The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 26, 2013

A Christmas Story...

Makenna Shaffer’s saga is about faith, love and, believe it or not, fast food

For the Star Beacon

— In the sports world, there is often talk of miracles. We speak of immaculate receptions. We write about miracle shots. We wax philosophic about the titanic trade our favorite baseball team just pulled off.

  All of this is going on as the Christmas season, the holiday celebrating the holiest of miracles, is reaching its apex.

Michael Shaffer is no stranger to any of this himself as a freelance sports writer at the Star Beacon and a fan of sports. He has engaged in these conversations, told the stories of our local athletes. Perhaps he’s even pondered using the word miracle a time or two in describing a feat his eyes saw but his mind couldn’t quite comprehend.

Michael and his wife, Jeannie, might not be so quick in calling something a miracle, now that they, themselves, have been part of something many might call miraculous, even if the Shaffers themselves hesitate to do so.



Married for 10 years when August rolls back around, the Shaffers have two sons, Corban, 6, and Peyton, 2. They were happy and blessed to have their boys, but not entirely certain on whether a third child was in the cards . The couple, deeply convicted in their faith, were not actively trying to add Baby No. 3, nor were they trying to prevent themselves from welcoming home a new bundle of joy.

“I think a lot of people, because of our age (Michael is 43 and Jeannie is 39), our income level and some other things, thought we were done (having children),” Michael Shaffer said. “I wanted to leave it open to God. If he chose to bless us with another child, I didn’t want to take away the possibility.

“First, saying I don’t want more kids would demonstrate selfishness on my part because I wouldn’t get to go ballgames or play golf or do any of the things I enjoy (because we had more kids).

“Secondly, I thought it demonstrated a lack of faith on my part that God would not provide me the chance to provide for my family. The second I made that decision, Jeannie got pregnant.

“I was debating within myself probably every reason we should be done (having kids). For those two reasons, I decided I would leave it in God’s hands. God gives us free will. He lets us make the decisions we make. I made my decision and he decided to bless us with another child. I did not want to render myself unable to receive His blessing.”

Last spring, the Shaffers found out the stork would be making one more delivery into their lives.

“We had two boys,” Michael said. “I was 43 and Jeannie was 38 or 39. We were kind of leaving it in God’s hands. I wouldn’t say it was planned, but we weren’t doing anything to keep it from happening. A piece of me knew I wasn’t in the greatest of job situations, but I said we’d leave it up to Him, and if God gave us another child, we would accept His blessing.

“Sure enough, it happened.”

Many couples in the Shaffers’ shoes might be scared of what the future might hold. They’d certainly panic to some degree or another in trying to figure out just how they might afford another child.

Michael and Jeannie Shaffer were neither of these.

“I was excited more than anything else,” Michael said. “My wife and I are very involved in our church (Lighthouse Baptist on Carpenter Road in Ashtabula). Faith is at the center of my life. The Bible is something I hold very dear to my heart.

“One of the first commandments God ever gave was to be fruitful and to multiply. What could be more satisfying than to bring a child into the world.”

Though not fearful of the changes about to take place in his life, Michael admitted, as only a sports writer can, that some changes in defensive philosophy were in order while showcasing the sense of humor he carries.

“It’s a big change to go from having two kids to having three,” he said. “You’re not playing man-to-man anymore. You have to go to the zone.”

Turning serious, he also explains that there was no reason to worry.

“I mentioned my faith in God,” Michael said, while citing the passage that showed him the way. “For us to worry about those things would be displeasing to God. That’s showing Him we don’t have faith in what he can provide.

“I’ll give you a quote from the Bible. It’s first Peter, Chapter 5, Verse 7. ‘casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.’ ”

Though many facing the same situation would look at their plight and see it as a negative, Michael Shaffer can see his own personal silver lining.

