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 he’s having a fight with his passenger, Mark prepares to call the police, but the car suddenly stops on the side of the road. The man driving jumps out and flags Mark down. His wife in the back seat is about to have a baby.
Mark makes a 911 call and learns that emergency personnel won’t be on the scene for another half-hour or more. In no time at all Mark is assisting with the baby’s birth, relaying information from the operator to the mother, and back again. Before Mark knows it, the baby is ready to enter the world.
The woman, Elise, was crying out continuously now, her contractions coming so quickly it wasn’t worth timing them anymore.
Mark had been looking up and down the highway for someone, anyone, to flag down and take over for him, but the highway was as dead as an industrial road on Sunday.
“How much longer until the ambulance arrives?” Mark asked the 911 operator who had been on the line with him since this whole ordeal started some 15 minutes ago.
“They are on their way,” she said with just a hint of a French-Canadian accent. “They will be there any minute now, but you have to keep going. The baby’s coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop that.”
For the first time in this entire ordeal Mark reminded himself that he should have known better. Stopping on the side of the road to help someone in need had never gone well for him. And it seemed like his luck –all of it bad –was holding out.
“Can you see the baby?” the operator said.
Mark took a look. “No, not yet, but I think it’s close.”
“Remind her to breathe…” “Breathe,” he told Elise.
Georges breathed deeply, trying to convince his wife to do the same. But she was having none of it, wanting only to push and get the baby out of her body.
“She keeps wanting to push,” Mark said.
“Try to keep her from pushing until the baby’s head appears.”
Mark was about to relay the instruction to Georges and Elise when he noticed something different. He could see the top of the baby’s head now. “I think I see the baby!” he shouted.
“Okay, great,” said the operator. “When the next contraction comes, tell her she has to push.”
Mark set down the phone for the first time since he placed the 911 call. He was about to tell Elise when to push when she let out a loud cry. Obviously, the next contraction had come.
“Push!” he said. “Push now!” Elise pushed.
Georges’ face contorted as if he was pushing along with his wife. Mark held his breath too, his entire body tightening up as he felt an odd sort of connection between himself and the woman lying there in the back seat of the car.
Elise then said something in French. Mark looked at Georges, who said, “She says she can’t do it.”
Mark didn’t pick up the phone to ask for instructions. Instead, he said, “She has to. The baby’s here and she has to push it out.”
“Push,” Georges said.
Again, all three people in the car seemed to try and inch the baby forward through the birth canal.
And then, as if by some miracle, the baby’s head appeared whole and in tact.
Mark picked up the phone. “The head is out!”
“Good, excellent!” the operator said. “Now check to see if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck.”
Mark leaned forward for a closer look. At first he didn’t know what he was looking at, but after a few moments he could clearly see that something was indeed wrapped around the baby’s neck. “The cord is there,” Mark said. “What do I do?”
“You have to work it free.”
“You mean pull it away?”
Mark swallowed, but his mouth and throat were dry. He didn’t really want to do this, but he had no choice. This woman, these people, needed his help. He put down the phone, then he carefully grabbed the cord and gently pulled it away from the baby’s neck and head. Surprisingly, it came free easier than he’d expected and Mark suddenly felt more confident and assured. I can do this, he thought. I can do this.
“Okay, what’s next?” he asked over the phone.
“Clear the baby’s mouth of any obstructions.”
“Now, take firm hold of the baby’s head and on the next contraction pull so that one shoulder comes free at a time.”
Mark didn’t feel comfortable grabbing the baby’s head, but the operator had been right so far so there was no need to doubt her now. He took the baby’s head in his hands.
Elise’s cries grew sharper. Mark knew it was time. “Push!” he urged her.
She bore down and pushed. At the same time Mark pulled on the baby’s head, gently at first and then when he could feel it start to move, with more and more force until…
The baby slipped right out into his waiting hands. It was more slippery than Mark thought it would be and he bobbled it for a moment, but was eventually able to grab hold.
“Ha!” Mark shouted in relief.
“Il est bien beau,” Georges said. “He’s a big boy!”
Elise let out a long satisfied moan.
Mark, still holding the baby, leaned close to his cell phone and said, “I’ve got it. It’s a boy.”
“Congratulations!” the operator said in a muted voice. “Now, don’t drop the baby.”
“And wrap it up in whatever you have. Make sure mother and baby are warm.”
Mark bundled the baby up in the old clothes Georges had given him, then he said, “I have blankets in the sleeper of my truck. Get them for your wife.”
Georges nodded, then ran to Mother Load. He was back a minute later with the blanket Mark slept under. They covered Elise with the blanket, then placed the baby on its mother’s chest.
It was an awesome moment, one Mark wouldn’t have missed for the world. He felt strong, alive and a witness to something that seemed a miracle. He looked over at the new mother and father, both crying tears of joy over the birth of their son.
Mark was happy too, mostly because it was over.
“What’s happening now?” asked the operator over the din of voices in the car. “Is anyone there? Hello?”
Mark picked up the phone. “Everyone’s fine. We’ll just wait for…” He noticed something out of the corner of his eye, then turned to see a Quebec Provincial Police cruiser coming down the highway with its lights flashing. “The police are here now,” he said. Another few seconds passed. “And I see the ambulance coming.”
“That’s it then,” the operator said. “You did it.”
Mark thought about that, then looked at his hands and the phone he was holding in one of them. “I did, didn’t I?” But the operator was gone, likely moving onto another call and someone else in need of help.
The roadside suddenly became of hub of activity with paramedics, police and firemen all tending to the woman and her newborn son.
The firemen helped Mark clean up and every one of them made a point of giving him a pat on the back.
“Good job,” they’d say or, “Way to go!”
But eventually things quieted down. Elise and her son were taken away in the ambulance while Georges followed them in his Toyota/mobile delivery room.
Eventually, Mark ended up alone on the side of the highway. Somehow the road never seemed so lonely. •
-Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Special Delivery.