Mom Cara Herrington of Mesachie Lake was expecting her second child on March 11, but wanted it to be over with sooner — something a lot of expecting moms can understand. She wasn’t ready for the birth to happen when it did, however.
“I was waiting and waiting, hoping she would come early,” Herrington said. “But not as fast as she did.”
Herrington woke up around 4:15 a.m. on Sunday, March 7, when her water broke. After calling the hospital for advice, she was making her way downstairs to the door when she had two quick contractions and knew there wasn’t enough time to make the drive to Duncan.
“I looked at my husband and said, ‘Call an ambulance. I’m not going to do this in the car, and we’re not going to make it [to the hospital],” Herrington remembered.
An ambulance was on its way from Lake Cowichan, and the dispatcher instructed Herrington to get to an open space in the house, so she went from the mud room to the living room. Her husband, Shaun, just happens to be a four-year member of the Mesachie Lake Volunteer Fire Department, and he sent for his colleagues just in case the ambulance didn’t arrive in time. Of course, by nature of the small community, as soon as they got the call that someone was giving birth, they knew exactly who it was.
Shaun was still on the phone with the dispatcher when Cara started getting “small urges to start pushing.” The dispatcher “switched gears,” Herrington recalled, preparing the family for a home birth. Get some string, she told them, a bobby pin, and scissors.
The ambulance arrived in about 10 minutes, and when Cara and Shaun opened their front door to walk to the ambulance, the entire fire department was standing outside.
“It was like, ‘hey boys,’” Herrington laughed.
Cara was strapped into a gurney and was loaded into the ambulance. With Shaun preparing to drive the family car to Duncan, deputy fire chief and close family friend Tyson Allnutt was given the job of riding with Cara in case the paramedics needed a hand.
They hadn’t even left the driveway when Cara told them to stop.
“Don’t go anywhere,” she told them. “We’re not going to make it.”
Neither of the paramedics — both named Sarah — had delivered a baby before, but they were going to have to do it this time.
In Cara’s telling, it was a relatively easy birth, as these things go. One really strong contraction, and the baby’s head was completely out. The next contraction got her out past her shoulders. By 4:45 a.m. — half an hour after Cara woke up — Violet Luene Herrington was out in the world, surprising all the responders.
“They were all kind of looking at each other, like, ‘OK, there’s a baby here now,’” Herrington recalled. “My husband and Tyson looked at each other, ‘That was crazy.’”
Like all firefighters, Allnutt had trained for such a situation, but never expected to be part of a birth.
“It’s one of those things, you practice for it, and then you joke around that it’s never going to happen,” he said. “Then it happens.”
Both paramedics, Sarah Mooney and Sarah Spencer, were excited to take part in their first delivery. Mooney has been a paramedic with BC Emergency Health Services for 12 years, including 10 in Lake Cowichan, and Spencer has been a paramedic for more than four years, including three in Lake Cowichan. Emergency responders earn a stork pin for attending their first birth.
“Even though they were nervous about it, they were excited about it,” Herrington said.
After the birth, Violet was cleaned up and taken to hospital in Duncan, where they confirmed that she was healthy. She is now home with mom Cara, dad Shaun and two-and-a-half-year-old sister Charlotte. Charlotte’s own birth came after a relatively quick eight hours of labour, but that was ages when compared to Violet’s. Charlotte has been very welcoming to the newest addition.
“She’s been very helpful, very loving,” Herrington reported. “She said, ‘I’ve been waiting to hold her in my arms.’”
For Allnutt and the rest of the fire department, it was a unique event in multiple ways. It’s much more common for firefighters to attend tragedies than miracles.
“The coolest part is that normally, where a life would be lost, in the back of an ambulance, a life was gained.”