Vernon couple gives birth to daughter on side of the road

Father delivers child with assistance from passing motorist

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  • Clark and Keri Curtis hold their daughter, McKayla Rose, who was born on the side of Thornlot Road on July 25 in Vernon Township. Photo by Mike zummo


Nearly a week later, Clark and Keri Curtis still look at each other and can’t believe what they accomplished.

Keri Curtis gave birth to the couple’s second child, McKayla Rose, July 25 with the help of a passing samaratan and a township police officer around the corner from their Highview Drive home on the front lawn of a stranger’s home on Thornlot Road.

All day, the couple knew the birth was imminent.

Keri started having contractions earlier in the day and after a trip to her doctor, they were informed the birth would be either that night, overnight or the next day. After dinner, the contractions started in earnest and quickened rapidly.

“They went really quick to where I couldn’t even time them any more because there was no stopping,” Keri said.

They left for the hospital but McKayla wouldn’t wait as Keri started reporting she felt the baby’s head coming through as soon as they got to the corner of Highview Drive and Thornlot Road.

Clark got out of the car and called 911 looking for help, but while township police officer David DeHardt responded, Arlene Higginson got there first.

“I was driving home and when I pulled into my block, I heard a woman screaming and the car was on side of the road,” she said. “She was leaning up against the car and she was saying, ‘it’s coming now.’”

Clark was still on the phone with the 911 dispatcher while Higginson was trying to calm Keri and he hung up on the dispatcher when he heard police sirens. Shortly after, Patrolman David Dehardt showed up.

“The cop pulled up, handed me gloves and said, ‘do you have this?” I was like, ‘I guess. I guess we’re both equally qualified,’” Clark said.

With Higginson keeping Keri calm and Clark waiting with a clean blanket underneath her, about four pushes landed McKayla into his waiting arms.

“I’m catching, Arlene’s coaching and he’s on the sidelines, and that’s OK,” Clark said. “He was doing a good job. He’s doing whatever he could. Obviously, once the emergency personnel got there, the other roles were taken over. It was nice.”

Once the emergency responders showed up from the Vernon Ambulance Squad and things seemed OK, only then could the couple take a breath and relax.

“When I saw the medics and EMTs weren’t freaking out, that’s when I stayed calm,” Clark said.

Higginson, who had never met Keri before last Thursday night — she only met Clark once when he knocked on her door to tell her they were admiring her flowers — said she was honored to be one of the first people to meet McKayla.

“I cried when I was there,” Higginson said. “It was an amazing miracle. I have had kids. I just felt that I could lend any hand [would be enough]. I didn’t do much, but I was honored to be one of the first two people to meet with them. Birth is such a beautiful thing and it’s just amazing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me.”

She also called Keri’s mother, Rose Bachmann, who was waiting at St. Claire’s Hospital in Denville to tell her they would be arriving with the baby when they finally reached the hospital. She also snapped a few photos for them.

“Arlene should be given props because she didn’t have to do that,” Clark said.

Things calmed down once Clark, Keri and McKayla reached the St. Claire’s Emergency Room. After receiving a standing ovation, things started to return to normal when Keri was checked into the hospital. For the first time, they were able to take a breath, knowing that everything was OK. But they are aware of how fortunate they are.

“That’s the only reason this is a fun thing to talk about because there are so many things that could have gone wrong,” Clark said. “We’re just very blessed that it didn’t.”

The final highlight was when their 3-year-old son, Braden, met her for the first time.

“He walked in the room and the first thing he said was, ‘she’s beautiful.’ It was so sweet,” Keri said.

The couple brought McKayla home Saturday and the new family is doing well. About once a day, they reflect on how amazed they are at what happened and how they handled it.

“I keep telling people my composure was good because her composure was excellent,” Clark said. “She didn’t freak out. Yeah, you do your normal yelling during the labor part and she’s coming, but she was very focused. She did an amazing job of keeping calm and staying focused, and not freaking me out. It made anything I was doing a lot easier.”

“It was kind of like a natural thing,” Keri said. “We didn’t have to figure out what to do. We knew what to do. Not that it was the ideal situation, it just felt natural.”

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