While Van Jefferson ran onto the field alongside the Los Angeles Rams to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, his pregnant wife Samaria was battling contractions in the stands of SoFi Stadium.
“I did not want to miss the game for anything,” Samaria, 23, said for PEOPLE’s latest issue. “I had made the decision to let him play and not tell him I was in labor.”
“We were walking up to the stadium, I’m having to stop every five minutes because of the pain,” she recalls.
For close to two quarters, Samaria sat “crying, covering my face, making sure no one can see that I’m in pain,” she says.
But as halftime neared — contractions soon became too painful and medical staff rushed Samaria out on a stretcher and to the local hospital.
“I was like, ‘I can’t take it anymore.’ I’m barely able to talk at this point,” says Samaria, who eventually declined to be admitted and instead took an Uber to her birthing center, where her water broke within an hour of her arrival. “
I started bawling. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this without Van.’ “
Meanwhile, in the stadium, Van, 25, recalled being in a state of disbelief as he was informed Samaria was delivering their son at any moment.
“I was like, ‘Are you serious right now?’ We hauled tail. In the car, I’m going, ‘You need to push this car a little bit faster, we need to get there,’ ” says Van, who witnessed his baby’s birth over FaceTime as he sat in Los Angeles traffic still reeling over his team’s victory.
“It was an amazing feeling. Winning the Super Bowl and then being able to see your newborn was such a special moment for me.”
And ever since, life with their newborn Champ Curtis, Samaria and Van say things have “been crazy.” The couple also share daughter Bella, 5, while Van is dad to a 4-year-old son named Vanchi.
“My responsibilities are at home, but Samaria did let me celebrate with the teammates. You don’t get to the Super Bowl often, so you’ve got to enjoy it.”
He adds of Samaria, whom he married in 2020, “I’m so proud of her. That was the ultimate best day of my life. I don’t know how I can top that.”
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