WALLINGFORD — Charlotte Rose Zuppardi was born April 14 at 6:50 p.m., weighing 6 pounds and 15 ounces and was 20.25 inches long. Tony Zuppardi stood in the living room of his home Thursday, smiling as he looked down at his newborn daughter sleeping in his arms.
“You know, we missed out on the more traditional things when she was born,” he said. “But we have a more unique story.”
“It was more intimate in a way,” Cori Zuppardi, his wife, added.
Charlotte Rose wasn’t born in a hospital room, surrounded by Yale-New Haven Hospital doctors, nurses and midwives — she was born in North Haven, in the back of a Wallingford Fire Department rescue car driving down Interstate 91.
Sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. Monday morning, Tony Zuppardi said, he and his wife checked into the hospital because they believed she was ready to give birth. Doctors, however, said she wasn’t ready because she wasn’t yet dilated. At 1 p.m., they were discharged.
The couple knew they had to wait for the contractions to start before they could be admitted to the hospital. While taking a bath, Cori Zuppardi’s water broke and she had a contraction — hours after being discharged from the hospital.
“I had the first contraction and then the second,” she said, sitting in her living room. “I got out of the bath and got on all fours. I was very uncomfortable. I felt her head!”
When he saw what was going on, her husband panicked and called his mother-in-law. When his wife started to yell, he called 9-1-1.
“They were trying to direct me to state police and I said, ‘No, no. My wife is giving birth right now!’” Tony Zuppardi said. “The operator told me to lay her on her back.”
Being told to lay on a tile floor while in labor, Cori Zuppardi said, did not ease her pain. To help, Tony Zuppardi put towels underneath her.
“I had a baby coming out of me,” she said. “I was so uncomfortable.”
Cori Zuppardi said she remembered looking up and seeing her husband “pacing back and forth and freaking out.” Tony Zuppardi laughed and said he told the 9-1-1 operator he was “squeamish.”
“The operator asks me what I see, so I said, ‘What do you mean what do I see? I see a baby!’” he said. “‘I told you she’s giving birth.’”
Cori Zuppardi accepted the possibility her daughter would be born in their home. The idea made Tony Zuppardi panic.
“I was going to have to deliver my baby here. I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ I told the 9-1-1 operator I didn’t know what to do,” Tony Zuppardi said. “I don’t know what I’m doing; I don’t know what I’m grabbing or looking at.”
Firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians arrived at the Zuppardis’ home shortly after the 9-1-1 call. As they recorded Cori Zuppardi’s vital signs, Tony Zuppardi said they told him this was a “special moment” for the couple.
“Then they said this was the first time for us too,” Zuppardi said as he and his wife laughed. “I said, ‘Oh great. Thanks for telling me that.’”
With no time to wait for an ambulance, Tony Zuppardi said they went into a rescue car. Cori Zuppardi was put in the back of the car with paramedic Mike Martino, EMT Tommy Chirico and firefighter-paramedic Michael Gudelski. Her husband had to sit in the front, where the driver tried to calm him down.
Tony Zuppardi said he heard the medical staff yell out his wife was “crowning.” In pain and screaming that she was “going to die,” Cori Zuppardi said she remembers holding onto the gurney.
“I was holding it so hard,” she said. “I swear to God it was the biggest workout ever. My arms are still sore.”
Martino said he’s been licensed for two years, but delivering the Zuppardis baby was his first experience. It was the same for Chirico. Gudelski had experience under his belt. Martino and Chirico said he helped with the delivery.
Both Martino and Chirico said were nervous, but remembered their training.
“I think any call that’s of high importance, there’s nerves going through your mind,” Martino said. “I was definitely nervous, but you go back to the training and the things you’re taught. Luckily, we had a very good outcome.”
As thankful as they were that their daughter was safely born, Cori Zuppardi said she was “upset” her husband couldn’t be with her and see Charlotte. Thinking back to that moment, Tony Zuppardi became frustrated and emotional.
“I didn’t hear any crying from the baby, but they kept telling me she was OK. I kept trying to look back through the window to see what was going on. I started crying,” he said. “My wife looked back at me and she smiled and it made me feel better.”
They made it to New Haven, but there was traffic, Tony Zuppardi said. They were able to make it through with the sirens and air horns going, but a car had broken down in the emergency lane of the hospital, he added. Once dropped off, Cori Zuppardi was immediately taken into the emergency room to deliver the placenta.
Cori Zuppardi said she prepared herself for giving birth to her daughter in a hospital setting — doing so in the back of a rescue car was a “scenario you never prepare for.”
The Zuppardis said they appreciated the professionalism and work from the town’s fire department.
“I could tell they were very scared, but I felt like they were doing a good job,” Cori Zuppardi said. “... Without them, I don’t know how either of us would get through it.”
Even after delivering the baby and bringing the couple to the hospital, Tony Zuppardi said the paramedics brought them to their rooms. They even offered to stay at the house to ensure everything was turned off and doors were locked, he said.
For Martino and Chirico, the experience was rewarding.
“We deal with life or death situations and they don’t always turn out in our favor or the patient’s favor,” Martino said. “It’s nice to have calls where the outcome is good for everybody in the situation.”
While talking in their house Thursday, the Zuppardis smiled and laughed as they described their experience. It wasn’t a typical childbirth story, Cori Zuppardi said, but they embrace and appreciate the uniqueness of how their daughter was born.
As Tony Zuppardi gave his daughter to his wife to hold, Charlotte woke up and began to cry.
“Every morning of her birthday every year, we’re going to tell her the story of how she was born,” Cori Zuppardi said as she rocked her daughter back to sleep.
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