A Northern Colorado lifeguard found herself in deep water, figuratively speaking, when a pregnant woman’s water broke on the indoor pool deck.
This July, 18-year-old Natalie Lucas had been working a typical Sunday shift at the Longmont YMCA when she was needed to help deliver the woman’s baby.
“This was something I wasn’t prepared for,” said Lucas, who has been a certified lifeguard for three years.
The pregnant woman, Tessa Rider, and her husband, Matthew Jones, were visiting their local Y for a swim and to get a much-needed reprieve from the stifling summer heat.
“For the later part of her pregnancy she was very uncomfortable, and the only relief she had was when she was in the water and floating,” Jones said.
Rider was a few days past her due date, and she had experienced some mild contractions, “but not anything very clear cut,” she said.
Jones said that while they knew the baby was coming soon, they didn’t know if it would be today, tomorrow, or two weeks from then.
Rider was relaxing in the pool, floating on a pool noodle, when she suddenly felt the urge to push. She told her husband to grab their things and meet at the car, but after just two steps outside the pool, her water broke and she collapsed to the ground on all fours.
The baby was coming “and there was nothing that was going to stop him,” Rider said.
Lucas, who was the only lifeguard present at the time, ran over to see what was happening. Jones was on his cellphone with a 911 dispatcher when he saw the baby crown. He told the surprised teenager that the baby was coming now.
Lucas is trained to help in emergencies and sprang into action, grabbing towels and an emergency first-aid kit. She used her walkie-talkie to alert staff and asked a swimmer to call an ambulance.
“My adrenaline kicked in right then and there,” she said.
As bystanders looked on in disbelief, Rider gave birth to her son.
“I was helping support her head, and the husband was helping guide
Lifeguard Natalie Lucas helps deliver baby Toby Rider. Photo credit ABC11.com the baby out,” Lucas said. “I stayed calm, and I didn’t freak out, because that’s what you need to do in this job. You can’t really hesitate or wait for someone else to come. You’re the lifeguard. You’re the lifesaver.”
In a matter of minutes, their son, Tobin “Toby” Thomas Rider, was crying and breathing. Rider put the baby against her chest to keep him warm. Lucas sat back-to-back with Rider to keep her propped up as she held the baby. The ambulance arrived, and paramedics proclaimed the baby healthy.
Rider and Jones said that they wouldn’t have traded the lifeguard for anyone in that situation and that she played her part perfectly. For Lucas, the experience was profound, and she was happy that she could help.
She said that as a lifeguard, “you’re trained for death rather than life, so it was a very eye-opening experience.”
Lifeguard training involves learning CPR, first aid, and water rescue – certainly not delivering babies.
But on that special day, rather than preventing death, she welcomed life.