Tigard woman delivers her own baby -- as her husband is driving her to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center

December 28, 2010
Jennifer Scharffenberg knew it was time to go.

Expecting her second child, the 31-year-old stay-at-home mom had felt infrequent labor pains Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning, they were more intense and about a minute apart. Scharffenberg and her husband Erik, 40, rushed out the door of their Tigard home, got in the car and headed toward the hospital at about 5 a.m.

"I told her to just keep breathing, but don't push yet," Erik said.

Turns out, baby Sadie had other plans.

As Erik sped north on Southwest Pacific Highway, an unusually fast labor forced Jennifer to deliver her own baby in the moving car. By the time the Scharffenbergs reached Oregon 217, Sadie had arrived in the passenger seat, unassisted, just minutes after they'd left home. Erik heard a surprising, yet reassuring sound: The new baby let out a cry next to him.

"I look over, and she's got a baby on her chest," he said.

Erik pulled the car over on Oregon 217. He called 9-1-1 and waited for an ambulance to arrive. The couple wrapped Sadie with a towel they'd tossed in the car on their way out the door.

Within minutes, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue personnel reached them on the highway. TVF&R has now assisted with seven non-hospital births this year, said Communications Officer Brian Barker. But Barker couldn't think of another example of a mother giving birth in a moving vehicle.

All TVF&R staff are trained at least as basic medical technicians, many as paramedics. Fire trucks and ambulances are all equipped with birth kits, Barker said.

"Certainly, we prefer to get them to the hospital before the child delivers," Barker said. "But this is the sort of thing we train for."

In a case where the baby is born even before help arrives, responders immediately check the child's vital signs, make sure the baby is breathing OK, then get mother and child to the hospital as quickly as possible, Barker said.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Scharffenberg family rested comfortably in a third-floor hospital room at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. As they shared their story before a throng of reporters and cameras, Sadie slept soundly in her mother's arms.

"I'm very thankful that God was with us at the time that she delivered," said Jennifer. "Something could have gone wrong, and it didn't."

Sadie weighed in at 6 pounds, 10 ounces, and measured 19 1/2 inches long. She was surrounded by other family not long after the Scharffenbergs reached the hospital. The Scharffenbergs also have a son, Luke, 3.

Jennifer described herself as a bit panicked when she realized her new daughter was coming, hospital bed or not. Five hours after the birth, she said that shock was still wearing off.

Erik, a delivery clerk at Nike, mostly maintained his composure during the ride, he said. But he admits he may have broken a few traffic laws on the way.

"I know I'm not supposed to be on the cell phone while I'm driving," Erik said. "But it was an emergency."