Birth in the Front Seat of the Family Car

Birth in the Front Seat of the Family Car

Highway Delivery!
Susan Lazaruk, With A File From Matthew Ramsey The Province
May 19, 2004

Birth in the front seat of the family car

Barbara Arab gave birth to baby Savannah at the side of the
No. 1 Highway during MAY 18th’s, 2004 rush hour morning traffic.

CREDIT: Arlen Redekop, The Province

Little Savannah Arab was already a week overdue and there was no way she was going to let the Lower Mainland morning rush hour yesterday stop her from making her grand entry into the world.

Savannah, who today celebrates her one-day birthday, had her dad, Douglas, pull the family Ford Focus over to the side of the Trans-Canada Highway so mom Barbara could let her out, like now.

The medical emergency caused havoc with commuter traffic.

“She was in a hurry,” said the delighted mom on her cellphone from — where else — the car as the family drove from hospital to Barbara’s parents yesterday afternoon.

The drama began when Barbara woke her husband Douglas at 6 a.m. By the time they bundled up sons William, 9, and Nicky, 4, and left their Surrey home for Lions Gate Hospital, where their doctor practises, it was 6:40 a.m.

But Barbara, 36, figured she had plenty of time because she had gone through hours of labour with her first two.

“And the contractions were pretty standard when we left, seven minutes apart,” she said.

They drove down the freeway much too slowly for his — or Savannah’s — liking.

“It was rush hour,” said Douglas, 42. “It took 20 minutes to get from 104th [Avenue in Surrey] to the Port Mann Bridge.”

Barbara, by then, was certain they weren’t going to make it to North Vancouver.

“I said we’d better go to Burnaby Hospital,” she said.

Before pulling over, Douglas got on the phone to 911 and the on-duty dispatcher, Kyle Ewasiuk, became the couple’s birth coach.

But before Douglas could get the car into park, his new daughter decided she wouldn’t wait.

“When I felt her coming out, I just put up my feet on the dash and I probably squished my son in the car seat behind me,” said Barbara.

The transcript of the conversation includes Ewasiuk asking: “Do you think she’s going to have the baby right now?”

“There is no think, the baby is out,” Douglas replied.

Ewasiuk then asked Douglas to check the baby’s breathing.

“OK sir, is the baby breathing?”

“Yeah, I hope so,” Douglas answered.

Later in the conversation, Ewasiuk instructed Douglas to clear the baby’s air passage and to take off his shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord.

“You’re going to need to get something to tie off the cord now. OK, do you have a shoelace you can steal from the kids?” Ewasiuk asked.

“No,” Douglas said. “None of my kids wears shoes. I’ll find something in the trunk.”

“He found a shopping bag with one of those rope handles and that worked,” Ewasiuk recalled after the highway birth.

“We talked him through it,” said Ewasiuk, who said he could hear the cars whizzing by in the background. “He was as calm as can be. He followed all the instructions.”

“There was no point in getting panicky,” said Douglas.

“I think [William and Nicky] were a little freaked out,” said Barbara.

Two ambulances arrived a few minutes later and whisked mom and baby to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

Savannah Eileen Arab weighed in at six pounds, four ounces.

“She’s absolutely gorgeous, absolutely perfect,” said the proud papa. “All pink and wrinkly like she’s supposed to be.”

Tim Flanagan said this year alone, B.C. Ambulance Service personnel have answered 371 “maternity-related” calls, but said a birth out of home or hospital is rare.

“We do some pretty gruesome stuff most of the time, so this was nice for a change,” said Ewasiuk.

© The Vancouver Province 2004
Dear Sirs
re “Highway Delivery”
Congratulations to the Arab family on the arrival of their baby daughter born in the front seat of the family car. Contrary to what your writer calls a “medical emergency”, birth is a healthy normal process and most births should go as smoothly as this one did.

The instructions of the ambulance dispatcher for the father to use dirty shoelaces to tie off the umbilical cord is completely incorrect. Please let your readers know that there is no reason to tie off the umbilical cord of a baby and no harm is done by leaving that job till a later time when clean implements can be used. Taking string out of the trunk of your car or using used shoelaces could cause an infection.

The best instructions regarding a “surprise unassisted birth” are to keep the mother and baby skin to skin, lying down and covered with a warm blanket. These simple instructions are sufficient to maintain the health of the mother and baby. Birth is ancient and it’s designed to work very simply.

Yours truly
Gloria Lemay,
Midwifery Educator
2002 Recipient CHOICES “Women’s Voice Award”
Advisory Board Member, Canadian Doula Assoc.

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