Early arrival puts birth in dad's hands


A Newfoundland couple has one memorable story to tell about the day their second son was born.

John Herbert Cooper Greene arrived shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday morning, but it was anything but a routine delivery.

The baby wasn't due until Feb. 4. But, like his older, four-year-old brother, Rory, he just couldn't wait to make an appearance, much to the consternation of his parents, Joe and Jennifer Greene of St. Joseph's, St. Mary's Bay.

The day began as any other for the couple who now live in St. John's.

"I got up and went to work, same as any normal day," said Joe Greene, a plumber by trade.

He said his wife called him shortly after 8 a.m. to say she was in pain from contractions, and that he should come home and take her to a scheduled appointment with her gynecologist.

"I got home about ten to nine and she was having contractions left, right and centre. We still thought she could make it to her doctor, so we called him and they said to go right to the case room (at the Health Sciences Centre)."

Turns out it was too late for that.

"Before we left the house Jennifer wanted to use the bathroom. She got in there but couldn't get out. Through the labour pains and everything, she just couldn't get on her feet."

After a couple of attempts, Joe conceded he'd have to call an ambulance.

That was also the point when it became apparent that Jennifer would have to give birth in their house, leaving mom deprived of a hospital and painkillers, and Joe playing the role of amateur obstetrician.

"I didn't really have time to be scared. It's just, I had to do it. The baby was coming and somebody had to catch 'em."
- Joe Greene

"There was definitely that point where I switched from 'come on!' to I'm gonna have to deal with this. I didn't really have time to be scared. It's just, I had to do it. The baby was coming and somebody had to catch 'em."

Joe says his wife was less matter-of-fact.

"Initially she didn't want any part of that. You have the image in your head of having a baby, same as our first little boy," said Greene, noting their four-year-old was also early, but was delivered by a doctor.

"You come to the hospital, you take the drugs, you go through thepushin' and pushin' and pushin', and then you got a baby. But when you're on your own bed in your own bedroom, it's a different story. You don't really want it to happen there."

But that's exactly where it did happen.

Resourceful dad

Joe quickly morphed into the role of doctor, living up to his reputation among friends and family as a resourceful guy.

After helping his wife to their bedroom, he called 911.

"I had the dispatcher on the phone, and he walked me through, and talked me through whatever I needed to do ... and about 10 minutes later I had a baby in my hands."

Hours later, Greene spoke nonchalantly about the ordeal.

But he admits there was a short period of time after the baby was out that he felt a rush of panic and anxiety.

"He wasn't breathing, he was purple ... it was pretty scary. It was probably only about five or 10 seconds, but it felt a lot longer than that."

Greene credits the 911 dispatcher with keeping him calm and clearly walking him through every step of the delivery, including those long moments of silence while he held his motionless son.

"He told me what to do, and sure enough (the baby) started to coughing and choking, spitting up, crying. It was some relief, I'll tell ya."

That's when Greene really lived up to his reputation for resourcefulness. Told to find something to tie off the umbilical cord, he began frantically scanning the bedroom.

"At first there was nothing. And I knew I couldn't leave Jennifer and the baby like that in the room. I looked and looked and decided it was either the cord on the alarm clock or my sneaker laces."

He went with the latter.

Fortunately, he had a pocketknife to cut his lace and tie off the cord.

It was shortly thereafter when paramedics arrived to find dad with mom, cradling her newborn on her chest.

Greene insists his role was minor compared to his wife's performance over the last eight-and-half-months, and Thursday morning.

He also says it might have been a different story had this been their first child.

"Oh, definitely. If it had been the first, yeah, I would've been petrified. But I knew a little bit about it all from our first one (at the hospital)."

And how's everyone now?

"Perfect. Number one. Jennifer's sat up in her room at the hospital, the grandparents are here, the little boy is here, and everybody is happy."

Greene also has some advice for couples who find themselves in a similar predicament.

"Don't panic. That's about all I can tell 'em. Most definitely contact the paramedics, 911. I got a big thank you for them. The dispatcher and the ambulance crew that came were number one. Couldn't ask for any better."

Greene said he plans to thank them in person at his first opportunity.

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