A baby boy and his grateful parents visited a group of San Diego first responders Thursday who helped the family during the infant's roadside birth.
Tom and Sydney Judge, and their newborn, Heston, visited the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department's (SDFD) Sorrento Valley Station 41 to say thank you to the firefighters -- this time under much less stressful circumstances.
Baby Heston was born on June 12 at around 9:30 p.m. About an hour-and-a-half earlier, the Judges had been hosting dinner for friends at their house.
"I was just going through the motions of contractions at home," Sydney explained. "I was having very light contractions, but nothing to think that delivery was going to come that night."
Sydney told NBC 7 she thought she had at least six hours of labor left until baby Heston's big debut. The birth of their first child had been a long process, and they thought this birth would be similar.
Boy, were they wrong.
Suddenly, Sydney's contractions began to intensify.
"The contractions were coming almost every 30 seconds," she recalled. "And I said, 'I don't think we're going to make it.'"
The Judges quickly got into their car and left for the hospital. Sydney was in the backseat, coming to terms with the possibility of having to deliver her child en route, if necessary.
A few minutes into their drive she asked her husband to pull over and call 911.
Tom stopped the car on the shoulder of the freeway. When he walked around to the backseat to check on Sydney, he saw Heston's head peeking out.
The couple knew they had to get to a safer area to call 911. He took the next exit and stopped near a parking lot at Oberlin Drive and Scranton Road.
"At that point, I just focused on not trying to push," Sydney explained. "He was ready to come."
Tom, on the phone with 911 dispatchers, began to follow instructions to help his wife while they waited for first responders. Soon, firefighters and paramedics from Sorrento Valley Station 41 arrived.
Sydney said she heard the calm voices of the firefighters and paramedics telling her it was alright to push. She did and, soon enough, baby Heston was born.
"It was just a couple of pushes, and there was the little baby, popped out, and everything was good," said Tom.
When Sydney heard her son cry, she felt a wave of relief.
"He cried right away," she said.
Today, Sydney and 3-week-old Heston and doing great.
The family shared warm hugs with the first responders at their reunion Thursday. The little one's parents beamed with pride as they introduced Heston to the firefighters and paramedics who helped bring him into the world.
Heston, curled up in his dad's arms, slept through some of the sweet reunion. At times, he yawned and opened his eyes to give his heroes a little hello.
Sydney immediately recognized the first responder who helped "catch" Heston during the delivery, SDFD firefighter/paramedic Nikolaos Angel.
"It was you," she laughed, hugging him.
"Yes, ma'am," Angel smiled. "Doing okay? Everything worked out perfect. Congratulations!"
You did all the work; all I did was catch," he added.
"I was waiting for you," said Sydney. "I was like, 'Don't push until someone gets here!'"
The Judges brought a gift to the fire station: a framed photo of Heston dressed up in a tiny firefighter's uniform next to a sign that read, "Thank You from the Judge Family."
"He's the Station Baby!" Sydney said to the crew, handing them the framed picture. "Thank you so much; it was quite the shocking experience, with a happy ending."
Angel told NBC 7 his crew's extensive training prepared them to help the Judge family on the day of Heston's roadside birth.
"We were ready; we were able to coach the mom through it, and had a successful birth," he explained. "It was a great outcome."
Both Angel and SDFD Chief Brian Fennessy said it's not often that fire crews deliver babies in cars, making this day on the job pretty memorable.
Angel said he's been lucky enough to experience a few deliveries in his time working as a firefighter and paramedic.
"Every time, it's a wonderful experience. It's great to be able to touch a family and be the first to hold a newborn baby and to hand them over to their mother," he said.
Angel, who's a father himself, said experiences like Heston's birth are very close to his heart and remind him of why he got into his profession in the first place.