A lot of babies have been born at Rush. As far as we know, though, no one ever had delivered her baby in the fourth-floor lobby of the Atrium Building until a few weeks ago, when Laura Wolff gave birth to her son, Elliott Howard Wolff Claus, right in front of the reception desk.
Both Wolff and Elliott are doing well, despite the dramatic circumstances of his birth on Jan. 23.
Wolff had gone into labor around 6:00 the night before, but she waited to come to Rush. When she’d given birth to her first child, a daughter, Wolff had been in labor for hours, and she didn’t want to spend that much time waiting in the hospital again.
She even slept during the night and took a shower in the morning before leaving for Rush around 10 a.m. “I was 100 percent sure I was going to be in the hospital in labor for another 10 hours,” she says.
‘I didn’t think he was going to come in five minutes’
Her husband, Adam Claus, drove them to Rush from their home in Cicero. “I should’ve gotten off at Damen instead of Paulina. Instead, I did the crazy turnaround” (from Paulina Street to Ashland Avenue to Harrison Street) Claus says. “When I was driving by the ER, I thought, ‘well, we don’t need it,’ but we probably did.”
Rush’s campus is familiar to Claus, a social worker who until recently worked in our population health department. He now works for Lawndale Christian Health Center, a community clinic that partners with Rush.
They parked on the sixth floor of our parking garage. “Laura started feeling like she needed to push,” Claus remembers. “The last time, she pushed for about two hours. I didn’t think he was going to come in five minutes.”
The couple was in the elevator going down to the fourth floor when Wolff’s water broke. A woman who’d been in the elevator with them went to get help while Wolff and Claus sat on a bench in the garage.
“After about 10 seconds, and I looked at Adam and said, ‘we can’t wait here.’” Wolff remembers.
Doing it all herself
They were walking towards the lobby when Rush volunteer Rev. Bobby Smith arrived with a wheelchair and began transporting Wolff. They stopped at the reception desk so Claus could double-check where they needed to go.
“As soon as I stopped, she screamed. The next thing I know, she was holding the baby in her hand,” Smith remembers. Wolff not only had delivered Elliott by herself, she had caught him in her own hands.
“I was amazed. I saw the baby coming out and started worrying what to do,” Claus says. “I think it happened in 20 seconds, but it was one of those really intense experiences when it feels like time slowed down.”
A cry for help, then a baby’s cry
Nearby in the lobby, Channing Burks, MD, heard cries for help. A former Rush obstetrics resident who was in the hospital due to a family medical matter, Burks ran to assist.
“I looked at her, made sure she wasn’t bleeding too much, and she was not. The baby wasn’t breathing, and I was trying to keep her calm, asking ‘oh, did you know you’re having a boy, what’s his name,’” recounts Burks, who now is a fellow at University of Illinois Hospital. “I started to stimulate the baby, rubbing his back, and then the baby started to cry.”
“For me, it wasn’t scary, it just had to happen,” Wolff says. “I remember that time was really slow, and he came out and was breathing, and I was OK. The most reassuring was that the OB (Burks) was there saying ‘He’s fine.’”
“I was in shock a little bit (about the delivery), but at no point did I feel something bad was happening. One of the things I was thinking, whoever had to clean everything up, I just want to say thank you to them.”
’It’s remarkable how strong a woman will be for her child’
According to Burks, who recently gave birth to a baby of her own, Elliot’s arrival is an extraordinary example of what mothers are able to do. “Women might not even know their own strength until a situation such as this,” she says. “It’s remarkable how strong you truly can be if you need to be and how strong a woman will be for her child.”
Burks and a Rush nurse who had joined her brought Wolff, Claus and Elliott up to Rush’s Labor and Delivery unit, where they were put into a room and provided with postpartum care. The family went home the next night.
“I was dead set on only being there one night, and everyone was very accommodating,” says Wolff, who left the hospital without receiving a single IV infusion.
“My goal was a low-intervention birth. I met my goal, but I might have overshot it a little bit.”