Mary gave birth in a manger.
Hope gave birth in a minivan.
If only Hope's delivery were as easy to explain as Mary's.
In Hope Brown's case, there were no angels on hand. Only a quick-acting, if not queasy-feeling, husband.
And instead of three wise men, there were three wide-eyed children wondering what was going on with Mommy — or “bipolar birthing Mommy,” as Dad later referred to her.
In the end, there was a miracle: Beckett Anthony Brown, a 7 pound, 5 ounce bundle of soft skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes, born in the front seat of a Toyota.
The shotgun-in-the-shotgun-seat delivery is the story of one patient, pain-tolerant mother, her law-defying prosecutor husband, and three young children with a back-row view of the mind-bending miracle of childbirth.
The story starts with the Browns — by their own admission, a perpetually late couple — and their first three children.
Son Brody, 8, daughter Rowan, 6, and son Callen, 2½, were “textbook” deliveries. A gradual buildup of contractions. An epidural of pain medications. A lot of walking. A lot of pushing. Then, well, a baby.
Only one thing varied: Each child started coming earlier and earlier. Brody on his due date; Rowan, five days early; Callen, nine days early.
Beckett seemed to be charting the same course. Due date: Thursday, May 31.
But by Thursday, May 10, Hope — a health-care research consultant — started feeling contractions. They were every five minutes. So she and Chad went to Bergan Mercy Medical Center.
False alarm. The nurse sent them packing — the baby wasn't ready. The pain level should be at least a 5 on a 10-point scale.
“It should bring you to tears,” the nurse told Hope.
The Browns went home — and the contractions went away.
Fast forward to 3 a.m. Saturday, May 19. Hope — who has an incredible pain tolerance, as her husband can attest — awoke to some decent-size contractions. Anywhere from five to nine minutes apart.
She got up, did some laundry, folded some clothes — and again the contractions went away.
They returned about 4 a.m. Sunday.
Hope awoke to “pretty darn strong” contractions, and started folding her soon-to-be newborn's clothes — all the while tracking the time of the contractions on a notepad.
She put the clothes away and hopped into the shower.
By 6 a.m., the contractions were faster and fiercer — “the kind that take your breath away.” She woke her husband and called her perpetually early parents, Don and Anna Siner.
She told them not to rush — mindful that the last time she gave birth, her parents beat her to the hospital.
“If you can get here in the next hour,” she said, “that would be great.”
She dried her hair. Had a contraction. Flat-ironed her hair. Another contraction.
Each time, she would pause and pace.
At 6:40 a.m., she felt a viselike contraction. “Huge,” she said.
Chad called his in-laws. They were about a half-hour away.
Feigning calm, Chad asked Hope if he should just load up the kids.
“No,” she said. “I do NOT want them to see me in pain. That would freak them out.”
Chad texted a neighborhood baby sitter. No response.
At 6:45 a.m., another pulse-pounding, eye-watering, pelvis-crunching contraction hit.
Load 'em up, Hope said, more or less.
At Dad's urging, the three sleeping Brown children got ready faster than any kids ever. Eight-year-old Brody even grabbed Mom's bag and carried it to the car.
Chad whipped out of their neighborhood and south to 132nd Street and West Dodge Road. Bound for Bergan, he asked Hope if he should just hang a right instead and go to the Methodist Women's Hospital on 192nd Street.
“No, let's get to Bergan,” Hope said, in part because she had her first three children there and in part because her obstetrician didn't have practice rights at Methodist.
So the deputy Douglas County attorney started breaking laws. He ran some red lights, then floored it on the West Dodge Expressway — half hoping he would “force a police escort.”
Meanwhile, Hope was in “bipolar Mommy” mode — alternating between trying to soothe her three older children and trying to survive the fourth.
“OK, kids, another one's coming,” she'd say. “It's gonna hurt for a minute, but Mommy's OK.”
Then she would scream at the top of her lungs, utter a few unmentionables and grab the bar above her window, she said.
Buckled in his car seat, 2-year-old Callen didn't peep. Nor did 6-year-old Rowan — the big sister who had wanted nothing to do with Callen's birth. Brody — who had learned about contractions during quieter times with his mom — piped up: “Was that another push, Mom?”
Hope reassured him it was. Between 90th and 84th Streets, only one thought crossed her mind:
“Dang it,” she said, “it's going to take an hour to get an epidural.”
Chad then rounded the corner at 78th Street, planning to take the back way to Bergan.
Hope had run out.
“It was like it was on its own little conveyor belt,” she said.
Chad ripped a right and went up the hill toward Methodist Hospital — a location that the Browns were well aware didn't specialize in deliveries anymore. He whipped, the wrong way, into the emergency room parking lot and parked the car in front of a woman waiting in a wheelchair, a cast covering her leg.
Brown burst through the door. “My wife is in the car having a baby right now,” he hollered. A nurse nodded.
He grabbed a wheelchair and raced to the passenger door. He found his wife's feet firmly planted on the floorboard — as if she were simultaneously standing and leaning against the passenger seat.
“Pull down my pants,” she screamed.
Chad did. He saw the baby's head. “I think I saw arms,” he said.
His vision narrowed. He thought he might faint. He raced back inside.
“The baby is out of my wife and in my car now!”
A page: “All ER personnel STAT to the parking lot!”
A flood of doctors and nurses converged on the minivan, only to find that Hope had done the hard work. As Chad ran in for help, Hope said her instincts took over. After seeing the head, she simultaneously gave a push, let loose a scream and grabbed the baby's shoulders before he hit the seat.
She then heard the most beautiful noise: his cries. Next instinct: Clutch him to her chest. Keep him warm.
The first nurse to arrive inadvertently threw off the Browns.
“She's fine, she's beautiful,” the nurse said, trying to reassure Hope.
This did nothing to reassure her. Hope fumbled through the blankets to make sure that Beckett was just what they expected: a boy.
From there, the hospital staff took over. It wasn't until Hope was being transferred to the Methodist Women's Center that she realized the momentousness of the moment.
“He's healthy, I'm healthy — it's all done,” she thought.
And this: “I can NOT believe I just delivered a baby in a car — in front of my kids!”
Not to mention the woman in the wheelchair. “I saw the whole thing,” the onlooker later told Chad. “That was incredible.”
Chad said the kids seemed so unruffled by the event that he started to wonder if they even realized what had happened.
He soon found out. In addition to taking care of his wife and baby, “the incredible Methodist staff” immediately took the minivan to be washed, Chad said. Workers had the van scrubbed and cleaned and ready to roll before Hope's transfer to the Women's Center.
Brody asked Dad why the car had to be cleaned.
“Oh,” Chad lied, “I kicked over a cup of grape juice in the rush to help Mom.”
“That wasn't grape juice, Dad,” Brody responded. “The baby was born there.”
Soon after, others had questions about the 2004 minivan with 120,000 miles on it. Someone wondered if the prosecutor realized that newborns are not supposed to ride in the front seat. Another friend asked if the birth would show up on a Carfax vehicle history.
When it came time to fill out the birth certificate, the Browns had questions of their own. Time of birth? They debated between “sooner than expected” and “7ish.”
And the emergency room doctor said he shouldn't be listed on the birth certificate because he hadn't actually delivered the baby.
So now, and forever more, Beckett Anthony Brown's birth certificate will list his length (21 inches), his weight (7 pounds, 5 ounces), his place of delivery (a 2004 Toyota Sienna) and this:
Delivered by ... Hope.
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