COLUMBIA -- Tara and Mark Cecchini's hospital bags were waiting by the door, her parents were on standby and the father-to-be already had commissioned a T-shirt stating, "I didn't faint."
Even a personal blog had closely documented the events leading to the birth of their third child.
But all their planning couldn't have prepared the Columbia couple for the way baby Ruby entered the world Sunday evening in the front seat of their black Honda Accord as they were en route to Lexington Medical Center.
"Normally, there are, like, seven people in the room with you (during a delivery)," Tara Cecchini said. But only she and her husband were witnesses when their baby girl arrived at 5:13 p.m. Sunday.
The Cecchinis' original due date was Thursday, and when Tara didn't deliver then, the couple decided to wait until this week before she was induced.
"We had the bags packed, the grandparents came. ..." Everything was ready, Tara said.
But the part-time Richland 1 psychologist awoke Sunday morning to severe contractions, which became more consistent in the next several hours. After calling doctors, the two headed for the hospital around noon but were later discharged because Tara had not yet sufficiently dilated.
Rather than returning home, however, the two checked into a hotel in the Harbison area.
"We were confident that it was going to happen soon," said Mark Cecchini, a University of South Carolina accounting professor.
Their confidence was confirmed when Tara's water broke around 4:30 p.m.
But after barely reaching the car, the two realized that things were progressing much faster than anticipated.
"She said, 'I think I'm going to have this baby,'" Mark said of his wife, who was kneeling on the passenger-side floor as he raced to the hospital. He assumed she had spoken figuratively, but she hadn't.
"He looked over and saw the baby's head," Tara said.
Mark continued driving but called 911. "I was trying to figure out if I should keep driving or pull over."
He never had to make the decision. Tara's pain had become so unbearable that she had no choice.
"At that point, I realized there was nothing I could do but push," she said, adding that one push was all it took. At 7 pounds, 15 ounces, Ruby had arrived, right there in the car. And five minutes later, the three reached the hospital, where the entire emergency room staff was awaiting them outside.
"We were going through periods of elation and freaking out," Mark said.
When an emergency medical technician asked him the time the child had arrived, Mark said he didn't know, and only after tracing the 911 call did they determine an exact time of birth.
Tara and Ruby were both doing fine Monday and were scheduled to be discharged from the hospital today. Awaiting at home are older brothers Julian, 6, and Campbell, 4.
The Cecchinis said the Lexington Medical Center staff had been as accommodating as could be reasonably expected, given the circumstances.
Lexington Medical Center officials said deliveries such as this one are not that uncommon. Since last October, 22 babies have been born while en route to the hospital. Another 24 were delivered in the hospital's emergency room.
"It's when they (the babies) decide," hospital spokeswoman Margaret Gregory said.