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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Duprey

A Precipitous Car Birth Story | How Far Would You Drive For A Birth Center Birth? | The Birth Center, Delaware

The thought of "What if we don't make it in time?" never crossed my mind (my first baby was born after a grueling 27 hours of labor), but when I looked back at my second daughter's birth chart to determine just how long we were at the Birth Center before she erupted into the world-- fist first with a gush of water-- I realized that "not making it in time" could have been a possibility for us. Sloane was born 6 minutes after we arrived-- very nearly in the car. You can read her birth center birth story in its entirety HERE.

Our drive to The Birth Center was only about ten minutes, and reflecting on that late night ride through a sleeping city, straddling the passenger seat with a baby's head very low in my pelvis, I realize just how fortunate we were to have live so close. The Birth Center, is the only free-standing birth center on Delmarva-- the only birth center to serve the entire state of Delaware and Eastern shore of Maryland. Birth centers are safe alternatives for families who want to expierience the midwifery model of care in an out-of-hospital setting, but aren't sure if homebirth is right for them. The Birth Center has spacious birthing rooms with soaking tubs for water birth. Women are encouarged to follow thier body through the birthing process-- they can eat and drink during labor, bring as many support people as they like, wear thier own clothes, walk around and birth in the position that feels comfortable.

In today's conversation, I talk to a family about thier car birth. This mama chose to give birth at The Birth Center, despite living over an hour away. Her perciptous labor turned her dream birth center birth into a roadside car birth and she wouldn't have had it any other way. A perciptous birth is when a baby is born less than three hours after regular contractions start. It is fairly uncommon, occuring in just 3% of births, but it is good to be aware that labor can progress very quickly and to know when to head to your place of birth or to call the midwife. Today, we hear from both perspectives-- laboring woman (A) her partner (G) who was driving at the time. We discuss hospital induction, birth center care, how to recognize that your labor might be progressing percipitously, car birth, trusting your instincts, and what I know you are all curious about-- how to clean up after a car birth.

I hope you enjoy!

a Kent island, Maryland mother nurses her infant on the bed during an in-home family photo session with delaware photographer Alexandra Duprey of Moon Bloom Photo.

What were the reasons you wanted to pursue a natural birth at The Birth Center?

A: Well with our first daughter I really wanted a quick intervention free birth. And so we were looking for a birth center and there weren't many around. We found the one that was in a hopsital in Easton, but it wasn't really a birth center. They said they had a birthing pool, but it was more like a hotel tub. We weren't able to really look at it because of COVID.

So when my first baby had to come, I was about 42 weeks pregnant. She was about two weeks late, they said. I really did not want to get induced, but everyone around me was telling me to listen to the doctors and all this stuff. So I was like, "Okay, well, I guess I'll do it." I didn't want to be induced and I felt uneasy about it. And I was already being kind of pressured by the doctors previously. I had some experiences when I had placenta previa. There was one time when I was pregnant when my husband he had to go to Australia because his father had passed away unfortunately. So he wasn't with me at the prenatal appointment and my mother was and there was a male doctor there. And he told me that I was going to have to have a C-section, because I had Placenta Previa and most likely Acretta as well. And they'd have to remove my uterus.

(Placenta Previa is a condition where the placenta covers the cervix, Acretta is a condition where the pacenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall)

A: And I was so scared. They really tried to scare me, and then I did my own research. And then I said, "Well, placenta previa can usually resolve itself. So I don't think it's going to be an issue" and then you had me go to Baltimore to a specialist multiple times and I think that all kind of stresses me out. All leading up needing to be induced. For the induction, they told me that the they wanted me to come in early in the morning and I was about to and then they called and said, "Oh, no, actually, we need you to wait". So that was also a stressful. When I finally got there, they gave me two rounds of Cytotec and Pitocin and my contractions were just insane. And I was so uncomfortable, and I really tried a long time. It was like maybe seven hours I dealt with it-- and then I was hungry, I was tired. I was like, "There's no way I can give birth like this". And then they're gonna try to do like a C-section, which I really didn't want. So I said, "Fine, I'll get the epidural".

