When Helen Noble suffered sudden crippling back and stomach pains, her first-aider husband Paul suspected kidney stones.
The couple went straight to A&E, where medics suspected Paul might be right and rushed her into a treatment room.
However, Helen was then stunned when doctors told her: “You are about to give birth.”
Miraculously, just 12 hours later baby Amber was born. Yet Helen, 37, had been completely unaware of her pregnancy.
“A baby was the last thing on our minds,” she said. “Only the week before, I had been hanging upside down, travelling at 50mph on Alton Towers’ scariest rollercoasters. We had gone on a camping holiday and bought a pass to the park. If I’d had any inkling I was pregnant, I would have been sitting in a cafe with my feet up.”
Helen had been at home in the village of Forth, South Lanarkshire, when she was struck by severe pains. She and Paul rushed to the Wishaw General Hospital.
While doctors examined his wife, Paul, 42, waited patiently outside, expecting to be told Helen would be transferred to a surgical ward.
Instead, the A&E doctor walked up, sat him down, looked him squarely in the eye, and said: “You are about to become a dad. That kidney stone is a baby and Helen is in labour.
“We have to move her to the maternity department immediately.”
Paul, an events fire cover company boss, was floored.
“I had to ask the doctor to repeat herself because I was struggling to take the news in,” he said. “When we first arrived at the hospital Helen was in such pain that a doctor said that a kidney stone was a possibility.
“Now I was being told I was going to be a dad… and we didn’t have as much as a nappy in the house. Never once did pregnancy occur to us.
“I was previously an airport firefighter and had responded to many first aid emergencies, but always dreaded being asked to help a mum in labour. Now I was being asked to hold Helen’s hand at the unexpected birth of our first child.”
By this stage, Helen was well into labour. As the pain worsened with each contraction, Helen, a manager with Lindt chocolate retailers, prepared herself as best she could for the unanticipated delivery.
“I’d had no ante-natal classes or any real idea of childbirth,” said Helen. “We had just moved house with Paul’s job. With the move and our new jobs I just thought I thought my cycle had been delayed.
“I didn’t have a moment’s morning sickness, tiredness or even feel the baby moving about. Midwives reckoned it was because of the way she was lying in the womb.”
Pain relief kicked in as the contractions became excruciating. “The midwives were great,” said Helen. “Paul looked stunned but despite the shock, he became immensely supportive.”
Baby Amber weighed in at 6lb 14oz and announced her arrival with a loud cry. Only learning they were to become parents on the day of their first baby’s arrival would test most couples, but Helen and Paul were overjoyed.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” said Paul. “Any fears of being fazed by a new baby melted when we saw her. We might have been totally unprepared, but I was more than ready to be a dad by then.”
The midwives handed Amber to Helen and she nestled in, bonding as well as any new mum and baby. “She was almost seven pounds of baby girl, and I didn’t know I was pregnant,” Helen said.
Paul called his family in Northern Ireland to relay the shock news. “They were making their way over for a stay and all they knew was that Helen had a kidney stone,” he said.
“I then had to call them to say Helen was in labour and that we were about to become parents. My mum, Hilary, was speechless.
“I could just picture their faces. Amber was the first grandchild for both my mum and Helen’s mum, Rea McGookin.
“I was very conscious that we had absolutely nothing for a baby at home.
“It was Thursday and with any luck I could get round the shops with my mum and buy the essentials – a cot, some baby clothes and a pile of nappies at least.”
Helen was to recover over the weekend from the unexpected birth.
That would give them time to find a baby carry chair and pram to take Amber home from hospital.
“A neighbour’s daughter had just finished using hers and kindly lent us one. I guess news of our unexpected delivery was spreading round the village.”
While Helen nursed Amber in the maternity wing, Paul and his mum went on a brisk and much-needed shopping spree.
Since arriving just two weeks ago, Amber has already put on more than a pound in weight.
“She is feeding well and filling out nicely,” Helen added. “She is a long baby and we think she may be tall. I am just taking it in my stride.
“There is no point in anything else. I am told that life is full of surprises when you have children and it has certainly started that way for us.”
Paul managed to find a Moses basket for Amber to sleep in at home.
He said: “Two weeks ago if you had told me that I would be sitting in my livingroom rocking my baby to sleep I would have laughed.
“But becoming surprise parents has been the best thing that has ever happened to us.”