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April 27, 2018 11:29 AM

Thanks to YouTube and some quick-thinking, a new mother from Nashville, Tennesee, was able to deliver her own baby when she was alone in a hotel room as she traveled overseas.

Tia Freeman — who has been computer specialist in the U.S. Air Force for four years — says she didn’t know she was pregnant until she had already reached the third trimester of her pregnancy. Because she didn’t gain much weight and her birth control had changed her menstruating schedule, Freeman didn’t suspect a thing until January when she noticed her belly had become round.

“I came out of the shower one day, walking past the mirror, and I noticed my stomach was, like, really round,” Freeman tells PEOPLE. “I had been gaining a little weight, but I didn’t gain much, maybe 20 pounds. But I noticed it started to round out more — and I was like, dear god, I really hope I’m not pregnant.”

Tia Freeman
Tia Freeman

A week later, she took the test, and, she was actually pregnant.

Not realizing just how close she was to her due date and having already booked an expensive two-week trip to Germany a month later, Freeman figured she might still be able to go and make it back in time.

“It didn’t turn out that way,” Freeman says, while laughing.

Tia Freeman

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While on her layover flight to Instanbul, where she would stay for 17 hours before catching a plane to Germany, Freeman started to get cramps midflight. Because she’s a vegetarian and had some salmon for a meal on the flight, she figured her body wasn’t used to the food and figured that was what she was feeling. Freeman tried to sleep her discomfort away, but once she woke up as the plane readied to make its landing, the cramps had intensified. That’s when it hit her that it may not be food poisoning after all.

After Googling, “how do you know you’re in labor” and experiencing continual contractions as she made it to her hotel, Freeman realized that she was soon about to meet her baby.

“My cramps are coming back to back, and by then I knew they weren’t cramps — they were contractions,” she recalls. “And then I’m like, well, what do I do?”

Considering she was in an unfamiliar country where most people don’t speak English and she didn’t know how quickly the baby would be coming, Freeman opted to take things into her own hands.

“I pull out my phone and I go on YouTube and I legitimately type in, ‘How to deliver a baby’, and whatever the first video was, that’s what I went with,” she says. “At that point, my adrenaline and my instincts started to take over, and I wasn’t thinking about anything, I was in auto-pilot — read the directions, do what it says, do not deviate from the plan!”

Tia Freeman

She filled the hotel bathtub with warm water, grabbed two towels — one to bite on, and another to place the baby in—and got ready to push. After just a few minutes (and a lot of excruciating pain), Freeman’s son was in her hands.

“The pain of the contractions paled in comparison to the splitting open of my body that actual labor was!” Freeman recalls. “But I think that’s one of the main reasons I got through this, I was so focused on the task at hand, I didn’t have time to panic.”

But there was still more to do, and lots to Google.

Freeman quickly sterilized her pocketknife and a pair of shoelaces and used them to clamp and cut the umbilical cord after finding a WikiHow page through Google, then breastfed her newborn, cleaned up the bathroom, and went to sleep a mother.

But Freeman would need all of the energy she could get the following day, as airport workers pressed her for documentation on the new baby boy that she didn’t have when she arrived just a day earlier. After visiting the U.S. embassy and getting her son appropriate paperwork (and proving she wasn’t carrying a random baby), Freeman went to the hospital to get a check up on the baby. She stayed in Turkey for another two weeks to rest and prepare the baby for the flight back home.

“When I told my family, they were all understandably shocked!” Freeman says of when she broke the news to loved ones. “They were people who saw me the day before I went into labor that had no clue I was pregnant. They were all shocked, but super excited.

Freeman says she is enjoying her first month as a mom, and that she and her baby—who she named Xavier—are doing well.

“We’re finally getting situated — and he’s finally getting used to the time schedule! It took him a little while,” she says. “But we’re doing really good, we’re back home surrounded by family and love.”

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