Mark-Lee Curtis has always heard the phrase, “You have to do what you have to do.”
On April 17, however, Mark-Lee found himself doing something he never thought would fit into that expression.
At 9:23 a.m., the Baggs, Wyo., native held his son, Parker, in his arms as he took his first breath of life.
But, Mark-Lee wasn’t in the hospital or at home.
He was near mile marker 104 on the side of Colorado Highway 13.
“It is not something that I wanted to do or thought I’d ever do, but God was right there in the car with us,” he said.
Parker was born 8 pounds and 12 ounces to Mark-Lee and his wife, Traci. The couple delivered Parker on the side of the road en route to The Memorial Hospital in Craig.
As the 33-year-old Mark-Lee found himself getting ready to receive his son that morning, he was terrified by the idea, he said.
“But, when he cried, that was the greatest sound I ever heard in my life,” he said. “He was alive and breathing.”
Mark-Lee and Traci have been married since 2003 and live in Baggs with their 4-year-old son, Tucker.
Traci, who works at the Stage Stop General Store in Baggs, said she started having contractions early in the morning, but they weren’t bad enough to cause a panic or keep her from going back to bed, she said.
After a quick shower, she calmly woke up Mark-Lee to drive her to the hospital.
“I told him we are going to have a baby today,” the 29-year-old Traci said.
As they neared Craig, Traci’s water broke. As they drove past Fortification Rocks, Traci knew it was time.
“We pulled onto the side of the road because I felt his head coming,” she said.
What happened next seemed like a dream, she said.
“I was in the front seat of the car so I just kind of swung my legs over to the side,” she said. “And we pushed him out. He was right there and there was no stopping it.”
Mark-Lee said he didn’t hesitate when the moment came.
“There wasn’t time to think about it, you just did it,” he said of pulling over the couple’s Dodge Avenger and readying himself to receive his son.
Traci’s mother-in-law, who lives in Baggs, called in an ambulance from Craig, but a Colorado State Patrol Trooper was sent instead because he would have arrived quicker, she said.
But, Mark-Lee and Traci never saw the officer as they were focused on getting newborn Parker to the hospital safely.
“When that happens there is no stopping things,” Traci said. “It just happens. But, Parker came out breathing, he cried, we wrapped him in my husband’s Broncos sweatshirt … and he put him in my arms and then we were in shock driving with this baby in my arms.”
Not much crossed Traci’s mind on the ride to TMH.
“All I wanted my husband to do was drive us to the hospital and make sure that he was OK because it wasn’t a sterile environment at all,” she said.
Mark-Lee said he was happy to report mother and son are doing well now.
“There were no complications, he came out as perfect as he could be,” he said. “That’s the big fear — what if the cord is wrapped around his neck or something like that and you know you’re out there by yourself — what do you do?”
Traci expects the unexpected delivery to have several lasting affects on her, her husband and the family.
“Everybody thinks this is a neat story and to us, it is just that we did what we had to do to get our son into the world,” she said.
“Without my husband, there would have been no way I would have been able to do this. I needed him just as much as he needed me to do my end of the work.”
Besides bringing husband and wife closer together, Traci thinks it had an impact on father and son.
“I also think it has made a special bond between him and his son,” she said. “I mean he delivered him. Who can say they delivered their child?”
“That’s something you’ll never ever forget,” he said.
The couple was unsure whether they would look to expand the Curtis family by one more in the future.
“Not anytime soon, I can assure you of that,” Traci said with a laugh.
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