The following is a guest story by Lexington resident and new dad, Kenny Bement:
“Don’t panic but keep phone very close”, my pregnant wife texted me. “I’m timing the contractions.”
And she wasn’t just
pregnant; she was 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant (trust me, each day after the
due date was a big deal). Feeling both excited and anxious, I quickly packed up
my belongings at work and started the drive home. It was a sunny Massachusetts
Fall afternoon and a perfect day to welcome our first son into the world.
As I pulled my Honda Civic into the driveway just twenty minutes later, I saw my lovely wife standing patiently by the door of our home with her yellow purse slung over her shoulder, one hand on her luggage and the other hand lovingly placed on her basketball-shaped belly.
“I’m having some pretty good contractions”, she said with a sweet smile as she helped me load the car. Moments later we were on the road.
About the time the car hit the first bump in the road, the real contractions hit my wife like a bolt of lightning. She vise-gripped the passenger door handle and reclined the seat to make the drive more bearable. I encouraged her to breathe through the contractions, told her she’s strong and that everything would be alright. I didn’t know what more I could do to help, other than drive a little faster.
Then her water broke. Then the screaming began. Then I started to question something other than the intelligence of the other drivers on the road—I questioned whether we would make it to the hospital in time. Fearing that possibility, I pressed the button on my iPhone and asked Siri to call 911.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that” she responded. “Useless”, I muttered. But I knew I couldn’t blame the technology. I’m sure the phone picked up only the sounds of the screaming—and I didn’t know any better than Siri how to interpret those sounds. So I dialed 911 the old-fashioned way, by dialing 9-1-1. I considered asking my wife to keep it down so I could communicate with the dispatcher; but I said nothing, knowing that my own well being could be in jeopardy if I messed with a woman in labor.
After giving dispatch the information about our location and situation, we were instructed to pull over and await the ambulance. With a little reluctance I got off the next highway exit and looked for a safe place to stop. Speeding toward the hospital had felt more productive. But my wife said she thought the baby was coming and as I glanced over, I saw that she was right (as she so often is). The baby was crowning. I communicated that information to dispatch as the car approached a stoplight. I looked over at my wife again and knew with absolute certainty that she and the baby could not wait any longer. I shifted the car into park, turned on the hazard lights, and turned to face my inevitable task. The traffic light turned green and somebody in a car behind me honked their horn.
“If only you had a clue what was going on up here...”, I thought. Of course I was aware that I was blocking traffic. But I was infinitely more aware of my screaming wife, my partially-born child, and the daunting task of having to deliver my son without any previous medical training. The only things I could rely on were my instincts and the grace of God.
I delivered the baby to find that the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck.
I removed the cord from his neck and held him up waiting for that first cry (one of the strong healthy ones like you hear in the movies). But that cry didn’t come. My baby was blue and motionless. My heart sank. Time stopped. My wife cried out, “my baby!” But still there was no response from the limp body in my hands. I turned to the phone which had been placed on the console between the two front seats.
“I have the baby and he’s not breathing. What do I do?” I asked into the phone. I was told to do something with the amniotic sac. “I don’t know what sac you’re talking about," I responded. “Should I breathe into his mouth?”
Again I was told to do something with some sac. “Useless”, I muttered. And again I felt that I could rely only on my instincts and the grace of God. I cleared baby’s mouth with my finger. I rubbed his back. In desperation I even squeezed him between my hands (not violently but firmly). He let out a little squeak but still was limp in my hands. “Where was that cry?” I thought.
At that moment of despair, a passerby wearing latex gloves approached the passenger side of the car.
“I’m an MD”, she said. Or maybe that’s just what I thought she said and wished with all my heart was true. But whoever she was—to me she was an angel. She calmly reached into the car and helped to stimulate the baby. And then I heard it—the cry. At first it was just a small one. But it allowed hope to burst into my heart like a ray of light bursting through the darkness. The sound of sirens then filled the air. Paramedics arrived and took the baby from my hands and the hands of the angel. They suctioned his mouth. They stimulated him further. I heard more cries and then witnessed the baby’s color turn from blue to pink. We were assured that everything was OK. My wife was carefully placed on a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance with baby. I walked to the ambulance and kissed my amazing wife on the forehead and then returned to my car so that I could follow the ambulance to the hospital.
On the drive to the hospital, the chaos turned to peace and I felt that everything would be fine. We had made it through the ordeal. After 48 hours in the hospital, both mom and baby were discharged with a clean bill of health. They are healthy and happy.
I am so grateful for the miracle of life and for all of the wonderful people who helped us through this ordeal. You know who you are. Thank you for your compassionate service. We all experience unexpected events, circumstances and trials in life. We all have a story in which we play the lead role of one who directly experiences illness, injury, disappointment, heartache, loss, stress, depression, financial burden, or in our case having a baby in the car. But each of us also plays a supporting role to others who are suffering. In those supporting roles, we have a choice. We can sit back in relative comfort and avoid getting involved—that is, we can honk at the Honda Civic that is blocking traffic.
Or we can be more aware, reach out, and serve with compassion. We can help. We can put on the latex gloves and approach the Honda Civic with an extended hand and an open heart. My sincere desire is that when each of us is faced with that choice, we will choose to help, and not honk at, people having a baby in the car or suffering in any other way. I know that doing so will increase the chances of every story having a happy ending like mine did.