BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater resident Jason O’Neill and his wife, Jennifer, were expecting a baby girl, but he never assumed he would be the one delivering her.
On Nov. 5, Jason O’Neill returned home from work to find his wife in a lot of pain on their living room couch.
“It got to the point that she couldn’t breath and we knew from experience what was happening,” he said.
They got into their mini van and started driving on Route 22, headed east for St. Peter's University Hospital.
As the family was driving, Jennifer O’Neill’s pain increased, and her husband decided to call 911.
“I got the 911 call and Jason was stating that his wife was in labor,” said Bridgewater Township Police dispatcher Allison Cavallo. “I realized it may happen soon, so I had him pull over.”
The O’Neill family pulled into the parking lot of Ace Hardware on Route 22. The temperature was 30 degrees outside the car as Jason O’Neill walked to the passenger door.
“I thought midway through the process that I was oddly calm,” he said.
O’Neill was following the dispatcher’s instructions and tending to his wife when the baby was born.
“The baby fell out, it happened so fast I had to catch the baby,” he said.
Jennifer O’Neill said her husband put his past baseball experience to good use that night.
“I put on Facebook that he literally made the catch of his life,” she said.
Jason O’Neill said he was very grateful to Cavallo.
“Allison was unbelievable, she was so composed,” he said. “There was just no time to be worried, it was adrenaline and instinct and the dispatchers who made this work out.”
About 30 seconds after the baby was born, police and ambulances from both Bridgewater and Somerville arrived on the scene. The place where the O’Neill family had pulled over happened to be bordering both towns.
“I turned around holding the baby, and the police officer was like a deer in the headlights, but quickly regained composure and brought over a large emergency blanket,” Jason O’Neill said.
The baby had been born in the O’Neill family’s brand new Honda Odyssey.
The conversation O’Neill had with Cavallo was about 5 minutes long, and the baby was born about 10 minutes after the family left their driveway.
“I’ve worked in Bridgewater for just under nine years, and it was the first time I’ve ever delivered a baby,” said Cavallo. “When I heard the baby cry, I was overjoyed.”
Dispatcher Brianna Retsis was also involved in the call, and sent the police and rescue squads.
“For the most part, on 911 calls, we never know the outcome,” Retsis said. “With this call, we were able to meet the family and see the healthy baby girl.”
The O’Neill family ended up at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, in Somerville, where they named their newborn baby girl Madelyn.
The nurses and staff at the hospital ended up nicknaming her “Ace,” O’Neill said.
For their service in assisting in the delivery, Cavallo and Retsis received the Civilian Award during the January police promotional ceremony.
“There’s not a lot of times on a 911 call that you get a happy call, and it’s something I won’t forget for the rest of my life,” Cavallo said. “It is our job, but when things like that happen, it is rewarding to get recognized for it.”
In addition to Madelyn, the O’Neills have a 3-year-old daughter named Annabel.
“One kid is life-changing,” O’Neill said. “Two is total mayhem.”