The Cambrian

'I can't believe it': Parents recall roadside birth near Cayucos

Josue Garcia and Maria Esther Cardenas with their son, David, who was born Monday on the side of Highway 1 near Cayucos.
Josue Garcia and Maria Esther Cardenas with their son, David, who was born Monday on the side of Highway 1 near Cayucos. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Josue Garcia and his girlfriend, Maria Esther Cardenas, of Cambria will have a captivating story to tell their newborn son, David, when he’s old enough to comprehend how he entered this world.

The 26-year-old father earns his living working in a Cambria restaurant.

But on Monday he was forced into emergency delivery duties, helping his 28-year-old girlfriend give birth in a silver Toyota on the side of Highway 1 in Cayucos.

On Tuesday, from the comfort of a Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center hospital room, Garcia and Cardenas recalled their story in Spanish.

Commented Garcia, “No lo puedo creer” — “I can’t believe it.”

Garcia was working when he got the call from his girlfriend, a stay-at-home mom, about 11 a.m., saying that she was going into labor.

He rushed to their Cambria home, got Cardenas situated in the passenger seat of the car, and started the drive that normally takes about 45 minutes along the picturesque coastline toward Sierra Vista in San Luis Obispo.

But not long after that, the plan started to go awry. They hit traffic on the north end of Cayucos, and Garcia started honking at cars to clear out of the way.

But the motorists didn’t make way, he said, and congestion blocked him from going around.

Meanwhile, Cardenas’ contractions were intensifying.

“She told me, “I can’t hold on, I can’t wait anymore,” Garcia said in Spanish. “I said, ‘But you have to.’ She said, ‘I can’t.’ I said, ‘What do I do?’ ”

Garcia stopped and began flagging motorists for help, wondering if a clinic or doctor’s office might be nearby. A good Samaritan pulled over and called 911.

Then Garcia went to assist his girlfriend, still in the passenger seat, holding out his hands to catch the baby as she pushed. The baby’s head popped out.

“I was very nervous,” Cardenas said in Spanish. “But I remembered what my mother had told me, that ‘When the baby starts coming, push hard and it will be born more quickly.’”

She pushed harder and more of the infant’s body emerged. Cardenas recalls it wasn’t more than two or three minutes before the baby was born, his father holding him in his bare hands with the umbilical cord still attached — waiting for paramedics to arrive.

Ten minutes later, the “bomberos,” or firefighters, arrived. Not long after, an ambulance rolled up to whisk them away, siren blaring, to Sierra Vista.

The couple has a 7-year-old boy who also was delivered relatively quickly after contractions started, Cardenas said.

In recounting Monday’s series of events from the comfort of her hospital bed, Cardenas said she felt her first contraction about 10 a.m. and thought it was a false alarm. She felt another pang about 10:30 a.m., and by 11 a.m. the contractions were coming on strong.

The healthy baby was born about 11:45 a.m.

Garcia had blankets in the car, which he used to clean the baby until help arrived, he said Tuesday.

“I can’t believe it,” Garcia said. “It’s very incredible.”

Cardenas, smiling broadly, held little David to her chest as he slept Tuesday afternoon. Both parents said they weren’t tired from the ordeal, having gotten some rest during the night.

Cardenas said she wanted to thank all who assisted them during their eventful Monday.

“I wanted to make sure everyone who helped us knows we’re very grateful for what they did for us,” Cardenas said.

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