Rachel Middlebrook thought she had everything figured out. She planned to have a natural birth, but she also planned to make it to the hospital in time to have her second child.
But things did not go according to schedule.
Rachel and Cliff Middlebrook with their newborn daughter Lyla after being transported to the hospital following an unanticipated home birth.
Around 3:30 a.m. the morning of April 15, Middlebrook started feeling contractions and called her midwife for advice. She was instructed to stay calm and breathe until her water broke, then call back for help. Not long after that call, Middlebrook’s water broke while still in her Hanover home.
At that point, there was no way she was going to get to VCU Medical Center before her daughter was born and she knew that.
She told her husband, Cliff, to immediately call 911, but before the first responders could arrive, Lyla was born in the comfort of her home without any real doctors to deliver her.
“I’m talking minutes later there was a baby,” Middlebrook said.
As an emergency room nurse, she knew enough to safely deliver the newborn herself in their home.
It is not often Hanover Fire-EMS is dispatched for calls to help with births. At the most, it will happen once a year. But 2014 has been unique, because according to Cris Leonard, volunteer membership coordinator for Hanover Fire-EMS, there have been two birth assists in Hanover County so far this year — the one with the Middlebrook family last month and another in January.
“Nothing quite prepared me for what I saw that day,” Middlebrook’s husband said.
The couple already has a 3-year-old son, so they knew what to expect as far as giving birth, but Middlebrook’s husband said he was more shocked and unnerved at the fact his wife was giving birth in their home and without any doctors present.
On that day in April, Stephen Fontaine and Jimmy Davis, full-time firefighters and cross-trained medics at Chickahominy Fire Station 10, assisted the Middlebrook family in taking care of their newborn girl and taking the mom and new daughter to the hospital after the birth.
For individuals in the public safety field, Fontaine said it’s always nice to get “happy” calls and not the tragedies that they are often dispatched to from day to day.
From left, cross-trained firefighters/medics Scott Moore, Stephen Fontaine and Jimmy Davis of Chickahominy Fire Station 10.
“You see a lot of people go out and it’s good to see people go in,” Fontaine said about being able to witness the circle of life.
In this specific case, Fontaine said the medics did not have to do a lot since Middlebrook had taken care of the entire birth herself.
So once they arrived to the Middlebrook’s Hanover home, they comforted the 9-pound baby, warmed her up and made sure she was healthy as part of the routine procedures the medics are trained for with Hanover Fire-EMS. Fontaine and Davis checked the mother’s vitals and then rushed her and the newborn to the hospital for more care.
But even though the medics did not play a huge role in this instance, Fontaine said it’s still important.
“It’s one of those calls that you’ll remember forever,” Fontaine said.
He has assisted with three other births during his time with Hanover Fire-EMS.
Davis, whose wife’s due date is approaching next month, helped with that call and said it will help prepare him for the birth of his own child. Davis said he maintained composure and was able to handle it well and he was glad put his skills to use in a real situation rather than practicing how to deliver a baby with a doll.
In almost all cases, mothers do not plan to give birth outside of the hospital, but the presence of medics from Hanover Fire-EMS helped ease the situation and calmed the nerves of new parents.
The Middlebrooks were thankful for the medics’ help that day.
“Thank God they came, because I definitely needed some help after the fact,” Middlebrook said.