Steven Rocher didn't plan on being part of a Christmas miracle yesterday.

But there he was, leaving his mother's house in North Philadelphia, where he had stopped by extra-early, at 5:15 a.m., to slide some surprise gifts under the tree.

A SEPTA police sergeant, he was soon off to work - and that's when it happened.

"I'm driving down 18th and Lehigh Avenue, and I hear this woman screaming," he said. He looked and saw a man tugging at her clothes. "As I got closer, he says to me, 'Help me, please!' "

The woman, her husband nearby, was on the ground, about to give birth.

"We receive annual CPR training," said Rocher, who has been a SEPTA officer for almost half of his 51 years. "But nothing about delivering babies. What can you do?"

He figured it out well enough.

"When I heard the baby crying, I felt a sense of comfort because I knew the baby was OK," said Rocher, the father of three sons, ages 17, 21 and 27.

Moments later, he got back in his car and flagged down a colleague. "I said, 'Call radio, tell them we need rescue. I got a baby being born!' " Rocher said. The rescue car brought the new parents and their baby daughter to Temple University Hospital.

"I will remember this Christmas when I retire for a long time," he said.

Busy responding to calls from reporters for much of the day, Rocher early last night said he had not yet told his sons about his day.

But he did hear from his daughter-in-law. "She said, 'You weren't here when I needed a midwife!' "

Contact staff writer Marcia Gelbart at 215-854-2338 or mgelbart@phillynews.com.