RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA -- In the time it takes to drive the short distance from Railroad Canyon Road to Nichols Road on the 15 Freeway is what it took for Lea Racio Gonzalez to make her grand entrance into the world Saturday morning.
Rather than wait for a doctor to oversee her delivery, the 5 lb. 14 oz. baby girl made a statement by being born in her aunt’s SUV on the freeway in LA's Lake Elsinore neighborhood.
The story starts at 5 a.m. Saturday, when a very pregnant 19-year-old Stephanie Felix awoke to some back pain. She and dad-to-be, Jose Gonzalez, were in town from West Covina for the weekend visiting Felix’s mom, Lydia Guerrero, in Sun City.
The pain was unexpected – Felix wasn’t due until May 3 – so the three knew they had to skedaddle to the doctor, but not before the expectant mother sent out a cryptic one-liner text message to family and friends: "Peaches."
“My family has that code word for when ‘it’s time,’” explained big sister Charlene Hernandez.
Hernandez, who lives in Wildomar with a family of her own, is a doting aunt, and when she saw “Peaches” flashing across her phone, she said she wasn’t about to let her little sis travel to the doc’s office in Gonzalez’s small Toyota truck.
“I rushed over to my mom’s in my SUV,” she explained. “As a joke I said, ‘I better grab a towel!” noting that she had already snatched a blanket for her sister.
Tucked in the back seat with mom, Felix laid down as Hernandez piloted the group west on Railroad Canyon Road, toward northbound I-15, with a final destination of West Covina to see the doctor who has delivered 13 family members. Gonzalez followed in his truck.
But before they made it to the freeway, Felix’s water broke and, according to Hernandez, the conversation inside the SUV went something like this:
“I have to push.”
“I have to!”
“Mom, I think you better check her.”
By the time they reached Central Avenue, Hernandez said the baby’s head was visible, and once at Nichols Road, Lea -- with assistance from Grandma Lydia -- was born. The time was approximately 7:11 a.m.
“My sister never told anyone what the baby’s sex was, so that was a surprise, but we were all pretty calm,” Hernandez said of her niece’s arrival.
It took about 15 minutes before paramedics reached the family parked on the right shoulder of the freeway, Hernandez said. During the wait, they wrapped the baby to keep her warm and huddled together.
Being a proud aunt, Hernandez broke out the camera and continued snapping away as first responders arrived on scene (see the attached photo gallery courtesy of Aunt Charlene).
“We must have looked so funny,” Hernandez said. “Usually when you see an ambulance on the freeway, people aren’t smiling and taking pictures.”
Paramedics bundled mom and baby up and carted them off to Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta.
As of Tuesday morning, Hernandez said everyone is doing great and the baby is healthy.
As for that SUV, it’s in fine shape too.
“Well I had the blanket and the towel, so there wasn’t a mess,” Hernandez said. “That was the first thing my kids wanted to see – the place where the baby was born.
“I can tell you we’re never going to sell that car,” Hernandez added. “It’s staying in the family forever.”