It’s not terribly unusual for Dr. Victoria Williams to stride to her car and head purposefully toward Petaluma Valley Hospital when it appears that it’s nearly time for a baby to be born.
Typically, though, the arriving child is not her own.
Williams, a family practitioner, has a perfect record for getting herself from her home west of Santa Rosa to the birthing center in east Petaluma in time to deliver other women’s children. But earlier this month she gave birth in a moving car, on Highway 101, several miles short of the hospital and the waiting delivery team.
Today she’s grateful for much, certainly for the presence behind the wheel of her husband, Adam, a biomedical engineer, and the absence of medical complications.
“We were very, very lucky,” Williams said Thursday. Contentedly asleep in her arms was her dark-haired newborn, Kainoa Isabel.
“There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong.”
The 33-year-old doctor of osteopathic medicine and Rohnert Park Health Center staffer is well aware some might hear that she gave birth en route to the hospital and wonder, “How could this happen to a physician?” Her short answer: “Labor is a tricky bugger.”
She was fully due, having been pregnant for 40 weeks and two days, when, on May 1, contractions began but then stalled out.
So much for her plan to have a May Day baby.
Williams recounts in an entertaining and thorough narrative she wrote that May 2 began with no contractions. But at 6:45 a.m., her water broke.
She shared the development with her husband and her mother and her 4-year-old daughter, Martalena. She wrote, “I walked into the hallway and said, ‘Wake up, guys! We’re gonna have a baby today!’”
Having had no contractions that morning, Williams believed she had time to shower before starting off to Petaluma Valley Hospital’s birthing center, which she knows well because she’s on its list of doctors to call for night and weekend deliveries.
Before stepping into the shower, she asked Adam to phone their midwife, Rebecca McLeod-Waldo, and let her know they’d soon be on their way to the hospital. It was then within a minute or two of 7 a.m. The midwife told Adam she’d meet them at Petaluma Valley between 8 and 8:30.
The morning’s first contraction, then a second, came while Williams showered. As she dressed, she wrote in her narrative, there came another contraction, “taking my breath away.”
She made a quick call to Petaluma Valley Hospital, advising her colleagues in labor and delivery that they were coming and requesting Integrative Birthing Room 8.
No more than 25 minutes after Williams’ water broke, she and Adam were in their blue Hyundai Elantra and pulling onto Highway 12, bound for 101 and Petaluma. Contractions continued to come. The couple sensed no reason to fear they wouldn’t reach the hospital in time.
That soon changed.
Somewhere south of Santa Rosa, the contractions became more, in Williams’ words, “gutteral and grunty.” She directed her husband to phone the midwife “and tell her I’m involuntarily pushing, and if she hasn’t headed to hospital to go!”
Adam Williams made the call hands-free and continued to drive as fast as he could, given the morning commute traffic and the inside-the-Hyundai circumstances.