First-time mom Jaime Shaw had a rock-solid birth plan.
The biggies in the plan: going without pain medication, and wanting to labor mostly at home. She would leave for the hospital when her contractions were five minutes apart, she decided.
Everything went accordingly, with just one exception. Jaime, 31, and husband Jon, 32, didn't plan for how quickly their baby would come.
Hannah Camden Shaw was born in the front seat of her parents' new SUV, right outside the maternity center entrance at CMC-Pineville. According to the dashboard clock, it was 10:37 p.m. June 16.
Man, woman, baby
Jaime works in the mortgage industry. She met Jon a retail manager, at UNCCharlotte in the late 1990s. They married in October 2006 on Lake Norman and settled in Steele Creek.
They were thrilled to be starting a family, Jaime says. Jon was “super excited” to be her birth coach.
“The biggest thing we practiced was understanding how to roll through contractions with deep belly breaths and to stay focused on it being a process with a happy outcome,” he says.
That came in handy the night Hannah was born. He remembers “flying” down Interstate 485 trying to get to the hospital while Jaime screamed in the passenger seat. Running through the relaxation exercises they'd practiced out loud helped her stay calm.
That morning, Jaime had a regular weekly prenatal check-up. Hannah was overdue by six days, which is not unusual for a first baby. Jaime was having occasional contractions, about eight minutes apart, but was only a few centimeters dilated.
Obstetrician Sarah Morris said Jaime would probably have the baby that night or the next day, Jaime says. First-time moms usually labor for many hours, so the Shaws headed home.
That afternoon, the contractions got stronger, but stayed at about eight minutes apart.
Both Jaime's and Jon's mothers were at their home, ready to help.
Just before 10 p.m., the contractions suddenly changed.
“They were lower in my back and the pressure was different, and I knew something was up,” she says. Their mothers started packing the car while Jon called the doctor to say they were on their way.
“We hit every red light on the way there, and it was really frustrating for Jon,” she says.
Jon says he wasn't scared until Jaime said her water had broken.
“That's when things got crazy,” he says. “She started screaming more and all I could do was drive and try to keep her calm. I had to get her there as fast as I could without killing us all.”
The contractions were suddenly four minutes apart and much stronger.
The baby is coming NOW!
Jon pulled up to the traffic circle at the maternity center entrance and ran in to get help.
The nurses at the station didn't seem to understand his urgency at first, he says.
“As I turned to run back out I looked over my shoulder and they weren't moving, so I yelled, ‘No, I'm serious, the baby is crowning in the car right outside, right NOW!' and then it was a mad scramble,” he says.
“Seven nurses came flying out the door behind me, and they were awesome.”
Morris, of Carmel Obstetrics and Gynecology, happened to be at the hospital to deliver another baby. She was paged and came running out too.
“Jaime's mom and I were in the back seat with nurses on either side, and a nurse got into the driver's seat,” Jon says. “Other nurses were surrounding Dr. Morris as the baby came out.”
Morris said delivering a baby while standing sideways with a mom's feet on the dashboard “adds an extra dimension” to a birth experience.
“I don't know if (Jon) will ever be the same,” she says. “The look on his face when they arrived was pure terror.”
Hannah's speedy arrival earned her the nickname, “the dashboard bullet.”
“Two pushes, and I had my baby girl on my chest,” Jaime says. “It was so fast that I didn't think about the pain. I think natural endorphins just kicked in.”
Hannah was 6 pounds, 13 ounces, and 20 inches long.
“It was just absolutely bananas, but so worth it,” Jon says. “She's here and she's fine, and it's amazing. But next time, we'll definitely leave much earlier.”
Morris says in the five years she's been in practice, she's only delivered a baby in a car once before Hannah.
“Jaime had a beautiful birth plan about how she wanted to walk and labor in different positions,” Morris said. “I laughed after the baby came and said I didn't remember the dashboard being in there.”
They say everyone who hears Hannah's birth story asks the same question – how messy did the car get?
“It was pretty much spotless,” Jaime says of the 2008 Pathfinder.
She thinks her sweat pants absorbed most of her amniotic fluid when it began to leak, and the waterproof pads the nurses brought out took care of the rest.
“But we're still finding little medical gadgets in the car, though,” she says, laughing. “It's like, ‘Hey, what's this clampy thing?' Oh yeah, I gave birth in the car.”