TAMPA — The tip of Catelyn Crossley's head was peeking out when her father pulled the car over to the shoulder of Interstate 275 early Wednesday.
Her mother realized right then that she'd be giving birth on the side of the highway.
Candace Crossley, a 25-year-old homemaker, and her husband, a 31-year-old youth caseworker, had wanted to deliver their second child at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital. They thought they had time to pack up the car and head south from their home in Wesley Chapel before the birth.
They were wrong.
Ten minutes after they got on to the interstate, Crossley told her husband that the baby was crowning. They were still about 10 miles from the hospital. He pulled over near the Bearss Avenue exit on southbound I-275.
She opened the passenger door and swung out her legs. Crossley's sister, Chrystal Bussey, 30, got out and took a catcher's position. Three minutes later, Catelyn was out. She didn't seem to be breathing. Bussey panicked. But the baby's mom stayed calm.
"I watched a lot of I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant," she said. "I said, 'She's fine. She'll be fine. Just pat her on the back.' "
Seconds later, baby Catelyn's lungs were cleared.
Clenton Crossley, a former University of South Florida running back, called 911. The dispatcher talked him through tying the umbilical cord with a shoelace and removing and wrapping the placenta.
The Crossleys' 2-year-old daughter, Cayla, would later say she was worried for her mom.
"She said, 'All I heard was Mommy going, Ahhhhh,' " her mother laughed.
It was 50 degrees Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Candace Crossley thought Catelyn might catch a chill. During the harried delivery, she took off her coat and sweater and instructed her sister to wrap the baby tightly.
Two law enforcement officers arrived to assist, but Catelyn was snug in her aunt's arms before they got out of their patrol cars at 3:58 a.m.
Candace Crossley said the officers were so excited that a passerby would have thought that their own babies were being born.
"One of them said he's been working for 24 years and had never seen anything like this," she said.
Once the ambulance arrived, paramedics put Catelyn into her mother's arms to give the two some skin contact. "I was kind of shaky before then," the second-time mother admitted.
She was taken to St. Joseph's Women's Hospital, where she had given birth to her first child two years earlier. Doctors were concerned because complications can arise for the mother when babies arrive too quickly.
"She was perfectly fine," Crossley said. "Five pounds, 13 ounces, 18 inches long."
Somewhere between the shoulder of I-275 and the hospital, someone called Crossley's mother, Agertha Byrd, 50, of Tampa.
"It came to me that it was something big, so I was running around screaming, 'Oh, my God! Oh, my God!' at 4 or 5 in the morning," she said Wednesday. "Grandma's real proud."
Cayla had also come quickly — only two hours after labor was induced, Crossley said. Another coincidence for the sisters: They both were born two weeks before their due dates. The Crossleys were expecting Catelyn on Nov. 15.
The two girls make four people in the family with double C initials.
Candace Crossley took a deep breath after a reporter asked what she planned to do for her third child.
"I think this is it," she said.