Nearly a week after our fourth baby's due date, I was concerned--mainly because my midwife had expressed concern. According to her, this baby hadn't dropped down at all; instead, he or she was just "floating around" high above my pelvis and showed no signs of being ready to come. I did what I could to help my body prepare for labor: taking long walks, swimming laps at my gym's pool (oh, the temporary joy of weightlessness!), and visiting my chiropractor to make any necessary adjustments.
The day our baby actually arrived, I underwent a non-stress test to ensure baby was staying healthy, then I did what many American families do before a birth: I stocked up on pantry staples at Costco (ha!). Finally, I made dinner for our au pair's parents, who were visiting from France. I was feeling a little tired and emotional, which was odd. By the time dinner was over, however, I was feeling something more physical than emotional--a little cramping, a bit jittery. I knew labor was close.
The first contraction arrived just as I finished putting our three-year-old to bed (around 8pm). My husband arrived home about 8:45pm and I was excited to tell him that labor was beginning. "Are you having contractions?" he asked. "Kind-of," I said. "I can just tell something's starting." Since he had just walked in the door, I suggested he go lay down and rest. "I'll let you know when I think it's time to go," I added. He gladly complied.
So for the next two hours, I focused on relaxing through the contractions. I dug out my Bradley Method handbook from our first birth years ago, and I skimmed the Bible verses my sister and a friend had printed out for me. Mostly, though, I draped myself over our balance ball, swayed my hips, and tried to let this baby drop into position. I checked my watch with almost each contraction, but they didn't seem very regular yet. Between contractions, I was getting sleepy.
By 11:20pm, though, the contractions were fairly frequent--probably every 3-5 minutes, and I needed to concentrate on the work of labor. I remember feeling a tad envious of friends who'd had home births--it would have been so nice not to have to judge when to leave home--but I knew our insurance wouldn't cover a home birth and our hospital decision was firmly made. At a definite pause between contractions, I felt a suddenly clarity and calmness. It was time to go.
My husband already seemed to know it was time; he was up and grabbing our bags as I came into the bedroom. I shifted directions and headed to the car, but it was more of a shuffle--walking was painful, and as I got to the garage I felt a slight sloshing, as if baby's head had just dropped a few inches lower. That was a little alarming. I wondered if I should grab a towel in case my water broke en route, but ultimately I didn't want to walk back to the other end of the house.
I managed to make it into the car just as the next contraction started. I muttered something to my husband. "I can't hear you," he said. I repeated, "I need you to close the [passenger] door and put on my seatbelt." He did so, and we were on the road.
From this point on, my eyes were closed, and I felt the contractions change. "The baby's coming," I groaned. "I feel like I have to push!" "Don't push!" said my husband, as all husbands are required to say when driving to the labor and delivery department. "I can't help it!" I cried. "Okay," said my husband, shifting his tone. He reached over to rub my back while still driving. "It's okay." I took a deep breath as the contraction ended and I had a sudden thought: if the baby comes in my pants, will he or she suffocate? Somehow I had to get my yoga pants off!
With the next contraction, my water burst, and I felt a wave of water swell up my pants like a giant bubble. Ugh. I whipped my pants down to my knees, reached between my legs, and felt the baby's head crowning. He or she was right there. "I can feel the baby's head--you have to pull over!" I said. "Okay--but not right here--there's no shoulder!" said my husband, sounding a bit panicked. Just as he brought the car to a stop on the side of the road, I reached down and grabbed the baby as a contraction pushed the entire body out--I wasn't going to let our baby fall!
I brought the slippery baby up to my chest and my husband and I sat there and stared, a bit stunned. A distant oncoming car illuminated our space for a moment. "It's a boy!" said my husband, sounding astonished and full of wonder. "It's Elliot!" I said, equally astonished, and suddenly elated. Our boy gave a little cry, but mostly he was peaceful, his large eyes watching us. He seemed to be breathing okay. My husband rifled through the bag in the back seat and grabbed a blanket. We were on the side of the road for just a minute or two, but it seemed long enough. I looked at the whitish cord attached to our little baby's belly and winding back between my legs. "Well," I laughed aloud in amazement, "I guess we might as well keep going!"
My husband paused from staring at our baby for a moment, then re-started the engine. It would only take ten more minutes to arrive at the hospital, though we hadn't even been on the road ten minutes. As we rushed towards our destination again, I suddenly realized that we needed to know what time our son was born. "It was 11:55," said my husband. Our little one had arrived just before midnight.
Neither my husband nor I remember more than a flash of the remainder of the drive to the hospital, but I remember my sense of euphoria: I was enormously happy to be holding our baby. He was warm and tiny and precious, and holding him close felt like the best job in the world--although the warm puddle (of water?) I was sitting in was a slightly icky reality check!
My husband pulled right up to the door of the labor and delivery department, and once he had pressed the intercom button and explained that his wife had had a baby in the car, it was only thirty seconds or so before a whole troupe of nurses and medical personnel arrived at my door. They wrapped the baby in more blankets, and as they prepared to transfer me to a wheelchair, I realized I still had my seatbelt on. That made me laugh! I felt cold air hit my bare bottom as two nurses lifted me by the armpits and placed me in the wheelchair, but there wasn't anything I could do about that with a baby in my arms!
The whole car birth was just such a crazy experience, though the labor was fairly short, even easy. Looking back on that night, I know I simply misjudged how far along my labor had progressed, though I should have known it wouldn't take more than a few hours (since my last two births had been 2.5 hours and 4 hours each). Two nurses told me that they don't get car births very often, but I have two friends who had previously told me about their car births, so our story didn't seem so shocking to me once I'd had a few days to process what had occurred. "Secretly, we love it when this happens," a responding nurse told me that night. I guess the nurses enjoy having to jump into action! I wouldn't want to give birth in a car again, but my husband and I now have a story that will require retelling quite a few times over the years.