HOLIDAY — April McMasters didn’t panic when she realized she had to deliver her third grandchild at 4 a.m. in the backseat of her daughter’s Kia Forte.
She had a birthing kit packed, along with extra towels. They’d been through this before.
Braelynn Cole was born on Sept. 21 at 7 pounds, 7 ounces. She is the daughter of McMasters’ 22-year-old daughter, Makayla Cole. Family and friends joke that Braelynn’s nickname should be “Bealls” — the department store parking lot that served as her hospital room.
Before she was born, they joked that she could be born the same way as Cole’s first child.
“We never in our wildest dreams thought that it would happen again,” McMasters said.
About four years ago, Cole went into labor in her rural Pennsylvania home. She had stayed home from work because she started having contractions early in the day.
Cole called her mom, who also was living in Pennsylvania, when the contractions started getting worse, and McMasters came to help. At 3:30 p.m., Cole’s water broke while she was in the bathroom. Her mom told her to lie on the floor and then saw the baby’s head.
Maddex Cole was born 12 minutes later, after about three pushes, with the help of his grandmother and the 911 dispatcher who guided her over the phone.
They tied his umbilical cord with a bright pink hair tie.
Cole’s three deliveries were quick and easy, she told a reporter. Her pregnancies were tougher because she had a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which causes extreme nausea and weight loss.
Her second child, Nixen, was born in a hospital. The delivery was quick enough that the doctor didn’t make it in time. The family says Nixen’s bubbly personality makes up for his more sedate delivery.
They hoped Cole’s third delivery also would be normal. Her doctor had planned to induce labor a week before her due date to prevent an on-the-road or at-home birth. But Braelynn started to come two days before she would’ve been coaxed out.
Cole started to have contractions about 10 minutes apart. She went to a doctor’s appointment, where she found out that her cervix was beginning to dilate. But her contractions weren’t strong enough or close enough together for doctors to admit her to the hospital, so she went back home.
When her water broke at 3:30 a.m., family members jumped in to help. Luckily, she said, her parents live in an in-law suite in the younger couple’s Holiday home.
Her dad stayed behind to watch Cole’s two boys. Her mother washed her hands, just in case, before she climbed in to drive her daughter’s car. Cole’s husband, Nathaniel Cole, hopped into the backseat.
They made it to Gulf to Bay Boulevard and South Belcher Road — 15 minutes from Morton Plant Hospital — before Cole told them to pull over.
“I just at one point knew, okay, we’re not making it,” she said. “It just instantly was like, okay, she’s coming out right this minute.”
McMasters pulled into the Bealls parking lot, making sure they had good lightning, but were far enough away from the nearby bank’s security cameras.
Cole’s husband called 911. They put her in the backseat and propped the doors open.
The Britt Nicole song Set The World On Fire came over the radio, and McMasters gave her daughter some advice.
“Do what you need to do. We’ve done this before.”