April 16, 2014 is a day I will never forget. Gunnar James was born around 7:30 pm, on I-70 at mile marker 225, in the front seat of our Nissan. He weighed 7 lbs and was 20 inches long.
Let me back up a bit before I explain how that insanity happened. From the beginning of the pregnancy, we opted to plan for a non-hospital birth (oh the irony!). I was often defensive about this, as occasionally people thought it was potentially putting me or my baby at risk. Like all parenting choices, where/how you birth is so so personal and every parent does what they think is best for themselves and their baby. Every birth story is amazing, and every mother is amazing whether they birth with no intervention, with intervention, through adoption, or anything in between. We found the perfect option for us at the birth center in our area. While there are too many reasons to list why, having the guarantee of who will be with you in labor and more importantly that they don’t leave your side during labor was at the top of the list. The prenatal care was outstanding, and I’m sure the birth experience would have been too. I LOVED my midwife. She told my baby belly how perfect he was and hugged me nearly every appointment. I trusted her professional ability AND liked her so much I wanted to be friends.
As preparation for labor we also took a Bradley Method birth class, which teaches you the ins & outs of pregnancy/birth and emphasizes the husband’s role as an active participant in labor. If you are remotely inclined toward non-intervention birth, I highly recommend this class. We made new friends and felt very prepared about what to expect. Now how does a well prepared pregnant person end up giving birth in a moving vehicle? A combination of biology and denial. With a side of extra denial.
The morning of Gunnar’s birth, I had mild menstrual cramps. While there are a zillion weird feelings/cramps during pregnancy, I knew today was the day I’d meet my baby because the feelings continued intermittently for more than 2 hours. The day before this was my 41 week prenatal, and I had my first/only cervical check and learned I was dilated 2 cm. We chose to have the midwife agitate my cervix (membrane sweep) because she was sure labor would happen within the next 48 hours.
At 4pm, my husband came home from work and we went for a walk at a nearby park. After we returned home we crawled into bed and put on some Big Bang Theory, planning for a 5 hour tv marathon. Just before 5pm, we talked about food and decided to order pizza….and here's where things take off. Before the pizza arrived my contractions had escalated to what I call almost "near death". The pain was absolutely horrific, people—there was NO chance of yoga relaxation happening. Trevor starting timing right away, and called the midwife because this seemed like active labor—we basically started with contractions at 45-50 seconds and 4-5 min between (which is basically when you leave for the hospital during a typical 10-15 hr labor). Because things had just started happening, the midwife suggested we wait it out for a bit and establish a rhythm. (Pizza arrives!) Around 6-6:30pm I get in the bathtub because I find no relief and am STRUGGLING to keep it together. He calls the midwife again wanting to make the drive SOON, with contractions coming every 2-3 min and lasting 40-50 sec. (PAUSE: That means I have 1 minute in between these incredibly painful contractions that are dilating my cervix at warp speed. NOT a pleasant experience) Then I'm on the toilet and do not want to leave. While on this porcelain post I go through transition (hindsight) and start crying to make it stop. To my delight there is a small lull of relief in the contraction pattern. My husband says we are leaving NOW.
At 7pm I'm in the car and he is speed racing. At some point I realize I'm in the pushing stage but contractions are SO much more bearable I keep reassuring him that we'll make it to the birth center (pushing normally lasts at least an hour!). We got pulled over for speeding (haha), but the cop waved us off before he made it to our window. About 10 miles before the birth center, at 7:25ish, Trevor looks over and notices I am crowning in the passenger seat. He immediately slows and goes to take the nearest exit, which just so happens to be the exit for a hospital. Before we even make the exit, a baby appears on the seat (yay for leather upholstery!). Trevor reaches over to help lift him on my chest. I am definitely in shock and disbelief. But the baby makes a few peeps so we start to feel like it's all going to be okay. After a few minutes I remember to look underneath the baby—it’s a boy!
We pull up to the ER and are rushed in just like the movies. Two of our midwives show up within 5 minutes. The hospital staff was wonderful and even let my midwife stitch me up. We were discharged at 9:30pm and went to the birth center for our recovery. We stayed there 2 hours and were on our way home at 12:30am. Life as a family of three has been wonderful after our rather intense (accidental) unassisted birth experience. Sadly we have struggled with breastfeeding. After two weeks of little/no success, we did make some progress. While not completely through the woods, I feel confident we’ll both be pros very soon. I sympathize with the mothers out there who endured extra newborn challenges, like trouble feeding, sleeping or colic. You all are heros!
I am still so overwhelmed with love for my amazing husband who was a rock during that crazy 3 hour labor. I'm also so grateful to an incredible birth team that took such great care of us. Lastly, I’m indebted to my talented friend, Dustin, for capturing these family portraits that will forever melt my heart.
Life is such a gift.
All photography by Dustin Davis