ROSBURG — It was the early morning of Tuesday, Jan. 7.
Incessant rains caused Grays River to overflow its banks, flooding lowland fields and covering Altoona-Pillar Rock Road and Barr Road with more than three feet of water in places.
Concerned that someone might need to be transported to a hospital for critically needed medical attention during the flood, volunteer fireman Austin Burkhalter had pre-staged a Wahkiakum Fire District No. 3’s brush truck — affectionately known as “The Beast” — on high ground on the river’s south side.
The stage was now set for Rosburg couple, Nikki Hoven and Josh Bolton, to experience the greatest surprise of their lives.
At 6:01 a.m., 8-pound 7 ounce, 19-1/2-inch-long Ameilia Mae Bolton decided it was time to make her appearance into the world. Normally, the birth of a child is eagerly anticipated. However, in this case, Nikki’s 36-and-a-half-week pregnancy had gone unnoticed.
Shortly after 5 a.m., I went into labor,” Nikki said. “I told Josh, ‘I think I’m having a baby.’ He said, ‘This is crazy. There’s no way you could be having a baby.’ I told him, ‘I think I know what it’s like to be having a baby and this is what it feels like.’
“I had no idea I was pregnant,” she said. “The thought that I was in the process of giving birth to a second child was a major, major shock, to say the least.”
The shock wasn’t limited to Nikki. Still trying to get his head around the situation, Josh re-entered the room saying, “If you are pregnant and in labor, your water would have broken.”
As if on command, the words were barely out of his mouth when it was clear that prerequisite had just occurred.
With a sense of urgency in her voice, Nikki asked him to help her get her pants down, saying, “I have to push and I have to push NOW!” The very second Josh managed to complete Nikki’s request, little Ameilia Mae entered the world with such speed he actually was forced to catch her.
Kinsley, Nikki’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, who had been standing to the side, excitedly began to exclaim, “Mommy, mommy, that’s a baby!”
Volunteers spring into action
After a few moments of relief and with the new father marveling at the baby daughter in his hands, Nikki called 911.
“I knew I needed to call someone to get some medical help,” said Nikki. “I spoke with Austin Smith, the Wahkiakum dispatcher. He toned out the ambulance and then cautioned me that because of the flooding it might be a while before someone could get to me.”
Luckily for Nikki and Ameilia Mae, Austin Burkhalter had the foresight to bring the Beast to the south side of the Grays River before the flooding. Because of the high water, he and his parents, Gary and Susan Burkhalter, had spent the night at his grandparents, Bob and Lois Burkhalter, to be able to access their dairy farm that morning.
Susan remembers, “I was in the office checking the computer when Austin walked in and said, ‘We just had a call for a 27-year-old woman on Barr Road who just delivered her own baby.’ My response was, ‘You must have heard that incorrectly.’”
When he assured his mom he had understood the message correctly, the two raced to the Beast and drove through the flood waters to the Bolton home.
“Susan Burkhalter was a godsend,” Nikki said. “With her calming demeanor she guided me through the rest of the delivery and, following instructions she received from the dispatcher, she protectively bagged the placenta. I saw Austin and said, ‘You have to get out of here. I know you too well for you to be in here.’ He and I had gone to school together.”
Nikki recalled, “Susan said, ‘Well, we have to finish doing this, Nikki.’ Austin went out into the hallway to be there for Josh. I think Josh was still in a bit of a shock after having just delivered his daughter.”
“Susan was just amazing. She was super calm. She knew what she was doing. It was just so good to see a familiar face and someone I could count on for needed assistance. I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate the help she and Austin provided.”
Not all that uncommon
With Austin at the wheel, Nikki in the seat beside him holding Ameilia Mae, the umbilical cord and placenta bag on her lap, Susan, Josh and Kinsley wedged themselves in behind the seats while Austin guided the Beast through the high water using a flashlight to see the road.
Despite the brush truck’s enormous tires, the water came over the headlights in places.
The Fire District 3 ambulance was waiting for them at the Rosburg Store. Austin Smith had ended his shift as dispatcher and driven to the store to drive the ambulance to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria. EMS Kevin Maki cut and tied off the umbilical cord and provided medical attention to Nikki and Ameilia Mae during the trip.
Readers might wonder how the pregnancy was able to go undetected. There appear to be at least a couple of reasons: Nikki was taking a birth control pill that eliminated monthly menstrual cycles. Ob-Gyn physician Patricia Boullie, who attended to her at Columbia Memorial, noted that the baby had been carried in the back of her womb. In such cases, it is not all that uncommon for a woman to be unaware she is pregnant.
“The community has really been great,” Nikki said during an interview several days after the birth. “They’ve gotten together and brought gifts for the baby and food and continue to ask if there is something more they can do. Everyone has been so supportive of us and we can’t thank them enough. A special thanks to Christopher Horton, Josh’s boss and owner of Apple Roofing. When he heard about the baby, he went out and bought a whole bunch of needed baby items and then drove through headlight deep water to deliver it to us. He also gave Josh the week off so he could help with the baby. What a great place to live and raise children.”
After her unexpectedly needed maternity leave, Nikki will return to work as a hairdresser at the Hair Villa in Naselle, recently under new ownership.