I think this may be my briefest birth story yet. Lucy’s was certainly short (shockingly so, for a firstborn), and then Magdalena’s dragged on and on. “Number 3 is a curve-ball!” was what I heard from everyone, and it was. Oh was it, ever.
My due date was February 16th. I had had no real signs of labor up until this day despite feeling so done for several weeks. I had a midwife and chiropractor appointment and everything looked fine. I guess after Lena I just resigned myself to no more early births, and so, this time, I was a lot less anxious to get the baby out. Also, let’s talk about how much easier babies are inside the womb than out. Exactly.
The next weekend rolled around and both Tom and I were just really hoping the baby would come before the start of another week. I was definitely nervous about the possibility of going into labor while he was at work and having to coordinate getting the girls taken care of and all that. Saturday afternoon was really mild, so we went on a nice, uphill walk around our neighborhood, scored some curbside furniture, and observed in passing that there was a full moon.
I woke around 1:30 in the morning on Sunday with what I could finally call a real contraction. It hurt. So that was exciting. I timed contractions on and off for about 3 hours and then fell back asleep for probably another 2 hours. Both girls woke up super early, around 6, and I got them up because I figured we needed to get things together and get going anyway. The contractions were coming regularly, but still at about 9-10 minutes apart and manageable. For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to eat three eggs “for protein” and…yeah. Never doing that again in labor.
I took a shower while Tom got the girls ready, and we had everything packed and loaded by about 8 when we left for my parents to drop off the girls. Right as we were leaving I called the midwife to let her know I was in labor and that contractions were now about 7-8 minutes apart. She said I probably was worried that this labor would go fast like Lucy, but that it could still take awhile, so she told me to just call her when we got to my parents.
We got there around 8:25 and the girls were excited to be at their favorite place on earth. We switched cars with my parents, leaving them ours with the girls’ car seats. I went upstairs to labor for a bit, thinking I had some time to relax. Afer just a few contractions up there, I realized they were both more intense and suddenly WAY closer together, like 3 minutes max. It was as if, now that the girls were taken care of, my body was all, “It’s GO TIME!!!” and tripled its efforts, in a matter of minutes. We called the midwife and updated her, and she said it would take her an hour to get there from DC, and asked if she had time to shower and eat, or if she should just leave now. I SHOULD have told her, “LEAVE NOW!” because in the back of my mind I knew we didn’t have much time, but in the front of my mind I guess I wanted to appear calm and collected and not freak myself out, so I was all, “Ohhh hahaha, yes, go take your shower and eat! I’ll be fine!” This was now about 8:48 and she said she’d meet us at the birth center at 10 am.
Literally minutes after hanging up with her, contractions started becoming pretty awful, about 2 min apart, and I was basically hanging onto Tom for dear life. I made him call the midwife back and he told her we were actually going to head to the birth center now so I wouldn’t have to be in the car in transition. Well, first of all, I think now I already was in transition (or at least the early stage of it), and secondly, the birth center was locked up because it was Sunday morning, so there wasn’t much waiting for me after the car ride. Again, should have screamed, “LEAVE NOW!” and at the same time just stayed put right where I was in one of my parents’ guest rooms.
But of course, a practically-in-transition laboring woman cannot be expected to think clearly. In fact, I kept wishing that someone else could make all these decisions for me. I hated being asked, “What do you think? What do you want to do?” I wanted to get the baby OUT, and nothing else. All the in-betweens were too stressful for me to dwell on, as the contractions were pretty all-consuming in and of themselves.
We got into my younger brother’s borrowed car and headed to the birth center, which is about 15 minutes from my parents. As I had expected, I was now in full-on transition, with contractions coming one on top of the other, while I was curled in the backseat of a little Toyota Corolla. It was just as miserable as it sounds and just as miserable as the last time I did it. I just kept telling myself that the drive was literally 1/4 as long as it had been with Lucy so I could do it.
Well, we pulled up to the birth center at 9:30 and of course no one was there. Tom asked if I wanted to walk around, and I got out of the car, but my ill-fated breakfast came back to haunt me when I stood up. I was adamant about throwing up in a bag and not directly on the pavement (dignity, people!). Sadly, the bag turned out to have a hole in the bottom and it all ended up there anyway, which I was upset about. I can only say that priorities become a little wacky while in transition.
