Out the door by 5 a.m., John Noland left his Frederick County home Friday in his white Chevy Malibu. It was his typical departure time, as he generally tried to beat rush hour when driving to his job designing ships for the Navy.
But what was happening next to Noland — his wife in labor, her belief that things were progressing rapidly as he raced down Interstate 270 — was about as atypical a morning drive as he could imagine.
“I think something’s happening,” Ann Noland said shortly before 5:20 a.m. near one of the Germantown, Md., exits.
John, 36, eased from a middle lane to the right shoulder. He got out, ran around the car, opened the passenger door, asked his wife to recline back and did what fathers so often do — relatively speaking — at that exact moment: Not much.
Atticus Noland, all 9 pounds and 7 ounces of him, was delivered by his mom less than two minutes later.
John could see that things looked good. He dried his son off, placed him on Ann’s chest, called 911 and asked for an ambulance to come take his wife and son the rest of the way to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville.
But things weren’t completely over.
The 911 dispatcher asked John if he had any string or twine. He remembered he had gotten some at Home Depot or Lowe’s to tie down the trunk some time back. He retrieved the string, came back to the passenger door, placed the phone on speaker and followed the dispatchers’ instructions by tying the string around the umbilical cord about six inches from Atticus’s stomach. When the paramedics arrived, they did the actual cutting.
“If this was the last baby,” John told his wife later in the hospital, referring to their two other children, ages 5 and 2, “I guess we went out with a bang.”
As of 4 p.m., every one was perfectly healthy. Ann, 33, and Atticus are expected to return home over the weekend. “He did what any father would do, and he caught him,” Ann said from her hospital bed, holding her newborn son.
Babies are born on the way to the hospital more often than imagined, said John Townsend, a spokesman for the AAA Mid-Atlantic, He recalls more than 15 such births in the past three years in the area. Sometimes it is because of the region’s horrible traffic. Sometimes it is just the kid — particularly if he or she is not the first for the mother.
“They want to make their presence known to the world more quickly,” Townsend said.
Ann and John met at Penn State University, she an animal science major, he an engineering graduate student. They married in 2006 and, several years later when Ann was expecting their first child, she decided that she wanted to have a natural birth with no drugs — enlisting a midwife to meet them at a hospital.
That it is how Genevieve was born and, three years later, how John was born. And that was the plan for Atticus.
Even though they hadn’t imagined a roadside birth, the couple had planned ahead. A friend was staying with them to take care of the older children, so they could rush out — and John had earlier placed towels in the Malibu. You never know.
And by 5:45 a.m., as he stood on the side of I-270, and watched the ambulance drive off with his wife and newborn son, John certainly knew. He felt overjoyed, confident, relaxed — knowing that the two were in the hands of professionals.
And he turned to look at the backed-up traffic behind him, snarled by a firetruck that had come to help his family. It was a long line of his fellow commuters, in the midst of what to them was a typical traffic jam, and John had one thought for them: Absolute sympathy.
Get updates on your area delivered via e-mail