Lisa Hickey never expected to give birth in a 1993 Toyota Camry on an on-ramp to Interstate 90, but that’s what happened. Early on a July morning in 2003, Hickey, 31, of Natick, Mass., went into labor with her second child. Her husband drove her and her 22-year-old sister, who planned to watch the delivery, to the hospital in Boston. When Hickey’s doctor found she was only 4 centimeters dilated, he estimated that the baby wouldn’t arrive for a long time and sent them home.
The temperature was over 90 degrees that day, so Hickey took a shower to cool off. That’s when her contractions really kicked in. The three got in the car to rush back to the hospital, but their trip ended five minutes later. “As we were getting on the on-ramp, I said, ‘Pull over, the baby’s here,’” Hickey says. Her husband called 911 on his cellphone and her sister opened the door to the front seat and helped Hickey pull down her pants. “The head was right there,” Hickey says. “My sister caught the baby.”
The two women unwrapped the umbilical cord from around the newborn’s neck, and help arrived shortly after. “I think the entire Natick fire department came,” says Hickey. “They were so gentle. They took care of the cord and suggested I start breastfeeding.” Hickey and baby Katharine were taken to the hospital, both OK.
Your motto: be prepared
Chances are you won’t have to deliver your own baby, as more than 99 percent of all births occur in hospitals and birth centers.
Unplanned deliveries occur most often when women have unexpectedly short labors, and most mothers experience shorter labors with each child. However, since there is no way to predict how long it will take for a baby to be born, all parents should prepare for the possibility that their baby may arrive unexpectedly. That’s the thinking behind the guide to emergency preparedness “Giving Birth in Place” (see below), created by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). “Having a plan makes people feel more confident,” says certified nurse-midwife Marion McCartney, director of professional services at ACNM.
As your due date approaches, you might want to print out the online ACNM guide and gather the recommended supplies, which include a baby-size bulb syringe to suction the newborn’s mouth and nose; a box of disposable gloves; a pair of clean, white shoelaces; sharp, sterilized scissors; a towel; large plastic trash bags; and a dozen large sanitary napkins. It’s also wise to take an infant CPR class, to post emergency numbers by each phone (and cellphones) and to keep cellphones charged and car gas tanks full.
“If you feel your baby is starting to come out, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop it,” says Fiona Dunne, R.N., a teacher at the UCLA Daniel Freeman Paramedic Education Program in Los Angeles. “And when a woman has the urge to push, it’s uncontrollable.”