ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A North Carolina newborn surprised his mother with an early delivery. Caitlin Austin welcomed her son, Dawson, in her sister’s car just steps away from Haywood Regional Hospital.
“I thought when I started having contractions, we would at least be able to make it to the hospital, get me up to the room and then have him. But no. He had other plans,” said Austin.
Austin called her fiance, Jesse Yon, while he was at work, thinking she would be able to drive the 10-15 minutes to the hospital, but she quickly realized she was having major contractions. She immediately called her older sister, Ashby Brown, who was working at the hospital at the time.
“While I was waiting for her, I really just couldn’t get off the floor,” said Austin. “I was trying to actually walk, too, but I couldn’t walk because the [contractions] were just too painful, so I just stayed on the floor until she got there.”
Brown usually doesn’t answer her phone while she’s working, but had a feeling she should this time.
“My sister can tend to be a little bit dramatic sometimes, so I thought, there’s going to be plenty of time,” said Brown. “I got there and saw her lying on the kitchen floor and realized this is not dramatics. This is real. This is happening.”
In between contractions, Brown got Austin’s 3-year-old son Carson in the car. And then she shifted her attention to quickly getting her sister out of the house and into the car before another contraction hit.
“He just kept saying, ‘Hurry Ashby, hurry Ashby’ and ‘Stop crying mommy, stop crying mommy,'” recalled Brown.
Meantime, Austin was white-knuckled holding on to anything she could get a grip on as they drove the 10 minutes down the highway to the hospital.
“About to exit 100, I could just feel his head coming out, and Ashby was like, hang on we’re almost there,” said Austin. “She was doing so good trying to console me.”
Brown thought about pulling over and calling 911, but with the hospital just minutes away, she called the ER to be ready.
“I was more nervous that he would come out while I was driving. I was trying to focus on not wrecking the vehicle,” said Brown.
The warning was passed on from the ER to nurse Katie Hargrove, who has been working at the hospital for about two years.
“I put on some gloves and I said a quick prayer like ‘Lord if this is really happening, please just help me remember what I’m supposed to do. Keep me calm,'” said Hargrove.
Hargrove brought a wheelchair down with her and alerted other staff members to bring out a stretcher. She had never delivered a child alone but had practiced and witnessed it with senior nurses plenty times.
They had no time to take Austin and just leaned her back in the front seat of her sister’s Honda Element.
“She was in the front and Carson the 3-year-old was right behind her,” said Hargrove. “We put the seat down to try and make more room, but we squished his legs and he was like ‘ow my legs,’ so we set it back up and got him out.”
Thankfully, other staff had arrived and were able to help care for Carson. With one last contraction, baby Dawson arrived healthy and crying. Hargrove recalled putting him on his mother’s chest and allowing Brown to cut her nephew’s umbilical cord.
“Thankfully, Honda Elements are like Jeeps and waterproof inside and out,” joked Hargrove.
Dawson’s father Jesse Yon was happy to see his son. Dawson and his mother are recovering well two weeks after the chaotic delivery.
“I’m just glad he’s healthy,” said Austin. “We have a healthy baby boy.”