MAXTON — Welcoming a new baby into the world is typically a family affair.
For Tawianka Locklear, the birth of daughter Tiana Lafaith Clark on Wednesday was no exception — extending the definition of family to include Maxton Chief of Police Tammy Deese, an ambulance crew, and the Queheel Fire Department.
Already several days past an Oct. 24 due date, Locklear expected nothing but a routine birth for her fourth child when she felt the oncoming of early contractions on Wednesday morning. With her boyfriend, Jason Clark, out of town at work, Locklear set out on her own.
“We had just talked about how he wanted a Halloween baby, and we were supposed to induce labor on Thursday, but I guess when she got ready to come she just came right then and there — she wasn’t waiting,” Locklear said.
When he went to work in Elizabethtown that morning, Clark figured he would have enough notice, if Locklear went into labor, to make it home in advance of his daughter’s arrival.
“It just happened so quick,” he said. “If I’d known she was going to come that day, I wouldn’t have worked regardless of the money.”
Locklear left her home in the Prospect area around 9:40 a.m., planning to pick up her oldest daughter Christina en route to the doctor.
“Ten minutes later I called her back again because she should have been there in five minutes,” said Christina Locklear.
It didn’t take long for Locklear to realize that she had no time to get to a hospital.
“I had just turned onto Red Hill Road and I thought my water had broken and all I could feel was the pressure,” she said. “I knew I had to push, I couldn’t keep holding it in.”
Locklear’s aunt, Donna Lynn Locklear, was the one to find her doubled over from the pain of contractions after she pulled off the road. Transferred to her aunt’s truck, Locklear made her way to Queheel Fire Department, where Christina met her and took over the conversation with a 911 operator.
“I’m a first responder at work, so I do have some training,” Christina said. “I guess that’s what kept me a whole lot more calm. My aunt who was driving, she was hysterical.”
And that’s where Deese comes in.
According to Deese, she was on a call when Robeson County communications alerted her about the “imminent delivery” and said all medical units were busy. She quickly called her husband, John, who is a paramedic, and he headed to the fire department. John tended to Locklear and requested assistance from Scotland County EMS.
The ambulance that eventually arrived to transport mother and baby to Scotland Memorial Hospital arrived about half an hour later.
In the meantime, Deese said her training as a part-time paramedic “just kicked in.” Her most recent paramedic class just happened to cover OB/GYN care.
“It seems like even though the situation wasn’t ideal, everybody was sort of in the place they were supposed to be in order to deliver this baby girl,” she said.
Deese said Tiana was probably the third baby she’s delivered, and that it wasn’t her husband’s first assist either.
“But I’ve never delivered a baby in a car,” she said, laughing. Deese said she has known Locklear since she was “a little girl” and that the new parents asked her and her husband to be the baby’s godparents.
Deese said Locklear is “the real hero” of the story, and that anyone who finds themselves confronted with such an “imminent delivery” should do exactly as she did and head for the nearest public safety facility.
“It was just such a beautiful thing,” Deese said. “Law enforcement normally deals with people in the worst times and so it was really good to see the best time of someone’s life.”
Locklear and her 6 pound, 9 ounce daughter were discharged from the hospital on Friday with a clean bill of health — and a whopper of a story to tell.
“She probably won’t believe it,” Clark predicted.
“It’s a birth I’ll never forget,” Locklear said. “I thank everybody that was there to help me, and I thank the Lord for keeping his hands over us.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169. Robesonian managing editor Sarah Willets also contributed to this story. Reach her at 910-816-1974.