PORTLAND, Maine — There are some life milestones you don't want to miss, because chances are they may only happen once. Whether it's a graduation, wedding, funeral, or birth, those moments are hard to get back once they've passed.
Ryan Burkhart of Saco understands that sentiment firsthand.
Burkhart works as a merchant marine in the Gulf of Mexico and typically ships out every other month. He and his wife, Emily, had planned his work schedule to try to make sure he would be home for the birth of their first child, Weston. Ryan was going to fly home 10 days before Weston's due date of Feb. 20, in case he came early.
"I told Weston every night, you know, 'Wait for Daddy to get here!'" Emily joked.
Apparently, Weston didn't want to wait.
Emily went into labor early, getting in touch with Ryan on the phone in the early morning hours of Feb. 9.
"I got a call from her at 2:30 a.m. that her water broke, and I was still on the ship," Ryan said.
Ryan admitted he was frustrated. He had been offered a helicopter ride off of the ship the day before but turned it down because he didn't think it was necessary to leave earlier than Thursday.
"I was kind of beating myself up about not taking more time off, so I could be there," Ryan said.
Ryan couldn't go back to sleep after the news, so he talked to Chief Mate John Chippendale who was starting his shift in a couple of hours at 5 a.m. Ryan told Chippendale that he needed a helicopter the next day and asked him to relay the request to the captain.
"When you work 12 hours a day with someone, you talk about everything and anything, and you get to know each other pretty well," Chippendale said about his years-long relationship with Ryan.
"That day, he was definitely in a different headspace. He was freaking out pretty bad and really wanted to get off the ship in a hurry," he continued.
The helicopter arrived Wednesday afternoon, but it kept getting delayed, so Ryan missed three flights he was originally planning to take. A sense of desperation and perseverance led to a quick Google search on his phone, where he found a flight from New Orleans to Detroit to Boston. Ryan booked it and got on the plane at 6:30 p.m. He landed in Boston after midnight and got a rental car to drive home.
The entire time, he was touching base with Emily. As it turns out, doctors and nurses were listening to her requests to try to delay the birth as much as possible.
"When I crossed the bridge, I got into Maine, and she still hadn't delivered — and I was like, 'I really have a shot here,'" Ryan said.
Around 3 a.m., Ryan walked into Maine Medical Center after parking hurriedly in a snowbank. When he walked onto the floor, nurses started clapping, pointing him in the direction of Emily's room. Weston still hadn't arrived.
"When he walked in, it was like, 'Ah!' You know, I was jumping up and down," Pam Davis, Emily's mother, said.
"It was very emotional," Emily said.
After traveling nearly 2,000 miles and 25 hours later, Emily and Ryan welcomed Weston Wayne Burkhart into the world at 4:17 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10.
"It was like when the Patriots beat Atlanta in the Super Bowl — just little things kept happening to make it happen," Ryan said like a true New Englander.
Ryan now has six weeks off to adjust to parenthood with Emily. The couple said at this point, Weston is sleeping all day and is awake all night, so their teamwork has been really helpful.