A.J. Ellis wasn’t able to attend the birth of his first two children. He didn’t miss the third.
On Oct. 12, Ellis’ wife, Cindy, gave birth to the couple’s third child in the front seat of their car on Interstate 43 South just outside Milwaukee.
Ellis -- who estimates he was traveling 75 mph down the highway in a futile attempt to make it to the hospital -- didn’t even have a chance to pull the vehicle off to the side of the road before the baby arrived.
It was a curveball the 31-year-old Dodgers catcher never saw coming.
Ellis was away playing baseball when his daughter, Ainsley, 4, and son, Luke, 2, were born. So when Cindy woke him at 7 a.m. to tell him her water broke, he asked if he had time to shower before they left for the hospital.
“The doctor she likes is about 30 miles from our house,” said Ellis, who makes his home in Milwaukee in the offseason. “But with our other kids she was in labor for hours and hours, so we thought we had plenty of time.”
Said Cindy: “He’s really quick getting ready, and I had to pack, and we had to wait for my sister to get to our house to watch [Ainsley and Luke].”
But by the time they got into their car at 7:25 a.m., Cindy’s contractions were happening every 45 seconds to a minute.
She began screaming at her husband that she didn’t think they were going to make it to the hospital.
“And I’m thinking, this is 2012, not the 'Oregon Trail.' Of course we’re gonna make it,” Ellis said. “So I’m calmly telling her we’re making it. I figured she was just panicking because she was in excruciating pain.”
As Ellis merged on to the interstate, Cindy laid down the front passenger seat and turned to face out the rear window of the car. Writhing in pain, she got down on all fours and gripped the headrest.
“I kept telling him the pain was not normal, but in his mind it was,” Cindy said. “Then a minute later I felt the head.”
They were 18 miles from the hospital.
Audrey Elizabeth Ellis was born a minute after that, sliding on to her belly down the passenger seat and looking right at her terrified papa. She was two weeks early.
Ellis says the second after she was born, the couple immediately underwent a role reversal: “Cindy went into instant mom mode, totally calm and wrapping Audrey in her jacket,” Ellis said. “Meanwhile I’m panicking and screaming. Cindy was the absolute hero.”
He says his fingers were shaking so hard, he had a difficult time dialing the hospital. When he finally got through, they told him to scrap his plans to drive to them and take the newborn to the nearest emergency room.
But when Ellis told the staffer on the phone where they were, they realized there was no closer ER, so he continued toward his original intended destination.
The couple had decided against learning the sex of the baby while Cindy was pregnant because they wanted it to be a surprise.
Five minutes after the baby was born, Cindy turned to A.J. and said: “Oh, by the way: It’s a girl.”
Ellis was so discombobulated he forgot Cindy would also have to deliver the placenta in the car after Audrey was born.
“So she says to me, ‘Oh, this is gonna be gross, don’t watch this,’” Ellis said. “But whenever someone says that, of course you’re going to look.”
And what does he recall of that event? “It looked like purple brains,” he said.
When they pulled into the ambulance bay attached to the hospital 20 minutes later, the Ellises were greeted by a half-dozen doctors and nurses, many of whom were curious to meet this baby born in a car.
They wheeled Cindy and Audrey into recovery and determined they were both in excellent health.
There was just one problem: Ellis usually drives a small Chevy Prizm, but having had knee surgery earlier this month, he had borrowed his father-in-law’s car because getting in and out of his own ride was too tough.
“The in-laws took it to a car wash to be cleaned,” Ellis said. “The vehicle has since reacquired that new car smell.”