A woman in Fresno may not have expected to give birth in a southeast Fresno store, but that’s exactly what happened Tuesday night.
Issamar Sepulveda, who co-owns El Parian with husband Juan Damian, said it was about 7:30 p.m. when a regular customer walked through the doors of the grocery and meat market.
The woman appeared fine at first. The owners regularly let her grab free items because she can’t always pay, Sepulveda said. So Tuesday night, the woman went over to the soda machine and began to pour ice and a drink. But a few seconds later she walked over to the restaurant area and bent over a table. Then she threw the soda in one direction and screamed “Oh my God, I’m having my baby,” Sepulveda said.
Sepulveda was in her office, but the cashier heard the scream and alerted her. By the time Sepulveda came out, the woman was going into labor.
Sepulveda sprung into action, summoning the cook, butcher and cashier to help deliver the baby.
The butcher took off his apron and used it to catch the baby.
Sepulveda brought out blankets she keeps in her office for her twin girls and armed herself with scissors and got to work by cutting the umbilical cord, which she said felt “fat” and “hard to cut.”
“I think it’s because I was nervous,” she said.
Eventually, three ambulances and several firefighters arrived. It was a relief to have professionals there to help, Sepulveda said. She said the 25 chaotic minutes it took for the entire event to transpire “took so long, but also went by quickly.” A Facebook Live video shows paramedics loading the baby onto a gurney, and the moments were also captured in store surveillance video.
Sepulveda, who lives across the street from the store, directed the cashier to run over to her house and grab a nasal aspirator to use on the baby’s nose. Her husband was home with their girls, she said.
“Since you’re a mom, I guess it’s like an instinct,” she said about her quick actions.
The baby boy “looked good,” according to Sepulveda. He cried and was a bit chubby and heavy, she added. Later, she visited mother and child in the hospital and reported the boy’s name is Toby and he’s doing well.
Sepulveda suspected the woman may not have been ready to go into labor. She said she was frantically shouting and crying and asked the store employees to give the baby a bottle because it may have been hungry. But Sepulveda declined and let paramedics handle that.
Apart from the employees-turned-medics, the new mother was alone during her labor. Sepulveda said she has seen her with a man a few times but she recently had come to the store by herself. She fears that the woman and her baby may not have the support they need. She had planned a visit to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno on Wednesday with her friend to see if they could speak with the new mother, who had been taken there by ambulance while the baby was taken in a different ambulance. It was unclear which hospital took the baby in.
Sepulveda described the event as chaotic in a Facebook post where she asked followers to help make donations that could help the baby and the mother. Several people thanked the store employees for helping deliver the baby. Others commented that the baby should get free store items for life.
Several people had already expressed the desire to help the woman and her baby. One customer dropped off a shirt and pants the baby can use and another delivered baby wipes, Sepulveda said. An employee’s daughter who can not have children has even offered to adopt the baby, Sepulveda said, if it comes to that.
“It’s a blessing. I just want the best for the baby,” Sepulveda said. “Hopefully this touches hearts so she can get help.”
With the surprising delivery coming on the heels of Christmas Day, Sepulveda said a few customers who found out about the incident compared the baby being born in a store to that of baby Jesus being born among farm animals with nowhere to go.
“Remember Jesus’ story?” she remembered them saying. The customers, however, were not allowed into the store after the incident. Firefigthers brought out bleach and towels to clean the floors, but Sepulveda said her employees took over that job. Her butcher mopped at least three times.
“Nothing like this” has every happened at her store, Sepulveda said.