 “From 2006-2010, I was a general manager at the restaurant at Flying J,” Michael said. “I was a GM in a Fortune 500 company. I was making really good money. Flying J filed what is called Chapter 11 bankruptcy and merged with Pilot, which is owned by Jimmy Haslam (who bought the Cleveland Browns little more than a year ago). The Flying J restaurant dissolved and it’s now a Denny’s. I ended up losing my job because of it. The last three years, I’ve done everything from sell auto insurance to driving a cement truck. Now, I’m a manager at Arby’s, I write for the Star Beacon, which is something I’ve always dreamed of doing and love to do, and I also deliver the Star Beacon.

“At Flying J, I was making more money than I ever had in my life and we only had the one child,” Michael said. “Back then, I was making twice as much as I am now, but things have worked out. God has provided for us.”

As is the case with most women, once Jeannie Shaffer had an idea she was pregnant, she took a home test and almost nonchalantly delivered the news to her husband.

“It wasn’t anything dramatic,” Michael said. “With the first two, she did something dramatic to tell me. This time, she got up from the dinner table, went to the bathroom, came back, waived the little indicator at me and said, ‘I’m pregnant.’”

Even in that moment, Michael Shaffer’s doubts never materialized.

“I don’t remember what the first words I said were, but your initial reaction is always to be excited,” he said. “Keep in mind, my wife and I have three children. With the price of daycare, my wife can’t work. We didn’t know how anything would work, but we said we’d figure it out somehow. Though you’re nervous, you k now it will work out. You just know you’ll do whatever is necessary. I was excited more in the anything (in that moment).”


Pink or blue?

Many parents who have two kids of the same gender will often tell you that in the abstract, they’d like their latest addition to be the opposite gender. For example, many parents who already have two girls will say they’d like a boy. However, they’ll very quickly tell you that it would most likely be easier to just have a third girl.

With Corban and Peyton roughhousing they’re way through the early stages of boyhood, the Shaffers truly wanted their latest blessing to be of the female persuasion, especially since there are so many male members of the family. There was a precedence set for what the possibility of avoiding a third son was.

“I definitely wanted a girl,” Michael said. “My sister had just had a girl right before we found out we were pregnant. I was the first child in my family. I have a brother and my sister is the youngest. My brother has two boys and my sister had two boys and she just had her daughter. I have four nephews and one niece.

“I didn’t have any aunts (other than by marriage) growing up. You could say boys dominate our family. If it had been another boy, I’d have been happy. You don’t complain when God blesses you as he sees fit, but I definitely wanted a girl.”

There were very good reasons the Shaffers wanted a girl.

“I wanted to have the experience of walking her down the aisle and giving her away,” Michael said. “I felt I could never have the full experience of being a father without also raising a girl.”

“I definitely enjoy my boys,” Jeannie said. “I would’ve been thankful if it were a boy, but I wanted to have that full motherhood experience. Girls and their mothers have a special kind of relationship and I wanted to have that experience.”

The Prophet

Michael and Jeannie may have wanted a girl, but they were prepared for the very real possibility their new bundle of joy would be a boy. But there was one member of the Shaffer household who knew all along whether it was going to be a boy girl and he made that knowledge available as much and as often as possible.

“We were at the ultrasound in July and my oldest son, Corban, was with us,” Michael said. “Corban kept saying we were going to have a girl baby. He said he prayed for us to have a girl baby, we were going to be having a girl baby.

“We told him God’s knows better than we do, but Corban was insistent it would be a girl baby. Finally, we got Corban convinced it might be a boy.”

“I really wanted a girl,” Jeannie said. “Corban prayed for a girl. He was telling people that his mom was having a girl. He told his preschool teacher I was having a girl. I was only 10 weeks, I didn’t know yet.”

Turns out that Corban Shaffer knew all along exactly what his new sibling was going to be.

“Jeannie was up on the table and the ultrasound technician asked if we were ready to find out if it was a boy or girl. They said it was going to be a girl and we told Corban he was going to have a baby sister.”

And little Corban Shaffer made sure to let his parents know exactly who was right all along.

