After the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul on Aug. 15 and sent tens of thousands scrambling for refuge, the world’s eyes have been locked on the war-torn country—and all that’s been seen for weeks is destructions, chaos, and the fight for life.
There are, however, still glimpses of hope to be found through all the smoke and turmoil.
Just weeks before Aug. 31, the date by which all U.S. forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan as ordered by President Biden, all government control has fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Thousands of Afghans, Afghan allies, and American citizens alike were given precious hours to prepare for evacuation, causing crowds of desperate people to gather at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. The harsh truth is that some will not make it out. Many, however, have—the White House says that over 100,000 people have been successfully evacuated.
One of these successful evacuees, an unnamed Afghan woman, didn’t just save herself when she boarded a U.S. evacuation plane. She also saved her unborn daughter—and then went into labor midair.
U.S. Army Capt. Erin Brymer, who helped deliver the baby, told CNN that the mother went into labor aboard a C-17 transport aircraft—call sign Reach 828—en route to the U.S.’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The team was “expecting the worst, hoping for the best” when they got the notice that an evacuation aircraft would be touching down with a mother actively in labor, said Brymer. “That baby was going to be delivered before we could possibly transfer her to another facility.”
And so, right after Reach 828 touched down, Brymer and her team jumped into action.
Upon reaching the aircraft, Brymer recalls seeing other female evacuees holding up their shawls, shielding the mother to protect her privacy. She said she did her best to calm the mother, holding eye contact and telling her that “everything is okay.”
The mother had experienced “complications due to low blood pressure” aboard the flight, according to Air Mobility Command in a statement on their Facebook page. The aircraft commander proceeded to descend in altitude, which increased the air pressure in the plane and “helped stabilize and save the mother’s life.”
It wasn’t until the baby “came out screaming” that Brymer reported being able to let out a sigh of relief. “We were able to put her directly on mom’s chest and get her breastfeeding right away. I was like ‘okay, we’re good here.’”
Even amid all the chaos surrounding the attacks and evacuations, life goes on. The baby girl was successfully delivered in Reach 828’s cargo hold shortly after it touched down in Germany on Aug. 21. Her name is a tribute to the aircraft that delivered her and her mother to safety: Reach.
“I actually feel quite honored and humbled to be a part of this mission,” said Brymer. “And just kind of—the sheer humanity of this. I mean we’re people, they’re people. We both want the same things, healthy and strong mamas and babies.”