A network of towns populated by less than 1,000 residents make up the main constituency of South Central Idaho. They’re towns with names like Buhl and Hagerman and Heyburn and Gooding and Bliss, connected by mostly two-lane highways on the high plain of the Snake River canyon. On July 5, along Idaho Highway 24, Shawna Uriguen, 29, delivered her second child.
Her water didn’t noticeably break, her due date was four days away, and her only contractions were two slight and one severe. Her fiancé, Clay Crown, 36, was on the phone with her.
Uriguen says didn’t feel well the morning of July 1. She planned to use her work lunch break to see her doctor in Burley, about nine-and-a-half miles away. At 1:10 p.m., she delivered the child, a girl named Kimber Marie, off of 21st Street and 24 in Heyburn.
“There was just this one blood-curdling scream,” Crown says, sitting in the living room of the couple’s white and robin egg blue ranch house, which sits at the end of a gravel road in Buhl. “And then she said, ‘I think the baby’s in my pant leg.’”
“I was scared out of my mind, thinking I should not be on the side of the road alone having a baby,” Uriguen says.
Within 10 minutes of birthing the girl, she was in the delivery room of Cassia Hospital in Burley, four miles from where she’d pulled her maroon Pontiac Grand Prix to the shoulder. Two minutes later, Crown and his brother pulled up to the hospital in their sister’s ‘85 Ford Tempo. They’d just sped from a town called Eden, 25 miles to the west, dispatching 911 on the way.
“We both had the same gut feeling,” Crown says. “I knew I had to get there. And of course we hit every stoplight until the highway.” But he kept his composure, remembering his emergency medical training from his days as a volunteer firefighter in Burlington, New Jersey.
Within 24 hours, Uriguen and the healthy 6-pound, 7-ounce, 18-inch-long child left the hospital. Two days later, the Twin Falls Times-News reported the story, where it caught the attention of the Associated Press. From there, word spread to The Huffington Post, AOL, ABC, and New York Daily News, with somewhat erroneous headlines like “Idaho Woman Gives Birth Through Her Pant Leg While Driving and Talking On The Phone.”
“I had to pull my pants down to get the baby out,” Uriguen says. “She never went through the pant leg.”
The following bright and mellow Monday, Uriguen cradles the new child. Crown picks his fingernails with a foldout hunting knife and wrangles Josh, the couple’s two-and-a-half-year-old son. Essence, Crown’s nine-year-old daughter, looks on. He gets up and kisses Kimber’s forehead on the way to the bedroom, where he retrieves the pants Uriguen birthed the child in.
“I was trying to get everything together for maternity leave,” Uriguen says. “I needed clothes that would still be professional and possibly be comfortable. After I had her, I asked if someone could call my boss. I was supposed to be back at work in about 20 minutes.”
Crown emerges from the bedroom with a pair of flat black slacks, the cloudy detritus of afterbirth splayed across the seat. Wal-Mart-retailed George brand “Women’s Plus-Size Career Suiting Pants,” they are 63 percent polyester, 33 percent rayon, and 4 percent spandex. They have two front welt pockets, two back welt pockets, two hook closures at the waist, and a zipper fly.
The family’s two-bedroom home sits on seven acres, with a fish farm on the north edge, toward the canyon. Crown’s grandfather, who recently moved into assisted living because of Alzheimer’s, built the house. Crown became caretaker of the property when his uncle, who lived on the property, passed away in February. Crown was working at a company called Valley Wholesale until he was recently laid off. The family plans on staying at the house as long as possible. Essence likes the quiet and the horned toads her dad catches for her and the friends across the road—it was someone she was playing with who told her about the new child. In 2014, news travels faster than vehicles out here.
“When I heard the baby was born and I wasn’t there, I felt like my world shattered,” Essence says. “And then when I hugged her, I felt like my world was whole again.”