Doctoral Student Delivers Baby in Car Just Hours Before Defending Her Thesis


May 16, 2024

Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez achieved two of life’s most challenging milestones in a single day.

As NJ.com reports, on March 24th, Brevard-Rodriguez, who serves as the director of the Aresty Research Center at Rutgers University, was finalizing her preparations for her doctoral dissertation defense. Despite being eight months pregnant, she meticulously honed her presentation on “The Beauty Performances of Black College Women: A Narrative Inquiry Study Exploring the Realities of Race, Respectability, and Beauty Standards on a Historically White Campus.”

With her defense scheduled for 1 p.m. the following day, she sent out the Zoom link to family, friends, and colleagues, dubbing her plan “Operation Dissertation before Baby.” However, life had other plans. At 2:15 a.m. on March 25th, a month and a day before her due date, her water broke.


Amid contractions, Brevard-Rodriguez’s wife sped down the Garden State Parkway, aiming to reach Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair. Baby Enzo had other plans and made his swift arrival in the front seat of their car at 5:55 a.m.–after just three pushes. He weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces, measured 19 inches long, and was in perfect health despite being born four weeks early.

Brevard-Rodriguez felt well enough post-delivery to proceed with her scheduled thesis defense. “I had more than enough time to regroup, shower, eat, and proceed with the dissertation,” she recalled. With the hospital staff ensuring she had reliable wifi access, she even managed to sneak in a quick nap before her presentation.


Delivering her defense from her hospital bed with a Rutgers background screen, Brevard-Rodriguez’s performance was flawless. It wasn’t until after she had successfully defended her dissertation that she revealed the dramatic events of her morning. Dropping the virtual background, she introduced her newborn son, Enzo, to the astonished audience.

“I said, ‘You guys missed the big news,’ and they just fell out,” Brevard-Rodriguez recounted. She chose to keep the news private during her defense to avoid any undue sympathy from her dissertation committee. Melina Mangin, chair of the Educational Theory, Policy & Administration Department at the Graduate School of Education, expressed her astonishment, noting, “Tamiah had delivered a flawless defense with zero indication that she had just given birth. She really took the idea of productivity to the next level!”

For Brevard-Rodriguez, completing her doctorate in education and welcoming her last child were the perfect gifts to herself as she turned 40 the previous November. She plans to return to work in late August, demonstrating that the limits of human capability are often far beyond what we imagine.


Cover photo: Doctoral Student Delivers Baby in Cars Just Hours Before Defending Her Thesis / Credit: Rutgers University

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