Giving birth in a Kmart parking lot off Belair Road wasn't part of Amber Noll's pregnancy plan, but she said that's what happened after a hospital sent her home Monday morning because she wasn't far enough along.
Noll, who already has two young girls, felt contractions overnight and headed to the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson around 4 a.m. July 1, about a week ahead of her July 9 due date. She said workers there claimed she wasn't dilated enough to be admitted, however.
"They said I shouldn't come back until I couldn't talk through contractions," Noll said. A St. Joseph spokeswoman said the hospital "couldn't comment on patient matters."
Noll and her husband George returned home to Dundalk around 7 a.m. that day. A few hours later, the contractions ramped up, coming in an intense wave of five or six in a row. Noll called a friend to care for her kids, and she and her husband headed back to St. Joe's shortly after 11 a.m.
At 11:38, driving in their Dodge Caravan on Interstate 695, Noll realized they weren't going to make it. Her husband called 911, and took an exit in Fullerton, knowing that fire station 8 was right around the corner. He pulled into a Kmart parking lot, off to the side where there was little potential for onlookers and parked.
A few minutes later, a slew of firemen showed up, just in time to catch little Ava Pearl, who was born "perfectly healthy" at 11:49 a.m., Mom said. She was at 21 inches long and weighed 6 pounds, 13 ounces. An ambulance pulled up two minutes later.
Dad snapped the first picture using Noll's phone, as she and Ava were wheeled over to the ambulance.
The pair was taken to Franklin Square Medical Center for follow-up care. The older Noll girls -- Olivia, who's nearly 5, and 3-year-old Keira -- met their baby sister there on Tuesday, and the family was reunited Wednesday after Noll and Ava were discharged.
The Nolls are planning to send a gift basket to the firefighters, though Amber Noll said she was ready to catch her daughter herself if she had to.
“I was going to do it,” she said.
Tricia Bishop is a new mom who covers family issues for The Baltimore Sun.