Baby born in pickup truck on way to hospital
Candace Ballstadt chewed on the headrest a bit, trying to distract herself.
It didn't work.
"Baby!" she shouted.
And there he was.
Robert Edward Ballstadt popped into his father's waiting hands -- right in the cab Tony Ballstadt's Ford pickup.
They were four minutes short of making it to Fairview Red Wing Medical Center.
Tony's mother, Betty Ballstadt, who was driving the F250 Super Duty Crew Cab truck, got to call the time of birth: 3:56 a.m. Wednesday, July 9.
The Ballstadt family adventure began around 10 p.m. that Tuesday when the couple were sitting around their home in rural Goodhue watching television.
"I turned my legs to get up," Candace Ballstadt said, and she heard a "pop" and felt a gush.
"I think my water broke," she said.
The baby wasn't supposed to arrive until July 19.
They called Fairview, and when indications that she was in labor continued, they left for the hospital.
Candace's contractions were weak and irregular, so when tests for amniotic fluid came back negative, they returned home around 1 a.m.
But the night was far from over. Thirty minutes after lying down, she said, "I jumped out of bed" with more contractions.
The young mother had had a premonition that she wouldn't make it to the hospital in time to have her baby, largely because she'd had trouble timing contractions when her daughter Samantha was born in November 2001.
"I didn't know when they were really strong until they were about two minutes apart," she said.
At 3 a.m., she awakened Tony, and he began timing the contractions at three to four minutes apart. The hospital told them to come back in for another check.
"I was standing in the kitchen, bawling that I didn't want to have him in the truck," Candace recalled.
"The contractions were so strong in back," she said.
They called Tony's mother, who lives next door, to drive so he could put pressure on Candace's lower back to relieve the pain and, they hoped, slow down the process.
"It helped in the beginning," she said. "But as they got closer and stronger, it wasn't enough.
She knelt on the seat in the back of the cab, with Tony on the floor and Betty Ballstadt at the wheel.
"I was scared," Candace said. "I bit the headrest twice, trying not to push."
The pickup came over the hill and was heading toward S.B. Foot Tanning Co. when Candace yelled, "Baby! Babybabybaby" and fell back on the seat.
"I see the top of his head!" Tony announced.
"I went to just readjust," Candace said, "and he popped out. He shot out, actually" -- into Tony's hands.
"I saw my kid coming, so I just caught him," he said. "I made sure he didn't fall on the floor. ...
Betty Ballstadt stepped on the gas.
"It happened so quick," Tony said. "It was under a minute."
The new father cleared the baby's mouth and nose. "I kind of wiggled him and spanked him to make sure he was all right," he said.
He fumbled with his wife's cell phone as they neared the hospital. "This is Tony Ballstadt, I've got a baby here," he said.
"We know you're on the way," hospital personnel replied.
"No, the baby's HERE, in the truck with us," he told them at the stoplight at the bottom of Tyler Hill.
As Betty pulled into the ambulance entrance, a doctor jumped into the front seat and a nurse in back. They clamped the umbilical cord and handed Tony the scissors to cut it.
Robert "Bobby" Ballstadt weighed in at 7 pounds, 2 ounces, 18 3/4 inches long. Just two days later, the boy and his parents made the trip back to Goodhue.
"We're very fortunate," Candace said.
At the time, she worried that she'd ruined her husband's truck. Later came the realization that many things could have gone wrong -- but didn't.
Tony has become something of a celebrity at Zumbrota Ford, where he works as a mechanic. They immediately posted a sign on the lot: "Congrats Tony and Candace. Ford delivers."
Will they keep the truck for sentimental reasons? The couple haven't given it much thought.
"We've got pictures," Candace said.
And they have Bobby.