“Corban said, ‘I told you so, Dad!’ ” Michael Shaffer said. “Childlike faith is a powerful thing,”

“He had faith the Lord would answer his prayer,” Jeannie said. “Children have more faith than adults. In our minds, we were trying to prepare him for disappointment. We told him God doesn’t always answer. He was so tired and frustrated with us telling him that. He was very convinced.”



The newest Shaffer was scheduled to arrive roughly a week before Christmas, so Michael and Jeannie were prepared for her arrival to happen at almost any point — almost being a very important word at this point.

 “The original due date was Dec. 19, that never changed,” Michael said. “Corban’s due date was Oct. 3 and he was born on Sept. 27. He was a week early. Peyton was right on his due date. We really hoped this baby was not going to be late. We really didn’t want ot be at the hospital on Christmas Day. I had requested the weekend of Dec. 19-22 off from work, but as I told my boss, the baby comes when the baby comes.”

Jeannie Shaffer carried her newest addition to full term and she and Michael knew their daughter would be coming on or near her due date. They were even prepared for the eventuality that she could be a bit early.

 “It was what you’d call day-to-day,” Michael said. “We knew she be coming any time. Once they get to full term, you know it’s only a matter of time.”

It’s very difficult to catch parents making their third delivery off-guard. After all, they’ve been there, done that and done it more than once. Third-time mothers are old pros.

The Shaffers were no different than most parents in that way. They’d welcomed their two sons into the world. They knew exactly what was going to happen. They had a plan. They had made sure Corban, their oldest son, knew what the plan was so he would be able to prepare himself.

The Shaffers were ready. Even on the morning of Dec. 14, the Shaffers were ready to bring a daughter into the world.

“Like I’d said, I’m working three jobs,” Michael said. “I got home last Saturday morning at about 7 a.m. Jeannie was up and she said she’d was feeling very minor contractions. She didn’t know, but she said it could be false labor. Keep in mind that with my first son, Corban, she was in labor for 40 hours. We were in the hospital from 5 a.m. on Wednesday and the baby was born at around 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.

“With my second son, Peyton, I was away from home. I was in the Cleveland area on lunch. Jeannie called and said her blood pressure was going up a little bit. At the time, she was 37 years old, at that age, they don’t mess around. They induced. That was around a 16-hour labor.”

As you can imagine, knowing how long it took both of their sons to enter the world, the Shaffers being old pros were under the illusion that even if Jeannie was in labor, they had more than enough time to drive to Brunswick to drop Corban and Peyton at Mike’s parents’ house before heading off to UH-Cleveland for the big event.

“So I got home about 7 and Jeannie says she’s starting to feel minor contractions,” Michael said. “I think, ‘OK, we’ll have baby later tonight or tomorrow. Babies are born every day. Thousands of babies are born every day. We had two of them. Given the sample size, I don’t know what made us think we were the experts.”

Make note of Michael’s sense of humor as he admits after the fact that he and his wife may have been a bit overconfident. The ability to laugh, even at themselves, is shared by the Shaffers. And as they relayed their story, it was very clear they’ve enjoyed a few laughs at the wild way everything happened. However, while they were in the moment, everything was very far from funny.

So being a veteran of the wars, Michael Shaffer did what any good husband and expecting father to be would do after his wife relayed the news she may be starting labor. He went to bed.

“I laid down,” he said. “At about 9 a.m., Jeannie came in the bedroom and said the pains were getting more intense. I said, ‘OK, this is the real deal.’ We had already had our suitcases and bags packed. I had already arranged for a friend of mine to do the paper route for Sunday, but I still had to take the comic sections over to him. I also had to go to the bank and get money out because they charge an arm and a leg for parking at the hospital.

“My mom and dad live in Brunswick so we were going to meet at the hospital and drop the kids off with them so I could accompany Jeannie into labor and delivery.”

In Michael’s defense, Jeannie Shaffer had figured since her boys took so long to arrive, she and her husband still had some time. Also, she thought it might be false labor.

