful or prolonged. This time, she said, the baby arrived early, but she declined to provide any further details.

As of Wednesday afternoon, she said, she hadn't decided on a name.

If the baby was actually born en route, as far as anyone at SEPTA can recall, it would be the first time, agency spokeswoman Heather Redfern said. "We've had women go into labor on buses and trains, but we've been able to reach them in time to get them to the hospital."

Rodgers, 52, said that in his 12 years working for SEPTA, he had never before had to use his first-aid training in neonatal care. Although he didn't assist in the birth, he helped tend to the baby.

"You go over this, but never think you'll use it," he said. "When you need it, though, it just comes back to you."


Contact Melissa Dribben at 215-854-2590 or mdribben@phillynews.com.

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