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Mom Who Gave Birth in Minivan Spills All

A week ago today, Lesia Pettijohn gave birth to a 10-pound, 3-ounce baby boy in her Toyota Sienna Minivan. I, like the 9.3 million other people who have watched the video on YouTube, have SO MANY QUESTIONS.

First, how did she manage to maintain such an impressive level of calm? I scream louder than that when our favorite sushi place messes up my California roll. Also, as a mom of two young kids, the backseat of our Honda CR-V is a cesspool of Clifford books and cheddar rabbit crumbs (the front passenger seat is splattered with dried breast milk, thanks to my PWD—Pumping While Driving—habit); thanks for making me feel like our car is actually far cleaner than it actually is.

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In all seriousness, this couple, Lesia (pronounced "LEE-sha"), 22, and Jon Pettijohn, 24, deserves major props for staying calm in what could have been an incredibly scary situation. I feel like they both have a calling as doulas. (Jon is a machinist; Lesia is a full-time stay-at-home mom) So I called them up and requested an interview.

Despite the fact that they have three kids under 2, including a newborn who was just delivered sans epidural while hurtling down the highway at 60 mph, they managed to call me back within the hour. Here's what the parents of little Josiah, married for 3.5 years, had to say.

This video is crazy. Tell us what happened.

Lesia: We live in Lake Jackson, Texas, about an hour and 15 min from the birthing center. I started having painful contractions at about 10:30 a.m., but they were far apart. We didn't want to jump the gun like we did with our other kids, so we waited. When they were six to seven minutes apart, we got in the car—at about 1:15 p.m. We left our daughters (ages 2 and 1) with my husband's parents.

Did you ever think you'd wind up giving birth in the car? Were your other labors this quick?

I reached over with my right hand and felt his head. Once I felt that, I knew I had to push.

Lesia: My contractions picked up really fast. By the time we were on the highway, about one mile from home, they were two minutes apart. I was freaking out, hoping and praying we'd make it there in time. I didn't want to have him in the car. After 45 minutes of driving, my water broke. My other two labors were similar—pretty quick active labors, both unmedicated. With one of them, she was born 40 minutes after my water broke, and the other was born an hour after my water broke. But [Josiah] was born a minute or two after my water broke. I was kind of freaking out, saying, "Oh my word, I'm having him in the car." I reached over with my right hand and felt his head. Once I felt that, I knew I had to push. My pants were still on and they kind of cradled his head and I got the rest of him out. I just wanted him to be OK and breathing.

How did you happen to be recording it?

Lesia: I had asked Jon to record the birth just because I hadn't seen the other girls be born. So we were already planning on recording it.

Jon: I sat [the Go Pro] next to my leg on the seat and I used a few fingers to keep it steady.

Jon, you were the epitome of calm. Are you normally that cool?

Jon: I normally am calm in a crisis. But the midwives are really big on being very calming, saying, "Don't alarm the mother at any time during the birth." [Ed. note: At one point in the video, after the baby is out, Jon says, "High-five, babe! We did it!" and Lesia uses the back of her left hand to give him a modified high five, her face plastered in beautiful, peaceful shock.]

How fast were you going?

Jon: I wasn't going that fast. A little bit of speeding on the highway. But I had to keep my eyes closely on the road; I didn't even get to see his face until we were in the birthing center.

Why did you keep driving once he was born?

Jon: We don't have a cell phone. If we pulled over on the side of road, we risked getting hit. So I just continued on to the birth center where midwives were waiting.

Lesia: The placenta hadn't been delivered yet, so I had to walk up two stairs, got into wheelchair, they wheeled me in, I laid down in a bed and delivered the placenta. They checked Josiah and made sure everything was good with me.

What made you decide to upload the four-minute video?

Jon: I uploaded it to YouTube at two in the morning on Friday—we thought friends of ours might want to see it. I combed through it very, very carefully to make sure it was modest. So early Friday morning, we were up with the baby and I put it up. I also sent an email off to the local news station. Within five minutes, they had replied. Lesia also posted it to Facebook and people were sharing it like crazy.

You've been on the "Today" show and have been contacted by news outlets all over the world. Have you been asked any funny questions?

(People) think my calmness equals not caring. It's the opposite.

Jon: No, but there's been a whole lot of negative comments against me. They think my calmness equals not caring. It's the opposite: I didn't want her to panic, so I didn't panic.

Any more kids for you?

Lesia: I think we'll have some more. I've heard [subsequent babies deliver faster], so next time I'll just go in to the birthing center whether I think [the contractions] are bad enough or not.

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Finally, now that you have experience on your side, what would you suggest moms-to-be keep in their car?

Lesia and Jon together: A towel.

Image courtesy of Jon Pettijohn

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