By PAUL COWLEY
Lora-Leah Andersen is one cool mama.
When her unborn son Luke made it clear he was coming as she and her husband Matthew were only halfway to the hospital from their home west of Spruce View, did she panic?
Not a chance.
“We’d had a close call before, so we were very familiar with it,” she said.
Their daughter Milla, born in 2004, came 10 minutes after they arrived at the hospital in Red Deer.
They almost didn’t make it after getting stuck waiting for a train to pass at a crossing in Penhold.
This time around, she was so calm that when the ambulance from Red Deer Emergency Services came, the first thought that crossed her mind was to lock the van doors, she recalls with a chuckle.
She wanted a peaceful and natural birth and didn’t want it to feel like an emergency, she explained.
“And so far we were having a peaceful and natural birth.”
The only problem was it was in the family van at the side of a dark country road in the early hours of Jan. 4.
Her fears of the birth being treated as an urgent situation were soon eased by fire-medics Rob Engel and Brad Readman, who made her comfortable in the back of the ambulance and headed into Red Deer.
Baby Luke was done waiting, however, and five minutes later, at around 1:30 a.m., the Andersens welcomed their sixth child into the world. He weighed nine pounds, seven ounces.
Their adventure that morning began about midnight. Lora-Leah had been just getting ready to go to sleep when her water broke.
Within 15 minutes, they were on the road, but just west of Penhold it was apparent that the baby wasn’t going to wait until they got to Red Deer’s hospital.
Her husband Matthew pulled the van over and she found a good position in the front seat and tried to slow nature down as her husband phoned for an ambulance.
On Friday afternoon, the Andersens and their six children were at the downtown firehall to meet Engel and Readman again and the others who helped that night to thank them for their efforts.
Lora-Leah also wanted to show other mothers that giving birth does not have to be a scary experience, even when things don’t go entirely to plan.
“It wasn’t an emergency. Everybody kept calm and collected.”
Dispatcher Nancy McCulley was the one giving birth instructions over the phone to Matthew, who is a grader operator for Red Deer County, and said he was “really calm.
“They were awesome,” she said of the couple.
It was only McCulley’s second birth in eight years on the job, she said. “It’s a rare occurrence for us to deliver a baby.”
Readman agreed the couple took the unexpected birth in stride.
“She was great.”
The personal thank you was a plus for all of those involved that evening, including another pair of fire-medics in a second ambulance.
“It’s nice to see the positive outcomes,” said Readman.