Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Dad makes clutch delivery in Juneau


Expectant parents Heather Smith and Matt Hunter of Haines figured they were ahead of schedule, moving into a Juneau hotel room 12 days before Heather’s Oct. 30 due date.

Heather spent her days at the Best Western in the Mendenhall Valley, and Matt lined up a job nearby building book cases.

He had driven about five miles to a friend’s house early Oct. 23 and was planning a trip to the hardware store when Heather phoned, saying she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go see her Juneau midwife.

When Matt arrived to drive her there, Heather was having a hard time moving. As he was gathering her things and getting their 2-year-old son Haydn Bugg ready, Heather went into “full, hard labor,” he said. “She never had contractions to measure. Her water never broke. There were never any signs that this was the time.”

Heather said the baby was crowning. “I told her to get up on the bed. She told me to go wash my hands… I had the birthing center on one (cell) phone and the fire department on another, giving me instructions.”

Thomas Rex Hunter, 19 inches long and weighing 8 lbs., 5 ounces, was born without a hitch at 10:15 a.m., about 10 minutes after Matt stepped in the door and just before a crew of four firemen showed up at the hotel. After emergency responders made a check of mom and baby’s vitals, Matt waved off a trip to the hospital. Midwife Johanna Crossett arrived and took care of the rest.

“This was about as far as we could get from our birthing plan. Instead of soft music and candles and the birthing tub, Heather had me, our boy and four firemen,” Hunter said this week.

Hunter was present at his first son’s birth and cut the umbilical cord. He also took a parenting class in advance of his first child, though it didn’t include child delivery. The closest he’s come to last week’s experience, he said, was helping a veterinarian deliver the family dog’s puppies. “Once you’ve delivered warm-blooded critters, I guess they’re all about the same,” he said.

Midwife Crossett said Hunter did a “fantastic” job, given the circumstances. “It seems like he stayed calm and collected, which was impressive because he was also managing Haydn Bugg, which was a handful.”

“I was so pleased to be involved with such a nice family. They seemed so empowered by this, though they didn’t plan it this way,” she said.

Crossett said she’s assisted at more than 300 births. This was the first case she’s seen when a mom didn’t feel contractions before birthing started, she said. “She didn’t perceive them the way women tend to.”

The birth wasn’t the first for the Best Western, where families enrolled in the state’s Denali KidCare stay. A woman who gave birth there five years ago was at the hotel, expecting another child when Smith gave birth. Hunter said the woman was busy telling friends the surprise delivery wasn’t hers, this time.

“She wrote on her Facebook page that someone else stole a play from her playbook,” Hunter said.

Also, he said, the folks at Best Western brought by a card and box of fudge.