A quick delivery brought Jeffrey Jay Baxter Jr. into the world Tuesday evening under the bright fluorescent lights of a Spokane Valley fire station.
Jeffrey’s father, Jeff Baxter, a city of Spokane firefighter, could tell by the tone of his wife’s voice that she was ready to give birth to her fourth child. But their midwife was 40 minutes away in Hayden, and Fire Station 5 was closer to their Forker Road home.
“By the time we got to Bigelow Gulch, I could tell – he was close,” Kari Baxter said.
Spokane Valley firefighters were alerted and waiting for the Baxters as they pulled into the station driveway off Marietta Lane about 7:20 p.m. The pregnant woman said she needed to get out of the car and lie down fast.
Firefighters placed workout mats on the industrial carpet and covered her with a burn blanket in the same room where firefighters watch television in tweed recliners. The kitchen is just around the corner.
“There’s no cozy photos on the wall or dimmer switch for the lights,” Kari Baxter said.
But she was in too much pain to go to the hospital, she said, and was “going to do it right here.”
The only medic present who was experienced in deliveries held Kari’s hand as Jeff Baxter caught their baby son.
Most pregnancy calls emergency medical crews respond to are miscarriages, Jeff Baxter said. They’re rarely live labors.
“Obviously, the mother and whoever else is there is terrified that this is happening outside a medical place,” he said. “Not all of them are comfortable with it like my wife is.”
But Kari Baxter is used to giving birth in strange places. Her first child was born two weeks early at 4 a.m. on Aug. 11, 2001, on a 24-foot cuddy-cabin boat on Lake Roosevelt.
“I paced on the beach in the sand having contractions thinking it would be false labor and it would go away – then my water broke,” she said. “It was under the stars and the baby came.”
Her oldest child is proud to be the boat baby, she said. Now the youngest will always be known as the fire station baby, named after his firefighter dad. Their two middle children, ages 9 and 7, were born in a hospital.
At 7:53 p.m. on Tuesday, Jeffrey was born. Station 5 firefighters and medics had their phones out, excitedly taking pictures with the baby they helped deliver. It’s a big deal, Jeff Baxter said.
“It’s something you don’t ever get to see, but your ultimate goal as a firefighter: You get to help a life come into the world,” he said.
By 9 p.m., the Baxters were home again.