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What It’s Like to Be a Regular Person Who Delivers a Baby

A secretary in an office bathroom, an off-duty cop in a Walmart parking lot and a dad on a busy highway — they all found themselves face to (tiny) face with destiny

When you gotta go, you gotta go. And when you gotta push… well, you better hope there’s someone around with a cool head, a warm heart, and most importantly, clean hands. Here’s what happens when that baby comes just a smidge too quickly…

Matt Phelps, Police Officer

I was off-duty and working security at Walmart. My job was to patrol the inside, watch for shoplifters and provide an overall sense of security. I was taking a stroll through the parking lot, checking on it, and I encountered a female who was standing outside, leaning up against the wall, holding her midsection. She seemed panicked and scared. She said, “I need an ambulance — I’m getting ready to have a baby!” I knew she needed help fast, so I grabbed a metal bench nearby, dragged it closer to where she was standing, and helped her lie down on it.

I could see her sweatpants were all wet, and I knew right off the bat that her water had broken. I said, “Do you mind if I have a look and make sure everything’s okay?” She said, “Yes, because I think it’s getting ready to come out.” I could see the baby’s head start to come out a little bit and I just thought, Alright, nothing’s really gonna prepare me for this…

I told her I’d called an ambulance and that they were on their way, and to hold on if at all possible, but she said she felt the need to push. I’ve got a pouch on my duty belt that has rubber gloves in it, so I threw them on real quick and went to work.

At the police academy we got first-aid/first-responder training, but there wasn’t anything about childbirth. At the time I had four children, and I was in the hospital room with my wife during all her deliveries. Also, working in law enforcement, it didn’t gross me out — I just saw it as something that I needed to do. So I just kinda jumped right in! It was December in Kansas City, and I remember it being slightly chilly outside as well, so it’s definitely not the most comfortable place.

A crowd had started to gather, so I’m hollering for people to get back and give me some space. One of the Walmart door greeters ran inside and got a bunch of towels, and another manager grabbed a sheet set off the shelf and unwrapped it to give this girl some privacy. I said, “If you feel like you need to push, just go ahead.” So she started pushing and that baby just… I helped it right out. As soon as it came out I had it in my arms, and somebody threw me some towels and I wrapped the baby up. Probably about 30 seconds later, here comes the fire truck and ambulance crew.

They got her onto the stretcher, and while I’m holding the baby in my arms the fireman grabbed a suction bulb and started suctioning out the baby’s mouth and nose. Finally the baby started to cry. That was a really cool feeling to hear this baby crying, and that’s when it hit me: I just delivered this baby! It seemed like it took like 10 minutes, but from the time I called 911 to the time the ambulance arrived was only like three minutes. Things went a lot quicker than I anticipated! And I had to do a whole lot more than I thought I was gonna have to do!

I spent the rest of the shift texting my wife, saying, “You’re never gonna believe what just happened!” After I got off a few hours later, I went and checked on the woman at the hospital, spent some time with her and her family and kind of formed this connection with them. It happened six years ago, and I still talk to her and her daughter, who’s now five. Every year I bring her a birthday present — I’m like an honorary godfather.

I naturally felt a sense of pride about it. Somebody at the police department wrote me up for an award, and I was awarded a certificate of commendation for acting fast. At the time you don’t think about the nasty side of childbirth — I just did what I needed to do.

Holly Sanderson, Secretary

I work in a family law office with a father and two sons who all go to lunch together, so I was the only one in the office. We have a public transit stop next to our office, and I heard a woman in distress. Sometimes things go on out there, and I wanted to make sure whoever was out there was okay.

When I walked outside, there was a lady sort of bent over. I asked, “Are you okay?” And she said, “No, I’m having a baby!” The hospital’s only two blocks from us, but she was like, “I won’t make it,” so I invited her and her boyfriend — who was on the phone with 911 — into our office. She said she needed to use the restroom, and I gave her, her privacy.

Then I heard her really scream.

Our bathroom is a handicapped, single-stall bathroom, so there was enough room for her to lie down. I laid down some paper towels, as bathroom floors obviously aren’t sanitary. We had an emergency kit, so I put on some gloves for protection of her and myself. The baby was crowning at this point, and I hadn’t really talked to her previously. I asked her what her name was. I said, “Okay, the baby is coming. It’s happening. You’re gonna have to push.”

I basically did what I needed to do: She probably gave three more pushes, then I put my hands in and helped guide the baby out to the shoulders. But she had to stop pushing because the baby’s umbilical cord was actually wrapped twice around her head. I was able to unwrap it one time, but then I had to slide my fingers in between the cord and the baby’s head and pull it over the top of the head.

The baby was purple. I took off my glove to help the mom clean the mouth out and basically stimulated the baby, rubbing its back back, the things you’re supposed to do. The baby started to breathe, so I set her on the mom’s stomach. Paramedics arrived within three to five minutes, so I didn’t have to cut the umbilical cord — when they came, I walked out and let them do what they needed to do.

When my bosses came back and heard what happened while they were gone, they said they would have never believed it if the ambulance wasn’t still in our parking lot! They gave me the rest of the day off.

People ask, “How did you know what to do?” You just kind of do. I hate to say this because it sounds cliché, but I’ve watched shows like Birth Day on TV, and I just kind of did it. I have two children of my own but both were C-sections, not natural deliveries. I think I was in the right place at the right time to help this woman. If the situation arose again, I’d definitely jump in and help — it was a cool, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Sam Beyene, New Dad

It was a workday, and I was in the office. At 9 o’clock, I got a call from my wife: She said, “It’s time — we gotta go!” I ran to the house, she was ready, we got into the car and started driving to the hospital. I didn’t think she was that close to giving birth, but seven minutes before we get to the hospital, she started screaming. I thought, I have to pull over.

I pulled over onto the shoulder of this busy highway, and the first thing I did was call 911. I connected the phone with the car, got out and went to the passenger’s side. My wife’s leg was on the dashboard, and I got down on one knee: As I looked, I saw the head. I said, “Oh boy, oh boy…” I knelt down and the dispatcher was telling me, “Okay, we’re going to go through this — in the meantime I called the ambulance and everybody’s on their way.” By the time she said that, I felt the head. I pulled her a little and she started coming out, but the umbilical cord was around her neck. I just loosened it up a little, pretty much how you take off your shirt, pulling it on the backside. The whole thing only took three minutes.

The dispatcher asked me if the baby was crying. I don’t know who taught me this, but I used my hand to clean out her mouth, and next thing I know she starts screaming! Then I start cleaning her. I had the whole bag for the hospital there, with everything we need for the baby inside it — it was a little windy so I wrapped the baby with a paper towel. I didn’t cut the cord — I said, “There’s no way I can cut that cord!”

When the state troopers and the ambulance showed up, they cut the cord, then they took the baby and put my wife on a stretcher and took them both to the hospital. I drove between the ambulance and the officers. Everybody was happy, and everybody was healthy — nothing happened to the baby and nothing happened to my wife. My wife handled it well, too. The only thing she said was about the wind and asked me to close the door.

When my friends heard about it, they said, “Are you sure that was you? So you became a doctor for three minutes?” Basically, I’ve got something to write on my resume now. I didn’t feel nervous or anything like that — the only time I was sweating was later on, because of the mess. The whole thing took three minutes, but it took two days to clean the car!