Mark is driving a load of roof trusses to a new ski resort in Northern Quebec when he sees the car in front of him swerve across the road. Thinking the driver’s drunk or having a fight with his passenger, Mark prepares to call the police, but the cars suddenly stops on the side of the road…
Mark stopped Mother Load on the shoulder and left the engine idling. With the cost of fuel what it was these days, Mark didn’t like to leave his truck idling for more than a minute or two, but he decided to leave it running this one time in case the woman needed to be someplace warm.
By the time Mark climbed down from the truck, the man from the Toyota was already racing toward him, shouting in French.
Mark didn’t understand a word of it.
“Sorry, my friend,” he said. “I only speak English. Non parlais Francais.” That much he remembered from elementary school French class.
“You must help me please,” the man said. Kid was more like it. He couldn’t be more than 18 years old, with a wisp of facial hair, a couple of zits on his left cheek and a look of stark terror in his eyes. “My wife is having a baby.”
“When?” Mark asked. “Now!” he said. “Right now!”
Mark jogged toward the car. As he approached, he could hear the woman in the back seat crying out in pain.
“Can you help?” the man said again.
Mark shook his head. “I’m just a truck driver,” he said.
“S’il te plait!” the man said. “Please!”
Just then the woman let out another shriek. Mark looked down at her in the back seat, clutching at the passenger seat in front of her with one hand and trying to push against the closed window over her head with the other.
Mark had done a lot of crazy things both on the road and on the side of it in his lifetime, but he’d never delivered a baby before. There’s always a first time for everything, he thought. Why the hell not? “Did you call 911?” he asked.
“I don’t have a cell phone.”
Mark pulled out his cell and started dialing.
The woman on the other end answered in French. Mark recognized the word Securite and knew it meant police, but the rest was lost on him.
“My name is Mark Dalton,” he said, hoping the operator spoke more English than he did French. “I’m 10 kilometres north of Mont Tremblant on Highway 117. There’s a woman having a baby right here on the side of the road. Send some help, please.”
“She’s in labour?” she said with only a hint of a French accent.
“How long since her water broke?”
“Hold on,” Mark said. He turned to the young man. “How long…how long since her water broke?”
There was a confused look on the man’s face.
“How long?” Mark repeated, this time with some wildly exaggerated hand gestures. “When did her water break? Her water?”
“Oh, yes, about 30 minutes ago.” Mark relayed the information.
“And how far apart are the contractions?”
Just then the woman screamed. Mark guessed she was experiencing another contraction and that the last one had been no more than two or three minutes earlier. “Two or three minutes.”
“You need to start timing them.”
“Okay.” Mark set the timer on his watch. “When will an ambulance be here?”
“EMS has been dispatched, but they might not be there for 30 minutes or more.”
“Half an hour?”
The woman let out another scream.
“I don’t think the baby is going to wait that long.”
“Don’t worry, sir,” the dispatcher said. “I will stay with you on the line until EMS arrives.”
“Don’t worry!” Mark said. “Can’t you hear her screaming?”
“Sir,” the woman said the word so calmly, he almost felt a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Women have been having babies for thousands of years without much help. You won’t have to do much.”
“Easy for you to say.”
Ignoring Mark’s comment, the woman said, “Is there anyone there with you…besides the mother?”
“The father’s here.” He took the phone away from his ear. “Hi,” he said. “My name’s Mark, Mark Dalton.”
The two men shook hands. “I’m Georges LeMaire. This is my wife Elise.”
Mark shook the woman’s hand. “Hi, how are you?”
She screamed in response.
He put the phone back to his ear. “We all know each other now.”
“Good, you’ll need to collect some towels or blankets, even newspapers for when the baby comes.”
“Towels and blankets,” Mark told Georges, gesturing that his wife might be cold.
Georges went behind the car and opened the trunk, then came back with some old clothes to cover up his wife.
“Okay, what next?” Mark said.
“I need you to ask the mother some questions.” “Like what?”
“Is there any problems? Any specific pains? Is the baby positioned in the right way? Is it one baby or twins?”
Mark relayed all these questions to the woman, Elise. She answered no with the shake of her head to each question.”
Then Georges answered the last question, “One baby, thank God!”
“Tell her to breathe,” the operator said.
“Breathe,” Mark said, not sure why he was saying it, but happy to have something to say.
George repeated the instruction for his wife, then began breathing with her.
“Now tell her that when the next contraction comes, she should resist the urge to push.”
“And what should she do instead?” Mark asked.
“Pant.” “What?” “Pant.”
“You mean like a dog?” “Yes.”
So mark told her. “Don’t push yet,” hesaid. “You have to pant.” Mark began panting, so did Georges. Finally, Elise did to.
Back on the phone, Mark said, “So when can she push?”
“She can push when the contractions are strong and you can see the baby’s head coming out.”
Mark checked. “Nothing yet.”
“Then tell her to keep breathing, and to rest.”
Mark relayed the instruction.
The operator said nothing for a while and Mark thought he’d lost his connection. “Hello, hello, are you still there?”
“Still here, not to worry sir.”
“Sorry,” Mark said. “I didn’t hear you anymore and she’s still screaming.”
“Childbirths are supposed to be noisy, sir. They are also scary and messy.”
“I can see that,” Mark said. “But is there anything else I can do while I’m waiting?”
“You could stop people passing by on the highway,” the operator said. “Who knows, you might get lucky and one of them might be a doctor or nurse.”
Mark looked up and down the highway. No one was coming in either direction.
However…Elise let out another scream. And it suddenly became obvious that there was someone else who was about to join them. •
– Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 3 of Special Delivery.