911 dispatcher helps dad deliver baby girl

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On Thursday night, Justin Young and his wife, Megan, just three days from her due date, went to bed having whittled down their list of baby names.

Avery was their top choice for a girl..

They were prepared: Mrs. Young's sister, Katie Clark, was staying at their Mars home to care for her other daughter, 2-year-old Claire, and bags were packed in case they needed to rush to the hospital in the middle of the night. They had a natural birthing plan ready and their doctor's number close at hand.

"We had bags packed. We had our doctors. We had a plan in place," said Mr. Young, a 31-year-old insurance agent.

But in the end, the baby arrived on its own terms. Early Friday morning, as Mrs. Young sat in the front seat of the family's SUV ready to go to the hospital, the baby came, ushered into the world by the hands of a very nervous father with the guiding voice of a 911 dispatcher on speakerphone in the family's garage.

"People can have all the birth plans they want in the world, but you can't plan Mother Nature," he said. "And I know that pretty well being an insurance agent. You can't plan what's going to happen."

Later in the day, the couple was resting at West Penn Hospital with their new baby, Avery, and recalling the hour of anticipation and three minutes of panic that culminated with their second daughter's birth.

Mrs. Young, 30, said she awoke at around 2 a.m. Friday with contractions about six minutes apart. They called the doctor an hour later, when the contractions were about five minutes apart, and the doctor told them to go to the hospital. When Megan's water broke as she ascended the stairwell, she decided to go change her clothes.

But when she finally made it to the garage and climbed into the front seat of their Mazda SUV, she felt the baby coming urgently.

"I knew by the time we actually made it down to the car that I was very close to delivering," she said. "I could feel the baby's head coming down."

Mr. Young had the keys in the ignition when she turned to him and told him she couldn't go to the hospital.

"She said she was starting to push and that there was no way she was going to make it to the hospital," her husband said.

At 3:18 a.m., he called 911.

Terry Sweeney, a supervisor for Butler County Department of Emergency Services who has been answering emergency calls for nearly 20 years, picked up.

"He seemed a little nervous, probably not as nervous as I was if I was in his shoes though," Mr. Sweeney said. He flipped to the "childbirth" section of a desk reference for 911 call-takers and walked a panicked Mr. Young through the process.

Mr. Young said he felt frantic, but his wife said he remained calm, "cool under pressure" with the help of Mr. Sweeney.

Mr. Young swung his wife's legs out of the car, and there, on the front seat of the SUV, Mr. Young announced at 3:21 a.m. that the baby was out and Mr. Sweeney heard a baby's cry.

"I wanted the baby to get out safely ... and when I heard the baby cry that was one of the best noises I've ever heard in my life," Mr. Sweeney said. It was the first time he had helped deliver a child over the phone.

Mr. Young swaddled his wife and the child in moving blankets he found in the garage and laid her down with the child on the garage floor. An ambulance arrived within minutes.

Stunned, neither parent bothered to check the gender of the child. Mrs. Young settled on the name Avery Clark Young after a paramedic asked her what the girl's name would be.

"It felt unreal," Mrs. Young said. "It really took awhile ... to process that this just happened in my garage."

It brought a spot of joy to Mr. Sweeney's work, who deals with tragedies and disasters as a 911 dispatcher. Even when things go well, "we don't know the outcome of calls."

"With this one we had the pleasure of knowing the outcome and being involved with it and everything turned out well," he said.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2533.


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