Days after surviving a fatal collision with a speeding car, a second-time mom, Tessie Heeter of Fort Collins, Colorado, went into labor.
Her baby was born in the back of her brother’s car on the way to the hospital, yet something wasn’t right: the baby was still inside her sac.
In a personal account that she shared with The Epoch Times, Tessie said her mothering instinct kicked in as she held the newborn in her hands, and she got the tiny life breathing by herself.
A female police officer, whom her brother called from the side of the street to assist, praised her: “You were made for this moment. [The baby] is destined for something great,” she recalled.
At 33 weeks pregnant with her second child in August 2018, Tessie was driving her husband, Jon, to the train station when a 15-year-old with a driver’s permit sped up, ran a red light, and slammed into her car at 65 mph.
“The whiplash I experienced at the time of impact knocked me out,” Tessie said. “I woke up to my husband pushing hair out of my face, and our car horn blaring.”
Tessie had a severe concussion and temporary amnesia. Jon sustained three fractures to the pelvis, three broken ribs, and bruised lungs. Their 17-month-old son, Hart, who had sat almost at the point of impact in his car seat, was not hurt.
Good Samaritans rallied round to comfort the confused, frantic parents and usher them into ambulances. The terrified mother wondered whether these selfless strangers were “angels.”
“Someone slipped my wallet and phone to the paramedics,” Tessi said. “Someone held my hand as they strapped me in a neck brace and lifted me into one of many ambulances.
“We never found out who any of those strangers were, but they’ll forever be a part of my story, and I’ll never stop being grateful for unselfish humans.”
In the ambulance, the paramedics asked her her name and the state she was from, but she couldn’t recall a thing. Tessie recalled experiencing a “strange internal panic” when she realized she didn’t know her name.
“[It’s] the one thing you have been responding to since before you understood words—how could that escape you?” she said. “When they asked me if I was pregnant, I said, ‘No, I wish,’ even as they used a Doppler to try and locate my baby’s heartbeat.”
The staff couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat while in ambulance, but after Tessie arrived at the hospital, nurses were able to detect the unborn baby’s heartbeat. And Tessie learned that she had gone into preterm labor.
“I was given medication to slow my contractions to around ten minutes, and they sent me home,” she said.
The couple later learned that two little girls in the oncoming car had also been injured. The teenage driver lived with aunts and cousins, and his mom worked multiple part-time jobs.
“Throughout the course of the whole ordeal, I felt compassion for this boy,” she said. “It was likely that he was responsible for driving the girls to school because no one else could, even being 15 and driving an uninsured vehicle.”
After she was discharged, Tessie visited Jon in hospital; but three days after the accident, her contractions became unbearable.
Tessie called her brother, Logan, who lived about 20 minutes away. Diving into the back seat of his car as he pulled up, she begged him to hurry to the hospital.
But her baby couldn’t wait.
Feeling the urge to push, Tessie removed her shorts and the baby slipped into her hands. Yet the “something warm” she pulled to her chest wasn’t a baby: it was the amniotic sac.
Something instinctual clicked for Tessie.
“I pulled the film until it broke, and saw big blue eyes staring up as street lights flashed above us,” she recalled. “I knew there should be crying, movement, signs of life, but this little thing just kept blinking at me.”
She realized the baby couldn’t breathe.
“I put my mouth over this impossibly small mouth and nose, and sucked the fluid out of the baby’s lungs,” she said. “I didn’t have a blanket, so I slipped this small body under my tank top, and the sweet thing latched.”
It was then she could see that her baby was a girl.
Pulling off the highway, Tessie’s brother hailed a police officer who leapt into the back seat. Seeing that Tessie was shaking from the adrenaline, the officer comforted her with affirmations, and told her that “the baby was safe.”
Unlike in her first disorienting ambulance ride, Tessie rejoiced on the way to the hospital. Tessie believes that after all the trauma her family had gone through in those few days, their newborn baby daughter was the redemption, the light at the end of the dark tunnel.
Born seven weeks early, baby Nell spent 36 days in the NICU with IV fluids and a feeding tube but came out fighting strong. Her father, while still learning to walk again, was besotted with his baby girl. Back home, so was Nell’s big brother, Hart.
Almost three years on, the Heeters are now a happy family of five. Tessie jokes that, during her third pregnancy, she made it to the hospital with her baby, a boy named Whit.
Sharing her growing kids’ progress on Instagram, Tessie describes Hart as “so tender and perceptive” at 4. Sassy Nell thinks she’s a “grown woman at 2,” and Whit, aged 1, is the “snuggliest boy” his mother could ever have dreamed of.
“I just feel so thankful that this wild ride had such a movie plot ending,” she said. “I will never stop being grateful that we were given another shot to live a simple life.”