Guadalupe Lara thought she’d make it in time.
Lara and her husband, Eduarco Centeno, had just dropped their three kids off at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary Multicultural Academic Center in the Back of the Yards neighborhood Wednesday morning when she started feeling contractions.
Lara was nine months pregnant. Their baby was on the way. So they got on the bus.
“At the beginning everything was fine but when I couldn’t hold it any longer I started pushing and yelled, ‘The baby’s coming!’ and then every body started yelling, ‘Oh my God, a baby!’,” Lara said in a phone interview in Spanish from her hospital bed.
The couple was heading to the University of Illinois hospital. Lara and Centeno don’t own a car. They knew their baby would arrive soon but were caught off guard.
Still, catching the No. 9 bus made sense to them.
“I always ended up waiting for hours every other time I’ve given birth, so I thought we’d make it in time,” Lara, 33, said.
As luck would have it, Lara gave birth on the bus to a healthy baby girl around 8:30 a.m. at Ashland Avenue and Cermak Road in Pilsen, according to a CTA spokeswoman.
Lara and Centeno named her Samantha.
“Paramedics got there and she was holding the baby in her arms,” Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.
The No. 9 bus route is one of the CTA’s most popular. Centeno, who performed the delivery with the help of an unidentified passenger, said around 25 people were on the bus when his newborn decided to hitch a ride.
“I was nervous — I don’t know how to deliver a baby,” Centeno said in Spanish. “I’m thankful everything turned out all right for the three of us.”
Samantha and Lara were taken via separate ambulances — due to protocol — to the U of I hospital, Langford said.
It’s not the first time the CTA has served as backdrop to an impromptu child birth.
Twins girls were born near turnstiles of the Roosevelt Red Line stop in November 2017.
Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting the South and West sides of Chicago.