“My boys took so long because they were in posterior position,” Jeannie said. “I thought it was something with my body and all of my kids would take a long time. I figured we were in for a long labor. I first the labor pains at 8:30 and she was born at 10:30. I thought it was just painful gas. I wasn’t sure it was labor.”


‘It was a zoo’

At this point, it’s probably important to mention that the plan the Shaffers had in place is still very much in effect. Jeannie even had joked with neighbors as she made her way from the house to the car before they left.

“It was like a zoo in the car,” Jeannie said. “My son who is 2 woke up around 2 or 3 in the morning and he was sick. I was vomiting and Peyton was vomiting. Corban was saying this wasn’t good, he hates the smell of vomit. Corban was complaining a lot.”

Obviously, at this point, there was little reason for Michael or Jeannie Shaffer to be all that concerned. Again, they’d been there, done that. They well all over the situation. Nothing could happen that could even remotely throw the plan out of whack.

“I waved at the neighbors as I walked out to the car,” Jeannie said. “I had the baby probably 20 minutes after I walked out of the house. They said good luck and I joked I was ready for an epidural.”

And here is where Michael learned one of the most valuable lessons the father of a daughter can learn. Girls are very unpredictable creatures and live to drive their fathers to the very brink of insanity.

The Shaffers’ newest addition may not only be Rookie of the Year in the category, she very well could be a Hall of Famer and, at this point in his narrative, Michael Shaffer has yet to meet his youngest child.

As the Shaffers left the Ashtabula harbor area, they headed west along Lake Road with the intention of taking Route 45 south to I-90, where they would settle in for an hour or so of relaxation and anticipation of what was about to come.

“We started out and headed down Lake Road over to Route 45,” Michael said. “Probably just after we crossed Route 20, Jeannie started to feel very intense, very painful contractions. Maybe just before we turned onto I-90, Jeannie said she didn’t think she’d make it to Cleveland, we had to go to Geneva. Probably about a half mile before the Geneva exit, she said she could probably make it to Cleveland.”

Not even 10 minutes into their journey, all heck broke loose, literally and figuratively.

At about this time, Michael is facing a decision most men would hate to make. Jeannie is in pain from the labor. She’s telling him she may not make it the hour it will take to get to Cleveland. There is a hospital just minutes up the road from where he is currently driving, but he has to choose to get off the highway and head north or to stay on 90 and head west.

Not knowing exactly what it is he should do, Michael does what any man would and seeks a bit more information from his wife.

“I asked her if she was sure (she could make it to Cleveland),” Michael said. “She said no. I hit the exit ramp. She said to call 911, the baby was coming. So, I called 911.”

Here, Michael gives his best remembrance of what that conversation entailed.

Michael Shaffer made that call at 10:22 a.m., which he confirms by checking his call list. After hanging up, he then drove his family back behind the Wendy’s on Route 534 in Harpersfield Township and parked the vehicle.

It would take the Northwest Ambulance Service just seven minutes to arrive on the scene. Despite the extremely quick response, the paramedics were late to the party.

“Obviously, my wife’s pants are off at this point,” Michael said. “I’ve parked the car and I’m off the phone. Keep in mind, the two boys are in the back seat. Peyton had vomited on his shirt. Corban is complaining, saying he doesn’t like the smell of vomit. Peyton is sick, I haven’t slept all night and my wife is in labor. Corban was told he didn’t have anything to complain about.”

Given the circumstances, Michael is doing the one thing he knows he can to help.

“So at this point, I’m off the phone and I’ve got my arms around my wife,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep her calm. I kept telling her to breathe in, breathe out, the ambulance would be there in a few minutes and everything was going to be OK.”

Jeannie Shaffer didn’t exactly panic throughout the entire ordeal, though. I wasn’t as if she didn’t have a handle on the situation.

“It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think about it,” she said. “I went into Mommy mode and took care of what needed to be taken care of.”

Jeannie, though, knew something her husband didn’t – the baby was going to make her appearance into the world before the ambulance was going to be able to do anything to help.

“(Jeannie) says, ‘Mike, grab the baby,’ ” he said. “I told her to stay calm, it would be OK. Again, she said, ‘Grab it!’ I told her to stay calm, it would be OK.”

In case you haven’t picked up on it, Michael Shaffer had no idea his wife was trying to tell him she was actually having the baby in that very moment.

“She said, ‘Mike! The baby! Grab it!’ ” he said. “I looked down and her head was out. Then the rest of her body just slid right out into the front seat of my car.”


Hello, world

Makenna Rae Shaffer was born, officially, in the front seat of a car parked in a Wendy’s parking lot in Harpersfield at 10:28 on the morning of Dec. 14, 2013. She was 19 inches long and weighed 5 pounds, 7 ounces, though this information about their daughter would not be known to Mike and Jeannie Shaffer for a while longer.

“Anyone who has witnessed a child being born, there aren’t words to describe it,” Michael said. “It’s so startling, so breathtaking, so heartstopping. The second the baby is out, there aren’t words to describe it. And that’s when you’re in a hospital room with three nurses and a doctor surrounding you.

“We were in a car in Ashtabula County on a December day in the snowbelt. There were two kids crying in the back seat and I was scared out of my mind.”


Chaos ensues

Something a bit mind-boggling happened in those brief moments following the birth of Makenna Shaffer in the front seat of a Ford Focus in that Wendy’s parking lot.

Up until that point, Michael feels he was the one who was calm and trying to help his spouse through a harrowing experience. All at once, the Shaffers shifted roles as Makenna said her hello to the world.

“Jeannie grabbed the baby and just pulled her right up to her chest. At this moment, our roles completely reversed. Up until now, Jeannie was the one who was frantic and I was trying to keep her calm. Now, it was the opposite. My heartbeat was going about a million beats a second.

“Jeannie had calmed down and was in complete control of the situation.”

There are a million things Mike was trying to do in the moment after Makenna’s birth. The most important of which was trying to make sure his wife and newborn daughter are all right.

“As I said, Jeannie had calmed down and I’m losing my mind,” Michael said. “I was scared. I was nervous. I was praying and begging for the ambulance to get there. Jeannie is telling me to get out of the car and get a blanket out of the trunk.”

As he handed the blanket over to Jeannie, Michael was again reminded he wasn’t the only witness to the birth of his daughter.

“I gave the blanket to Jeannie and Corban says, ‘Dad, this is not good! The baby was supposed to be born at the hospital and me and Peyton are supposed to be with Grandma and Grandpa!’

“At this point, the kids were just there. They may as well have been suitcases on the backseat. All of my concentration was on my wife and my baby. One of the things I noticed… when you’re in stressful moments, you don’t know what you’re going to notice or not notice. I noticed the baby was not crying and that bothered me.”

“(Corban) saw me bring Makenna to my chest,” Jeannie said. “He said, ‘My baby sister was not supposed to be born in the car. She was supposed to be born at the hospital.’ He was already playing the overprotective big brother.”

After what was probably seven of the longest minutes of their lives together, an ambulance arrived.

“The ambulance pulled in and I jumped out of the car,” Michael said. “I jumped out and I started jumping up and down and waving at it. The paramedic calmly walked over to the car, meanwhile I’m yelling at them that the baby was out.

“Of course, Jeannie was not dressed as the umbilical cord was still attached. She wrapped herself in a blanket and walked from the car to the ambulance. They had brought her the stretcher, but she walked.”

If it seemed like a lifetime had passed in the seven minutes the Shaffers were waiting on ambulance, two lifetimes passed in the next couple minutes.

“They took her into the ambulance and shut the doors,” Michael said. “I’m outside and don’t know what’s going on. I’m jumping up in the air to try and see into the window so I could see what was going on.

“I’m out there maybe five or 10 minutes, it’s cold, my 2-year-old is crying, it was like an eternity. Finally, I was able to see in the window. I guess I stood there and was up on my tippy toes. Jeannie gave me a thumbs up. About a minute later, a paramedic came out and shook my hand and said congratulations.

“I asked if my wife and baby were OK and he told me they were both fine.”

