When Baltimore City Police Officer James Fowler cautiously steered his white-and-blue police wagon into the dark side street of Pimlico, he didn't know what to expect.
The Northwestern District officer was responding to a citizen's call of a frantic woman screaming in the 3300 block of Hayward Ave., across from the Pimlico Race Course.
"I thought we were coming up on a robbery of some sort," the police veteran of 17 years said.
What Officer Fowler encountered was perhaps more disconcerting than a blazing gun battle or an investigation by the internal affairs division.
Smack dab in the middle of the glare of his headlights, 4 a.m. Friday morning, was Vivian Diane Cheeks,
28, jumping up and down, and, screaming that she was pregnant.
"I couldn't sleep because of some pains and thought that maybe if I walked it would go away," said Ms. Cheeks, explaining her early morning stroll. "But it just got worse, so I started hollering for help."
Said Officer Fowler: "She said she was going to have it right there on the street."
So he offered his patrol wagon as a makeshift delivery room and went to work.
Officer Fowler and two other officers -- Mark Daugherty and Haywood Johnson -- lifted Ms. Cheeks out of the rainy darkness and onto the illuminated steel floor of the wagon, where they attempted to remove the woman's tight jeans while she screamed.
The baby was going to enter the world, tight jeans or no.
"I had the baby's head in my hands," said Officer Fowler, who received medical training in the Navy and served as a volunteer medic with a Carroll County fire department.
"When the baby came out, it wasn't breathing, so I placed her on her side and let the material drain to clear her airway. . . . She started to breathe on her own."
Officer Fowler wrapped the newborn in the mother's coat, laid her on her mother's stomach, and waited for an ambulance that took mother and daughter to Sinai Hospital.
"I'm glad I ran across somebody that could help me," said Ms. Cheeks. "I'm glad it was somebody who knew what they were doing. I could have died. My baby could have died."
The baby, Shamia Shantia Harrington, was born about a month prematurely, weighing in at 3 pounds 15 ounces.
"It was kind of amazing," Officer Fowler said. "I've seen a lot of things as a police officer, but this really gave me a great feeling."
Mother and child were doing fine yesterday at Sinai Hospital.