Couple weds in hospital hallway two hours before baby's premature birth: 'It was like a movie'

Kristine Solomon
Style and Beauty Writer
Shantel and Jamison Espaillat were all smiles as they wed in their hospital attire at Mount Sianai in New York City. (Photo: Tom Denaro/The New York Post)

A young couple experienced “two blessings in one day” when they wed in a last-minute ceremony in a New York City hospital’s maternity ward, and then welcomed their newborn, just two hours later, in an unexpectedly premature birth.

­Shantel and Jamison Espaillat had planned to get married at City Hall on Monday, more than two months ahead of Shantel’s Sept. 2 due date. The mom- and bride-to-be had makeup and nail appointments set a few days in advance — but instead of going to the salon, she found herself at Mount Sinai Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, complaining of severe stomach pains, according to the New York Post.

The pain was coming from a uterine infection that, if untreated, could have led to a premature membrane rupture, doctors informed Shantel. Then they told her she’d have to deliver her baby as soon as possible, even though she was only 29 weeks pregnant. A typical pregnancy is about 39 or 40 weeks.

The couple was faced with a dilemma. “We made a promise to each other to be married before the baby came,” Jamison told the New York Post. So the couple decided they wanted to wed as soon as possible, too.

The dad-to-be wasted no time, rushing home to grab the couple’s wedding rings and marriage certificate, as medical staff prepared for another unexpected event: a wedding that would take place right in the hospital.

“They were shocked to hear the decision to deliver, but they kept saying how important it was to them to be married before the baby was born,” Dr. Luciana Vieira, who delivered the baby, told the Post.

The couple recruited the Rev. Amy Strano, the hospital’s director of spiritual care, to officiate the ceremony, which was to take place in the hallway of Mount Sinai’s labor and delivery unit. Unfortunately, friends and family were not allowed into that section of the hospital, so hospital workers were happy to stand in as wedding guests — and wedding planners.

A medical student was sent to pick up a rose bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom, as well as sparkling cider and a ­wedding cake. A nurse took on the role of wedding photographer.

“We tried to make it as ceremonious as it could be,” said Vieira. “You could tell they really love each other and were ready to welcome the baby into their lives,” added Strano, who assured the couple that she’d make sure the wedding went off without a hitch. “I said, ‘We’re going to make this work — we’re going to make it beautiful.’”

The one detail they couldn’t deliver on was allowing Shantel to don the white lace dress she’d looked forward to wearing on her wedding day. Instead, she’d have to get married in her plaid hospital gown — and Jamison would have to say “I do” in a set of white scrubs. Regardless, the couple was over the moon.

“It was like a movie,” Jamison said of the impromptu nuptials. “It felt like it was only us in the room — it was powerful.” Shantel added, “This is 100 percent better than City Hall. It was so much better than I expected.”

Two hours later, Shantel was taken in for a C-section, and their son, Elias Sincere Espaillat, was born, weighing 2 lbs., 6 oz. Elias is “doing well” in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, according to to Dr. Annemarie Stroustrup, the hospital’s system chief of newborn medicine. “The baby miraculously shows no signs of infection.”

Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Mount Sinai for an update on the infant and his mom, who appeared healthy and happy in post-delivery photos. “He feels so amazing and warm,” Shantel told the New York Post. “I don’t want to let him go.”

On Thursday, a New Jersey couple, Michael Gallardo and Marie Margaritondo, experienced an almost identical situation — but they cut it a little closer. The couple was set to wed three weeks before Margaritondo’s due date, but her water broke days before the big event.

The couple were married by a chaplain inside Morristown Medical Center less than a minute before Margaritondo was wheeled in to have a C-section, according to NBC New York. Their son, Michael Preston Gallardo, was born on Memorial Day.

The Espaillats have been since been sent home, while baby Elias is expected to remain in the hospital for another two to three months. They reportedly visit their baby “constantly” in the hospital, where they’re “treated as celebrities.”

“Everyone says, ‘Are you the couple who got married?’” said Shantel, who seems to be fully embracing her very unconventional story, which she said she can’t wait to share with Elias one day.

“I would never have thought I’d be married in a hospital,” the mom said, “but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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