Gayla Thompson, a 29-year-old photographer in Nashville, delivered her son in the passenger seat of her Jeep after a traffic jam kept her from making it to the hospital.

Advertisement

Gayla Thompson's first experience with childbirth, five years ago, went smoothly. It was a natural birth, she tells Health: Her water broke, and then 10 hours later, her son was born. But when it came time to plan the birth of her second child, whose due date was June 21, she made other preparations. "I want two or three epidurals," Thompson, 29, a photographer based in Nashville, says, reflecting on her birth plan.

Gayla-Thompson-Baby-Car-3
Credit: Courtesy of Gayla Thompson

Of course, birth plans are only plans, and Thompson's didn't work out quite the way she expected. Not only did she not get those epidurals, she didn't even get to the hospital. She ended up giving birth to her second son, Carson, five days early while on the way to the hospital on June 16.

Thompson said she began having contractions the night before, but two things stopped her from going to the hospital. First, she had no babysitter lined up for her older son, who was too young to be allowed in the hospital. But also, her contractions were irregular, coming either two minutes, 15 minutes, or even an hour apart. Since she wasn't sure the contractions were real labor, she decided to wait them out and see how she felt in the morning.

Gayla-Thompson-Baby-Car-1
Credit: Courtesy of Gayla Thompson

The next day, Thompson got up and took a hot bath, then immediately realized she was going into labor. "I got out to start blow-drying my hair and getting ready-that's when it hit me," she says. "I told my husband, 'Do not go into work.' We started packing our hospital bag."

Soon they were on their way to the hospital, dropping their son off at day care on the way. Everything was fine until Thompson and her husband were less than 10 minutes out from the hospital, when traffic suddenly came to a standstill. "I'm sitting here in misery; we're about eight minutes out. Of course, there's an accident. Dead stop traffic," Thompson recalls. "The moment we hit traffic, my water breaks."

Thompson had put on an adult diaper before leaving for the hospital, just in case her water broke en route, and she struggled to get it off in time to deliver her baby. As her husband tried to weave through traffic to pull to the side of the road while simultaneously calling 911, she asked him to cut the diaper off. Then, Thompson began snapping photos while delivering.

Gayla-Thompson-Baby-Car-2
Credit: Courtesy of Gayla Thompson

"His head got stuck, and I could not push at all to get him out until [my] next contraction. We started freaking out with EMTs 10 or 15 minutes away."

But her next contraction came soon enough, and she delivered Carson while in the passenger seat of her Jeep. The umbilical cord had been wrapped around her son's neck, but her husband removed it, and the baby made some reassuring coughing noises.

By that time an ambulance had arrived. She and Carson were taken to the hospital, where she delivered the placenta and was treated for blood loss. Thompson says she lost one liter of blood in the Jeep, then two liters after that. "I didn't even know that until the next day," she explains. Luckily, that was the worst of her problems. "My body is completely healed. I'm already done bleeding. No stitching, no tearing," she says.

Thompson and her son are doing fine now, and she's already seeing the humor in her experience. "It was a very wild ride," she says, adding that she and her husband now find the name Carson-which was planned prior to his roadside delivery-amusing and particularly fitting.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter