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Midwife rides inflatable swan through flood to deliver baby

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As Cathy Allen Rude looked at the flooded street outside her house Monday afternoon, she thought the baby probably wouldn’t wait for the roads to clear.

A mom-to-be had just started early labor, and Rude, a 63-year-old midwife, expected the baby would come quickly. But heavy rains in the Houston area had caused the street outside her home to flood. Rude only needed to travel a few miles to the birth clinic, but she couldn’t wade through the street carrying all the equipment she needed.

The expectant mom planned to have a friend kayak Rude to the clinic, but that fell through. After reaching the end of Rude’s street, the pregnant mom noticed a neighbor floating by on an inflatable swan.

“‘How about giving my midwife a ride on your swan to come deliver my baby?’” she yelled.

The neighbor pushed the float to Rude’s front door, and “we hauled all my stuff in and she walked me to the end of the street,” Rude recalled. Her neighbor helped her load the equipment onto a waiting pickup truck to drive her to the clinic at last.

Even flooding was unlikely to stop Rude, for whom delivering babies has been a longtime interest. After marrying young, Rude was diagnosed with endometriosis at age 19 and told she would probably never have children. She and her husband hadn’t planned on growing a family for years, but were spurred to start trying after the diagnosis, she said.

Six years passed without success. She gave up hope.

“I decided it was too hard,” she said. “It was affecting my life in every way. I had to move on and do something else.”

That something else was nursing school: if she couldn’t have her own baby, she would deliver others’. Then the following August, she found out she was pregnant with a baby girl.

“I was shocked and delighted,” she remembered. The Rudes welcomed five more children in the next two decades: three sons and two daughters, the last of which her eldest child helped deliver at home. After giving birth to her fourth child, Rude also began pursuing midwifery through a distance program and became a certified professional midwife.

After nearly two decades of practicing, Rude opened up the Katy Birth Center in 2010, just a few miles from her home. There, on Monday night at 9:30 p.m., she helped deliver the baby she braved the flooded streets to assist: a boy weighing nine pounds and 12.2 ounces.

“It all worked out great,” she said.

But though the new family headed home last night, Rude was still at her clinic on Tuesday morning, awaiting another client’s baby who is supposed to arrive “any time now,” she said.

With more rain forecast for the week, Rude said it is difficult for her to get back home. She plans to stay at the clinic until the next baby is born or the streets improve. “It’s still flooded, unless I want to take another ride.”

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