The next 13 minutes were like a scene out of a movie. The baby's car seat was directly behind my seat, which meant I couldn't recline. So instead, with each contraction I planted my feet firmly on the floor, arched my back and gripped the back of the seat. I was trying not to freak Jon out, but I also wanted to make sure he knew this baby's birth was imminent. As soon as we pulled out onto the main road we got stuck behind two slow moving vehicles. "Just pass them on the left!" I yelled, right before another contraction hit... and along with it the urge to push. I spent the rest of the trip yelling, breathing and praying with everything I had in me that we would make it in time.
Jon was pushing 80mph, and we flew by two cops. Thankfully they didn't come after us because there was no way we could have stopped. About halfway to the Birth Center (typically a 20 minute drive) my hands went numb. This happened to me during transition with both my boys, moments before it was time to push. I started shaking my wrists, hoping that if the numbness went away maybe I could put off this birth a little longer, while also praying "Oh God, not now, please let us make it. Jesus please!!" Meanwhile Jon kept saying, "You're doing fine, you're doing good. She's not coming yet..."
At 1:13am my water broke. Jon sped through the next red light and turned into the Birth Center parking lot. I immediately noticed there were no cars in the lot and no lights on in the Center. "Oh God, the midwife's not here!" I yelled. And then my body started pushing and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Jon asked if he should call 911. "Yes!" I screamed, "It's coming!" But I knew it was too late. And so, as Ina May would say, I "let my monkey do it." I never imagined I would deliver my own baby one day. I'm not a doctor. I don't have a midwifery background. But I have had two other kids. And when it really comes down to it, a mama just knows what to do. So at 1:15am, as Jon was digging around in his pocket for his cell phone, I pulled down my pants and with one push her head was in my hands, just as the midwife's car pulled in next to us. The baby immediately started crying and I felt sudden relief. Jon yelled for Nikki to come quick and with the next push the baby's body was in my hands and the midwife was by my side. She lifted my shirt and put the baby on my chest. Then took off her coat and covered us both, while Jon grabbed the first thing he could find - my robe - and threw that over us as well. It was 40 degrees out that night and imperative we keep the baby's temperature up.
Baby was crying and breathing fine, the midwife was apologizing for not arriving sooner and I was apologizing for not holding her in a few minutes longer. Then we all took a look at one another and laughed with relief. As Jon said, "I've never felt so alive!" It was a crazy moment.
We needed to get the baby and I inside. This is the part that makes Jon and I laugh the most. I held the baby to my stomach and, with my pants around my ankles and the umblicial cord still connected, waddled into the Birth Center. Someone asked if I was worried about anyone seeing. Nope, definitely didn't cross my mind. But thankfully the entrance to the delivery rooms is behind the Center and faces the woods. Not to mention it was dark out.
|This is my "I cannot believe I just gave birth in a car" face.|
The midwife prepped the bed quick and then Baby and I crawled in under the heated blankets. I started shivering but I think it was more out of pure adrenaline than chill. I still had no idea if I had given birth to a boy or girl, since I hadn't had a chance to look when she was born and had kept her on my stomach ever since. So the midwife lifted her up for a quick peak and confirmed that we indeed had a daugther. At the Birth Center they keep the baby attached to the umbilical cord until it stops pulsating. So until then, she handed Jon some towels for a quick clean-up of the car. I didn't see the mess we left behind, but this has been everyone's (especially the guys') first question. According to Jon it "wasn't that bad." He cleaned what he could while we were there and then gave the front seat a thorough detail job after we got home.
Julia was a clean baby too. I have to admit, she's 4 days old and we haven't given her a bath yet. I just haven't had the energy and I doubt she'd like it anyway. But she was beautiful the moment she was born. No blood, none of that white stuff. She's pretty much just perfect!
After Jon got back and after he cut the cord and we delivered the placenta, we finally got a chance to rest. They wait a few hours to weigh the baby, so that there is ample skin-to-skin time which helps regulate baby's body temperature and is good for bonding. Besides, who wants to let go of their new baby? After months of toting her around in my belly it felt so good to have her in my arms! So Julia and I snuggled in bed for a few hours while Jon took a nap next to us.
Eventually the nurse came in to look her over and take footprints. Julia weighed 7 pounds and was 20 inches long. My tiniest offspring to date. She was born at 38 weeks, 6 days according to my adjusted due date. But according to the nurse she appeared to be about 40 weeks, 2 days. So there went my whole due date theory. In the end, it was probably still good that I pushed for a due date adjustment. Otherwise I would have been measuring too far behind and probably would have needed to undergo some tests and observations. As it stood, she was an average-sized, healthy baby whom I just "carried small."
By law, the minimum amount of time you have to stay at a Birth Center is 4 hours. The nurse said we could either leave at exactly 4 hours or we could stay and get some sleep. I knew I would rest much better at home so we elected to be out the door at 5:15am. All that's required is that Mom pees and takes a shower. Check and check. We went through some "education" - a talk on what to do, what not to do, what things to look for in both baby and mom over the next few days, and symptoms of Group B Strep (since I had tested positive and there hadn't been time to start antibiotics before the baby was born). It was a lot of information, and I wish they would have written it all down because I was still a bit delirious and Jon slept right through all of it. Then we loaded up the car, had our picture taken and were out the door by 5:20am.
|Not-so-great pictures taken by the nurse, but it's all I've got. Jon's still looking a bit shell-shocked.|
We were home before the boys woke up. They never even knew we were gone. But it had been a crazy 12 hours. We're just grateful it all worked out so well. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to take full advantage of all the Birth Center amenities. But I really can't complain about my delivery, it was definitely the easiest one yet! Also, I really don't mind that I gave birth in the car. I think some people are a little freaked out by the whole story. Sure it's not typical and yes something could have went wrong. But it didn't. There were no IVs, no monitoring, no one telling me I was "this many" centimeters along... and it never really hit me that I was missing all that stuff. And while it would have been nice if the midwife had been there a few seconds earlier, I'm just happy she arrived when she did. If Jon had found his cell phone ear piece a moment sooner, he would have had 911 on the phone and we would have ended up being taken to the hospital for observation, and tests, and overnight stays, etc. I definitely didn't want that. So I guess in some ways the timing worked out perfectly. We just continue to thank God for a safe birth and healthy baby and mama!
Would I do a Birth Center again? Absolutely. And I hope I will (but that is another conversation with my husband and probably not one we'll have for quite some time). But next time I defiinitely will not let things go so long. After three births I finally feel like I know my body well enough, I think I could get it right with a fourth try. But that's next time. For now, we're just going to enjoy this lovely little lady and all the surprises she's brought along with her. And probably get a few more good laughs in over her crazy birth story!