FORT DRUM, N.Y. (July 1, 2021) -- Sgt. 1st Class Seth Barham, 27th Public Affairs Detachment noncommissioned officer in charge, was returning from a short road trip to Syracuse with his family when they received an unexpected passenger along the way – a baby boy!
Barham’s wife Ana was pregnant with their second child, but still a week away from her due date, when they drove their four-year-old daughter Reagan to her doctor’s appointment on May 19. His father-in-law had just arrived the night before from Wisconsin and accompanied them on the trip.
A one-hour drive there, one-hour drive back to Watertown – no problem, Barham thought. Before leaving Syracuse, he also wanted to stop at a popular eatery to bring food back for his colleagues.
With the routine appointment finished and everyone ready for a casual drive home, they waited for Ana to return from the restroom. Barham said everything that happened after that was definitely not routine or casual.
“When she comes back out, she just grabs the side of the car and says, ‘I don’t think you should go back to work. I think I just had a contraction,’” he said.
Ana said that she felt her first contraction earlier that morning, and thought to herself, “This baby won’t be born five days past his due date like his sister. But if I walk a lot, he’ll probably be born by the end of the week.”
“When we left Syracuse, I asked Seth not to return to the office because I was starting to not feel well,” she said. “But I thought for sure I had enough time to make it home to Watertown. Needless to say we were all caught off guard.”
On the road, Barham called the obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) department at Samaritan Medical Center. He also placed a call to their next-door neighbor and friend, Dr. Craig Guerin, a neonatologist at Samaritan.
Barham said they felt reassured after those calls, and the plan ahead was a warm bath and rest at home.
“I’m thinking, maybe, the baby’s coming tonight,” Barham said. “I even called my parents in New Hampshire because they were planning on coming that weekend before her due date. So I called them, and said, ‘Maybe you better come tomorrow, there might be a baby soon.’”
About 10 minutes into their hour-long drive home, Barham said that Ana had another contraction, followed shortly by another. Then, another.
“The contractions began coming on aggressively,” Barham said. “I was still calm, and was thinking we still had time.”
Normally, contractions begin slowly during the early stage of labor – one or two per hour. Barham said he was thinking of the 5-1-1 rule. If the contractions are five minutes apart, each lasting for a minute, for at least one hour, then go to the hospital.
Sensing that their casual drive home was turning chaotic, Barham made another call to Samaritan.
“Then my phone rings, and it’s Dr. Guerin,” Barham said. “And he had just got a call from the emergency room doctor that there might be a baby delivered in the parking lot. He said, ‘Are they talking about you?’
Ana said that she lost sense of time, and she repeatedly asked her husband how far away they were from the hospital.
“I just knew things were escalating very quickly, and that’s when I focused on making myself as comfortable as possible,” she said. “The contractions were painful, and I wanted to scream but I tried not to because our four-year-old daughter was in the backseat with my dad, and I didn’t want to scare her.”
Barham said all he could do was drive and that he had no control of what was happening just inches away from him. Ana, however, was taking matters into her own hands.
“We were 29 minutes to the hospital when she said, ‘Babe, the head is out.’ And then, one big push, and the baby is out,” Barham recalled. “She’s holding the baby, puts him skin-to-skin, clears the airway, and my father-in-law is calling 911.”
Barham made another call to Dr. Guerin for instruction on how to tend to the baby, while also being concerned for the health of his wife.
“We still had 19 minutes to go and that was like an eternity,” he said. “Ana was calm, my four-year-old daughter kept calm, my father-in-law kept calm and I kept calm.”
“Once Jack was born, it felt like we were driving for a very long time before finally arriving at Samaritan Hospital,” Anna said. “But once we got there, I was very relieved to see a team of professionals waiting for us.”
“It was a whirlwind of activity,” Barham said. “There was a ton of uncertainty, but they were saying, ‘She’s good, she’s good.’ Then four minutes later, they wheel our baby in and he’s crying. He’s fine, and it was amazing for me to hear that.”
Barham said that his son Jack entered the world at 11:43 a.m. on May 19, but they are uncertain of the location since they had never actually stopped moving during the birth.
“We looked at the map, and I guessed Mannsville,” he said. “That was the best guess I could give, honestly. I was just trying to get to the hospital as safely as possible. And another crazy part of the story is that Ana had to sign the birth certificate as the delivering official because she technically delivered the baby.”
In retrospect, Barham said it might have been more prudent for them to reroute back to Syracuse when the contractions got closer together.
“Once we realized how critical the situation was, we just wanted to keep going,” he said. “We were more comfortable with Dr. Guerin and the support system at our destination in Watertown versus going to an OB-GYN we didn’t know or even knowing where the nearest hospital was.”
They have had time since the birth to rehash the scenario when they took a trip back to Syracuse recently.
“We were reliving all those moments as we were driving,” he said. “It was like, ‘this is where this happened, and this is when you told me you were going into labor.’ At the time, we couldn’t imagine she would deliver that fast. I didn’t think that could happen. It certainly didn’t with our first child. Ana was in labor for five or six hours with Reagan, and people said that was pretty quick.”
Barham said that Ana is the hero of the story.
“You could say that I was in the literal driver’s seat, but not the figurative driver’s seat in this situation,” he said. “I was taking all commands from my wife. She’s a super hero in my mind, and what she did was unbelievable.”
Barham said that he is grateful for the medical team at Samaritan, and he wrote a letter to the hospital CEO to thank them for the comfort and support they provided.
“When we first saw them, it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “I kept saying during the drive, we just have to get to Craig (Dr. Guerin). Once we turned the corner into the emergency awning, and they had us pull up to where the ambulances are, it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew things would be OK.”
“We will forever be grateful for the entire team at Samaritan,” Ana added. “They were all diligent, thorough and incredibly nice. We’re also very grateful for the police officer who escorted us through all of the Arsenal Street stop lights until the hospital.”
Barham said that while the situation was extremely stressful, he is thankful that it had a happy conclusion.
“The outcome certainly outweighs the stress of the process,” he said. “Ana just went in for her wellness check and she’s 100 percent healthy. Jack is happy, healthy and doing everything a baby should be doing. And when he grows up, he’s going to have a good story to tell.”
“I feel blessed to have a healthy and happy family,” Ana said. “Jack is doing great, Reagan is a very loving big sister, and Seth is the most amazing and supportive husband and father. We’re still adjusting to being a family of four, but life is good.”