I asked them if I could still deliver in an upright position and they were like "yeah, of course" and then I asked if they could lessen the epidural. And they said, "No, we can't do that". And I said, "Well I would just think it would be easier for me to know when to push". I was really the adamant that I did not want to "purple push"--- and that's what they made me do in the heat of the moment. At that point, I was just trying to get my baby out. I didn't want them doing any other medical thing to me. So then, I had been pushing for four hours and I guess I was like, swollen and bleeding and stuff. They said they were gonna use a vacuum and that freaked me out. So I pushed soo hard and they only had to use it a short period of time.

And then she came out and she was crying and everything. It was just everything I didn't want this time around.

It sounds like you really had to advocate for yourself throughout the birth process.

When you became pregnant with your second baby, you were looking for an alternative to the birth center where you had your first baby? Had you considered a home birth?

A: Yes, I did consider homebirth,. but I know that a lot of people, you know, feel a little nervous about that. So I think I just kind of decided that a birth center birth was the next best option. If I ever did have another one, especially after what happened.

I just ask because I was curious if the distance you had to drive for care was something that you had thought about?

A: I guess I did. But then I also thought with my first, she came after 24 hours of labor. And this second birth was so different. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that having a car birth could even happen to me. I was looking for an intervention free, natural birth.

And I guess that's what I got. Do you want me to tell you my birth story?

Yes, Please!

G: You were getting a little stressed about having to have another induction.

A: Yes, I was a little stressed about that! I didn't want anyone stressing me out saying I needed to do something-- even suggesting that I drink castor oil. I just didn't want to do any of it. Actually at The Birth Center, no one stressed me out or tried to convince me to do anything to get labor started. So I was feeling pretty calm going into it.

I don't think they really start talking about natrual labor induction methods until you are into your 41st week. My first two were both born at 41+3 there. They really trust that your babies come in their own time.

A: I was just assuming that that was going to happen to me. I was trying not to think about it because I know that working yourself up can also just make things slow down and all that stress and anxiety is not good. So I was trying my best and I was telling everyone: "don't ask me when this baby is coming". I don't want to hear about it-- she's coming when she's ready. We didn't even have our birth bag packed. I just wasn't that prepared.

So one morning, I woke up and I was feeling so hungry-- so hungry that my stomach was cramping. And after a while, I was still feeling very hungry and then I realized that I it kind of felt like whatever was happening was happening at regular intervals. So maybe I should start timing this. And it was about four minutes in between. And then my husband was like, "why don't you go take a shower, because they say that's good. And they don't want you to come until you've been laboring for at least and hour."

G: They said labor at home as long as you can.

A: So I was in the shower and I was like, "Man, this is getting really intense". And maybe I my pain isn't what I thought it was maybe I you know, just need to be more calm. And then I was trying to run out. He got everything ready-- he was a super star. He got her ready-- got her in the car. Then I called my mother and I was like, "Mom, I don't know. if I'm having contractions. I don't know what's happening, but it's intense" I actually couldn't talk through them--I couldn't talk to my mother. She said, "labor ususlalyjust starts out like a period". And I was like, "Well, this is way worse than a period."

I have heard that even if your contractions are spaced far apart, if you can't talk through them then you should probably call your midwife or head to hopsital.

A: Yeah, so I was like, "We just need to go to the birth center because I don't know what's happening". And I want to be there where I have the doula and there's, you know, the birth team and I had all my essential oils and everything. All of these things-- my birthing comb.

So we rush to get the car. We were going stop at Starbucks, because we're gonna get her egg bites-- she hadn't had breakfast. And then the traffic was really bad. And he was like, "well, maybe we won't do that". And I was like, "yeah, it's probably better we don't stop. I'm really like struggling here".

I was using a metal straw for my Yeti cup. And I was like pushing it against the wall with the palm of my hand just like a birthing comb. And I just remember thinking "This is crazy." I didn't know why it was feeling that bad. I had just woken up and it hadn't even been a couple of hours. Is this even normal? It didn't feel as bad as how I felt when I was giving birth to my first baby though, so I thought well, I can't possibly be close to giving birth. Because it doesn't feel that bad. I was comparing it to my past experience. We were driving and I think at one point-- how far were we at that point?

a Kent island, Maryland family snuggles on the bed during an in-home family photo session with delaware photographer Alexandra Duprey of Moon Bloom Photo.

