Matt Oakes has "the best job in the world."
"You never know what’s going to come over the airwaves," the 27-year-old constable with the Hamilton Police Service beamed over the phone.
He’s speaking from experience.
Early on Friday morning, Oakes, with the assistance of three officers in his patrol unit, delivered a baby girl at a west Hamilton home. It’s a story he describes with a hint of disbelief — and a splash of thankfulness — in his voice.
Around 3:30 a.m., Oakes and his team were dispatched to house on Henry Street, near Main Street West at Dundurn, where a 37-year-old woman was in labour.
When Oakes and his colleagues — Acting Sgt. Tommy Hutton, Const. Brian Stewart and Const. Mike MacSween — arrived, they were greeted by the woman’s parents, who directed the officers upstairs to an attic loft.
'I was like, ‘Do you want to push?’ And she said, ‘I want to push.'- Matt Oakes, Hamilton Police Service
The officers found the expectant mother lying on the floor, writhing in pain.
"She’s obviously in active labour and she’s screaming," Oakes recalled.
Within moments, he said, "The mother started yelling, 'The baby’s coming! The baby’s coming!' And then instincts just take over."
For the officers, that meant assessing what the woman needed in the moment. Hutton and Stewart grabbed towels and a cold cloth for the soon-to-be mother, while Oakes and MacSween consoled and comforted her, asking her to guide them through how the next moments would play out.
"I was like, 'Do you want to push?' And she said, 'I want to push,'" Oakes said. “So we got ready for delivering a baby.”
As he knelt directly in front of the woman, Oakes thoughts shifted for a moment to his own child. Born in May 2012, his daughter Ryan came into the world through a "difficult birth."
"So I was just praying, I hope everything goes well. I just wanted the baby to come out crying."
And she did. A wailing baby girl fell into Oakes’s hands. Hutton and Stewart brought in the towels to clean the baby up, while MacSween clenched the mother’s hand.
Someone wondered aloud, Oakes said, about what to do with the umbilical cord — the matter, after all, didn’t come up in basic training. Improvising, as they all were, MacSween found a hair elastic to tie the thing off.
Moments later, EMS officials arrived to take the mother and her baby to McMaster Children’s Hospital.
The whole ordeal, which Oakes described as "one of the best experiences" of his career, took place in a matter of minutes.
"For the four of us, and I’m sure for the mom, it was a proud moment to be a part of," said Oakes. "We were all there together. It was great teamwork."
He also lauded the mother for her perseverance and leadership during the birth.
"She did an overwhelming job."
Police haven’t released the mother’s name. Spokesperson Debbie McGreal-Dinning said both mother and baby are in good health, but noted the woman is "very, very overwhelmed."
Life and death
It’s perhaps a tragic irony — one familiar to paramedics, doctors, anyone working in emergency services, really — that a night shift made memorable by a successful emergency birth could also include a violent death.
Before Oakes and his crew were able to settle into their paperwork, the next call came through — a shooting at an apartment complex on Hess Street South, mere minutes by car from where the home birth took place. Less than an hour after delivering a baby, they were assigned to stand guard outside of what would become a murder scene.
"You’re just collecting your emotions from the first call and then your going from one end of the spectrum to the other,” Oakes said.
"That what makes policing what it is. That’s why it’s the best job in the world."