On a summer night in late August, a woman expecting her third child felt her water break a week before the baby was due.
With not enough time to get to the hospital, Larissa Blake of Chaumont, though nervous of the unexpected things that could occur, braced herself for a home birth.
Though she was having some pains that day, Ms. Blake just thought it was Braxton Hicks contractions, and was joking with her sister, calling and saying her water had broken. Later, as she was talking on the phone and getting her 6-year-old to bed, the pains got a bit worse. Around 10 p.m., she called her doctor, who asked how far apart the contractions were, to which she replied three to five minutes. He then said to head to the hospital, but by the time Ms. Blake had walked downstairs to the other bathroom, her water really did break.
Ms. Blake’s middle child, Kaysen Anzalone, was meant to be away from home with his father when the baby came, but since the baby surprised everyone by coming early, he ended up being there and seeing the beginning of what was happening, telling everyone that his mommy had peed on the carpet.
A call for emergency responders went out at 10:17 p.m. the night of August 24, with help arriving soon after. Nicholas Birchenough, a volunteer fireman for Chaumont who became an EMT Level 1 in June, delivered the baby at 10:29 p.m.- a first for the new EMT. He and his fellow responders thought they would be assisting with transport, not a home birth. For Mr. Birchenough, it was the first time he had ever held an infant, let alone delivered a child.
“It was exciting and also the most terrifying thing I’d ever done,” he said. “I guess I was fine in person, but in my head, there was just a panic.”
He said though the delivery was a nerve-wracking experience, he would do it again in a heartbeat if he had to. The baby, a healthy eight pound, three ounce boy named Marcel Alexander, was born in his family’s home on the first-floor bathroom.
“You just never know what’s going to happen,” Ms. Blake said. “It was a surprise, but having Nick and everyone helping — it was definitely a relief. If they weren’t there, it would definitely have been a lot more chaotic than it was.”
Following protocol, Mr. Birchenough asked Ms. Blake her name, the number of pregnancies she has had, and what her due date was, as well as if there were any medical issues regarding her or the fetus. Soon after, she stated that the baby was coming and was instructed on breathing techniques while pushing.
Once the baby had been born, Ms. Blake’s mother, Ann Blake, was asked to enter the room to cut the umbilical cord — severing the physical link between mother and son.
“Emergency Medical Services got there very fast and they were very helpful; Nick was keeping my daughter calm and telling her to breathe and he did awesome — they all did awesome,” she said. “I’m so proud that they all came and did their job without hesitation; it was just an awesome experience with them.”
Unfortunately, Brandon Thompson, the baby’s father, was unable to be present for the birth.
While the location of the birth was certainly unusual, baby Marcel was born in the home his father Brandon grew up in and has been renovating. He had worked on the bathroom and the kitchen this summer, and then his son was born on the newly installed wooden floor of the bathroom. Mr. Thompson’s mother, Kristin Henderson, said that while he wasn’t there to witness the birth of his son, he sends his gratitude — from the bottom of his heart — to all the people that were there to help bring his baby into the world.
Mr. Birchenough, an EMT for not even three months, was assisted by a few others. Cpt. Devin Reiersen of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Chief of Plans, was assisting with the delivery upon arrival as well as William Lipczynski, first assistant chief, who later stepped out to work the communications and get an ambulance to the home. This was a first for both of them as well.
“Most of the time, we don’t have good calls, so it’s kind of refreshing that this was a good one,” Cpt. Reiersen said. “It’s been a hard summer in Chaumont with the drowning in the bay and things that happen; so it’s been a dark month, and it’s kind of nice to round out the summer with bringing a life back into the world.”
Shortly after the baby was born, an ambulance arrived to take both mother and child to Samaritan Medical Center, driven by Randy Martin, a firefighter with the Three Mile Bay Fire Department.
Now, a little less than two weeks later, both mother and newborn are doing great. If all goes according to plan, Mr. Birchenough should receive his stork pin Monday, a tradition at the department when they assist in delivering babies.
“I can’t be more proud of my guy to be able to be delivering a baby already just a couple months out of EMT school; he was very professional and knowledgeable,” Mr. Lipczynski said. “He says he was scared, but never once did he show it. I think I probably was more scared than he was. It was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had being a firefighter and running EMS calls, to be able to bring a life into the world.”
In Chaumont, like many other places, there aren’t very many volunteers left who go out on calls, so the department is always in need of more volunteers. According to the website, the Chaumont Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) was established in 1914 and is a professional unpaid fire department running about 230 calls a year. CVFD has one station located on Route 12E in Chaumont providing fire protection to the town of Lyme, and mutual aid to its surrounding communities. They also provide EMS (first responder) coverage to the town of Lyme.
Mr. Birchenough joined the department two and a half years ago at the age of 21 as a volunteer firefighter for the village of Chaumont due to the decline in volunteer numbers with friends Michael Barbour and Joshua Kimball, wishing to help those experiencing traumatic events and ensure the safety of those living in the community. He has achieved his national certification requirements in Interior/Exterior Structure Fires, Fire Fighter 1 & 2, Ice Water Rescue and OSHA. He has also taken leadership courses in HAZMAT and HIPPA, among others.
With a love of learning and helping in the community he has grown up in, Mr. Birchenough says this experience is definitely among the most memorable of his career so far.
“It’s a rewarding thing without money, you’re either someone’s last wish or someone’s first hope,” he said. “I’ve been on the last breath call, and now I’ve been on the first breath call.”