Interstate 90 mile marker 374 will be forever seared in Danielle Beardsley’s memory. It marks the precise location she realized that she wasn't going to make it home to Helena to give birth. Speeding westward on May 22, 2017 with daylight waning, she decided to dial the highway patrol.
Beardsley wasn’t due for almost a month, but the contractions were undeniable as her foot weighed heavy on the accelerator. She hoped to get as close to a hospital as she could because the baby was coming tonight—and fast. She had departed earlier that day from Miles City, where she attended the annual Bucking Horse Sale and visited her mother, who lives in nearby Rosebud. Helena was still hours away.
Beardley's then two-year-old son, Ryatt, was riding in the backseat. He sensed something was amiss. Not wanting to panic her toddler, Beardsley did her best to maintain her composure. By the time she whizzed through Columbus, the contractions were ten minutes apart. "I think we’re going to have the baby today," Beardsley said to her son.
"No thank you," Ryatt replied, seeming to note the interstate wasn’t the ideal place to give birth to his brother. "I don’t think we have a choice, honey," Beardsley said.
She called her husband, Greg Gowen, and her mother, Pam Beardsley, and instructed them to start driving.
Ready or not, the baby was on his way. As Beardsley rolled up on Big Timber, she knew they could no longer travel alone safely. The highway patrolmen were waiting at the Big Timber exit with an ambulance.
Beardsley knew her delivery would be a little more complicated than most. She had an unresolved placenta previa—a condition where the baby’s placenta covers the cervix—which had the potential to cause severe bleeding during the birthing process. An emergency cesarean section would be required to safely deliver the baby. Livingston HealthCare (LHC), another 35 miles west, was now the closest place to perform the surgery.
"Don’t touch my mom!" cried Ryatt at the sight of strangers descending upon his mother to load her into the ambulance. Despite her son’s initial alarm, Beardsley recalls with a laugh that his attitude softened quite a bit after one of the highway patrolman offered him some gummy bears and a ride to the hospital in his cruiser. By the time she’d arrived in Livingston, her contractions had reduced to only two minutes apart.
"I didn’t cry until I got into the operating room—that’s where everything became real," Beardsley said.
She asked if there was any possibility the medical staff could wait a few more moments before starting surgery, to give her husband time to arrive. But Livingston HealthCare medical director and obstetrician Scott Coleman, MD, insisted it was critical they proceed with surgery as quickly as possible.
"Dr. Coleman was very calm, but very matter of fact," Beardsley says. "He was amazing and explained everything step by step."
Beardsley also praises Livingston HealthCare's certified registered nurse anesthetist Grant Palm and the entire Family Birth Center staff, adding that she was put more at ease knowing there were nurses looking after her two-year-old son while she was in surgery.
"They [LHC staff] were very caring," she says. "I’ve never been to a hospital where I felt so comfortable. They turned chaos into calm. Even though I live in Helena, I would come back to Livingston to have another baby."
Gattlyn James Russell Gowen came into the world at 10:57 PM, weighing in at a healthy 6 pounds, 11 ounces. Gattlyn’s father, Greg, arrived a mere ten minutes after the birth of his youngest son.
Gattlyn’s dramatic entrance into the world as a near-roadside baby hasn’t quite carried over into his personality as one might expect, Beardsley says. Rather, she calls him her "mellow fellow," as he often sleeps all the way through the night, beginning when he was just five days old.
"We entered with a bang, didn’t we, Gattlyn?" Beardsley says, smiling down at her son perched on her knee.