Taylor Haynes had a plan in place for delivering her fourth baby — one that had to be modified as she got closer to her delivery date.
But having her co-worker, also a friend, deliver her son in the crew room of an ambulance station, was not part of any plan.
She and her husband Mark are both paramedics with Niagara Emergency Medical Services. Mark has 26 years in, Taylor 12. They met as paramedics in 2013, and had their third child together Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Mark has delivered a few babies during his career, but in the days leading up to her delivery Taylor was becoming increasingly frustrated that she hadn’t had that opportunity. Every time she and her partner would get a call about an imminent delivery, she would joke about it, saying “today’s the day, I can feel it.”
It wasn’t to be. Instead, Mark got the opportunity to help deliver yet another baby — his own. And although Taylor wasn’t on duty, he jokes, she was very much in charge, giving orders to four other paramedics who were on duty, plus supervisor Terry Flynn, and her husband.
Last Wednesday, Taylor was up early, around 5:45 a.m. She had sold a desk she’d advertised online, and the purchaser was expected to pick it up at 6 a.m.
Mark was at work, finishing up a late shift, so she dragged the desk outside by herself, cleaned it up, then took their dog for a walk.
This was six days after her due date. She’d expected baby number four would come sooner, so she wasn’t surprised when she felt a strong contraction. She phoned Mark to warn him she thought the baby would arrive that day, and went to take a shower.
She had a few more contractions 20 minutes apart, and then all of a sudden they were only four minutes apart, she says.
“It happened so suddenly, with nothing in between. I was amazed at how quickly my labour changed from 20 minutes to four.”
By the time Mark got home, she knew they had to hurry, and they jumped in their van and headed to the hospital.
Fortunately her mom had been visiting earlier in the week, and offered to take their kids home with her, to give Taylor a bit of a break, and a chance to rest and relax before the arrival of Weston.
The couple explain Weston is their third child. They also have a six-year-old and a toddler who is 21 months. Mark has two daughters, 23 and 21, from a previous marriage, and Taylor has a 10-year-old daughter. “We’re a proper blended family,” says Mark.
If the younger kids had been home, he said, they would have had to take them with them on the trip to the hospital. There would have been no time to drop them off at their grandmother’s.
Taylor’s Plan A had long been abandoned. She was hoping Dr. Nwebube, a popular obstetrician at West Lincoln Hospital, would deliver her baby at the small, welcoming facility, as he had her first child, but she found out there was a kink in that plan when she realized it had closed for renovations. Plan B was for Dr. Nwebube to meet her at the St. Catharines site when she went into labour, and he would have done that had the baby come on time, but by Wednesday, he was in Ireland.
“He’s a wonderful doctor, and I really wanted him there, but I realized one of the other two West Lincoln doctors would have to be on call.”
Knowing they didn’t have a lot of time to get to the hospital, Mark suggested calling an ambulance, but Taylor wouldn’t have it.
“There was no way I was having my co-workers deliver my baby,” she says. “I didn’t want them to see me like that.”
She had to change her plan yet again when it became evident they weren’t going to make it to the hospital. They live on Townline Road near Lakeshore Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Mark got stuck in slow traffic, with migrant workers driving two slow-moving jitneys ahead of him loaded with peaches. Taylor’s labour began to intensify, and she had to reverse her decision about the ambulance. “I knew this guy didn’t want to wait, so I had to agree.”
Mark realized they were coming up to the Linwell ambulance base, so when he put in the call, he asked to be met there. He and Taylor arrived first, but within about two minutes two crews arrived — four paramedics, including Kerry Jackson, who as an advanced-care paramedic took charge. Supervisor Terry Flynn was also there to help. “I think he came because he knows us,” says Taylor. “He helped out. They all did, including Mark.”
The paramedics quickly moved furniture out of the way in the crew room — Taylor was grateful she didn’t have to deliver her baby in a garage — then put her on a stretcher, got out all the equipment they needed, hooked up some monitors and put in an IV.
“Then it was show time,” she says.
It took just 10 minutes for Weston to be born, with Taylor keeping her eyes shut, not wanting to meet the eyes of her friends and co-workers delivering her baby. But looking back, she says, she realizes she and Mark will both have to take some good-natured kidding about the situation.
“We’re already joking about how many paramedics it takes to deliver a baby — seven,” says Mark, including Taylor in his count.
“Maybe by next year I’ll be able to make eye contact with them,” laughs Taylor.
One of the crew members, a female paramedic, was new on the job. “Except for Kerry, they all have less seniority than I do,” says Taylor. “I’ve been on the job 12 years and I’m still waiting for my first delivery. I’m so jealous.”
Mark let the crews do their job, but was also able to help out, he says, although it was clear Taylor was in charge.
“They all said I was barking orders, but I was just telling them what I wanted, giving them some direction, as a mom,” she says.
Mark recalls his mixed feelings when he has been called on to deliver babies, saying it’s one of the most rewarding experiences on the job, but also one of the most difficult.
“When you get the call, you don’t know what you’re going to find when you get there. There are so many things that can go wrong. You don’t know if you’re going to see legs first, or a shoulder, or a cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. If it goes smoothly, it’s a great feeling, but it doesn’t always.”
He had one delivery of a baby that needed to be resuscitated, he said. “You have two paramedics, and two patients, the mother and the baby. For that reason, to me it’s probably the most stressful call you can get. But in that case, although it was a tough one, the baby was okay. It’s a big deal, delivering a baby, and when it goes well, it’s awesome.”
They are trained and well-prepared, he says, “but we don’t do it often. You have to be quick and just deal with what’s happening. When the baby comes out, begins to cry and passes the look test, we breathe a sigh of relief.”
The look test, he says, is the first assessment of a healthy baby — paramedics look for good skin colour, hope to hear some noise, and check for muscle tone.
Mark and Taylor’s healthy baby boy was born at 8:10 a.m., at 10 pounds, five ounces, and after a short wait for the placenta to be delivered, mom and baby were taken to the St. Catharines hospital, Mark following in his van. They were released Thursday morning, Taylor saying she felt better than after any of her other deliveries.
“I can’t get over how rested she looks,” says Mark, as they sit chatting about their experience Friday afternoon. “She looks great.”
And with that, while they waited for the rest of the family to get home to meet the new arrival, they decided to take Weston for a drive to The Grove, the new fruit market on Niagara Stone Road, to pick up a sour cherry pie and some butter tarts.
“I don’t believe in keeping babies in a bubble,” says Mark.
With an entry into the world that was unconventional, that was likely the first of many more adventures to come for the youngest of six siblings.