Miracle in the Front Seat
by Kevin Dougherty, Kaiserslautern bureau
Zachary entered this world Saturday morning in a most unusual fashion – in the front seat of his parents’ car as it sped down B-40, a two-lane road near Kaiserslautern.
Capt. John Francis, the man behind the wheel, had no room to pull over as his wife, Laura, labored to forestall Zachary’s birth. Before the Baumholder soldier could yank his 1979 Mercedes off the road, the mythical stork had come and gone. The time was 9:40 a.m.
Zachary, who ended up in his mother’s left pant leg, weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces. Their location was just outside the hamlet of Roederhof, north of Sembach AB [Air Base].
“By the time we pulled over, the baby was out, except for his feet,” said the 27-year-old father, who is with the 90th Personnel Services Bn [Battalion] in Baumholder. “We stayed there for 15 minutes, took some pictures, a little video, looked at the baby and cranked up the heat in the car.”
“There’s a euphoric moment when you have a baby,” said Laura Francis, 26. “I just wanted to sit and enjoy that moment.”
The family would make one more stop before arriving at Donnersberg hospital in Kirchheimbolanden.
Knowing the baby was in good health, Zachary’s father stopped at a German bakery for a quick order. To go, of course.
Zachary had just had his first meal of the day, but Mom and Dad were now dealing with hunger pangs.
“Zwei pretzels and one of those,” he said, recalling the order he placed with a woman behind the glass counter.
Five minutes later, the couple’s car pulled up to the hospital, and John Francis darted inside to find Evi Siessl, a midwife who was supposed to assist them in the birth. The couple had chosen the hospital for its alternative birthing program, which Zachary apparently took to heart.
Siessl remembers John Francis running up to her in the hospital and saying: “The baby is here already. Could you come outside?”
Laura Francis “was sitting there (in the car), with the baby in her arm and eating a pretzel,” Siessl said.
“I think it is the most unusual situation that I have had as far as a baby being born outside the hospital,” said Siessl, a midwife for 12 years. “We couldn’t believe how they did it. It was just so great to see them. They were so calm. They really didn’t need anybody.”
Zachary’s mother never dreamed her second child would come in such a fashion.
Laura Francis awoke at 7:01 a.m. with contractions that were 15 minutes apart. She knew the baby was coming but decided to let her husband sleep for another hour. When the contractions began to come about four minutes apart, she nudged her husband awake.
They gathered their things, drove their 2-year-old daughter, Alyssa, to a friend’s house and headed for the hospital. John Francis made the normal 90 minute drive in about an hour, at times driving 150 kilometers an hour, or about 93 mph.
“You can go like that for hours and hours,” Laura Francis said of labor pains, “so I didn’t have any reason to believe it would go that fast. Everybody is different.”
And Zachary Taylor Francis certainly is different. That thought surely will come to someone’s mind whenever he climbs into the seat of a car.