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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Westminster dispatcher helps couple unexpectedly deliver baby at home

Liz and Scott Riddle figured they had time.

With their daughter Emma, now 28 months old, labor had lasted about 12 hours. So when Liz woke from a nap the afternoon of Dec. 12 and felt a contraction, they called the midwife but took their time.

Scott went downstairs and played the piano to help Liz relax. She gathered her things with no sense of hurry. But when she reached the bottom of the stairs, it seemed as though everything happened at once: Her water broke, the contractions suddenly were back-to-back and she knew she had to push. Now.

And that’s how Claire Kit Riddle, born at 3:18 p.m. Dec. 12, entered this world – delivered by her father in their Westminster living room with start-to-finish guidance over the phone by Rebecca Bernal, an emergency medical dispatcher with the Westminster Police and Fire departments.

“I didn’t think it would go that fast,” admitted Rebecca, who has been a dispatcher for about 12 years, three months of that time with the City of Westminster.

Liz and Scott didn’t think it would happen that fast, either. Claire’s original due date was Dec. 18, and though they’d had a hospital appointment the morning of Dec. 12 for a version procedure, Liz ended up not needing it.

Instead, they had a lunch date of spicy food, joking that it would induce labor. Then they went home and took a nap, enjoying the rest until it was time to pick Emma up from daycare.

'I'm going to help you'

Meanwhile, Rebecca was nearing the end of her shift, which began at 6 a.m. that day. In her previous experience with helping deliver a baby over the phone, her husband, now an Adams County Sheriff’s deputy, got to the car – pulled to the side of I-25 – in time to finish the delivery.

This was different. It happened so fast, six minutes in total. The call came in at 3:12 p.m. and Rebecca immediately dispatched paramedics to the Riddle’s home.

“I thought that was it but (Rebecca) said no, stay on the phone, I’m going to help you,” Scott recalled.

She walked him through the process step-by-step: Where is Liz now? OK, I need you to help her lie down. You should be able to see the baby’s hair and the top of the head; can you see that? Alright, I need you to put your hand on the baby’s head.

“It’s really just about keeping everybody calm,” explained Emily Peek, a communications supervisor with the Westminster Police and Fire departments. “It’s going to be a chaotic situation, and we’re able to provide those instructions which can really give people a task and keep them focused on the medical issue at hand.”

Rebecca guided Scott through feeling for the umbilical cord, hearing the hint of panic in his voice and assuring him he was doing an amazing job. She told him that on Liz’s next big push, he needed to be ready to guide their baby out.

“As Claire was coming out I could hear the sirens,” Scott said. “It was very reassuring to have (Rebecca) on the phone and hear the sirens coming because I really didn’t know what to do.”

But then… here was their daughter, drawing her first breaths.

Welcoming Claire

“We were waiting to find out the sex, and we’d picked out the name Claire, so when the paramedics came in they asked Scott and he told me, ‘It’s Claire!’” Liz said.

It’s rare for dispatch to receive calls in which a woman is at this stage of delivery, Peek said, maybe one or two per year. It’s even rarer for a dispatcher to guide someone through the entire delivery, since emergency response times are so good.

“In this situation, and with someone who isn’t a medical professional, there are a lot of things that can happen, so for the baby to be healthy and the outcome to be what it was is really special,” Rebecca said.

Considering everything, Liz said she wouldn’t change a thing, though “if it has to happen again, I will absolutely get 9-1-1 on the phone,” Scott added with a laugh.

And in the carrier protected between them, sweet baby Claire – 10 fingers, 10 toes, all pink cheeks and gossamer softness – sighed lightly and drifted back to sleep.

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