I’ve put off writing this post because, well, having two children whose collective ages are less than four does something magical to the number of hours in a day. Having said that though, it’s still so. much. easier. adjusting to life with a second little one than it was the first time around. People told me it would be easier because I’d just be more chill the second time around as I adamantly asserted my chillness. As it turns out, it’s much easier to stop worrying when you’ve somewhat successfully raised a sometimes pleasant human being into toddlerhood. I don’t worry about sleep schedules or forming bad habits, I don’t worry too much about her not wanting to take a bottle, I know she’ll be mostly okay after sucking on a toy that’s been on the floor in the corner where we rarely vacuum. I try my best, and it’s worked with the older one so she will probably be fine.
On the morning of my daughter’s birth I awoke to the familiar bizarre feeling of my water breaking. A weird popping sensation brought me out of a deep sleep at 3am with a gasp, and I sat up and waited for some feeling of wetness. It never came, so I got out of bed to try and further assess the situation. Try as I might, no fluid came leaking out of me and no contractions had started yet, so I thought maybe I had dreamed of the popping sensation. I got back into bed as my husband woke up and asked me if he should get the bags ready. I figured we should probably wait until I experienced an actual contraction before packing up the one single outfit that still fit my hugely rotund and swollen body.
Then at exactly 3:30am, I experienced my first contraction. Matt got up and started getting things ready as I tried to rest as much as possible before the real work started. Unfortunately for me, being in any position besides standing was always extremely uncomfortable during labor. I had studied laboring positions so hard, thinking I could try so many things to help me get through it while possibly retaining some energy for the pushing stage. But alas, laying down, leaning over something, hands and knees, all brought on the contractions in a way that made me want to tear my eyeballs out. So I stood up and swayed through the contractions, making low sounds and breathing deeply, focusing on letting my body do its thing. I watched a ton of videos about what the uterus actually does during a contraction so that I could visualize what was actually going on this time, instead of freaking out thinking my body was being ripped in half or that the pain was giving me brain damage (again, observe my chillness).
About 45 minutes after the first contraction, I thought maybe we should call someone to come watch our almost 3 year old. We had told my brother to be on standby just in case, but I didn’t want to make him come so early and then be late for work. I put it off thinking we probably still had lots of time. I called my midwives to let them know that I thought my water broke, but that there’d still been no fluid and I could speak through my contractions. They insisted I come in right away, and I brushed it off, again thinking I had another 6+ hours to go. Shortly after that, I called my brother to come down. Just in case. I just wanted him here with our son to make me feel better. I told him to take his time, take a shower, etc. and thankfully he rushed over anyway.
At 5:30am, a mere two hours after labor really started, Matt called our doula to let her know that I was still managing really well, but that she should maybe get ready to come to our house in the next couple of hours. Shortly after they hung up the phone, I had one single contraction that I could not stay on top of. My mom had texted me to remember to “stay on top of the waves” as a coping visualization, which I had ignored initially thinking that hadn’t helped me with my first labor so why try it now. But as the contractions jumped around, getting easier, then more intense, two minutes apart and then seven minutes apart, I did use it a lot. Neither of my labors ever followed any kind of pattern so following the 5-1-1 rule or whatever the birth class instructor had told us was entirely useless. Some were spaced out a lot and some were close together, and they all lasted from twenty seconds to two minutes. No pattern whatsoever.
So after that ONE contraction wherein I shrieked like a banshee, unable to cope with the intensity, I said “we need to go NOW”. My brother had already arrived and was comfy on the couch. Very shortly after THE contraction (I later realized this single contraction was my transition, where my cervix suddenly was fully dilated and my baby dropped into my pelvis) I had another contraction where my body was pushing HARD, without any conscious effort on my part. It felt like when you have to throw up, and your diaphragm just sort of contracts without permission, no matter how inconveniently located you are. Matt called the doula again letting her know that we thought I might be getting “pushy”.
She calmly and sternly told Matt, “go turn on the car and turn the heat up as much as possible. Grab some clean towels. I’ll meet you at the hospital”. At this point I should have realized that we probably wouldn’t make it to the birth center at our designated hospital, but in my mind I still had some control over things, as the first pushing contraction wasn’t all that intense. I was sweating bullets at this point (also similar to when you’re throwing up and feel like total shit as your body does a bunch of work for you) and told Matt, “don’t you DARE turn the heat on in that car”. We stepped outside into the chilly 38 degree morning and I had one more “normal” contraction in our front yard while holding on to Matt. We approached the car and I waved wearily to my brother, since I didn’t have the energy to smile or speak anymore.
