Birth Story: I Almost Lost My Baby in a Car Crash at 33 Weeks Pregnant

  • Story and Photography By: Tessie Heeter

In August, I was driving my husband to catch the train for work. Our 17.5-month-old was in his car seat behind my husband, and I was almost 33 weeks pregnant. I was waiting to turn left into the station when the light turned yellow. I moved through the intersection to complete the turn. A 15-year old driver with an 11-year old and 13-year old in the backseat accelerated 20-25 mph over the speed limit, ran the red light, and hit our car right between my husband and son. I immediately was knocked out.

My memory of that day is still primarily black. Moments come in flashes – a man ripping wires below the steering wheel to stop the horn from blaring; sitting in a field with my son in my lap, wondering who he was and what I was doing there; a woman running over to ask if we were okay and the grief on her face when I asked her who I was; arguing with the paramedics in the ambulance that I was definitely not pregnant; coming to in a CT scan; whispers that my contractions weren’t slowing down; an officer asking to take pictures of my injuries; begging someone to call my brother even though he had told me the day before he was going out of town.

 

 

I found out my husband had a fractured pelvis in three spots, three broken ribs, and bruised lungs. I had severe whiplash, a concussion, and those pesky contractions. My son, who was right at the point of impact, didn’t have a scratch on him. After monitoring the baby for 12 hours and seeing my contractions slow from two minutes apart to 15 minutes apart, they sent me and my son home from the hospital.

The next day and a half were hard, emotionally. We didn’t know the severity of my husband’s injuries and how this might impact us. My brother, his fiancé, my son, and I visited my husband two days later and I told him what a blessing it was that they got my contractions to stop. I was in so much pain, I surely couldn’t give birth. Especially with him being hospitalized.

 

After monitoring the baby for 12 hours and seeing my contractions slow from two minutes apart to 15 minutes apart, they sent me and my son home from the hospital.

 

My brother dropped me off at home, and I started feeding my son dinner. My contractions, which had never fully stopped since the accident, started to feel different. Faster, stronger. I had to sit down and grit my teeth as they came. I texted my brother that I might need him to come back, and he said just to let him know.

I got my son ready for bed and started timing my contractions. Within thirty minutes, they went from 10 minutes apart to two. I told my brother I was calling an ambulance, and he told me he was almost there. He came screeching up the driveway and I dove into the backseat. My contractions were on top of each other, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I remember thinking, “Once we get to the hospital, I’ll get an epidural, and they’ll stop this.” I felt so much pain and so much pressure.

I pulled my shorts off and felt something bulging out. I pushed on the next contraction and the baby slipped into my hands. I pulled it to my chest but felt so much confusion and panic. The baby was still completely encased in the amniotic sac – born unassisted, premature, en caul, in the backseat of a car as we sped down the highway. I pulled the sac off, and the baby just looked at me with these huge eyes, no sound at all.

I sucked the fluid from its lungs, and still nothing. “I can’t tell if it’s breathing. Logan, I can’t tell if it’s breathing.” I remember repeating it over and over, trying to make myself stop as I slipped it under my shirt. And then it latched. I finally got a chance to look and see that we had a daughter.

 

 

My brother pulled over and miraculously stumbled upon a hidden police car. The officer, who was on her last shift for the next few weeks, jumped into the backseat and called an ambulance. She was a blanket of calm that covered us in affirmations, saying how the baby was breathing, the baby was perfect, I was a hero, I was strong, we did something special here.

My head had been reeling since the accident, trying to plug in memories to these black holes, trying to grapple with the shame and guilt I felt over being the driver, trying to see light at the end of this dark tunnel. But the minute I saw her eyes and held her to me, it all went away. My doctor happened to be on call and was there to meet me when we arrived at the hospital. He kept calling it a “traumatic birth,” and I felt so confused. Didn’t he see? After all we had been through, she was the redemption that gave it all purpose.

 

 

Sweet little Nell was in the NICU for 36 days, extremely healthy and thriving despite her early entrance. She came home, and her big brother, Hart, was instantly smitten with her. My husband has fully recovered from his injuries, and I only deal with a small amount of residual pain from the whiplash.

Nell is a literal dream, made of magic and miracles and grace. The happiest and most patient soul. She was made for something special, for something big, and her life has been watched over from the minute she came to be.

 

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