G: We were maybe 20 minutes from the birth center. Driving reasonably fast. We weren't far when you said that you could feel the head. And I was like "Really?"

A: Yeah, so I reached down and I could kind of feel something there. When I said, "I think I feel her head", my husband didn't panic, but he just, like, got a little bit concerned. And I was like, "Well, maybe I don't you know what's going on, I'm probably fine. I'm probably just getting anxious or something". And then maybe five minutes later my water broke.

Then my mom was texting me and I was like, "my water broke". She said "just now?" and followed that up with, "Okay, well just know that the contractions are gonna get a little bit more intense now. She's pressing down on your cervix." and literally, as soon as I read that text I was like "Ahhhh, her head is OUT." Like WHAt? So you called 911. I guess you had called them twice.

G: I had called them 5 minutes earlier when you first said you could feel her head, and they were like, "Oh, you probably should just keep going to The Birth Center."

A: Yeah. And so I had her head in my hands and I was in the most uncomfortable position because....

G: Because you were giving birth in the car.

A: And he was telling me "Oh, keep your seatbelt on." and I was like, "No, I cannot keep my seat belt on".

G: I was pulling over, but I was still driving. There was so much traffic.

A: I tried to get down on the ground, but my belly was so big and we had the car seats. And so I had her head in my hands and I was just thinking to myself, "I need to be calm and I need to just get the rest of her out of me". So she literally just fell out

G: As I pulled up the car. It was as if applying the brakes gave her a little bit of a push out. She just slid right out.

A: And he couldn't believe it that it happened that fast. I mean, I was shocked. I really just didn't think that that was actually happening. And it was just so surreal. There was a helicopter circling that they had called, there were ambulances, and it was raining. When they arrived they were like: "Are you okay?" And I was like, "Yeah, fine.

I actually feel a lot better than I did when I gave for the first time." Excpet for I still had a placenta in me and that was kind of irritating me.

They wouldn't take us to The Birth Center and we were kind of worried about driving with her loose in the car on that crazy highway. So I reluctantly went into that ambulance, but they only kept me one night at the hosptial. So I was kind of okay with it.

That's whenmy mother was gonna send the text asking how we were doing and he's like, "yeah, she already gave birth in the car". So yep. One of those things that you just kind of think "I wish I trusted my body. I could have just given birth in my tub at home but I just didn't think that was actually happening. So definitely trust your body

So yep. One of those things that you just kind of think I wish I trust my body. I could have just given birth in my full and then my tablet home but I just didn't think that was actually happening. So definitely trust your body

a Kent island, Maryland mother plays with her baby on the bed during an in-home family photo session with delaware photographer Alexandra Duprey of Moon Bloom Photo.

What were the midwives reccomdations for leaving when you were in labour?

A: They told me that if you're like, so many minutes between contractions or something to come in. But I was checking the time and it was like four minutes and then it was three minutes and I was thinking to myself that it was progressing so quickly that I must be timing it wrong. I was like I'm not gonna focus on that. I don't think I would have made it unless I jumped out of bed and gone right away.

G: Your labor was 2 hours from start to finish. which was better than 24 to be fair.

A: I had thought that maybe it would be quicker because it was my second birth-- not that it would happen in the car on the way to The Birth Center.

You said you were discharged from the hospital after 24 hours?

A: We haven't really left my oldest daughter alone ever and so it was hard for me to stay at the hospital. They kind of like threaten you if you don't get their tests. I was like "just take your tests then-- But then I want to go home. I was meant to go home. I had the baby on my own-- there's nothing for you to do." I just wanted to, you know, do the normal things that I needed. They did their tests and then they let me get discharged the next day. So that was nice.

When did you deliver the placenta? Did that happen in like your car, or during the ambulance ride?

A: I wanted it to because it was really causing me discomfort. Yeah. But then I'd say as soon as I got into a room, and it wasn't an actual room it was like where they triage because they had to sew me up as well. The literally just pushed on my stomach and it came up. My Doula did come and support me for that, because my husband could be there came because he had Sofiabirth and she wasn't allowed back. There. So I'm really glad that I had a Doula and she like held my hand and supported me while I was getting stitched up. I don't like needles.

