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'We're having the baby': Lifeguard jumps in to help mom in labor at the pool

A quiet Sunday at the YMCA turned into an adventure.
Lifeguard Natalie Lucas knows what to do if it looks like a swimmer's in distress. The 18-year-old has less experience with childbirth but she still jumped in to help Tessa Rider as she delivered son Toby.
Lifeguard Natalie Lucas knows what to do if it looks like a swimmer's in distress. The 18-year-old has less experience with childbirth but she still jumped in to help Tessa Rider as she delivered son Toby.Courtesy YMCA of Northern Colorado

The pool feels quiet on Sundays at the YMCA of Northern Colorado. Lifeguard Natalie Lucas, 18, works alone to watch fewer than a dozen people swimming. July 24 was an exception to a lazy Sunday when a swimmer gave birth beside the pool.

“I’ve always seen childbirth in movies and the TV shows, but never the real thing. It was definitely eye-opening,” Lucas of Longmont, Colorado, told TODAY Parents. “It’s something new and amazing that’s happening to this family. That’s wonderful — but also crazy.”

The couple, Tessa Rider and Matthew Jones, arrived at the pool about 10:30 a.m. Jones said the baby was positioned in such a way that he rested on Rider’s nerves and hip, causing her intense pain that only lessened when she was in the pool. After getting in the water, Rider began floating peacefully on a pool noodle. A few minutes later, she said she needed to get out of the pool because she was in labor.  

Despite Toby's dramatic introduction to the world, he is a very "chill" baby.
Despite Toby's dramatic introduction to the world, he is a very "chill" baby.Courtesy Tessa Rider and Matthew Jones

“She looks at me and says, ‘We need to go,’” Jones, 29, of Longmont, Colorado, told TODAY Parents. “Tessa has barely made it out of the pool, she’s like two, three steps from the rail. She’s on all fours and she’s visibly in pain and also in the middle of the contraction.”Jones thought he’d grab their stuff and head to the car for the hospital but it soon became clear that would not happen. Lucas saw Rider “crawling out of the pool” and wondered if she was OK. At first, the lifeguard thought Rider was uncomfortable because she was so pregnant.

“I was like, ‘This doesn’t look great. Let me go over to see what’s happening,’” she said. “I walk on over to them and they say, ‘We’re having the baby.’”

Lucas said her “adrenaline kicked” in and she rushed for the emergency medical bags, towels and asked someone to call 911.

“I start trying to help in any way I can, trying to support her and make sure she’s comfortable,” Lucas said. “They’re both staying extremely calm, which helps me because I’m shaking a little. But I know I need to help and make sure I’m there with them in any way I can because I’m the lifesaver.”

Jones had also called 911 but when his wife tore off her bathing suit, he tossed the phone aside.

“Within seconds the baby’s heading is coming out,” Jones said. “The baby’s body comes out, along with a torrent of amniotic fluid from her water breaking as the baby comes out.”

Rider, 29, “is visibly in pain and shaking.” She didn’t deliver the placenta so the baby — who the coupled named Tobin or Toby for short — is still attached. Lucas relied on her instincts to bolster Rider, who is “shaking and in shock.”

“There’s a funny picture of me sitting back-to-back with her so she could put her weight on me to support her and give her some relaxation and calm,” Lucas said. “I was trying to help in any way I can.”

Jones felt grateful that Lucas jumped in to help his wife.

“Natalie focused her attention and care on my wife so I could focus my attention and my car on my son,” he said. “Without her, I would not have been able to give that focus to Toby and make sure he was healthy and safe.”

Toby joins Tessa Rider and Matthew Jones two other children, Lila and Abigail.
Toby joins Tessa Rider and Matthew Jones two other children, Lila and Abigail. Courtesy Tessa Rider and Matthew Jones

Toby cried immediately and Lucas spoke with 911 operators when Jones couldn’t.

“We’re on the phone with the dispatcher, making sure the baby’s breathing,” she said. “We had to make sure his chest was rising and falling … I had to clean out the baby’s mouth to make sure the airway wasn’t blocked and that he had an open passage to continue breathing.”

When the ambulance arrived right before 11 a.m., the EMTs cut the umbilical cord and took mom and baby to the hospital. The two were healthy and “Toby was in perfect condition.”

“Contrary to the surrounding events of his birth, he is the most chill baby I ever had,” Jones said.  

Lucas feels like delivering a baby is just part of the job as lifeguard.

“You have to be prepared for anything,” she said. “Most days are sitting around and watching people but there are some days that you do have to be prepared.”

This fall, Lucas will attend San Diego State University studying criminal justice and swimming for a recreational team. She said this experience will make her a better lifeguard.

“I’ve only helped toddlers maybe like 4 or 5 that I’ve picked up from when they step off into the deep end. There was actually a woman probably three days earlier that she was choking in water and I almost had to jump in and give her the Heimlich,” Lucas explained. “(This experience) broadens more horizons."

As for Jones and Rider, they’re grateful for everything Lucas did.

“There is nothing more personal and more heartwarming than someone supporting you while you bring a new person into the world,” Jones said.