At that point, I really couldn’t deny to myself any longer that it was time, and I really needed to push this baby out. Yes, we were in an abandoned parking lot, yes, the only place was the backseat of the car, and yes, we only had one ratty bath towel and a God-sent roll of paper towels in the trunk of the Corolla, but by golly, that baby was coming! Tom called the midwife to apprise her of this lovely turn of events, and we put her on speaker phone so she could interpret my various moans and screams (she was scarily accurate!). She also used her other phone to call one of the student midwives who lives a few minutes away from the birth center to come.
So we made do, I, infinitely grateful that the technology park was deserted on a Sunday morning, and Tom, super cool and calm. I mean really, not at all flustered. Don’t know how he managed that, but it was so necessary. I was, well, not the most calm, but that’s par for the course by the time I get to pushing anyway. At some point, probably about 4 or 5 pushes in, the student midwife got there. She didn’t have a key to the birth center, but it’s not like I could have moved anyway at that point. She came over, pulling on some gloves, and announced that the head was there! I think maybe Tom got into the front seat then so he could still talk to me, but I don’t really remember. There was the Ring of Fire, which somehow surprises me with its apt nomenclature every time, and then the head was out. The midwife told me to stop pushing, and said something about the cord. Then another couple pushes and she was out! Baby! In the backseat of my little brother’s car!
The midwife unwrapped the cord, which was wrapped around twice (and I’m really glad she got there and Tom didn’t have to deal with that), and handed the baby up to me as I sat up from hands and knees. I noticed right away that she had the same fuzzy red hair that Lucy had. I should also add here that while it was February 21st, it was unseasonably mild, and we had the car turned off, and obviously the doors were wide open, otherwise there wouldn’t have been any room for Tom and the midwife to stand. So right after the baby was out, the midwife had Tom turn on the car and crank the heat, since even 50-degree weather outdoors isn’t exactly ideal for a freshly born babe.
I think a few minutes later, maybe 5 or 6, the head midwife arrived, right on the heels of one of the birth center office staff, who also lives close and had keys to unlock the center. We got a wheelchair out to the car and a lot of blankets, and somehow I was able to crawl out of the backseat while holding Maeve, who by the way, was still attached to the umbilical cord. Once we got inside, things slowed down a bit. Thankfully! We got more dried off and got the baby’s vitals, and she started rooting around to nurse pretty much as soon as she was on my chest. She was a great little nurser right from the start. Placenta, cord cut, all that jazz. Then, the midwives (bless their hearts) brought us a huge breakfast of eggs (I did not touch those obviously), bacon, bagels, donuts, and fruit. They put the little fake fireplace on and then let us be alone to rest, eat, nurse, snuggle, watch Fr. Scalia’s funeral homily for his dad (so.good.), and generally recover from our car-birth experience. Everything was going great, so we were able to leave the birth center at 3:30 PM and head over to my parents’ so Maeve (in a newborn coma) could meet her big sisters. (Also, those midwives got the backseat of my bro’s car immaculate, and I’m pretty sure he drove his friends around in it the very next day. Not sure he notified them of its alternate use beforehand ;))
Obviously, Maeve’s swift, dramatic, entrance and rather unexpected place of birth weren’t what I was imagining in my ideal birth plan. I knew it could be fast (like Lucy) or it could drag on (like Lena’s), but I didn’t think it was going to progress so incredibly fast all of the sudden. Honestly, if Lucy hadn’t been born on a Thursday afternoon, she most likely would have been a car birth as well, since I was in the exact same stage of labor by the time we arrived at the birth center as I was with Maeve. But thankfully this situation happened with the third baby and not the first. I can’t imagine how horrified/terrified I would have been (not to mention my poor husband). As it was, we both knew pretty much exactly what to expect from a normal pushing and birth situation, and we did what we had to do. In hindsight, I immediately saw all the times I should have followed my gut more closely, and if I’d done so, probably could have avoided the car-birth. But all was well, and it was quite the experience. The sweet student midwife also told me a little while after the birth that in her native country (Venezuela), she was a practicing OB-GYN so she had delivered hundreds of babies, AND she said she had also delivered numerous car births! She said it was really common there as well as in Colombia where she worked for awhile. So that definitely helped ease my mind, not that I was really worried. But still, she was the perfect person to come catch my baby in a car!
And yes, I think I can safely say that out of necessity if nothing else, we will probably have home births in the future. If the backseat of a tiny four-door Corolla is big enough, then I think our house will do just fine.