Amanda Nelson, a pregnant fifth-grade teacher, realized that she’d waited too long to head to the hospital as she and her husband were speeding down Interstate 270 early Thursday, and she felt the urge to push.
Suddenly, she said, “my water broke.” She “could feel something sticking out of me.” The 33-year-old Germantown woman unbuckled her seat belt in their Jeep Commander and looked down.
It was her baby’s foot.
Her husband, Jon, concerned that she had taken off her seat belt, drove past the exit for Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.
“What do I do?” Amanda recalled him asking her in the car.
“Pull over,” she told him.
When he asked why, she told him there was a foot. Jon, a helicopter mechanic, stopped the car, jumped out and went around to his wife’s side while dialing 911.
The foot was blue.
Within minutes, the baby — a 6-pound, 12-ounce boy named Jacob Kenneth — arrived but wasn’t making a sound.
“He’s not crying or anything,” Amanda gasped on the 911 call, a recording which Montgomery County fire officials released Thursday. “Help me, please!”
Her husband rubbed the newborn’s chest, murmuring, “Breathe, little boy.” The baby started to cry.
The 911 dispatcher told him how to deal with the umbilical cord. Jon is a Boy Scout leader and had recently gone on a camping trip, so he had a first-aid kit in their SUV. In it was a roll of medical tape, which he used to wrap the cord about six inches from the baby, per the dispatcher’s instructions.
The couple, who have two other children, ages 15 and 2, wrapped the baby in his father’s shirt until emergency personnel arrived. The mother and baby were taken to the medical center, where both were doing fine.
“I was scared,” Amanda said from her hospital bed as she recalled the dramatic delivery. “As soon as I saw his feet, I was petrified.”
She and her husband said they’d known for some time that the baby was breech, and doctors had scheduled a Caesarean section for next week. But about midnight, Amanda awakened in their Germantown home having what she described as “irregular contractions.”
After about three hours, she called her doctor’s answering service. Her own doctor, she learned, was out of town. The backup doctor told her to head to the hospital.
By then, she said, “I realized I had waited a little too late.”
The couple said that judging by the time they left their home — around 3:30 a.m. — they figured that baby Jacob was born at 3:50 a.m. — but no one was exactly looking at the clock.
By midday Thursday, Amanda said she was “feeling pretty good, considering,” and felt more terrified while telling the story than she did when it was actually unfolding.
“Now I have time to reflect on what could have gone wrong,” she said. “My husband delivered a breech baby in a car in the middle of the night.
“You just don’t have time to think about it,” she said. “You just act.”
Neither she nor her husband has any formal medical training.
“He’s never delivered a baby before,” she said. In fact, she teased him, saying he didn’t want to be in the operating room or cut the cord when their two older children were born in the hospital.
The news of the birth first came from Montgomery fire officials, who said in a Twitter message that a baby boy was born about 3:50 a.m. Thursday along the interstate. Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the fire department, tweeted “new baby & mother are both doing well.”
It isn’t the first time a baby has been born on I-270.
In June 2014, Atticus Noland was born in a car on the shoulder of the highway. His parents, John and Ann, were trying to get from their Frederick County home to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital when Atticus, who weighed 9 pounds 7 ounces, arrived.
Babies are born in cars on roadways more often than imagined, according to John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. More than 15 such births occurred in the past three years in the D.C. area, he said.
Sometimes, it’s because of the region’s horrible traffic. Sometimes, the baby just comes fast — particularly if he or she is not the first for the mother.
And it happens on the Metro, too.
In August 2013, a boy was born at the L’Enfant Plaza station as his mother was trying to make her way to an obstetrician’s appointment near the Foggy Bottom stop.
A stranger who was a licensed emergency medical technician and was switching trains there heard the mother’s screams for help and helped deliver the baby.