Seven Oaks couple didn't plan on baby's grand entrance

NEIGHBORS

April 03, 2001|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THEIR SECOND baby was due at the end of March, and Robbie and Gerry Cullen were ready. The Seven Oaks couple prepared every bit as carefully for this birth as they had for son Joshua's two years ago.

They chose a good obstetrician. They attended Lamaze classes. Robbie made careful decisions about her medical care, prenatal visits, nutrition and plans for medication during labor. She even spent an hour and a half at the Clatanoff Pavilion at Anne Arundel Medical Center, touring the labor and delivery facility.

The Cullens' baby would be born in a modern hospital, surrounded by the best technology available.

But Sarah Michelle Cullen had other ideas.

On March 23, the family enjoyed a quiet lunch. Robbie felt a little queasy so she called the doctor. After hearing her symptoms, the doctor suggested that she come to the hospital. But there was no need to hurry. She could wait a few hours.

Robbie wanted to have the car's oil changed before going to the hospital. After all, she had plenty of time. But Gerry pleaded with her to stay home instead. So, she and little Joshua went for a walk around the neighborhood. On the way home, she passed Gerry, who was helping a neighbor paint his home. Robbie waved to him, saying, "Maybe we should go to the hospital."

Gerry cleaned off his paintbrushes, put away his tools and went home to put Joshua to bed for his nap.

In minutes, he heard Robbie call, "Gerry, Gerry, I think the baby's coming!"

Down the stairs he ran to find his wife on the living room floor, unable to move. He ran back upstairs to call 911. But while he was on the phone, answering questions, he heard Robbie cry for help. He hung up the phone and ran back downstairs, banging on the wall of his townhouse to alert their neighbor that something was going on.

Neighbor Claire St. Peter opened the front door and scooped Joshua into her arms. Gerry was pretty busy - the new baby's head was already visible.

This was no time for panic. He remembered what he had learned from his classes and from watching the birth of his first child. Encouraging his wife, he told her, "Push!"

"But we're supposed to go the hospital!" replied Bobbie.

But Gerry knew it was too late. The baby was coming, hospital or not.

"Push!" he called again and slowly rotated the baby's head as he had learned in the birthing classes. Next, he helped to ease out the shoulders, then the body and finally he cradled his new little daughter, Sarah Michelle, in his arms for just a second before presenting the baby to her exultant mother, and covering them both with a blanket.

The ambulance crew arrived to find Robbie still on the floor, holding her baby. They brought mother and child to the hospital, where the doctors and nurses made sure that everything was fine. Sarah Michelle was a 7-pound, 12-ounce, 20 1/2 -inch bundle of health.

In the hospital, Robbie said, she told her story over and over to an enthralled staff. "How brave she had been!" they would say.

Grinning, she would reply that it had happened too quickly for her to get scared. By the time she realized that she would give birth at home, the baby was there.

And the next day, they were back home, savoring the memories.

Gerry takes his from "This is not happening!" to "I have to make sure Robbie is OK," to the joy he feels now, rocking back and forth as he cuddles the tiny bundle.

There is something wonderful about a baby being born at home, a bond from having gone through it all together, as a family. Gerry jokes that he won't be able to move from the house because it is such a special place.

One of the sweetest parts of this story is the attitude of both parents. When Robbie is praised, she is quick to say the real hero was her husband. But right away, Gerry will say, "No. I just did what I had to do. She is the real hero."

Sarah Michelle Cullen is one lucky baby girl - and Joshua a lucky boy. They have parents watching out for them, and for each other.

Japanese visitors

A group of Japanese educators visited Crofton Woods Elementary School last week as part of an exchange program between Maryland and Japan.

The Japanese teachers joined in the school's annual Grandparents' Day celebration and enjoyed musical performances by the pupils. The fourth-graders, who are studying Japan, were especially excited about meeting with the visitors.

But children in other grades also shared in the excitement. Third-grader Anase N'Gadi enjoyed the origami lessons the Japanese teachers offered and was proud to show his creations.

The visit is part of a long-term exchange of ideas between Crofton Woods and Japanese schools. But Japan is not the only country with ties to the school. In May, a group of 27 children from Ecole Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel in Paris will spend three weeks as guests of the school, staying in local homes and experiencing life in an American school.

Easter Bunny lunch

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