For most labors, there is plenty of time to get to the birth center before the baby arrives. Once in a great while, however, baby becomes a speed racer, and decides to come NOW. When that happens, the first thing to do is RELAX. Babies that come fast usually come easily and without problems, so just let it happen. It can be overwhelming for the mom, however, so everyone else needs to stay calm so she can do what her body is demanding she do.

Always have a couple of clean towels and a big plastic trash bag in the car at the end of pregnancy. The bag can protect your seats, and then be turned inside out to stash the towels in when you are done with them. The towels are to cushion and to wrap mom and babe after the birth (see below). Just a precaution, and you will probably never need them, but worth it for your peace of mind!

If there is time, call the midwife! She can calm you down and help talk you through the birth-put your phone on speaker so you don’t have to hold it.

Here’s a quick lesson in catching a baby that comes before you get to the birth center:

  1. Mom, get down. All fours is best, or kneeling upright. These positions allow you to see the birth and use your own hands to catch the baby. You can also half-sit, leaning back against a sofa, with your pelvis tilted forward. Basically you want to be near the floor – you don’t want it to be a long way down!
  2. Pad the floor, Grab a towel, blanket, coat – anything at all, to make sure that the surface beneath you is soft. Babies come out wet and slippery and sometimes slide out of one’s hands …. and a hard landing isn’t nice.
  3. Wrap them up. As soon as the baby is born, place him or her on mama’s tummy or chest (depends on cord length) skin-to-skin and wrap them up together. Use blankets, towels, even the shirt off the back of a passing motorist! Mom and baby can lose heat quickly, and wrapping them up together creates a warm natural incubator for the newborn.
  4. Don’t touch! Leave the cord intact, and don’t be tempted to cut or even tie it off in any way. It is totally safe to leave the baby and placenta connected. It is very common these days to wait until the cord stops pulsating before cutting it, and in our birth center, we often wait for the placenta to birth before cutting the cord. Just remember it’s safest to leave the cord alone. Unsterile tools can introduce infection to both mama and baby, so wait until the paramedics/midwife come – they’ll have the right equipment to take care of it. Neither baby nor mom will bleed due to the cord being uncut.
  5. Don’t pull on the cord! Mom may feel another contraction or you may see a gush of blood indicating that the placenta is ready to come. This usually happens within a few minutes to about 30 minutes. Mom can easily push it out (no bones). Once the placenta births, it’s OK to wrap it up in a towel and place with mom and baby-it is warm, and will help keep them warm. Again, neither baby nor mom will bleed due to the cord being uncut, even after the placenta births.

Honorary number 6. After the above, NOW call 911 if mom is bleeding heavily or you or the midwife feel it is unsafe to proceed to the birth center. If you are alone with the mother, then she needs your hands to help birth the baby and wrap her up. If you have one hand on the phone and your attention on a stranger, and then you run outside to flag down the paramedics … who is going to help HER, the one doing the work? If there are more than the two of you around, then by all means, have someone else man the phone.