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Henderson native stationed in Spain has Father’s Day tale for the ages

Updated June 20, 2020 - 2:02 pm

Air Force Maj. Chris Stein has a Father’s Day story for the ages.

It involves an overseas posting and a COVID-19 diagnosis and culminates with the “patient” delivering his third baby on a sofa in his family’s 1,200-square-foot apartment in Spain.

It all started in the early-morning hours of April 1, when Stein’s wife, Sarah, said she had started feeling minor contractions. Throughout the day, they felt stronger, but irregular.

“Give it some time,” the doctor, who planned to meet the couple at a hospital, told them.

Stein, a Henderson native, had already been quarantined in the Madrid apartment he shared with his wife and two daughters, 7-year-old Lorelai and Audrey, 4, for weeks after both he and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.

Doctors told them the delivery could still happen at the hospital, though they would need to enter through a separate entrance for COVID-19 patients.

As the contractions drew closer together, the couple sent their daughters to stay with Stein’s boss and prepared to leave for the hospital.

But as they headed for the door, Sarah Stein grabbed her husband’s hand.

“No, the baby is coming now,” she said, calmly.

‘The baby can’t come now!’

“No, no, no! The baby can’t come now! You got to keep it in there,” he said.

Chris Stein, a graduate of UNLV’s Boyd Law School who has traveled the globe during his 12-year Air Force career, said he didn’t sign up for the military for a life of comfort and ease. But neither did he feel prepared for this intense new mission.

“When I deployed to Afghanistan and walked the streets of Kabul, sure, there’s a threat, but I pretty much understood what the threat was and how to mitigate the threat,” he said. “But with COVID, we just don’t know how to do that.”

Stein’s first thought during the delivery was to grab one of the military first aid kits to seek anything that would help with the delivery.

“It turns out I didn’t need any of that,” he said. “Mother Nature knows what she’s doing.”

Within 10 seconds of his wife sitting back down on the sofa to position herself for labor, Stein recalls, he saw their baby begin to emerge.

“You see sort of this tranquil face of a baby who has no idea what’s going on, no idea that she’s being born, let alone in a Madrid apartment in the midst of a global pandemic,” Stein said.

“So you just, like, see that peacefulness and you just immediately fall in love.”

“I could feel his energy,” Sarah Stein said of her husband. “He had a lot of adrenaline coming, but I was taught to kind of relax during labor, so I said, ‘Let’s just focus on pushing, because we have to get her out.’”

At that moment, Stein wrapped his hands around the back of the baby’s head. In one more contraction, she came out into his arms.

The baby’s gender was a surprise. After she was born, the couple looked through a list of names, and Chris Stein saw one that stood out: Sadie.

“That’s really pretty,” Sarah Stein said. “And it just kind of fell into our lap, like it was meant to be.”

The name Sadie is an old-fashioned derivative of Sarah.

“I told her, ‘after this amazing experience, where you were so strong, I want her to be a little Sarah,’” Chris Stein said.

Spain is in Phase Two of its recovery plan and has been much more restrictive in its quarantine rules than the U.S.

But finally the family members can sit at restaurants outside and travel within the Madrid region, though they still have scheduled hours for outside exercise and walks.

“Overall, things feel a lot better with this freedom,” Chris Stein said by email. “We’re hoping the situation continues to progress so we can travel Spain-wide around 1 July.”

Coronavirus ‘just struck me’

The Steins came down with COVID-19 two weeks before their third daughter was due. By the time of her birth, they already had been locked down in their apartment for seven weeks, since schools closed around March 10.

Two days later, the U.S. Embassy sent Stein home after employees started contracting the virus. That weekend, Stein says, the virus “just struck me.”

He felt intense body fatigue and aches, and he lost his sense of smell. Sarah Stein also started becoming congested and lost her sense of smell and taste. They both tested positive for the virus shortly thereafter.

At the time, COVID-19 was still so new and there wasn’t much information out there about how pregnant women reacted and whether it could be transmitted in utero.

The doctors wanted to isolate the baby for 24 hours after birth, but the parents refused. Sarah Stein said she wore a mask for the first five days of nursing Sadie, and they did their best to be cautious. None of their kids has tested positive.

“We would have had no control over the birth experience at the hospital. We knew it was going to be a sterile operating room. Everyone would be wearing the full suits, and I probably wouldn’t even be allowed in,” Chris Stein said.

“And then it turned out to just be this beautiful experience that we had together here at home, and it was absolutely the best thing that we could have imagined during these times.”

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

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