“Mike was out there pacing,” Jeannie said. “I waved to try and let him know everything was OK. I told the ambulance guys that somebody needed to go out and be with him because he was worried.”

A wave of relief washed over Michael Shaffer in that moment.

“Like I said, I wasn’t real worried about Jeannie,” he said. “I saw here sitting there, but I didn’t hear the baby cry and that had made me a little nervous.

“Child birth is a natural thing. Women have been bringing babies into this world since long before hospitals existed, but I was such a nerve-wracking thing. I can’t put it into words. The baby was born right there in the car.

“I had such a helpless feeling.”



Once Michael knew Makenna and Jeannie Shaffer were healthy and nothing had gone wrong, Michael had figure out what he was going to do next. Obviously, at least for the next little while, the plan to have his kids go to his parents’ was a bit out of the question.

That’s where the Lighthouse Baptist Church comes into play.

“I was so thankful to God (everyone was healthy),” Michael said. “I began to make calls. I called my parents, then I called Pastor John Jones, he answered in his office. I asked him if somebody could come by and get the boys. He just said he was on his way.

“My parents live in Brunswick, 85 miles away and my siblings live in that area, too. My church is my family and friends. In a situation, they’re the first people I call.”

Within a quarter of an hour of its arrival, the ambulance left the Wendy’s restaurant whose Harpersfield address will serve as the place of birth in lieu of a hospital on Makenna Rae’s birth certificate. The baby and her mother were taken to UH-Geneva.

Michael on the other hand, was in a state limbo.

“I wanted to go with them,” he said. “Obviously, I wanted to be with them, but I couldn’t take the boys in there with me. It wouldn’t have been a good situation.

“The ambulance left 10-15 minutes afterward (it arrived). One lady came out of Wendy’s and asked if everything was OK. I still hadn’t caught my breath. I told her my baby was just born right there, and pointed to the passenger seat in the car. I took the boys in got them something to eat.

“I don’t think the boys had any idea what had really just happened. Corban just knew the baby was supposed to be born at the hospital, not in the car.”

Michael’s sense of humor kicks in at this point as he tried to describe the scene in those immediate minutes after the ambulance had left.

“Once Pastor John arrived, we had transfer the child safety seats to his car,” Michael said. “My wife is the only one in our family who knows how to install the car seats.”

The two paramedics who had brought the ambulance obviously had left, but a third medic had stayed behind as he had driven to the scene in his own vehicle in answering the call to duty.

“Not that I didn’t know where the hospital was, but the paramedic led me to the hospital,” Michael said. “Once I had gotten to the hospital, I learned my wife was OK and my baby was OK.”

The proud father had finally managed to get a few stolen moments with his baby girl.

“I got to hold Makenna for the first time,” he said. “Previously, the closest he had been to her was when he was in the seat next to her immediately after her birth.

“It took a good three to four hours for whole nervous system to settle down. Keep in mind, I had worked and was up all night. I’m used to being asleep at that time. I had all that nervous energy and the drama had finally begun to settle down.”


Back on the plan

The difficult part of his day was over, but Michael Shaffer was far from done with his duties.

“The first thing I had to do (after Jeannie and Makenna were transferred) was go and get the boys so I could take them to my parents,” Michael said. “At this point, we were back on the original plan. I took the boys to their grandma and grandpa’s house.

Roughly 45 minutes after he had arrived at the hospital in Geneva, Makenna was going to be treated at UH-Rainbow Babies’ and Children’s Hospital but she was healthy enough to be taken McDonald’s as well.

“Jeannie and Makenna had to be separated,” Michael said. “Geneva hospital isn’t even set up for maternity. There were two ambulances. Jeannie was not happy about that.”

Jeannie was separated from Makenna for an extremely long time. It was not easy for Jeannie, knowing her newborn needed her in the worst ways possible.

“It’s hard because that baby is depending solely on you,” she said. “They took her from me just after she was born. When I got back to her, she had been bathed and they had put this little yellow hat on her.

