I looked around, wondering if there was any prospect of rescue. We tried and failed to reach a 911 operator. We were only four blocks away from where we’d dropped off the kids. Technically, we were surrounded by people, but it felt as if we were totally isolated. No one would get to us in time. There was nowhere to go and there was very possibly nothing that anyone could do that we weren’t already doing.
I briefly considered getting out to deliver on the grass strip beside the road, but somehow that didn’t seem better.
I found it impossible to sit or lie down comfortably, so I finally knelt on the seat. I thrashed around, gnawing on the seat back during the worst of it. Looking out the back window, I noticed an electric-blue BMW behind us and wondered if the driver could see through our tinted windows, and if he could, what he imagined was going on. I reached down to feel my baby’s head, which is what they tell you do in the labor and delivery room. It’s supposed to give you hope that your marathon’s finish line is in sight.
I remembered the nurses at my last birth telling me not to scream. “It doesn’t help,” they said. This time I screamed anyway.
When I reached down again I could feel more of my daughter’s head crowning. Finally, all at once, my water broke and she simply fell out.
“Baby’s here,” I said to my husband.
Yes, really. I gathered up my daughter’s slippery body, nestled in its broken amniotic sac, and wrapped her in my shirt to keep her warm. Andrew, ever stalwart in the driver’s seat in motionless traffic on Sunset Boulevard, turned around to take a photo of us with his iPhone. In the picture, the baby looks purple, while I appear exhilarated, laughing with relief.
With my own phone, I took a snapshot of the slimy newborn in my arms and had it posted on Facebook within the hour, because, come on, best status update of the year.
Traffic cleared up a few blocks further on and we made it to the hospital about 25 minutes after she was born. Naked and with the baby still attached by the umbilical cord, I was awkwardly maneuvered from car to wheelchair to gurney in front of the 60-odd people in the packed lobby of the UCLA emergency room. The attending physician did a cursory check to make sure no one needed resuscitation, and the ER nurses collectively cooed at the good news of a healthy newborn.
I had tried to deliver my placenta in the car, but I knew from Call the Midwife that if you tug too hard on the umbilical cord you risk uterine damage, so when it didn’t come easily I let it be. That turned out to be a wise strategy from a paperwork standpoint. When babies are born in the wild, the Social Security Administration requires a special review before they assign an ID number. Our daughter’s unusual birth certificate lists “automobile” as the birth location, but apparently delivering the placenta at the hospital added enough legitimacy to her medical records that she was approved for an SSN as of last week.
Ironically, my unassisted delivery was the least physically traumatic of my three births. I had no vaginal tears, and I don’t even pee a little when I sneeze.
Two months down the line, the baby is thriving and I carry a sense of achievement as a result of my birth experience. I relearned the lesson that the only way to do anything in this life is to push through — sometimes literally.
Even when you’re ready to lie down in defeat and declare you can’t do it, remind yourself — because there’s no other choice in this world than to keep going — that you are doing it.