One of the many things Daniel Lynch learned while training to be a firefighter and paramedic was how to deliver a baby, but the closest he ever came was watching a doctor in a hospital perform the job.
That all changed in dramatic fashion Friday. In a minivan on the side of an expressway, Lynch unexpectedly brought a newborn into the world – his own.
“It’s the first time I did it myself,” he told PEOPLE. In fact, apart from his other four children, he said he’s never even seen a baby being born.
It’s not exactly how Lynch, 32, a captain with the Evanston, Illinois, fire department, and his wife, Elizabeth, 32, planned to welcome their new daughter.
They knew the time was approaching, though, when Elizabeth, who was three days past her due date, started feeling intense contractions about midnight at their Chicago home. But the contractions suddenly stopped and she was able to fall asleep for a few hours.
At about 4:25 a.m., though, she awoke with very intense contractions and she and her husband decided to get into their Honda Odyssey and head for Evanston Hospital, about 15 minutes away, leaving the other kids home with his mother.
Elizabeth called ahead to her midwife and planned to meet her at the hospital, but just as Lynch got onto the Edens Expressway a few minutes from their home, Elizabeth knew she wouldn’t make it.
“I told him to pull over,” she told PEOPLE from her hospital bed.
Lynch called 911, then ran to the passenger side and helped guide his new baby girl into the world. “The baby’s head was already halfway out,” he said. “I said, ‘Push.’ ”
A few minutes later, Mary Margaret Lynch made her debut, at 4:45 a.m., before police or firefighters had a chance to get there. The healthy girl weighed in at 8 lbs., 7 oz.
“Right away she cried,” said Elizabeth, a former first-grade teacher who’s now an at-home mom. “And all my fears were gone. I just trusted Dan though.”
Lynch wrapped his new bundle of joy in a blanket, then drove his wife and newborn the rest of the way to the hospital.
In his eight years as a firefighter and paramedic, Lynch has been more used to fighting fires, tending patients experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath and trauma, saving people trapped in cars and helping out with water rescues from Lake Michigan. “You really really don’t expect to deliver children,” he said.
Still, he and his fellow paramedics did learn a thing or two about delivering babies in class. “We paid attention,” he said.
Mary Margaret joins siblings Madeline, 6, Tommy, 5, Hank, 3 and Charlie, 18 months, who all were born in more traditional fashion in the hospital.
“It’s our fifth,” said the proud papa. “And last.”
Elizabeth agreed. “We went out,” she said, “with a bang.”