Paula Mitchell

Paula Mitchell

KINGSTON–Childbirth can really take a toll on a Mom and her family, but on the morning of June 1, Noelle Nicole Dammer decided to redefine the phrase.

The 8-pound, 5-ounce girl couldn’t wait until her laboring mother got to the HealthAlliance Broadway campus. She popped out at exit 19 in Kingston just past the toll booth off the New York State Thruway.

Heather Dammer (left) holds her newborn girl, Noelle Nicole, delivered at the Thruway’s exit 19 by midwife Whitney Hall (right).

“En route, I had gotten to the point where I had to start pushing, and I screamed to them, ‘I’m not going to make it,'” said Dammer. “We were just about on the ramp to Kingston, and I delivered her head in my mother-in-law’s car. I said, ‘The head is out.'”

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Saugerties Mom had been on the phone with her midwife, Whitney Hall, of Hudson Valley Midwifery, already on her way to the Kingston exit.

“She knew how quickly I was advancing, so she met us there,” Dammer said. “My mother-in-law flew through the toll booth and met my midwife. I let her know I delivered the head, and she opened the door, swung my feet out the door, and one push later, Noelle was born on the side of the road–at exit 19.”

Amidst all the excitement, toll booth operators and others have labeled the newborn girl the “Thruway Baby” and “Exit 19 Baby.”

Dammer said labor began on Wednesday at about 4:30 a.m., a day after the baby’s due date.

Heather Dammer and her son, Austin, and daughter, Noelle Nicole. Dammer’s husband, Nate, was at work when Noelle was born. Photo by Paula Mitchell.

“Everything was pretty regular–every five minutes or so–and I told my husband everything was fine. He went off to work, and after that, on a dime, it (contractions) just changed from every five minutes apart to every two or so. It just got really intense.”

Dammer’s 10-year-old son, Austin, was home from school that day and called his grandmother. She picked them up at 7:50 a.m. and headed south on the Thruway from Saugerties.

When Hall arrived in Kingston, she pulled over in front of the Kingston tourism kiosk, took over and delivered the baby.

“By the time she had the baby, all the transit workers from the Thruway, the police, the fire department and the ambulance were there cheering,” Hall said. “Heather did amazing. It was such a nice way to start the morning.”

Jonathan Dougherty, the spokesman for the New York State Thruway Authority, said while the agency doesn’t keep count of the number of babies born on the 570-mile super highway, Dammer’s case certainly is not the first.

The most recent was on April 24 when a Fulton County woman gave birth at the I-90 and I-87 interchange at exit 24 in Albany.

Still, employees at the Thruway Authority said they like to hear the good news and be part of the happy occasion.

“Our troopers, toll collectors, and maintenance crews work hard on a daily basis. Although delivering babies is not the norm, it doesn’t surprise me to see our employees rise to the occasion to help in a time of need,” said Tim Wainwright, acting Albany division director.

Austin, 10, holds his new baby sister, Noelle Nicole. Photo by Paula Mitchell.

While Hall was quick to credit Thruway workers and emergency personnel, she said Dammer’s son is one of the true heroes.

“He got his mom into the car. He grabbed all her bags. He made sure everything was ready to go by the time the mother-in-law got there. He really held it together.”

Austin even got to cut the umbilical cord, a procedure he’s bound to remember.

“I saw it on the baby still, and then the midwife said, ‘Do you want to cut the umbilical cord? At first, I was like, ‘No,’ but then I changed my mind. It was all bloody and weird.”

Dammer also praised her mother-in-law, Marilyn Dammer, whom she called a “rock.”

“She deserves a medal after what she went through–getting me from the house to the car, speeding down the Thruway and allowing me to deliver her grandbaby in her car.”

As for the whole experience, Dammer and her husband, Nate, said their heads are still spinning.

“This is the stuff you hear about, but you don’t think is going to happen to you,” she said. “It happened.”

“I really think God’s provision was great. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect in a non-ideal situation. The fact that we were able to pull off on the shoulder and I didn’t have an audience was great. The fact that my midwife met us moments before we got there was perfect timing. The fact that Austin hadn’t gone to school and we didn’t have to pick him up was great. Everything was ordained, and even though it was not predictable and not how I planned it, it couldn’t have gone better.”

Dammer giggled then reconsidered when it was suggested that the whole thing might be coined an “easy pass.”

“No. It was not easy. It was fast, but not easy and completely unpredictable.”

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