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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.
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.
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.]
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.
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
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.