Ernesto and Anna Padilla knew the drive from Miami to Fort Worth would be a long one — 20 hours in the car with two German Shepherds promised as much. They also knew it was the safest decision; with Hurricane Dorian changing its path daily, they wanted to be safely out of the storm’s way before it hit.
However, when they set off for Texas on Aug. 30, what they could not have known was their stay in Fort Worth would include the unexpected arrival of their infant daughter.
Anna Padilla was not supposed to have the baby until Sept. 14, and Anna planned on having her in Miami. She and Ernesto checked with their doctor in Florida before their road-trip, making sure it was safe for her to go. Their doctor connected them with Dr. Steven Suba in Fort Worth in case the couple needed any medical help while they were gone, but said they were good to go.
With their car packed with clothes and the two dogs, Bruno and Leia, Ernesto and Anna headed to Fort Worth, where Ernesto’s mother has lived for 25 years.
In a way, Ernesto was retracing steps his family took 40 years ago, when his family sought refuge in the United States due to the dangerous political climate in Cuba.
Ernesto’s parents were Cuban revolutionaries and poets, and his father, Heberto Padilla, became the center of the international controversy that became known as the Padilla Affair. Heberto Padilla, known as one of Cuba’s most famous modern poets, was imprisoned in 1971 for speaking out against the government. In 1979, when Ernesto was 6 years old, he and his mother left Cuba; his father was allowed to join them a year later.
On Sept. 1, and after pit-stops in Pensacola and Houston, the couple made it into Fort Worth. They watched Hurricane Dorian move toward the Florida coast and worried about the high winds and flooding that could hit their house in Miami.
On Aug. 31, the storm switched course, and the next day, it careened into the Bahamas.
On Sept. 3, the couple made plans to drive back to Miami the next morning. They checked in with Dr. Suba, who said Anna seemed healthy and, with 10 days left until her expected due date, she should have no problems with the trip home. He gave the couple his cell phone number and wished them luck.
Like hurricanes, babies can be unpredictable.
That Tuesday night, Anna started having pains in her stomach. Throughout the night, the pain worsened and at about 5 a.m., she realized she was having contractions.
“Nothing was going in my mind. It was crazy,” she said.
At Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth, Suba and other doctors monitored Anna until it was clear she was going into labor.
At 5 p.m. Sept. 4, Eva was born.
“She did fantastic,” Suba said. “She did what Mother Nature intended.”
The couple stayed at the hospital until Saturday, making sure to buy Eva a Texas-themed onesie.
“It’s still unbelievable,” Anna, who is from Finland, said. “I am very happy this happened here. I am not from America. Everything is different here. In Southwest Hospital, I felt so comfortable.”
Even though the Padilla family is headed back to Miami on Tuesday morning, Ernesto said his daughter being born in Fort Worth solidifies the bond he already felt with the city. It was in Fort Worth, where he lived for five years, that his business started. He sold his first cigars to Pops Safari Room and Cigars in downtown Fort Worth — today, Padilla Cigar Company is an international powerhouse in the cigar world.
“Everything happens for a reason. Fort Worth is home,” he said. “It’s where this all started. And now my daughter was born in Fort Worth, so I guess I’ll always have a connection.”