As I got to the curb where my car was parked, I had another contraction and grabbed onto the roof of my car as my body pushed a thousand times harder than before. I felt my baby RIGHT THERE and somewhat panicked, asked my doula (still on speakerphone) if we needed to call an ambulance. It was then that I realized finally that we would either have this baby on the sidewalk in front of our house, or in the car. Ali was amazingly calm and told me that it was up to me. “You can call an ambulance if you want to, but you can do this” she told me. She asked if I could feel how far in my baby was, and though I didn’t have the energy to tell her, I could feel her head less than an inch away from being born. I had listened to a couple of birth stories where women accidentally gave birth at home and then called an ambulance to transport them to the hospital, and all of them expressed sadness and frustration over how “emergent” the situation became once the EMTs showed up. They’re trained for emergencies, and that’s great, but my last labor was treated as such, and things quickly spiraled out of control unnecessarily. I didn’t want them to put an oxygen mask on me, or take my baby from me for any reason. Also, I thought, “I really don’t want to pay for an ambulance”.
On the other hand, I really didn’t want to give birth on our sidewalk, where homeless people sometimes hang out, and people occasionally let their dogs poop. And I didn’t want to go back in the house and risk waking up our son, because we really didn’t talk about birth in detail and he definitely was not prepared to see his mom making animal noises with the addition of blood and body fluid that accompanies babies as they are born.
It took ALL of my willpower to bend over (recall that anything other than standing was like stabbing me in the abdomen) and put one knee up on the front passenger seat of the CR-V, with my other leg stretched out behind me towards the front of the car. Matt drove 115 miles per hour with his head out the window, since we didn’t have time to melt the ICE FROM OUR WINDSHIELD (the ONE day out of the entire year it was cold enough to form ice). Once I came to terms with the fact that our baby was going to be born in the car, I was calm. As my body pushed without my permission and I made sounds like a wild animal (also without my permission), I remembered all of the YouTube videos I had somewhat obsessively watched, of women giving birth in the car. The baby would come out, and they would just hold them on their chest in shock, and keep baby warm until they got to the hospital. They were all fine, and I truly knew we were fine. I kept repeating between contractions “I can’t believe this is happening right now”. Alas, we were not destined to become a YouTube sensation since no one was in the frame of mind to start filming anything at all.
As the car stopped in front of the hospital doors, our doula told Matt to run inside to the front desk and tell them his wife was giving birth in the car. He later told me he got some dirty looks as he jumped in front of a few people waiting to speak with the receptionist. They of course were understanding once he got the words out, and the receptionist called a “code pink”.
Meanwhile back in the car, I was telling Ali how much burning I was feeling, which I also knew was normal since I’d listened to hours and hours of birth stories. For my first labor I was totally numb, so I never felt what the fetal ejection reflex was like, nor any of the intensity of my baby actually coming out.
When Matt got back to the car and opened the door, I told him, “her head is out”. I think he thought I didn’t know what I was talking about, but when he pulled down my sweatpants and saw her head completely facing him, he said “oh my gosh” as he grabbed the towels our doula had so smartly told him to bring. I had one more contraction and she slipped out into the towels in Matt’s hands. Right then, a huge team of medical people and our midwife came running out. Matt confusedly handed our daughter to the midwife, as I tried to look over my shoulder at my baby, who started to cry with her teeny little voice. I said “can I hold her?” and the midwife asked me if they could cut the cord.
Now, last time, I had zero control over anything to do with my son’s birth. People told me when to push, they gave me medication I expressly told them I did not want, and the whole ordeal was infuriating as I was treated like I had no idea what was good for me or my child. So, since the midwife was asking, I said “no, can we just wait?” and she obliged me, as she helped me turn around and untangle the baby’s cord, still attached to me in the freezing cold morning. Some guy came into the driver’s seat and suddenly insisted on putting an oxygen tube on me, and taped something to my finger. I told him I was fine but he pushed it anyway. Seconds later, my doula came into the car, rolling her eyes and pulled everything back off. Whatever, he did what he was trained to do. Thanks and good job, oxygen guy.
My shoes and pants were pulled off, and the midwife held my baby in warm blankets as I hobbled half-naked to the gurney waiting for us a few paces away. They piled more warm blankets on both of us as I held her close and looked at her sweet tiny little face. A doctor came and asked (asked!) if he could check her breathing and heartbeat before we went further. He quickly pronounced that she was perfect, and we were rolled inside, as the crowd of medical staff applauded for us.
I totally love attention (just being honest), so walking around half naked in front of thirty people to get a round of applause was fine with me. Plus my endorphins were surging, so the whole day of my daughter’s birth was one of the best days of my life. Not only was my entire labor completed in just under three hours, but I got the unmedicated labor I wanted, and the unassisted birthing experience I craved but was too nervous to attempt. My baby was amazingly healthy, and we were all suddenly here, only minimally worse for the wear.
So there you have it. Plenty of people have told me that having a car baby is their worst fear. I definitely understand how having an unmedicated birth when you expected a calm epidural experience could be scary and perhaps traumatizing, but if you find yourself in that situation, just know it will most likely be completely okay. I had a car baby and it was awesome.