Yes, the contractions were coming with increasing regularity, and it was only three days until Kristen and James Eddins's baby was supposed to arrive. But as the snow began coming down hard, the couple of 13 years nestled into bed, comfortable that their fourth child would wait.

It was Christmas Eve, after all. They were exhausted. And Kristen had had this kind of contraction twice already in the past two weeks. Both false alarms.

About 1:45 Christmas morning, however, they became notably more intense.

By 2, the Eddinses were at the front door. And by 2:20, he was on the phone to 911.

Three minutes later, James Leyton Eddins was born on the leather passenger seat of his parents' silver 2001 Mitsubishi Montero near Gas House Pike and Monocacy Boulevard in Frederick County -- probably one of the year's first Christmas babies, and almost certainly the only one born in a moving sport-utility vehicle. In a snowstorm.

Judging from the recording of the 911 call, young James Leyton was none too happy about all of this.

"He's born! He's out!" the dad shouted triumphantly into the cell phone while the son greeted the world with a high-pitched shriek.

Guided by emergency dispatcher Matt Wiles, Dad unstrung a shoelace and tied off the umbilical cord. Mom, who gave birth while the SUV was coming to a stop on the snow-swept shoulder of the road, held the baby to her belly to keep him warm.

Five minutes later, an ambulance arrived to take mother and son to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where both were judged healthy, happy and fit -- if a little rattled.

"We were really grateful to hear him cry, to know that he was okay," Kristen Eddins, 37, said yesterday as she cradled James Leyton, swaddled in a red-white-and-blue blanket. "Everybody had been tucked into bed, waiting for Santa. . . . We weren't exactly prepared for this."

James Leyton was one of three babies born at or on the way to Frederick Memorial on Christmas. But given the hurried -- and, with the SUV and cell phone, very modern -- circumstances of his birth, he received by far the most attention yesterday.

Relatives called from across the country, and the media latched onto the birth as a tale of Christmas hope and happiness.

"I have to hand it to my husband," Kristen said to a huddle of television cameras in Frederick Memorial's maternity ward. "He drove really calmly."

"She's a champion," James, a 37-year-old tax consultant, said in a telephone interview from the couple's home in New Market. "She did a great job. . . . I was just along for the ride."

Both parents extended congratulations to Wiles, the 19-year-old emergency dispatcher, for calmly helping them through the rough spots.

Like when James, of course well intentioned but perhaps lacking in empathy, demanded that his wife hold off on pushing.

"Don't push!" he says on the 911 recording, just minutes before the baby was born.

"Let me please just push," she reponds, between shrieks of pain.

"Oh please, Kristen," he says. "Come on."

"She told me today that when I told her not to push, she was ready to smack me," James said.

They had been through this before, sort of. Kristen, a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company, had already had three children -- five years, three years and 17 months ago. Two had been born more than a week late. One was born slightly early. All the births had been relatively quick and had been preceded by warning contractions that seemed to approach the level of real labor pains.

So when she felt the contractions coming on Christmas Eve, Kristen didn't think much about it at first. And when they got in the car, she was sure they had enough time to make it to Frederick Memorial, only nine miles away.

Ten minutes later, with blowing snow and deer on the roadway slowing their progress, she was much less sure. She suggested that James call 911, and while he was on the phone, the baby suddenly arrived.

James, who had been struggling to find a place to pull over on the narrow, two-lane road, put the cell phone down to reach across and do what he could to help. Wiles barked instructions into the phone.

When the overhead lights came on, there was the Eddinses' youngest child. Six pounds, five ounces. Twenty inches long, and a head of black hair.

The other three children were back home, watched over by neighbor Gwen Tillman, who had rushed right over when the Eddinses realized they had to go to the hospital.

After learning of her newest sibling's birth, 3-year-old Ainsley perhaps spoke for all the Eddins children when she asked: "Did Santa bring the baby?"

"Yes, Ainsley," Kristen told her. "Santa brought the baby."

Kristen Eddins said emergency dispatcher Matt Wiles helped talk her and her husband through son James's birth on their way to the hospital.Kristen Eddins holds newborn James Leyton Eddins the day after he was born in his parents' SUV. "We weren't exactly prepared for this," she said.