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Benton City Couple Have Baby in Kadlec Parking Lot

Parking lot baby

Molly Van Wagner-Petersen and her husband, Gary Petersen, of Benton City didn’t plan to have their baby boy in the parking lot outside Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, but the 7-pound, 12-ounce baby had other plans. See story below.

In hindsight, the Petersens say they probably should have left for the hospital sooner. But then the Benton City couple wouldn't have a great story for their new son's baby book.

It's not every child who is born in a parking lot.

"Looking back, I don't know what I could have done differently. I'm sure God's laughing at me," Molly Van Wagner-Petersen said Monday afternoon -- six hours after giving birth in the front seat of her Nissan Altima.

She and her husband, Gary Petersen, a second-grade teacher at Kiona-Benton City Elementary School, were expecting their second son this week, but not until Thursday.

Van Wagner-Petersen hadn't been feeling well all Sunday night but wasn't sure if she was coming down with the flu, or if baby was on his way.

A few hours later there was no doubt, she was in labor and it was ramping up fast.

So fast, the couple wasn't sure they could make it to Lourdes Medical Center in downtown Pasco where they were pre-registered.

"Having a baby is all hurry up and wait. I'm a planner and tried to plan for everything, but this. Having surprises is not my thing," said Van Wagner-Petersen, who owns a photography business and is a former Herald photographer.

By the time she realized she was in labor, it was about 5:30 a.m. and the contractions were coming every two to three minutes.

"She wasn't laboring hard at all. They were lasting only about 12 seconds. But they hurt. I'll probably have bruised fingers from her gripping them so hard," her husband said.

Still, Petersen thought he had time to drop their firstborn, Isaac, 2 1/2, at a neighborhood day care at 7:30 a.m.

When he came back to get his wife, there was no doubt there was no time to waste.

She sat in the front seat and reclined it as far as it would go.

"It was really, really uncomfortable. I don't recommend childbirth in a car," she said.

She doesn't remember much of the trip but knows her husband wasn't driving his usual pace.

"He's not normally a risky driver. I call him a poky driver when I have to follow him someplace," she said.

He admitted later that he did exceed the speed limit somewhat.

"I put my flashers on, and those who didn't pull over definitely got passed," he said.

He didn't let the death grip his wife had on his right arm hamper his concentration on driving as quickly and safely as possible.

He didn't even have time to call 911.

"It was at the intersection of I-82 and (Interstate) 182 I got really scared because I could feel he was coming out. It was pretty dire at that point," she said.

Shortly after that, near the Queensgate Drive exit at Richland, her water broke, another sign that the baby was about to be born.

That's when they abandoned any thought of trying to make it to Lourdes. Instead Petersen took the Wellsian Way exit and headed for Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.

Gary drove right up to the emergency room door, ran in, shouted, "My wife's about to pop out a baby right now," and dashed back out with Brian Lloyd, a registered nurse.

"There wasn't a lot of room to work but baby and mom did wonderful," he said.

An emergency room doctor was just walking by with a cup of coffee. He grabbed some gloves from a nearby nurse and finished the delivery.

Baby Petersen, who had yet to be named Monday afternoon, was born at 8:56 a.m. He's a healthy 7 pounds, 12 ounces and 20 1/2 inches long.

"He came out swift and furious," said his mother.

Lloyd said despite the initial chaos, the Petersens kept it together.

"Both parents were calm and collected in spite of the situation," Lloyd said. "She was cute. She said she wanted a natural childbirth but this was going to the extreme."

Mom, dad and new baby were doing well Monday evening, but their Altima may never be the same.

"If anyone offers to detail it, I won't say no," Petersen said.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com