Couple delivers baby at roadside after being told help won't come for hours
Luke Rawlings will never forget the moment he realised his partner was about to give birth miles from a hospital.
The groundworker from Caldicot, Wales, pulled his car over in the early hours of Friday, January 7, and made his girlfriend Gemma Earle comfortable as he delivered their son Sonny.
‘When something like that happens your head’s just racing and you’re thinking of the worst,’ says Luke. ‘You’re thinking, “What if something’s wrong?” Luckily he came out all safe and healthy. It’s a story to tell him when he’s older.’
Sonny is the couple’s fourth child. The others – Ruby, seven, Rosie, four, and Eliza, two – were all born in hospital around the due date, but Sonny was three days late.
Gemma was due to be induced at the Grange University Hospital, in Llanfrechfa, on the Sunday, but it became clear on the Thursday night that the baby would not wait that long.
‘The missus was at home,’ recalls 29-year-old Luke. ‘She was having what she the thought were Braxton Hicks, which mimic labour pains but are not actually labour. Any time she gets any sort of pain she tends to put it off as something else. She had been in pain for about two days, and the pains were coming closer and closer together.
‘We rang Gemma’s mum on Thursday night and she made her way over to pick our other kids up. I rang the Grange hospital at about midnight and explained what was going on. They said, “it sounds very much sounds like she’s going into labour – pack your bag and head to hospital.’
When Gemma’s mum arrived, she was in the living room and was struggling to get up and to the door. So Luke helped her make it to the car.
As Luke was driving, Gemma started experiencing severe pains and Luke heard a ‘gushing noise’. Gemma told him: ‘My waters have just gone.’
‘I was like “oh s***”. I was panicking,’ he says. ‘We had about half an hour to drive. I said to her, “You’re not going be able to wait are you?”
‘She was like, “I’m definitely not going to make it.” She said she could feel his head and she was going to be sitting on it if we didn’t pull over.’
Luke parked up at around 1.45am. The couple were both shocked at what was about to happen.
‘For the previous births I had always stayed at the top end thinking, “I’m not looking down.” You think it’s going to be like watching your favourite pub burn down,’ says Luke. ‘But when you haven’t got any choice you just crack on with it.
‘I could see the top of his head. Gemma wasn’t very comfy in the front passenger seat so I threw the kids’ bikes out of the back seat to make room to recline her seat. I’ve only had the car a year and don’t usually mess about with the seats so it took a while to find the lever.’
Luke got some blankets ready and called 999.
‘I had to throw the phone down on the seat and I had the ambulance service operator on the line giving advice,’ he says. ‘With that, I’m sat there waiting for the baby to make an appearance.
‘Gemma started pushing, I had my hands ready and he slid straight out into my hands.
‘I wrapped him up warm and gave him straight to Gemma for skin-to-skin contact because it was freezing outside. I shut the door and put the heaters on full blast.’
Luke recalls the ambulance service operator telling him: ‘Just to let you know, your baby was born at 2.18am.’
The operator also advised Luke to tie a shoelace around the umbilical cord to prevent infection from the placenta. Luke then wrapped the placenta in a towel.
While Luke was busy admiring his son’s little face, the operator delivered a bombshell – an ambulance would not be available for six or seven hours because of pressures on services.
‘I thought this was pretty shocking,’ says Luke.
‘Then a couple came out of a nearby house. They had been looking out of their window at what was going on. The woman asked if we wanted any towels. I thought it was really nice of her.’
Because of the wait for an ambulance, Luke drove home and called a midwife from the Grange who arrived about 40 minutes later.
‘I cut his cord and she weighed him, checked him over, checked the placenta and then gave us the all-clear,’ says Luke.
After cleaning the 9lbs 3oz baby and dressing him in warm clothes, Luke drove to the Grange, where Sonny and Gemma stayed for 24 hours.
‘They did have to clear his airways a bit because he’d come out so fast and he had a bit of gunk in his airways, but he’s breathing fine now,’ says Luke.
‘At the minute he’s a bit of a night owl. He likes to sit up and look about the place, then he likes to sleep all day. He is a lovely-looking thing, he’s absolutely beautiful, though he has got a little bit of a temper on him.
‘Delivering him was absolutely nuts but my mum, Gemma’s mum, everyone in the family is so happy that he is safe and healthy.’
The Welsh Ambulance Service said it received a call from Luke at 2.12am on January 7, in which he informed the operator his partner was in labour.
‘Minutes into the call, while still on the phone to our 999 call handler, Mr Rawlings reported that the baby had been born,’ says assistant director of operations Sonia Thompson.
‘While arranging help, we advised Mr Rawlings that we were dealing with an extremely high level of demand, and that he could expect a delay for an emergency ambulance.
‘We would like to congratulate Mr Rawlings and Ms Earle on their new arrival and extend our very best wishes.
‘If the couple would like to discuss their experience in more detail, we would invite them to contact the Trust directly.’
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