As the sun rose Saturday over a sugar-cane field on the west bank of the Mississippi River in Iberville Parish, an Albany couple realized they were in the midst of their own Christmas miracle and she was wrapped in a blanket in the back seat of a green Chevy Malibu.
“My wife pretty much delivered her on her own in the backseat of the car while I was driving,” Keith Allen Forman, 32, said Sunday while sitting next to his fiancée, Lakin Miller, 22, at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge after the birth of their first child, Autumn Lee Forman, who was not due for at least another six weeks and came out weighing 2 pounds, 12 ounces.
“It’s a tremendous blessing,” Keith Forman said.
Forman and Miller are not married yet, though Forman said he hopes to tie the knot soon, with little Autumn by their side.
All the planning they had in place for the baby went out the window after Miller began having stomach and back pains during the past few weeks and felt the child would be coming earlier than expected.
They were sleeping in their camp in Bayou Goula, near White Castle along the levee of the Mississippi, when Miller went to the bathroom shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday and felt a pop.
“Honestly I was kind of nervous, but I didn’t panic or freak out or nothing,” she said.
When her water broke, she called for Forman, who jumped out of bed, grabbed an old pink blanket they kept at the camp and sprinted to his car.
He threw the blanket over the back seat and propped a pillow on the door where his fiancée could rest her head.
He started the car, cranked up the heater, ran back inside, grabbed Miller and called 911.
From the camp, they were at least an hour from a hospital, so Forman, whose medical training consists primarily of watching the television show “Rescue 911,” said he began panicking.
“I was still thinking we had a month to go, but we didn’t,” he said.
Forman tore out of the camp while on the phone with the 911 dispatcher and got about two miles down the road when Miller yelled from the back seat: “Keith, I’m not gonna make it to the hospital.”
Forman pulled over to the side of the road next to a cane field, but by the time he opened the back seat door, his daughter was on the seat, next to an exhausted Miller, who was trying to cover the infant.
“Lakin gave not too much of a push, she let out a scream ... and by the time I got the car pulled over on the side of the road, all I had to do was roll the baby up,” he said.
Forman estimated about 10 minutes elapsed between the time Miller’s water broke and the time his daughter was born.
Realizing he was near the Shintech plant he passes daily on his way to work, Forman pulled into the plant because he knew paramedics would have an easier time finding it.
A worker at the plant on the phone with a 911 dispatcher told Forman he needed to find some string and tie the umbilical cord as tight as possible.
“I opened my trunk, I’m a carpenter so I always have string around,” he recalled. “I couldn’t find no string in my trunk. I had a laundry bag. I cut the string off my laundry bag and tied it as tight as I could.”
Paramedics arrived shortly after, placed Miller on a stretcher with her baby in her arms, and placed them into the ambulance.
“The big guy said ‘I’m going to sit back here with you’ and he looked at the smaller guy and said, ‘Get us there safely, but get us there quickly,’” Forman said. They arrived at the hospital about 35 minutes later.
Forman said Sunday his nerves were still shot from his daughter’s dramatic entrance into the world, but he takes solace in the fact the paramedics and doctors told him he did everything perfectly before and during the delivery.
“I knew I had to keep the heat up, keep her warm and other than that, I had not a clue what to do,” he said. “I guess everything kind of came naturally. The doctors, everybody told me I did everything almost absolutely perfect.”
Doctors and nurses told the couple their child’s vital signs are normal, her color is good and she is healthy.
“I could not ask for anything more,” Forman said.
Forman and Miller both said they see the parallel nature of the birth of their child in a car on the side of a road next to a cane field in middle of nowhere during the Christmas season and the birth of Jesus Christ.
“I think about that and I think about it even more now that it happened,” Miller said.