Ind. Dispatcher Meets Grandmother She Coached Through Baby Delivery
July 26—In her 17 years as a 911 dispatcher, Britt Miller had never met any of the people she has helped. And she had never before talked someone through delivering their own grandchild.
Doing both in one day was surreal, to say the least.
The call came at 6:49 a.m., a little more than an hour into Miller's shift Wednesday morning at Monroe County Central Dispatch. Kim Schroeder reported that her daughter-in-law Bethany was in labor and needed to be taken to the hospital.
But as Kim talked, it became clear: The baby was going to beat the medical teams to the scene.
"I was pretty sure it was imminent," Miller said. When Kim called, Bethany was at home, and her contractions were coming regularly at two minutes apart. Kim, who worked as a labor and delivery nurse in the 1980s, was certain they were not going to make it to the hospital for the birth.
"She said it had been a while since she delivered a baby," Miller said. "I said it was a while since I had delivered a baby, too, so we would do it together."
And they did. Brooks Owen Schroeder, 6 pounds and 1 ounce, made his appearance at 6:56 a.m., just before the fire department showed up.
Miller has worked with dispatch in Monroe County for 16 years. Before that, she worked dispatch for another agency; and before that, in the late 1990s, she was an EMT. Before Wednesday, she had delivered exactly one baby, back when she was an EMT. But this was her first time delivering a baby over the phone.
Well, she said, technically Kim did the actual delivery. "I just talked to her."
On Wednesday afternoon, Miller nervously made her way up to the Schroeders' room at IU Health Bloomington Hospital, clutching a stuffed bear for Brooks. When Kim met her in the hallway, they hugged.
"It was so nice to have somebody prompt me and walk me through the process," Kim said. Over and over, the two women said to each other, "You were great."
They joined Bethany, husband Aaron, and her brother, Andrew Hite, in Bethany's hospital room. In addition to the bear, Miller had brought the recording of the 911 call. They listened breathlessly to Kim's initial call, Miller's calm response, and the instructions that unfolded when it became clear the birth was happening soon. In the recording, Miller told Kim to help get Bethany onto her back. To stay calm. To gently support the baby as he came out, to have a towel at the ready.
"You're doing a great job," she said in the recording, and the women in the room smiled at each other. Wrapped in a blanket in his mother's arms, Brooks snoozed as they listened.
The family marveled at how long the seven-minute call seemed to take in comparison to that morning, when the birth felt like it took only moments. Bethany shook her head in wonder. The conversations sounded familiar, but only vaguely. After all, she joked, she'd been a little busy at the time.
The birth of Brooks' older sister, Addy, had also been quick. But Brooks will have a more exciting story to tell when he gets older. "It's definitely going to be one for the baby book," Bethany said with a laugh.
Jeff Schemmer, communications director for the dispatch center, said the local dispatch office talks people through labor three or four times a year. But usually those calls end with the arrival of the EMTs, who take over the situation and transport the pregnant mother to the hospital for the delivery.
"For us to actually deliver one and the responding crew is not on the scene, that's actually really rare," Schemmer said. To celebrate, he ordered pizza for his staff.
The event put the whole office into high spirits. Often, 911 dispatchers handle calls related to dire emergencies or tragedies. Often, when they pick up the phone, it's because someone else is having the worst day of their life.
But not this day.
"Today was someone's best day," Miller said Wednesday afternoon. "And that's pretty awesome."