Dispatcher talks couple through home birth

UNION COUNTY — A lot of fathers pride themselves on being involved in their children’s lives, but Raymond resident Travis McMahill easily wins out.


Union County Sheriff’s emergency dispatcher, Brittany Stoops, sits at her station Wednesday afternoon. The communications officer is being praised for her calm help, guiding a Raymond family through the delivery of their son Izaac over the phone. The family is appreciative and the baby is doing well. (Journal-Tribune Photo | Ryan Horns)

On Jan. 2, he became the proud father of a baby boy. He just never expected to be delivering the child himself.

McMahill credits the calm guidance of Union County 911 dispatcher Brittany Stoops for getting him through it all.

“It was definitely a completely unexpected, wonderful, and kind of terrifying, experience, all at once,” McMahill said.

His son, Izaac, was ultimately born Friday at 12:35 a.m. to a very surprised family.

The night it all went down, McMahill called 911 a bit stressed out. His wife, Jennifer, went into early labor. There was no time to get to the hospital.

With his 4-year-old son Owyn asleep in another room, and no other options, McMahill was on his own.

Dispatcher Stoops had her own surprise that night. Instead of routinely directing deputies toward the next car in a ditch, she had a challenge on her hands that could affect the lives of an entire family.

It was a moment the dispatcher and McMahill say they will never forget.

“This was career changing for me,” Stoops said. “This makes whatever I’ve dealt with worth it, and whatever I will have to deal with worth it.”

The McMahill family left Marion General Hospital the morning of the birth after a routine check-up. Everything was fine. They chose to keep the sex of the child a surprise to them. All they cared about was keeping Jennifer and the baby safe until the due date on Feb. 10.

By nightfall, however, problems started.

“My wife started having back pains, and by about 11 p.m. she started feeling sick,” McMahill said.

When Jennifer suddenly doubled over in pain while taking a shower, he realized the baby might be on its way. He called a relative to watch their son while they went to the hospital, but it was already too late. Jennifer announced her water broke and the baby was already emerging.

McMahill immediately called 911 and got on the line with dispatcher Stoops, who grabbed her notes and began walking him through the steps toward delivery.

Fortunately, McMahill said, this was the family’s second child so he had some idea of what to expect.

Stoops directed him to grab some towels and find something to cut the umbilical cord.

“My wife was freaking out,” McMahill said.

Listening to the 911-call audio, Stoops gives confident advice on the delivery.

“You’re doing great, Jennifer. OK?” she said.

“Here comes the baby’s face. Oh my God, here comes the baby’s face,” McMahill is heard saying.

It was difficult doing it all on his own, because he couldn’t leave his wife’s side. He grabbed some towels, but still needed to tie off the umbilical cord.

With the wave of a magic wand, he was saved. A toy wand he bought his son for Christmas was lying on the ground in the bedroom, broken. His son had wanted him to fix it.

“I noticed it had a little bit of string on it, so I could use it to tie off the cord,” McMahill said.

Baby Izaac was born premature and underweight, but safe. The father tied off the cord and two minutes later EMS arrived and took over.

“Congratulations, you guys,” Stoops told them. “Jennifer, you did great.”

The baby was transported to Children’s Hospital in Columbus by helicopter for further care.

“Everything is good. He’s doing good,” McMahill said about his new son.

The proud father even looks back with some humor.

“Throughout everything, our 4-year-old son was sleeping in the other room. He slept through the entire labor and the entire delivery. He slept through having eight people and two medics traipsing in and out of the house,” he laughed.

Through it all, McMahill said, Stoops’ encouragement helped him tremendously.

Stoops sees it the other way around.

“He was amazing. Absolutely amazing,” she said. “I wish every father who called in who thought their wife was in labor was as calm as this guy. He made my job a lot easier.”

Stoops said the ordeal just happened to come at the right time in her life.

“As dispatchers, we deal with a lot of bad. We deal with a lot of negatives. Coming to work is hard because you deal with some of the same stuff every day,” Stoops said.

She previously helped on a 911 call for an Amish woman in labor.

“The baby got stuck and I found out later that the baby didn’t make it,” she said.

Helping out the McMahill family, she said, gave her newfound appreciation for her job and working in Union County. If she were a dispatcher in Columbus, dealing with murders and violence every day, she would have changed careers a long time ago.

Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton said he is proud of Stoops’ work.

“I listened to the 911 call and it’s pretty special that a little boy was brought into this world,” he said. “It sounds like Brittany did an excellent job, giving good advice for the parents on this delivery.”

Sheriff’s dispatchers are trained to help in medical situations like this, Stoops said.

“We can do anything from bleeding control, to difficulty breathing, to child birth and CPR,” she said.

In the past 20 years, sheriff’s office communications director Anne Barr said, Stoops is only the second dispatcher to walk a family through childbirth over the phone. She knows because she handled one herself.

“It’s one of those calls you don’t forget,” Barr said. “It would have been late 80s early 90s. I don’t remember names, location or anything, but I sure do remember that baby crying.”  

McMahill said little Izaac is still recovering at Children’s Hospital in Columbus. The baby could stay under hospital care for another two days or two months; doctors just want to make sure he remains in stable condition and keeps gaining weight.

“The staff there is just absolutely wonderful,” he said.

Looking back, he realized how amazing the entire process was.

“You know, this don’t happen too often,” he laughed.

Someday, he said, he will give a copy of the 911 call to his son. It could come in handy.