It was 7:25 a.m. Thursday morning, Feb. 10, when Jeanne Rexroad, communications supervisor, Alexandria Fire Department Dispatch Center, got the frantic call. The EMS ambulance arrived at the scene just three minutes later, 7:28 a.m. But, it was too late. Ester Phebe Scheib had her own schedule.
She is the baby girl born in the front seat her father's pickup truck in a condominium parking lot on Gibbon street, just blocks from Donald Scheib's ultimate destination, the BirthCare and Women's Health center at 1501 King St. Mother, baby and father are all doing just fine.
"Everything went real well. The baby is very content. She doesn't cry hardly at all," Donald Scheib, 25, said Sunday from his home in Indian Head, Md. Ester is the fourth daughter born to Rachel, 26, and Donald Scheib. The others are Eunice Hannah, 3; Sarah Abigail, 2, and Lydia Ruth, 1.
"They're all about 15 months apart. We were hoping for a boy this time. But another girl is just fine," he said. "We've had a birth midwife for all our children. That's why we were heading for the BirthCare center instead of the hospital." At the center midwives deliver babies in a home-like atmosphere.
As the paramedics were in route, Rexroad was talking the father through the procedure. And then she heard the baby's first cries over his cell phone that was positioned on the truck's dashboard as he was following her instructions.
"This is the first time I remember talking someone all the way through a delivery. He was very excited. It took a minute to figure out just where he was. When her water broke and her contractions were so close he decided to stop," Rexroad said.
THAT ASSESSMENT was buttressed by Scheib. "We went across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and when I checked my wife I saw the baby's head. That's when I knew I wasn't going to make it to the center and had to pull over and call 911," he said.
"I could hear the sirens coming even as I was telling my wife to push. And, then I had the baby in my hands. All my blankets were in the back of the truck and I didn't want to put the baby down," Scheib said.
He didn't have to. That's when Wayne Johnson, a 24-year veteran paramedic, working out of Alexandria Fire Station 205, took over. "That baby was born just 30 seconds prior to our arrival," he said.
"The father was kneeling on the driver's side of the truck holding the baby and the mother was leaning up against the passenger door telling him to let me take over. The umbilical cord was over the father's shoulder and he didn't quite know what to do," Johnson said.
"It was really cold out there. The child was hypothermic with a temperature of only 95 degrees. But, once we got the air ways cleared, that stimulated its breathing and it was OK," he said.
Working with Johnson on the call was paramedic Kelsey Lockhart, an eight-year veteran, and emergency rescue technician, Rossana Lazo. "This is only my fourth day on the job in the field," Lazo said after the event. "It's was quite an initiation experience."
"The baby was still blue when we got there. We immediately clamped off the cord and wrapped the baby to keep it warm," Johnson said.
"We got the mother out of the truck and onto a cot. We actually had two patients at that point, the baby and the mother," Lockhart said. "The delivery was actually completed at the hospital." Both mother and baby were transported by the EMS ambulance to Inova Alexandria Hospital.
When asked how many babies he had delivered, Johnson said, "I stopped counting at 30. I've probably delivered babies everywhere you can think of. This was one of the more exciting ones," he said. Lockhart said her baby delivery total now had reached six.
DELIVERING THE BABY wasn't Donald Scheib's only challenge in his dash for the Alexandria center. Adding to his anxiety was not only the usual early morning snail pace beltway/bridge traffic but also, a local police officer pulled him over for speeding and erratic driving.
"It was just before we reached the bridge. When I told him where I was going and why, he looked at my wife, waved me on and said to drive carefully," Scheib said. "My main aim was to get to the center."
Having only lived in the Washington area since November, the Scheibs were not accustomed to the early morning traffic crunch. They moved here from Perry County, Penn., a rural area north of Harrisburg, when Scheib got a job with a construction company in White Plains, Md.
They had left their Indian Head home in, what they thought, was plenty of time to get to the center. But, traffic and the police stop, combined with the shortening of his wife's contractions and then her water breaking, all contributed to stacking the cards against them.
"It all worked out in the Lord's will. And we were able to check out of the hospital that afternoon. We just want to get home with our children," Scheib said. That now includes eight pound, seven ounce, Ester Phebe.