On a recent Sunday, Emily Dial prepared to deliver a baby, just as she had done so many other times in her years as a nurse midwife.
She scrubbed in, donned surgical gloves and surveyed the delivery room at Frankfort Regional Medical Center in Kentucky. There were about half a dozen members of a medical team inside, all preparing for the scheduled Caesarean section.
Ready at last, Dial climbed onto the operating table and lay down as someone covered her with a see-through plastic drape.
The baby she would be delivering on this day would be her own.
To be sure, the team got her almost all of the way there. An anesthesiologist made sure Dial was numbed — although she was otherwise alert and smiling — and a doctor, one of Dial's longtime friends and colleagues, made the incision.
When it was time, the doctor guided Dial's hands down toward her abdomen, until they were resting around the baby's now-emerged head.
“Niiice,” he said encouragingly. “Good, good, good, go!”
For a brief moment, the only audible sound was the beeping of a machine.
Dial gripped the baby, knowing exactly where to place her hands and how to pull, until her child emerged at last, pink and rumpled and with a surprisingly full head of hair.
Dial held her newborn with both hands and brought the tiny body as close to her face as the clear surgical drape would allow.
It was a girl.
The room exploded into shrieking and clapping. The newborn began announcing her presence in the world with short, punctuated wails.
“Oh, my gosh, she's beautiful!” Dial shouted, still gazing at her daughter through the drape. “You're so unexpected!”
They had been certain this child would be a boy, her family later explained.
“How cute are you?” the doctor cooed at the baby, as she stretched out her arms. “Look at you! 'Everybody, I'm here!' ”
Dial's remarkable delivery, on March 11, was filmed by Sarah Wallace, who said her sister didn't seem nervous at all.
“She assists in C-sections all the time; she knows exactly how to turn the baby, everything that was supposed to be done,” Wallace told The Washington Post. “She was just excited to have an enjoyable experience.”
It was her sister's third child delivered by C-section, Wallace said.
In 2012, Dial and her husband lost their first baby, a boy named Grayson, shortly after he was delivered.
Because of a birth defect, Grayson was born with his lungs only 2 percent developed and was whisked away to intensive care seconds after delivery. He died in the hospital 10 days later.
“It was a very intense surgery,” Wallace said. “It was just so quick.”
Their second child, a daughter, was born in 2013, also by C-section. Although the delivery went smoothly, Dial still felt somewhat removed from the process, her sister said.
As someone who had spent years making sure other women had positive birthing experiences, Dial wanted one of her deliveries to be special, Wallace said.
So when she became pregnant with her third child, Dial broached the idea of participating in her own delivery.
The hospital confirmed that Dial works with a practice that has privileges at Frankfort Regional Medical Center, and that she delivers babies there regularly.
But hospital officials emphasized that, given Dial's professional background, this was a special case — lest patients there begin requesting permission to deliver their own babies.
“This was a controlled environment. It was safe. At no point in time was anyone in real danger,” the Frankfort Regional Medical Center said in a statement. “It was a very unique situation, kind of a one-in-a-million — or more so — situation.”
Dial had delivered Wallace's son in 2016, and Wallace said she had “complete confidence” in her sister. Being a midwife was her sister's calling, she said.
“Growing up, she would make me stuff pillows and baby dolls up my shirt so she could 'deliver' them,” Wallace said.
Dial was not available for an interview but has described the birth as “one of the happiest moments of my life.”
About 1 in 3 births in the United States is a C-section, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While some are planned that way, other deliveries are changed to C-sections because of health issues, multiple births or complications during labor.
Dial told People magazine that while it's “not ideal” to have a C-section, there are still ways to feel more connected to the birthing process. Wallace pointed out that all mothers can request clear plastic surgical drapes, instead of the blue ones, to be able to observe the C-section.
“It doesn’t mean you have to just be laying on a table,” Dial told the magazine. “Even if you’re not pulling your baby out, you can still be an active part of your birth and have a great experience.”