Shazma Bushnaq expected her second child to arrive during a scheduled induced delivery on Wednesday morning.
Her first child had been delivered through induced labor, so she was familiar with the planning, the scheduling and the waiting. But the Grayslake resident soon found out that her unborn baby didn't want to wait.
Instead of giving birth in a room on Wednesday morning, Bushnaq gave birth in her car outside the emergency room Monday night. And instead of a doctor and hospital staff delivering her child, Bushnaq's second born was delivered by Highland Park Police Officer Ginger Stokes.
Luckily for Bushnaq, Stokes had done this before.
Racing to Highland Park Hospital
Shortly before midnight on Monday, Bushnaq's contractions began. She paged her doctor. He said he'd let the staff know she was on her way and encouraged her to head to the hospital.
Minutes later, Bushnaq and her husband were en route. When Bushnaq started having contractions every five minutes, her husband called 911. There was confusion — Bushnaq's husband didn't know if they should pull over and wait for paramedics or if they should try to make it the rest of the 20-mile journey to the hospital.
The contractions picked up to every one minute.
Then her water broke.
"It just happened so fast," Bushnaq said.
Determined to make it to the hospital, Bushnaq's husband picked up the speed and continued driving.
Bushnaq was so surprised she was in labor she didn't even think to sit in the back seat of the car. Sitting in the passenger's seat as her husband raced along Route 41, she felt her newborn's head push out.
No staff outside
Highland Park Police Officer Ginger Stokes delivered her first baby 15 years ago, during her first year on the job. The delivery went smoothly, thanks in no small part to the step-by-step instructional cards Stokes' dispatcher read to her over the phone.
"The dispatcher told me to tell the father to get a clean towel," Stokes recalled with a laugh. "He came back with a towel and the wife said, 'Not that one!' So he had to get another one."
Fifteen years and four children of her own later, Stokes didn't need the cards. When her dispatcher put out a call that a car was heading to Highland Park Hospital and that the woman in it was already in labor, Stokes told her partner to start driving. She called the hospital and told the staff that a car was heading their way with a woman in labor.
"As soon as we pulled in I got out of the car," Stokes said.
Stokes' partner, Amanda Duchak, ran into the emergency room to get help. Stokes ran to Bushnaqs' car and opened the passenger side door. Right away, she could see the baby's head was almost completely out.
There's no way this woman is getting out of her car, Stokes thought. She also knew there wasn't much time to finish the delivery before bacteria from the unsanitary setting might cause an infection. Stokes got to work — or, as the officer later put it, she got "a little bossy."
Stokes told her partner to get a blanket for Bushnaq. She then adjusted Bushnaq's position so she was sitting up more, and got her pants all the way down.
"She really thought things through," Bushnaq later recalled. "She was standing at the emergency exit outside knowing what to do before any staff had come out."
Stokes put her hands beneath the baby's head, and the rest of it came right out. Stokes made sure the umbilical cord wasn't wrapped around the baby's neck and wrapped it in a blanket. Then she cut the cord.
"That's when we heard the baby cry," Bushnaq said. "That was the first sigh of relief I had."
Stokes smiled at the baby, which was now wrapped and moving in her arms. Then she told Bushnaq something the mother will never forget.
"You just had a little girl."
Bushnaq and her husband hadn't found out the sex of the baby in the months leading up to its birth.
They wanted to be surprised.
The sweet-voiced baby
Raneem Mariam Bushnag is a content and happy newborn, according to her mother, who explained that "Raneem" means "to recite in a sweet voice" in Arabic.
"She just seems so content and so happy," Bushnaq said. "This name just kind of suited her."
She's also a healthy newborn. The 8 pound, 1.2 ounce newborn was on antibiotics for her first 48 hours to prevent infection. Though she swallowed some fluids, they cleared in the first 24 hours.
Bushnaq gives all the credit for her newborn's well-being to Stokes.
"She truly saved the baby's life," Bushnaq said.
When Stokes returned home from work the following morning, she told her 8-year-old son she'd delivered a baby the night before.
"He looks at me and goes, 'Well, where is it?'" Stokes said. "He's my youngest and thought he'd be an older brother."
Later that day, Stokes visited Raneem in the hospital. She brought her a police teddy bear and stayed to take some pictures.
"We were delighted," Bushnaq said. "I'm just so thankful to her."