Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Family watch birth in SUV

Nine kids
Mother Sherry Harrah, center, delivered her ninth child in the family car while on the way to the hospital Tuesday. The family named the baby Carlee. Other family members are, left to right in the front row, 11-year-old Chelsea, 5-year-old Brooklin, 3-year-old Alexi, 15-year-old Judy and father David, who is holding 18-month-old Chase. In the back row are Colton, 8; Mikaya, 9; and Kaleb, 16.

A baby was unexpectedly delivered on the floorboard of a brand new sports utility vehicle rumbling down U.S. 119 on its way to the hospital. The Harrah family, which already had eight children, had loaded into the SUV but didn't quite make it to Charleston Area Medical Center in time.

The birth, witnessed by the entire family, was a classic.

Sherry Harrah was up late the prior night with steadily increasing contractions, but those paled in comparison to those she was experiencing when she woke up early Tuesday morning.

Sherry and her husband, David, were rustled from their sleep by one of their six daughters about 5 a.m. Shortly after that, Sherry felt an urgent need for the whole family to pile into the car for the 25-minute trip to the hospital.

David, now an expert at witnessing childbirth, wanted to grab a cup of coffee and send the kids to school before he made another almost routine trip to the emergency room for a newborn.

"I told him I wasn't going to make it," Sherry said.

David took the hint that the situation had become urgent and put all the kids in their brand new Ford Expedition. Together, they left their home on Brounland Road in Alum Creek for the roughly 15-mile trip to Charleston Area Medical Center's Women and Children's Hospital.

They had only gotten partway to the hospital when the situation called for David to stop the vehicle.

"We were heading down the road, and he pulled over like a dummy," Sherry said from her hospital bed at CAMC Women's and Children's Hospital. "He didn't know what to do, because my water broke."

"My son's crying because he didn't know what to think. My 5-year-old, Brooklin, wanted to see. My 8-year-old jumps out of the car -- I guess he thought we were getting out there," she said. "That's what my husband gets for dragging his feet."

And then the family got its new addition, right in front of Toys 'R' Us in the Southridge Centre.

As Sherry described the birth, "I had pants on and she started coming out. I had to take my pants off. Then she slipped off the seat and into the floor, and we couldn't find her because it was dark."

They finally collected her and got her to the hospital. When the Harrahs finally arrived at the emergency room, hospital employees found it difficult to believe the young girl, their daughter, who went to the desk and informed them her mother had just given birth in an automobile, the family said.

"They didn't believe her. She had to convince them," said Terry Westfall, Sherry's twin sister.

When the emergency crews came out to the car, Sherry felt a little vulnerable about the situation. "It was quite embarrassing because I was butt naked," she said. "It was an experience."

The baby was a couple of weeks early. Her gender was a surprise to the family, which has a tradition of not learning the sex of their babies until they're born.

The Harrahs also make a habit of not picking out any names until they actually see their babies. So, on Tuesday, they decided to use their unusual experience as inspiration in the naming of their latest baby. They chose "Carlee." "After the 'car,'<#148> Sherry said.

The new baby, who is 5-pounds, 10-ounces, is doing well. So is mom.

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