Most parents will know that while birthing plans are great, they rarely go to plan.
Labour isn’t predictable. Things change. Emergencies happen.
That was the case for 31-year-old birth photographer, Katie Gaeta. She planned to give birth at the hospital, but ended up welcoming a daughter in the parking lot of an Old Navy store.
The birth of her third child started as normal – she was woken up on Wednesday 19 July at 4.50am by Braxton Hicks contractions, and quickly contacted her doula, Nicole, before trying to go back to sleep.
At 6am she got out of bed, went downstairs, and felt her first contraction.
‘It was more intense and I needed to stop and breathe through it,’ says Katie, explaining that she began to use her Hypnobabies technique and birth affirmations to work through the pain.
After a few more contractions, Katie knew she was going into labour.
Katie gave birth in parking lot after getting stuck in traffic on the way to hospital . (Picture: KATIE GAETA / DIIMEX.COM)
‘We had a running joke during the tail end of pregnancy that since I wanted to labor at home as long as possible before heading to the Mercy Birthing Center, that I would make some brownies for the Midwives and nurses before going in,’ she said.
‘I told [Tony] I was just about to head in to start making some. If brownies were in the making, we both knew it was real.’
She started making brownies.
Katie asked her partner, Tony, to have his Dad, Joe, to come and collect their two children, Zoe and Finn. She then asked her doula and her birth photographer to head over, in preparation for labour.
She hopped in the shower, and found herself having contractions spaced four minutes apart and each lasting around 50 seconds.
She began to experience contractions early in the morning, and tried to drive to hospital . (Picture: KATIE GAETA / DIIMEX.COM)
‘I made it back downstairs and Tony made me some toast with Almond Butter and honey so I could get some complex
carbs in me per Nicole’s advice so I could maintain my energy,’ says Katie. ‘I ate half of it and continued through contractions.
‘I decided I needed to use the bathroom and I had just finished in there when another contraction hit strong. It was uncomfortable and awful in there and I knew I needed to get out.
‘In that moment I had decided that we probably needed to get moving to the Birthing Center.
‘It scared me a little to say that because with Zoe and Finn once my water broke, I had them both about 4 hours later. Since my water hadn’t broken yet, I felt I might be prematurely choosing to leave, but it felt like the right thing to do.
‘We gathered the last minute items on the list and made the decision to have Nicole follow us in her car to the Birthing Center and we asked Page, our Birth Photographer, to meet us at the Birthing Center instead of our house.’
The contractions were hitting hard.
The couple hit traffic as the contractions intensified. (Picture: KATIE GAETA / DIIMEX.COM)
At 8.50am Katie and Tony drove away from the house, and text their family to let them know they were on their way to the Birth Center, and the baby was on the way.
They hit traffic. Then Katie’s water broke.
‘I immediately told Tony, “We’re having this baby in the car. I know it. I’m going to have this baby in the car!”,’ remembers Katie.
‘And he said, “No we’re not, no we’re not!”
‘Nicole called Tony and asked how I was doing since she could see me through the window holding on to the handle in the car and getting through
‘And with that, I let out a roar because the baby’s head was crowning.’
Tony made a speedy decision to weave through five lanes of traffic, get off at the nearest highway, and exit – as Katie yelled that the baby’s head was coming out.
The car pulled over at the nearest parking lot – just outside an Old Navy store.
‘With one push, her head came out,’ said Katie. ‘In that moment, I sat there in a very zen like state, but the birth photographer in me couldn’t help needing pictures.
‘I told Tony and Nicole to get my camera immediately because I needed photos of this.
‘Once they grabbed that and things weren’t as chaotic, it was sweet relief to have her partially out and I just needed a moment to take it all in.
‘Very quick thinking on Tony’s part led to him pulling the carseat out from behind my seat to lay it down so I could have room to birth the rest of her body.
‘Nicole told me to reach down and grab my baby and by the time Tony moved the seat and looked back, I had one more push and she was fully out!’
Thankfully the family had brought pillows with them, so Tony was able to use pillow cases to keep the baby warm, and a police officer and paramedics arrived soon after.
From the first contraction to the moment Katie’s daughter was born, the entire labour lasted just three hours. Katie and Tony welcomed a girl, Emma Jupiter, at 9.16am in the parking lot.
Afterwards, the couple and Emma Jupiter took an ambulance ride to the Birthing Center to deal with the placenta and aftercare.
‘I may have seen Tony cry a handful of times over the last 14 years we’ve been together,’ said Katie.
‘And it was then in the ambulance that I saw him cry and I knew the situation had completely overwhelmed him and taken him by surprise.
‘My rock and support looked at me with tears in his eyes and streaming down his face and I finally got to thank him and tell him just how amazing HE did and that everything was going to be ok.
‘He still won’t admit that he did great, but I’m here to tell everyone he did everything that I don’t think I could’ve handled myself in that moment.
‘He made split second decisions all morning, weaved through bumper to bumper traffic, kept my Doula informed as to our status, and pulled to the safest location he could get to in that moment.
‘He supported me, held my hand, and guided me through my unassisted birth in the front seat of our car and was STILL supporting me in the ambulance (and taking pictures!).