Friday, April 6, 2012

Born to ride: Baby arrives on Highway 20

With a Chevy, an iPhone and a flashlight, Steve and Molly Brown bring their baby boy into the world

Express Staff Writer

The Brown family—Steve, Molly, Alex and Ashlyn—welcomed their second child in the back seat of their car. Photo by Willy Cook

It was a quiet evening at Elmore County hospital. The man who had shot himself with his own gun was stable, and the hospital staff were taking a coffee break from the chilly December night, enjoying the quiet between the storms of Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Suddenly a shout echoed through the small hospital in downtown Mountain Home, 45 miles southeast of Boise.

"Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? My wife just had a baby."

Steve and Molly Brown's day had started uneventfully. After spending a week in Boise awaiting the birth of their second child, the couple had gone back home to Ketchum for Christmas. It was Dec. 27 and baby Brown was three days overdue.

On the previous day, Steve had convinced his wife that they should return to Boise to be close to the birthing center where they planned to have her labor. Weather reports indicated a storm was heading to town the next day.

"He told me he really didn't want to have to deliver the baby in the car," Molly said.

So Molly was at home getting everything ready for their journey when she felt a familiar pang. It was a contraction, but as her first labor had taken 36 hours, Molly was confident she had plenty of time to get to the birthing center, 150 miles away.

For the birth of her first child, daughter Ashlyn, Molly had opted for a home birth, assisted by two midwives.

"I didn't want to have a birth in a hospital environment," she said. "I wanted a really calm, peaceful birth, with as few people as possible. That's why we decided to use midwives."

But the comforts of home were not an option for her second labor, due to a current lack of midwives able to travel to the Wood River Valley.

"I looked into all my options, including the hospital here, but I had really enjoyed my home birth the first time and a hospital just didn't feel right for me. My dad is a doctor and I have nothing against hospitals, but it just wasn't right for me."

So the Browns chose the Treasure Valley Midwives Birth Center in Boise.

After feeling that first contraction, Molly called Steve.

"I said, 'All right, let's meet at home, pack up and get down there,'" Steve said.

They took their time getting everything in order, stopping by Glow—the organic, vegan and live-food cafe that Molly opened in 2008—to pick up supplies. As they drove out of Ketchum, Molly's contractions were 20 to 30 seconds apart.


"I took a pretty long, hard look at that hospital [St. Luke's Wood River] as we drove past," Steve said. "But we thought it would slow down a bit, which is what happened with the first birth."

Molly said she hadn't heard about any labors taking less than three hours, so she thought she had plenty of time. "Now, we've heard all these people saying 'Oh, my second baby was so quick!'," she said with a laugh.

Even as they sped past the cows grazing peacefully in the Bellevue triangle with Molly in active labor, she felt sure they would make it to Boise.

Twenty minutes later, the contractions were coming thick and faster. As they drove past Fairfield, saying farewell to cell phone service, Molly's water broke.

"Steve," she said. "The baby's coming."

"He's coming right now? I'm pulling over," Steve said.

"No, keep driving."

"Don't push," Steve said

"No, it's really coming," Molly said

Steve pulled over into the sagebrush on the side of U.S. Highway 20, about 15 miles east of Mountain Home, and vaulted into the back seat of their Chevrolet Suburban. He folded down the second row of seats to give Molly some space.

"There was a good amount of room because it's a Suburban," Molly said. "It's a good thing we didn't take Steve's Mini Cooper!"

As the sun set outside the car, Steve grabbed a flashlight from the glove box and was rewarded with the sight of the top of his baby boy's head.

"Literally seconds later he came out," he said. "I caught him and all in one motion handed him to Molly, jumped in the car and started driving again."

"It was literally two pushes and he was out," Molly said with a broad smile. "It was a really easy birth. It was an amazing experience—we were so excited afterwards, we were high-fiving each other. He was a great co-pilot."

As soon as they were back in cell range, Steve called the midwives in Boise, who advised them to head to the hospital in Mountain Home.

"I had just gotten this iPhone with Siri on it [an electronic personal assistant], so it was really nice to just say 'Siri, where's the nearest hospital?' and the map came up."

Once inside Elmore County hospital, Molly safely delivered the placenta and cut the umbilical cord, and both mother and baby were declared healthy. Within an hour, they were back on the road to Boise.

Alex Franklin Brown weighed in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and despite suggestions from friends and family that perhaps Elmore, Roady or Chevy would be appropriate monikers, he was named after Steve's father and Molly's grandfather.

Back home in Ketchum, Steve was a local hero.

"Everywhere he went, he was mobbed by women congratulating him on delivering the baby," Molly said.

"My role in the whole thing lasted a couple seconds but I became the hero, incorrectly so," Steve said. "It was Molly who did it all on her own—all I had to do was catch."

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