SAN JOSE -- Erin and Joe Heyming had gone to bed Monday night, with the Christmas gifts nestled under the tree, when, as the clock ticked past midnight, Erin was startled awake by a sudden visitor.
It wasn't Santa. Her baby was arriving -- two weeks early.
And Joe would be the only one there to help her deliver it.
Erin, 28, at first downplayed the contractions when Joe, 29, sprang up and called the midwife to assist in a home birth, as the West San Jose couple had done two years earlier with their first son. So the midwife said to call back when the contractions lasted longer.
"It could be we were in denial, like we didn't want to have a Christmas baby," Joe recalled Tuesday afternoon.
About 15 minutes later, it was clear the baby wouldn't wait. They had taken birthing classes and done plenty of research and relied on the professionals during their first home birth but not this time.
"There were moments where I was like, 'What should I do?' But I had a pretty good idea what was going on," said Joe, who, like his wife, is a software engineer. "We wouldn't have made it to the hospital; I feel like the baby would have just been born in the car. So what do you do when that happens?"
You tell your wife to stand up, let gravity take over and catch the head of your newborn baby. At least, that's what Joe did -- delivering the baby and coaching Erin through the birth, with reassuring words and breathing exercises, as their 20-month-old son, Logan, looked on with a curious gaze.
Their healthy newborn boy arrived at 2:05 a.m. Shortly after, the midwife arrived and took it from there.
"We both looked at it and were like, 'It's a boy!' It was like, 'Did we seriously just see that?' " Joe said Tuesday afternoon, still exhausted as Erin, who Joe said deserved the real credit -- "she kicked butt," he said -- slept off the ordeal. The couple still hadn't named their Christmas surprise baby by Tuesday evening and weren't ready to share pictures.
Shortly after the early morning excitement, Joe woke up his parents, Lucy and Frank, in Riverside, where his family had gathered for Christmas, to break the news about their 12th grandchild's early arrival. " 'Oh, and by the way, I had to deliver it,' " Lucy Heyming remembers him finally saying. "We were just like, 'Oh, my gosh.' It was amazing, and I was just shocked."
Joe's brother, Ted, an emergency-room doctor, shook his head and talked about how lucky they were, how so many things could have gone wrong.
Yet Frank knew his son would come through. A month ago, Joe had taken his car to the shop and, after being told it would cost big bucks to fix an automatic window that wasn't working, he looked up a tutorial online and fixed it himself.
"Nothing surprises me that Joe does," his father said.
Of course, there's one other explanation.
"It was," Lucy said, "a little bit like a Christmas miracle to us."
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.