“It was hard not to be with her. They took care of things for me while I had to have a stitch or two. They moved me up to where the baby room was. I said I wanted my baby. I was hungry and thirsty because I hadn’t eaten.

“I had seen her for about a half an hour (immediately after she was born). I hadn’t seen her in five hours. She was actually asleep when I saw her again.”


What if…?

In the end, everything has turned out well for the Shaffers. Makenna is 12 days old and as healthy and happy as can be. There no complications for Jeannie, either. The birth, other than happening fast and taking place in a car on a Wendy’s parking lot, went perfectly.

There were a number of things that could have gone wrong in the entire scenario and if even one of those did not play into the Shaffers’ favor, it could have been a considerably different outcome.

What if one of the stars hadn’t fallen into line?

“One thing that had occurred to me after all of this happened was what if we had gotten past the Geneva exit before Jeannie realized the baby was coming?” Shaffer asked. “We’d have had to go up to the Madison exit and find our way back. What if the baby had come while I was driving? It could have been a disaster. Even if she delivered the baby on the side of the interstate, as unideal as Wendy’s was, an ambulance pulling over on the side of the road would have been a million times worse.

“We’re talking about less than a minute. If I had left my house one minute earlier, we would’ve gotten past the Geneva exit and the whole situation would’ve been a lot worse. I’m sure, had that happened, they would still have been OK. That being said, I’m very thankful for the way it did happen. The paramedics were there in a matter of six or seven minutes.”



With everybody healthy and safe, the Shaffers can look back and laugh at the way everything had happened. That’s a good thing because most oftheir family and friends have had a good laugh at how everything played out.

“One of the names we had been thinking about for Makenna was Carlie,” Michael said. “Somebody was joking with us we should have given her that name because she was born in the car. If I had a nickel for every time someone has said we should have named her Wendy, I’d be a millionaire.”

The joking doesn’t end there. Even Michael and Jeanie have had some fun with it.

“I can take my boys to University Hospital and show them where they were born,” Michael said. “I can take my daughter to the parking lot at Wendy’s and tell her we were looking to save a few bucks and I was hungry, so we had her there. I can say, ‘Mommy had the baby and I was in the mood for a cheeseburger.’”

Coming so early has opened the eyes of little Makenna Shaffer. Michael admits that maybe with such a dramatic birth, he may have to stay on his toes the rest of his life.

“I’ll have to keep my eye on Makenna,” he said. “Somehow I know she’ll be in a hurry to get places.”



Fate didn’t just play a role in the outcome in the birth of Michael Shaffer’s daughter. The Shaffers’ story began 16 years ago.

“I’m not from Ashtabula,” Michael said. “In 1997, I was working for Ponderosa Restaurants in Akron. The district manager called and said they had a manager’s position open. Somebody had quit and they needed somebody to go up there.

“That was 16 years ago. When I came here, it was just me. They put me up in the Travelodge at 45 and 90. Now, God has given me a beautiful wife, three beautiful children and a story in the Star Beacon about the birth of my third child.”

“As I sat in the ambulance, I did contemplate all my blessings,” Jeannie said. “Everything was fine. There weren’t any problems for me or her. I thought there were always things that can go wrong with labor.

“We were blessed to have her.”



The whole ordeal was pretty surreal. The Shaffers are still having a hard time believing what they went through.

“I still think to myself and wonder if it al lreally happened,” Jeannie said. “Did I really have a kid in a car? That did happen to us. I did have a baby in the car. It is crazy to think about. It happened. It was an experience I’ll surely never forget. Corban will never forget it, either.”

A miracle is defined as a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

By definition, the birth of Makenna Shaffer could be classified as a miracle. But this story is not a clinical one, but a spiritual one.

The average person might be just as apt to say the birth was fate, or coincidence, or luck or even divine intervention. All of those terms would be a perfect explanation. The Shaffers are content to call their little bundle of joy a miracle.

“She is a miracle,” Jeannie said. “Every child born is a miracle, it’s just that Makenna is special to us.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at