Woman gives birth at senior services office

Jul 18, 2012
Photo by: Peggy Nash Shanonne Vaughn recently gave birth to her son, Richard Louis, at the Senior Services of Snohomish County office in Mukilteo.

Shanonne Vaughn’s baby is one of very few of his generation to be born in Mukilteo.

Vaughn, 37, gave birth on July 6 to Richard Louis at the Senior Services of Snohomish County office in Mukilteo, where she works.

A customer service representative for Dial-A-Ride Transportation, Vaughn didn’t realize she was in labor until it was too late to get to a hospital – her baby would be born at the office.

Vaughn’s contractions started at about 3:30 a.m. on July 6, likely sooner. She woke up in pain, but didn’t think much about it. Pain is ordinary for Vaughn, who has multiple sclerosis or MS.

MS is an autoimmune disease causes nerve damage to the brain and spinal chord. The cause is unknown. There is no cure.

Vaughn was diagnosed with MS when she was 23. Her body suffers painful attacks on her nervous system that can last days, weeks or months. She has coordination loss and walks with a cane.

“I deal with pain all the time, so my brain automatically dulls pain for me,” she said. “I just didn’t know what was going on.”

Her water likely broke around 4:30 a.m., on the toilet, but she got up and got ready for work as usual. Vaughn, who had never had a baby before, figured she was just experiencing Braxton Hicks or false labor contractions. Her baby was due two weeks later.

“When I got to work, my co-worker told me I was as pale as a sheet of paper and did I feel all right?” Vaughn said. “I said ‘Well, I think so. I’m here.’”

She felt several more of what she now knows were true labor contractions between 6:30 and 7 a.m. By 7:10 a.m., they were about five minutes apart.

Vaughn looked up contraction symptoms online, but before she could read about them, she was having another contraction. She rushed to the restroom.

“I thought I had to go to the bathroom,” Vaughn said. “So I told my co-worker I would be back.”

When she wasn’t back in a few minutes, co-worker Deborah Perry went to check on her. She knocked on the door of the restroom.

“She asked me, ‘Are you OK?’ I said, ‘I think I’m OK.'”

Vaughn was still on the toilet; she didn’t have the strength to get back up. A minute or two later, Perry asked again: “Are you all right?” Vaughn answered: “Maybe.”

“Is it all right if I come in there and help you?” Perry asked.

Vaughn: “Yeah, I think that would be a good idea.”

Perry then left to get a key to the restroom, but there was no one with a key at the office yet. Without a key, she and her co-workers had to pick the lock.

Vaughn still couldn’t get up, so Perry yelled for another co-worker to call 911. She stayed with Vaughn in the restroom. She told Vaughn: “I’m not going anywhere.”

About a minute later, Vaughn delivered her son into the toilet. He was born at 7:45 a.m.

“It was just that quick,” said Perry, the ADA eligibility specialist for DART. “I really didn’t have an opportunity to grasp the fact that she was going to have the baby, more than it just happened.”

“I was just thrilled the baby was breathing and healthy.”

Perry pulled the crying newborn out and wrapped him up in a sweater. She held Vaughn’s son close until paramedics arrived. Paramedics transported mother and son to Providence Pavilion for Women and Children in Everett.

Richard Louis, who is named after his father, was born at 5.8 pounds and 18.5 inches long.

Vaughn was in shock. It took some time for it to register that she had delivered her son. And then she held him for the very first time.

“It melted my heart,” she said. “I was like ‘Oh, wow.’ He was absolutely beautiful.”

The baby’s temperature was low, at 98.1 degrees, so doctors put him on Vaughn’s chest and had her warm him up skin to skin.

“I had always wanted a water birth,” Vaughn said, “but I was thinking in a hot tub, bath tub – you know, warm water.”

Vaughn and the baby’s father decided to give the baby up for adoption. They chose the family together – the mother was also adopted as a baby. It is “a very open” adoption. They get to see Richard Louis every two weeks.

With her MS, Vaughn knew she would be incapable of caring for her baby. As hard a decision as it was, it was the right one, she said.

“It was not in my cards to have a baby,” Vaughn said, adding that ironically it was her MS medication that cancelled out her birth control. “As soon as they could crawl, they would out run me, and I could not keep my son or daughter safe.”

“As much as it hurts to have put him up for adoption – that really hurt, I’m sure it will hurt in my heart for a long time – but I know he is being loved and cared for.”

Vaughn is thankful for that. She is also thankful for Deborah Perry, her co-worker. Perry was a 911 dispatcher for two years, and used to give instructions over the phone to mothers-to-be who were in labor. She said it helped that Perry was calm and collected.

“I’m so happy that it was Deborah on the other side of the door,” Vaughn said. “She had a nice, soothing voice. I owe her so much.”

Perry said to Vaughn: “You paid me back by having a healthy baby boy – just don’t do it again at work.”

It’s very exciting times at Senior Services of Snohomish County, said Transportation Director Darren Brugmann. After all, he said, it’s not every day that a baby is born in Mukilteo.

“We handle a lot of interesting situations with our DART services for Community Transit,” he said, “but our morning crew really came through and worked very well together for a very happy ending.”

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