EMERADO, N.D. — There was no room at the inn, but the parking lot was free.
Chelsey Svir, 25, woke up Friday, Dec. 22, in Larimore, N.D., feeling pain, pressure, and a growing sense that her baby was coming—right now. Not long after, she sat in the Dairy Queen parking lot in Emerado, N.D., cradling a newborn son that she'd delivered herself, her two sons and her fiance traveling with her. Paramedics wouldn't arrive until several minutes later.
"We're kind of blessed," said Kelly Svir, Chelsey's mother. "Now I've got to put him on my Christmas list, too."
Multiple family members described a day that started with increasingly frantic calls between 6 and 7 a.m., as Chelsey Svir's situation grew more urgent. At first, her mother said she'd hoped to take a warm bath — the baby wasn't due until Jan. 12—and before long she was on the road, hoping to make it to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, about 30 miles away, with her fiance Jaimie Mudge driving and their two toddler sons in the car with them.
Svir wasn't optimistic about their odds of arriving in time.
"I honestly think I was screaming at him, 'We're not going to make it,' " she said.
It quickly became apparent that she wouldn't make it. Mudge pulled over at Emerado, about halfway to Grand Forks. He tried to get her into the back seat, and tried to move one of the young boys' car seats out of the way. Shortly after he started making room, it was over—his youngest son had been born.
A few hours later, Mark Svir, Chelsey's father, was sitting across the street from Altru Hospital with family at Perkins restaurant, with more family by his side.
"It's just a miracle that she did that all by herself," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't honestly believe—and then to find the paramedics got there five or 10 minutes after the baby was born, and she was sitting there holding it. It's crazy."
That afternoon, Svir was in bed on the fourth floor of Altru Hospital, holding her son in her arms. He had a thick head of hair under a stocking cap, his face ruddy and his nose pale. She recalled the moments after she gave birth in the car in a cold parking lot, far away from where she thought she'd be.
"I think it was honestly quiet," she said. "More focused on him."