BANGOR, Maine — Early on the morning of Jan. 31, Rebecca Riel-Oliver woke up in a lot of discomfort. A few minutes later, she was a mother, thanks in part to the advice of a Penobscot County dispatcher.
“I was getting back pain and was just uncomfortable, there was some bleeding, but I really didn’t know what it was,” Riel-Oliver said.
It was about 5 a.m. when Dustin Ivers went into his grandparents’ room and told them his girlfriend, Riel-Oliver, was crying. The couple normally lives with Ivers’ parents in Pittsfield, but they were staying that night at Dana and Lorraine Ivers’ home in Dixmont.
“Our first thought is, ‘Well, she’s 8½ months pregnant, so just go talk to her,’” chuckled Dana Ivers, Dustin Ivers’ grandfather.
It turned out to be more than just typical pregnancy discomfort and anxiety.
“Lorraine came in to check on me and said she could see a head,” Riel-Oliver said.
That sent Ivers running for the phone.
Sitting at a desk at the Penobscot Regional Communications Center in Bangor that morning was Brittany Robertson. She started her job there in November 2014.
She and other dispatchers are familiar with people calling about labor pains and contractions, but those people often have enough time to get to an ambulance or hospital before things get too far along.
“It’s not often you take a call and they tell you the baby’s crowning,” she said.
About five minutes and two big pushes later, Riel-Oliver, a 19-year-old Nokomis High School graduate, and Dustin Ivers, an 18-year-old senior at Maine Central Institute, were parents to a 5-pound, 14-ounce baby girl named Elizabeth Roxanne.
The new parents, great-grandparents and baby met Robertson Monday morning at Penobscot Regional Communications Center, a little more than two weeks after the unplanned home delivery.
“They really do prepare you well for whatever might happen here,” Robertson said of her dispatch training.
Emergency dispatchers use a computer program to guide them through calls, whether it is a traffic crash or a medical problem. The program informs them of what questions to ask and what steps to take until first responders arrive and take over.
Robertson gathered the patient’s information, which was passed on to EMTs rushing to help. She told family members to get warm towels ready, lay the mother down and have her start pushing.
“You just have to keep calm, and that helps keep everyone else calm,” Robertson said.
After she was born, Elizabeth Roxanne cried loudly, to the relief of everyone in the room and the dispatcher on the other end of the phone.
Then Robertson told the family to find a shoelace or something similar to tie off the umbilical cord. The family swept through drawers in the home, looking for an extra shoelace, but eventually settled on a lanyard.
“We didn’t think to take the shoelace from a pair of shoes until after,” Lorraine Ivers said.
Robertson stayed on the line with the family until an ambulance arrived. She said the family was calm and collected, and they did a good job following instructions.
The Ivers women recently got together to take a picture of all five generations. In fact, the baby was born in the bedroom of her great-great-grandmother, who lives in Lorraine and Dana Ivers’ home.
Dealing with unexpected births are rare occurrences for Penobscot County dispatchers. A board displaying the dates of dispatcher-assisted deliveries hangs on the wall of the dispatch center on the third floor of the historic county courthouse on Hammond Street. It recognizes just four since 2000. Two of them belong to dispatcher David King, who talked two separate families through deliveries in 2010 alone, one in January, the other in March.
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Robertson’s has yet to be posted.
Throughout Monday’s meeting with the dispatcher, the sleepy infant, wearing a onesie adorned with owls and flowers, kept quiet.
“She started crying that night, that’s all that mattered,” Robertson said. “She’s perfect.”
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.