When 28-year-old Jennifer Ajmal went into labor Feb. 14, she quickly paged her sister to drive her to the hospital and telephoned her mother to watch her three little boys.
But as the single mom found out, the baby was in a hurry, and she was already too late to get to the hospital. At that point, Ajmal's 9-year-old son, Christian Alarcon, took charge and called 911.
"My mom's having a baby and she needs help right now," the boy told the emergency dispatcher at the fire department.
But help didn't come in time. Within minutes, Christian was delivering his 9-pound, 1-ounce baby sister himself. At 1:44 a.m. on Valentine's Day, his little sister emerged from his mother's womb.
"Wet. Blood all over it," Christian said, describing the newborn. "No teeth. Little. Cute. Stuff like that."
For all involved, the delivery was a white-knuckled ride. Ajmal was home alone with three young sons, Christian, 6-year-old Michael and 2-year-old David, when her contractions started around 1:14 a.m. She showered and got the boys ready to go to their grandmother, but as Ajmal headed for the bathroom about 15 minutes later, she felt the baby's head crowning and had to lie on the floor.
On his own, Christian dialed 911. The dispatcher, John Holmes, could hear the mother screaming in the background.
"Her screaming rattled me," said Holmes, who works for the Victorville Fire Department. "Definitely, my adrenaline level was pretty high."
‘Mom! Relax! Relax!’
When Christian first got on the phone, Holmes asked the boy if he could see the baby, but all Christian could see was his mother's pain.
"No. But she's hurting bad!" Christian said during the 911 call.
"Yeah, I know she's hurting," Holmes said. "But you can now tell her to try and relax."
"Mom! Relax! Relax!" Christian shouted, then said, "She can't!"
For Ajmal, the stress of childbirth was compounded by the fact that she was home alone with her sons and feared for them.
"I was in shock. I was in pain," she recalled. "I was more scared for my boys. I did not want them to see their mother go through this and be helpless on the floor."
‘Will She Bite Me?’
The other children were scared, but Christian was able to calm them while he stayed on the line with the dispatcher. Christian watched as the baby's head emerged.
"Now what?" he asked. He followed the dispatcher's instruction to put his finger in the baby's mouth to clear it — but not without some trepidation.
"Will she bite me?" Christian asked.
"No, she won't bite you," Holmes said. "OK, clear out anything that you see — any kind of icky stuff."
Christian was uncertain but he did it.
"I don't know, I'm not a doctor," the 9-year-old said.
"I know, you're doing fine," Holmes assured him.
Enter the Paramedics
At that point, Ajmal was drained, but aware of what was going on.
"I looked up," the mother recalled. "I was completely exhausted."
Then Ajmal got on the phone with Holmes herself, and he instructed her on how to clear the baby's nose and mouth. She couldn't reach over to grab the baby, but she did see Christian clearing fluid from the baby's mouth with his fingers. Then Ajmal took the baby, finished the clearing, and heard the baby cry.
"My worry was having the paramedics get there as soon as they could," Holmes recalled. When they did arrive, Christian was still on the phone with Holmes, and was surprised to hear the doorbell.