Since becoming a mom, one of my favorite rituals has been hearing other moms’ birth stories and sharing my own. Like the babies themselves, each labor is unique. There always seems to be something that doesn’t go according to plan.
But until my second son was born, I was always a little judgey when I heard stories about babies who were born in a car on the way to the hospital. I scoffed at moms who got to the hospital within an hour of their child’s birth. I wondered why these moms didn’t head to the hospital sooner or why they didn’t make it at all.
With my first baby, labor lasted just over 26 hours. I had loads of time to get to the hospital, and for most of my labor I wasn’t even having regular contractions. After getting checked in to the hospital, I spent a few hours sitting on a birth ball and walking the halls in hopes of getting contractions to start again. Eventually I agreed to start Pitocin and labor progressed quickly from there. My son Jack was born about 4 hours after that.
Fast-forward 2.5 years and labor with my second little guy began at 3:30 a.m., just as it had with first. I had been telling myself for weeks that even if I cut my labor time in half, I was still looking at a 13-hour time commitment. This time I was determined to stay comfortable and relaxed, and to keep my body in labor mode.
Shortly after 7 a.m. I felt a pop and a gush and knew my water had broken.
I decided it was time to alert my doula. As it turned out, she had just been called to another labor. My doula knew the first mom would be having a c-section, so she would be available for us by late morning. Thankfully she called her backup doula just in case.
I also texted my mom who was staying at a hotel across town. My parents were planning to watch Jack while my husband and I were at the hospital. I told my mom to take her time and asked her to stop by the grocery store for a few things on the way.
Shortly before 8 a.m. I ventured downstairs to talk with my husband and my son while they ate breakfast. I called my midwife around 8:15 to let her know I would be coming in that day. Contractions were getting uncomfortable, but were still 6-7 minutes apart. My plan was to head in when they got to be 3-4 minutes apart.
I headed back upstairs to my bathroom to continue laboring and the next 20-30 minutes were a blur. Contractions started coming one after another to the point that I couldn’t time them by myself anymore. I decided we might need to head to the hospital sooner than I expected, so I told my husband we’d need to leave as soon as my parents arrived.
I was still wearing my pajamas and hadn’t taken a shower. Thankfully my husband realized how urgent things were and talked me out of taking a shower. I settled for brushing my teeth, but struggled to do so in between contractions. By the time my husband had loaded everything in the car and helped my parents get settled, he had to help me get into my winter coat, socks, and boots because I was in too much pain to manage it myself.
I didn’t even take time to greet my parents as I left the house. I simply waved in their direction as we headed out the back door to the car. I felt a contraction starting as I reached the car and I couldn’t get in. I placed my hands on the front seat, butt hanging out the door to breathe through the contraction and knew right then it was going to be the most uncomfortable car ride of my life. I was already cursing myself for not leaving sooner.
The 15-minute drive from our house to the hospital was a frenzy of contractions, mentally cursing at red stoplights, a frantic call to my midwife, and texts to alert family members we were on our way. By the last few minutes my body was telling me to push and I had to fight it hard.
We pulled up to the valet on a Sunday morning when there was no valet service and abandoned our car as we rushed inside. As we reached the front desk I felt another contraction and knew there was no way I could stand through it, so I dropped to my hands and knees and screamed my way through. My husband found a wheelchair as the front desk receptionist quickly got off the phone and directed us to the labor and delivery floor.
As we reached the front desk on the labor floor, I felt another contraction starting. I jumped out of the wheelchair and repeated the hands/knees position on the floor. I let out a scream loud enough to find roughly 15 nurses at my side in what seemed like an instant. And as they peppered me with questions, still fully clothed in my winter coat, hat, and boots, I realized my son’s head was crowning at that very moment.
When you show up in the hospital in this type of frenzy, they aren’t inclined to believe you. A nurse felt around on my bottom side, twice, as I continued to scream. She reported that she couldn’t feel anything and they started asking me questions like how far along I was, if I knew I was pregnant, and if this was my first baby. They tried to convince me to get back in the wheelchair. I adamantly refused.
A couple nurses rolled a bed over and helped me onto it, then wheeled me to the closet available room. The nurses hurriedly changed me into a hospital gown and got me settled on a bed in the delivery room while my husband was stuck at the front desk attempting to check us in.
A female doctor I had never met, dressed in full delivery gear and gloves, walked in to assess my situation. She very quickly observed that my son’s head was indeed crowning and informed me I could start pushing anytime or wait for my midwife. But since crowning babies don’t really “wait,” it wasn’t much of a choice at all. I started pushing before my husband was even in the room.
Thankfully our backup doula, Shannon, who had joined us upon arrival at the hospital, realized Sam needed to be in the room. She ran to the door and yelled for him to join us. I continued pushing as he arrived at my side.
I don’t really remember how many times I had to push. To be honest, there was a lot of screaming thrown in there for good measure. At some point the doctor looked at me and said, “Kimberly, if you’d stop screaming and start pushing you could have this baby right now.”
I didn’t take kindly to this criticism given the amount of pain I was in and the fact that my labor had skipped several steps in its gradual progression. I gave the doctor what I would describe as a death stare, then thought on it for a few seconds, and told myself “She’s not wrong.”
On my next contraction I pushed with everything I had and Henry came rushing out. It was 9:35 a.m.
A few minutes after the dust settled, I asked how long it had taken me to push. If there’s anything you lose track of in labor, it’s your sense of time. One of the nurses said she had started a timer in the room when she heard me scream at the front desk. The timer was at 12 minutes when I asked, and the nurse guessed that the time from our arrival to Henry’s time of birth was about 8 minutes.
I was in shock about the speed of my labor and delivery for at least the first 24 hours. I had been training for a marathon, and I ended up running a sprint. If I had decided to take a shower, I have no doubt Henry would have been born in the car on the way to the hospital.