Baby on board: Woman gives birth on I-205

Midwife meets couple en route to Vancouver hospital, boy delivered on roadside

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Katherine Thayer received a sweet surprise this Valentine’s Day.

It wasn’t roses or chocolates or stuffed teddy bears.

It was the birth of baby Noah. One week early. On the side of Interstate 205.

“It gets funnier and funnier every time we tell it,” said Alina Palmer, Katherine’s midwife.

Katherine awoke to contractions at 3:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day. Her husband, Jeff, helped keep Katherine calm as she worked through the contractions for the next few hours. Since she wasn’t showing any other signs of labor, they didn’t head to the hospital.

At about 8:30 a.m., the contractions got more frequent but were still eight to 10 minutes apart. After 30 minutes of contractions, Palmer suggested the couple head to the hospital for an evaluation.

So the Gresham, Ore., couple loaded their daughter and nephew, both 2 years old, into the backseat of their 2006 Toyota Corolla and headed to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where Jeff works as an imaging assistant.

By the time they reached the Troutdale exit on Interstate 84, Katherine’s water broke.

A few miles later, Katherine told her husband she couldn’t wait any longer.

“She said she feels like she has to push,” Jeff said. “Panic sets in.”

Throughout the morning, Jeff was on his cellphone updating Palmer, who was headed to the hospital from her home in Clackamas, and his mother, Judy Thayer, who was en route from the St. Johns neighborhood.

When Katherine started pushing, Palmer told Jeff it was time to pull the car over to the side of the road. The couple met their midwife and Judy alongside I-205, near the Sandy Boulevard exit.

Three minutes later, at 9:32 a.m., baby Noah was born as cars whizzed by on the interstate.

“It was an exciting birth,” said Palmer, who stood outside of the small car, in the rain, to help Katherine deliver the baby.

Firefighters and paramedics arrived a few minutes later to assist. But, since Noah had already arrived, Palmer climbed into the car and they continued their trip to the hospital in the Corolla.

Katherine and baby Noah were given a clean bill of health, despite the roadside delivery.

But the delivery after only two hours of active labor caught everyone off guard.

“It was my plan to have a hospital birth with an epidural,” Katherine said. “I didn’t think he’d come that fast.”

Katherine and Jeff’s first child, Lillie, took her time entering the world. Katherine was in labor for 12 hours.

“In hindsight, we probably would have left the house a little earlier, had we had other signs (of labor),” Jeff said.

Katherine and Jeff said their friends and family members have been skeptical of their interstate delivery story -- one friend even required a chat with Palmer before she believed the duo.

But the couple is used to the reactions of disbelief. Two-year-old Lillie was born on April Fool’s Day.

“It was very fitting to have it happen (on Valentine’s Day),” Jeff said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.