And they did cause me a little stress because they were like, "Oh, why is your heartbeats really fast? Do you feel anxious?" I was like, "Well, I mean, of course! I just delivered my baby in my car. Like, I'm assuming that would make my heart rate high". And then they were like "Okay, well we're gonna keep on it". And then they're like, Oh, well, not to scare you or anything but you could potentially have a blood clot or something and that they really need to do a scan of me and all this stuff. And I was like, "Okay, well, I guess I'll do that. I don't feel like there's anything wrong with me. I think my heart rates high because I experienced something so crazy. I'm probably in shock" I was fine. Baby was fine.

a Kent island, Maryland family snuggles on the bed during an in-home family photo session with delaware photographer Alexandra Duprey of Moon Bloom Photo.

So from a partner's perspective. What was this experience like?

G: It was a little crazy. I mean, for me, I just didn't believe it. I don't think I believed it was happening.

A: No, you didn't.

G: So I was like, it will be fine. And I was saying that to you the whole way. I was like, "It will be fine. It might be quicker, but it still will take time".

A: One thing that you said was "I think it's going to be another four hours" and I was like "I hope not, because this is really uncomfortable!"

G: I just kept thinking this is not something that is going to happen straight away. Right?

A: "It will happen in its own time".

G: I thought tt will take a few hours at least. But apart from that, I had no time to think I was just driving, thinking "If I can just get to The Birth Center". I was ringing The Birth Center and they weren't answering their phone. That was frustrating. And then I was ringing 911. We have that call and that's funny, because I rang them up and I said to them, "you know, we just had a baby on the side of the road, can we get some help?" And they kept asking all these questions and I was getting really frustrated because they were like... What questions did they ask?

A: They were like: "Is the mother alive? Is she okay?"

G: And I said "yes." And they would ask...

A: "Is she breathing?"

G: And they were like "How many weeks pregnant is she?" and I'm like "40 weeks, but you are sending an ambulance, right? that the kicker!" And then he asked me some other question like, "What's your address? Where do you live?" And was like "Really though? Now How far away is this ambulance?" And they're like, "Oh, answering these questions is not gonna delay the process. The ambulance is already on its way". I'm like, Oh, okay. I'll answer your silly questions. And then, and then the ambulance came. Yeah, that was relaxing.... And then I had to clean the car. It was bad. Yeah. It's really bad. We have white seats.

A: With these little holes in them.

G: What? Why do they do that? What a bad design by Ford!

I don't think that they're anticipating car births when they are choosing what upholstery they are going to go with!

A: They certainly didn't plan for that!

G: It took a long time to clean the obvious mess and then I steam cleaned the seats four or five times and blood just kept coming out.

A: We had a professional come out. You know, I think him being so calm in the morning really also made me second guess myself. Maybe I wasn't acting like I was in a lot of pain or something and he was just like, you know, so nonchalant. He was like, "Yeah, let's just get in the car." And I was thinking to myself: "I must be overreacting"

G: I don't think it was so much calm as it was disbelief that helped me remain calm. And then she turned up. She didn't want to wait.

A: She didn't. She wanted to nurse immediately.

a Kent island, Maryland family snuggles on the bed during an in-home family photo session with delaware photographer Alexandra Duprey of Moon Bloom Photo.

Where were you position in the car when you gave birth?

A: I was initially sitting in the passenger seat, and there wasn't

much space, so I had to get down on my knees to like, kind of lean on

the seat

G: So you couldn't put the seat back because there was a car seat was behind it.

A: So it was all kind of a blur, but I just squatting in the seat, not standing up but just like you know, just squatting in the seat. I just remember feeling her head in my hands and I was like: "This cannot be happening". And then I actually got to cut the umbilical cord-- in the hospital they let me do it and then they cut it a little bit too long so that he could do it as well.

That's very cool.

When I had my second and we were driving to The Birth Center, I was kneeling on the seat, facing the back of the car.

A: That would have made sense, but I think it was still in denial.

I was in denial that whole time too.

