A Christmas surprise

GREENFIELD — Ashley and William Dillon will spend years trying to outdo the shock, excitement and overwhelming joy brought by this holiday season.

The couple were planning to have a calm, quiet Christmas at home this year; waiting eagerly for a special kind of present: Their first daughter, Zophia Alicia Dillon, was due to be born any day. With family members stationed around the country on military bases, the Dillons postponed their celebrations until a time when everyone could be together. They planned for Friday to be a day of relaxing, time for the couple to spend alone before they became a family of three.

But Zophia had other plans in mind; the best Christmas gifts are always surprises.

The baby was born Christmas Day at the couple’s home in Greenfield with the help of paramedics from Buck Creek Township Fire Department, just hours after Ashley Dillon had been sent home from a hospital. Her little girl wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas, she was told.

The contractions started late on Christmas Eve, William Dillon said. They were light at first, spread out and not too painful, so the Dillons decided to wait a few hours before deciding if Ashley needed to go to the hospital.

But Christmas morning brought more contractions and greater pain; this time they were much closer together, and Ashley Dillon said she knew it was time to see a doctor.

The couple drove to Major Hospital in Shelbyville around 2 p.m. to visit their regular physician. They were there about a half-hour while doctors and nurses ran a few tests before politely sending the Dillons on their way.

It was too early for the baby, William Dillon remembers the doctors saying; the contractions were still too far apart and not lasting long enough for labor. The Shelbyville doctors thought Ashely’s body was simply preparing itself for the birth. They told the couple to not plan on seeing baby Zophia for at least a few more days.

So William Dillon drove his wife home to Greenfield.

About four hours later, he called 911.

Ashley Dillon could feel the baby moving, and she warned her husband there wouldn’t be enough time to make it to the hospital.

On the other end of the phone, Hancock County 911 dispatcher Zack Zumwalt instructed William Dillon to have his wife lie down and try to stay calm.

Zumwalt has taken similar phone calls before, but Ashley Dillon was much farther along than anyone he’d helped in the past. He was ready to provide birthing instructions over the phone to William Dillon, who remained calm, if needed, Zumwalt said. But medics arrived in time.

It took about two minutes for the Buck Creek Township Fire Department ambulance to pull up to the Dillons’ home. Paramedic Sarah Bonham was one of the first through the door, and it took her less than a second to realize Ashley wasn’t going to make it to the rig, let alone the hospital, before the baby came, she said.

Bonham had never delivered a baby, but she didn’t have time to panic. She thought back on her training and got to work, she said. The paramedic told Ashley Dillon to make herself as comfortable on the couple’s bed as possible. Before long, it was time to push.

The new mom admits she was scared and in pain, and she’s sure she looked like a deer in headlights as Bonham talked her through the birth.

In less than 10 minutes, Zophia had arrived, just before 7 p.m. Eight pounds and 1 ounce; 21 inches long. The perfect Christmas present, her doting parents say.

On Sunday, Ashley and William Dillon were still trying to process it all. As they celebrated their third wedding anniversary in their room at Hancock Regional Hospital — where Ashley and the baby were taken after the birth — neither could stop from looking at the little girl, who was wrapped in a soft pink blanket and asleep at the foot of her mother’s hospital bed.

Zophia was a gift more than one way, her parents said. She is the couple’s second child; their son, William Jr., died two years ago from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Zophia is their second chance at parenthood, a life full of opportunities.

The Dillons hadn’t chosen a name before the baby was born, but upon seeing her for the first time they decided she’d be called Zophia — the name they had picked out if William Jr. had been a girl.

Now, the couple are feeling joyful and excited to have a little one back in their world, and Ashely Dillon joked that she is particularly glad to be able to see her toes again.

Zophia had never had a firm due date, and the Dillons were hoping she’d arrive on New Year’s Day.

But a Christmas arrival made her birth a little sweeter, they said.

Nodding down at his little girl, William Dillon said with a laugh, “That’s my present.”

Zophia Alicia Dillon

Zophia Alicia Dillon was born to Ashley and William Dillon at 7:55 p.m. on Christmas Day in the family’s home.

She was 21 inches long and weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce.

Both mom and baby are healthy.

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.