When Joanna Neal started having painful contractions two weeks shy of her due date, the Centennial, Colorado, mom visited her ob-gyn. The doctor assured Joanna that she had plenty of time before her baby arrived. So Joanna got some work done (she's an online social-sciences professor), took care of her daughters, Mia, 5, and Morgan, 2, and went to bed. At 4:35 the next morning, her water broke. "I ran to the bathroom, shouting to my husband, David, that we needed to leave for the hospital," Joanna says. But when her contractions began coming one right after another and she suddenly felt the need to push, she changed her mind. "Forget the hospital," Joanna shouted. "Call 911!"
While waiting for the ambulance, Joanna made her way to the kitchen and lay down on her left side (she'd read that the position might slow down labor, though experts say it's an old wives' tale). "But after a couple of minutes, the baby's head started to emerge, and I realized he was coming no matter what," she says. Fortunately, Joanna had read up on how to deliver her own baby. She instructed her spouse to guide out their child's shoulders one at a time, but David stood there, frozen, so Joanna guided them out herself. David finally snapped out of his shock and finished delivering the baby. Then, following the directions of the 911 dispatcher, he tied the umbilical cord with a clean shoelace to separate the baby from the placenta. The ambulance showed up ten minutes later and escorted Joanna and her new addition, Ethan, to the hospital. The Neals estimated that he was born at 4:56 a.m., a mere 21 minutes after her labor began. "Delivering Ethan was scary, and we know we were lucky there were no complications," says Joanna. "But it was an incredible experience that we'll never forget."