I was eight months pregnant and on my way home from my job as a kindergarten teacher. The seatbelt under my huge belly was pushing on my bladder, and I was wondering how I could possibly make it to my due date a month away, because it didn’t seem like I could get any larger.
I knew exactly what I wanted for my son’s all-natural delivery. I had read every book on natural birth, and I was only giving birth at a hospital because my husband was wary of home births. I’d bought hypnobirthing CDs, and I’d made a playlist of relaxing music. I was prepared. I had a plan, and I was sticking to it. But then I got hit by a truck.
I remember glancing in the rearview mirror just in time to think, “That truck is really close,” before it plowed into the back of my car, slamming me into the car in front of me.
Then, the only thing I could think was, “The baby, the baby, the baby.” I clutched my enormous stomach and, although I could feel my own heartbeat pounding in my ears, I couldn’t feel any movement in my belly. My baby, who was usually very active, was still. “Oh, my God,” I thought, “He’s gone. This is it. This is how my otherwise perfect pregnancy ends; I lose my baby boy.” I was crying before I realized I was crying.
I stared at the burn the seatbelt had left across my chest and collarbone, but I didn’t register any pain. There was blood on my hand, although I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until I looked in the mirror and saw my nose was bleeding. Then a teenage boy appeared at my car window.
“Are you alright?” he asked, before looking down at my swollen belly and muttering, “Oh, shit.”
The kid called 911 while I called my husband. The police arrived and an officer approached my window. Before he could say anything, I blurted out, “I’m pregnant!” even though I’m pretty sure a blind person could have seen that.
“I can see that,” he said. “Take a breath. We don’t want that baby to come out right now.”
I rode in the ambulance to the hospital, where I was given an ultrasound immediately. An article I read later at SafeRide4Kids said that 3,000 pregnancies are lost every year from car crashes, and according to a 1998 study for the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, there are plenty more adverse fetal outcomes from crashes, such as disabilities that arise from fetal injuries in utero.
My nurses kept trying to be reassuring, saying the baby was moving around, no fluid was leaking, and the ultrasound didn’t give any indication there was anything wrong — but ultimately, we’d have to just wait and see. Just wait and see?? After incessant questioning, the nurse admitted that we couldn’t be sure there weren’t lasting injuries until the baby was born.
Three days later, I went to my OB to have a follow-up appointment, and during the ultrasound, the tech was very quiet. She did all the measurements and looked around the placenta thoroughly before giving me a smile.
“You can breathe now,” she said, and I realized I’d been holding my breath. “He looks great,” she continued, “Everything looks good. You’re really lucky. There’s just one tiny thing…”
“Oh no,” I thought with dread. “What now?”
She explained that the baby, who had been head-down throughout my pregnancy, had flipped and was now breech, likely from the trauma of the car accident.
She added that we’d need to talk about scheduling a C-section. “You’re over eight months along,” she explained, “So there’s not a whole lot of room in there for him to move around, but it’s still a possibility.’
I thought I’d be sad about this news — and the demise of my hard-fought natural-birth plan — but instead, I was surprised by the wave of anger that swept over me. “A C-section?? This wasn’t what was supposed to happen! I had a plan!!” I went home and bawled.
I tried yoga positions, went to the YMCA pool every single day in hopes that the weightlessness of being in water would help, tried acupuncture and even some ancient Chinese burning-a-bundle-of-herbs-by-your-pinkie-toe thing. I went to the OB two weeks later resigned to my fate. He hadn’t flipped. I tried to act nonchalant as the doctor scheduled my C-section, handed over a packet of instructions and gave me a sterile orange sponge I was told I would need to scrub my belly with in the shower the night before the surgery.
I managed to walk back through the waiting room, past all the expectant moms and hold it together until I got to my car. As soon as I closed the car door, I burst into tears and called my husband.
“How’d it go?” he asked cheerfully.
In between incoherent wails, I blubbered, “They… gave… me… a… SPONGE!!”
I was beside myself. I’d heard horror stories about C-sections, the brutal recovery, the incision site reopening, being bedridden for weeks — a vlogger I’d followed through her entire pregnancy, Connie Kin, had died suddenly due to complications from her C-section. Meanwhile, I’d never broken a bone or had stitches or even twisted my ankle. I was totally unprepared to be a hospital patient — and I was terrified.
As the date of the C-section approached, I tried to wrap my head around what was about to happen to me. I googled “what to bring in your hospital bag for a C-section” and repacked my bag accordingly. I researched how to bond with your child during C-section recovery, what the most comfortable clothing to wear afterward was and what products to use to minimize scarring.
Finally, after days of research and hearing positive C-section birth stories from friends and family, I came to terms with the fact that I was going to have a C-section — and I was surprised to find I was actually OK with it. I could even try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with my next child.
So, I went in for the final ultrasound right before my surgery. The ultrasound tech raised her eyebrow.
“You’re not going to believe this,” she said.
I braced myself for the worst. A complication from the car accident has arisen. There’s bleeding in the placenta. He’s grown another head. But what she said next made me cry with joy: The baby had flipped. He was head down. I’d be able to have my natural birth plan after all.
When I left the doctor’s office, I gleefully placed the orange sponge on the receptionist’s desk and practically danced out the door.
That very night, I started having contractions, and the next afternoon, my son was born — thanks to modern medicine and, yep, drugs.
I’d gone from a hoped-for home birth to a drug-free all-natural hospital birth to a planned C-section to a vaginal hospital birth with an epidural and an episiotomy. And what did I learn? That things never go according to plan. I learned that the best plan to have when it comes to birthing a human is no plan.
So, if you’re about to do just that (make a birth plan) take my advice: Plan for a healthy baby. Plan for an uncontrollable desire to stare at them while they sleep. Plan for endless hours of kisses and studying their face and the overwhelming urge to squish them to pieces. Expect the unexpected. When you make a plan, the universe laughs, right? So enjoy the unpredictable.
After all, when you have a kid, your life will never be predictable again. And isn’t that one of the best parts?