Do you have any advice for those people who might hear some like a story and be like, "This is never goint to happen to me"? Percipitous birth is rare, but what can mother's do to prepare for the possibility-- even if that is just mentally?

A: I would just say that you should definitely trust your body. If you feel like something's happening, it probably is. It CAN happen to you. And know that it actually can be a very powerful experience. Because, you know, I trusted my body and I delivered my beautiful baby and everything was fine and she's healthy and happy-- that's all I really wanted. And I kept--we kept joking-- that I prayed for a quick, easy, and natural birth and that's what I got, but I should have been more specific!

If you have another baby what will your plans be?

A: If I do have another baby, I would probably be more inclined to try for a a home birth. I would still want a doula, and a midwife though. I know my body's capable. There are people who be worried and scared about things and so I would be trying to make them feel comfortable too. But I think you really just need to trust your body and know what you want and just go for it.

That's wonderful.

It's funny, my sister caught my last baby's head in her hands because my husband was outside walking the dog, the midwife had just arrived and they're were chatting and then the mother-in-law runs out and is like "Better come in she's pushing!"

Your story really resonated with me because I don't have that bodily awareness. I've always wanted to be able to catch my own baby and every baby I had I was so out of it in the moment, or just in denial that I'm in labor at all, or that I was in the last state.

A: I might've been like that too. But like I guess because I was in the car and there waas no one there to help all my instincts just kicked in. And you're like, "I've got it. I've got to do this".

Can you speak more about those instincts?

A: Obviously, as a mother, you know that you need to protect your child and you want to make sure everything goes smoothly. And so everything blacked out in my mind, like I didn't even feel any pain. Like everyone talks about this ring of fire and stuff. Like I kind of felt something, but I think I pushed all of that out of my mind. And maybe a couple minutes before I felt her head, that's when I really started calming down like I told my husband I was like, "I just need to be calm. I need to breathe" I was telling myself "I'm capable. I can do this". You know, "She knows when she's ready" and "She's gonna come when she's ready.'' and all of this helped to block out the pain and when I felt her coming, I was like, "I just need to do this." I don't even remember doing it. It's just reach down, grab her, and then she's on my chest. It's kind of weird, like you can retell the story but it still kind of feels like you weren't there

What was the processing afterwards like because everything happened so quickly? Did it take time to like, just that for that surprise to kind of wear off?

A: I was very excited and I love her. But when my first baby was born, I had this like emotional reaction, and I don't even think I cried. I think I was just like in shock. And also just so happy that she was safe. Because we were in the car. And you know, nobody was around like all your worst fears come to mind. You're like, oh my gosh, like what if something was wrong when she was bornand no one was there to help? But she was perfectly fine. My baby knew what she was doing and she was ready.

Your oldest was in the backseat during all this. Even though she is very young, did she have any reaction to you giving birth?

A: So it was funny, I was mid-contraction when her show turned off and she wanted me to turn it on. She actually did not make any comments about me screaming. I was making noises but she didn't make any comments about it. And we did tell her what was happening at that time. She was only about 18 months so she was a little less talkative. But she didn't really seem to even notice and she was just happy. When we brought her home, she was very excited. She called her sissy, wanted to kiss her and hold her. So it's very, very sweet.

I'm sure it is going to be a really fun story to tell them when they are both older.

I think that it will be a very empowering story for them to hear if they decide to become moms as well-- you were just in your in your power, following your instincts.

Thank you so much for sharing your birth story with us! I love how positive your story is. I think that some people might have a traumatic experience giving birth the way you did, but not you!

A: A lot of people thought it was. They would say "I'm sorry that that happened", but I feel happy that it happened this way. I mean, it was meant to happen this way and she's healthy and everything was OK in the end.

Do you feel that there is anything you did, as a part of your childbirth preparation that really helped you?

A: The only thing I can think of that was really different this tim around was my mindset. I really tried so hard this time not to let anything stress me. I didn't focus on when her due date was, and I was doing the other things as well like eating the dates and drinking the red raspberry leaf tea, and I was moving around a lot and that's honestly probably because I have a toddler. That probably helped a lot. I don't know if there's any one specific thing I did, but I do think the mindset definitely helped.

Mindset is an important piece.

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