Unplanned Home Birth - A Story Of An Unexpected Delivery!
An Unexpected Delivery!
It was February 2004, around 8:30 at night. I had fallen asleep on the
couch, still in my work clothes. The phone rang, and it was my sister's
"Call 911, Sally's having the baby!"
A little background first...
In 2001 my sister, Sally, found out that she was pregnant. She was single, living at home with our parents and working part-time as a server at a restaurant owned by friends of the family. I had just bought a huge house in the next town over that needed major renovations, which I would be doing mostly myself. I was single and had a high-paying job at a Fortune 100 company as a computer programmer.
It was simple math as far as I was concerned - once the baby was born, my sister and the baby would come live with me. She didn't need to pay rent - the house had an upstairs apartment that I was renting out to a friend, and I was making more money than I actually needed to live comfortably. Problem solved!
Fast forward to late 2003. My sister, her daughter and I were living a
nice life. She worked at the restaurant at night, our parents babysat
while she worked, and she took care of the house while I was at work
during the day. She'd met a new guy along the way, and they were
seriously involved. Then she came to me one day and announced that she
was pregnant again, and she wanted the boyfriend to move in.
The upstairs apartment was now empty - the township had discovered that I was renting it out even though the house wasn't zoned for two-family use, so my friend had to move out. I had already gone to the trouble of installing a full kitchen up there, as well as a new front door that allowed separate access to the apartment. So I would move upstairs and my sister and her growing family could live downstairs - but this time they had to pay rent!
All was settled by December of 2003 - I was living upstairs, my sister, her daughter, Samantha, and her boyfriend, David, lived downstairs. The pregnancy was progressing smoothly, and everyone was happy.
Now, Back To The Story...
Earlier that afternoon, I had gotten a call from Sally while I was
at work. She'd told me that she was probably going to have the baby that
night. I said "Congratulations" and that was that.
Little did I know that soon after that call, the contractions had started. She'd thought that she would have plenty of time to get herself ready and drive to the hospital. Her first pregnancy had been a little complicated, and she'd had to have labor induced. As a result, she had not yet experienced the natural progression of labor and delivery.
She had been taking a shower as the contractions began to get closer. Her best friend, Kelly, was watching 3 year-old Samantha and David was napping on the couch - he had no idea how close the delivery was, and was waiting for Sally to get ready so that they could drive to the hospital. But during her shower, Sally realized that there wasn't going to be much time left. She called for Kelly, and together they managed to get Sally into a t-shirt and sweatpants. That was when they decided there was no way they could make the 40 minute drive to the hospital, so Kelly called me.
The phone call...
So I got the call from Kelly - she was calling from downstairs, so I woke myself up and dialed 911 on my way down the steps.
operator answered before I made it all the way down the stairs and
As I came in the downstairs front door, walked through the kitchen and down the hallway to the back bedroom, I could hear Sally grunting in pain. I was explaining the situation - as best as I knew it - to the operator. He assured me that he had notified the first aid squad and the police, and that help would be there soon. An ambulance with trained E.M.T.s would arrive from the hospital as soon as they could...
In the bedroom, Sally was standing bent over the side of the bed with
her back to me. Samantha was calmly sitting on the bed, stroking her
mother's arm and saying it would be okay. David and Kelly were standing
on either side of Sally, waiting for me.
Again the operator said help was on the way, and he began relaying questions for Sally - how far apart were the contractions, how much pain was there, that sort of thing.
By this point, it had been about five minutes since I'd made the call, and the pain was increasing. Sally began yelling out with each contraction, and Samantha started to get scared. I called her over to me and we walked to the front door to see if the ambulance was coming. The house had a convoluted layout, so it was about a hundred-foot walk to get down the hall, through the kitchen and into the living room where the front door was located. Along the way I held Samantha's hand and chatted with the 911 operator. None of us was terribly worried - we were sure that help was on the way...
Over the next 15 minutes, I paced back and forth with Samantha from the bedroom to the front door and back. I was beginning to get anxious - we were not at all prepared for giving birth at home! The operator told Sally to lie down on the bed and cross her legs, but she was in the throws of delivery delirium and refused.
The next time I came back to the bedroom, everyone was still in the same position - Sally bent over yelling and grunting, David on her left and Kelly on her right. Samantha was now crying and confused and scared. I looked over and saw that Sally's sweatpants were now at her ankles, and there was a distinct scent of poop in the air. Kelly was cleaning the mess from Sally's legs with a bath towel, and David was trying to comfort her.
I gave the operator an update, and he again recommended that Sally lie down to try to slow the progress of the delivery. She was having none of it!
Now, I had been trying to divert my eyes this whole time - I was not at
all interested in looking at "that part" of my own sister's body, but I
knew I had to see what was going on. During the next contraction, she
grunted loudly and bent closer to the bed. Her rear end lifted into the
air and I clearly saw the baby's head crowning. Sally was actually
trying to not push, hoping that a professional would arrive and assist
I told the operator that I could see the head emerging. If I remember correctly, his response was, "Oh, jeez".
It was time for
me to take charge. The operator told me I needed a towel, so I went
into the bathroom only to find the towel rack empty. The next
bathroom/laundry room was 20 feet down the hall, so Samantha and I
I asked the operator if the towel was absolutely necessary. He insisted it was.
Again, no clean towels on the rack, but there was a pile of towels sitting on top of the washing machine. I grabbed a clean-looking one and went back to the bedroom. From the doorway I could now clearly see the head trying to emerge, and I tossed the towel to David.
"All right, Sally. You better push or you're gonna suffocate that baby,"
I heard myself say.
I held Samantha's hand in one hand and the telephone in the other.
David crouched down, assuming the pose of a catcher behind home plate, the towel spread between Sally's calves.
I told her to "Push!"
She pushed, and a little baby dropped right out of her and into David's waiting hands.
Sally let out a sigh and her whole body sagged.
Samantha stopped crying, and I said to the telephone, "Okay. The baby's out. Is anybody coming?"
Samantha walked into the room and climbed onto the bed next to her mom.
Sally somehow managed to swing her right leg over David's still-crouched body so that she was now facing me, with the bed behind her.
He lifted the baby up as she managed to sit down without crushing the umbilical cord.
They did the "count" - fingers: 10; toes: 10; penis: 0 - and then wrapped the baby in the towel.
I walked to the front door, and as I stood on the front stoop I watched an ambulance go speeding by the house, lights flashing, followed closely by a police car. The ambulance drove right by, but the cop pulled into the driveway, parked and jumped out of the car.
He asked, "Where are they?"
"She already gave birth. They're in the back bedroom." I pointed him to the hallway and figured he could find his way from there.
The ambulance arrives...
Out on the curb, a woman in a volunteer first aid jacket was waving her
arms at the ambulance, which had managed to turn around and come back to
the house. The cop's car was blocking most of the driveway, so they had
to squeeze in next to him.
I thanked the 911 operator as the first aid volunteers approached the door. I waved them to follow me inside the house. The 911 operator was pumped with adrenaline and excitement as we said our goodbyes - turns out it was his first delivery, too...
By the time I got to the bedroom, it was abuzz with people. Mother and baby were still attached by the cord; one first aider was struggling to open a plastic-wrapped blanket and asked me for a pair of scissors. A few others were milling about, not sure what to do. The room was in chaos, so I grabbed Samantha and we went out front to wait for the real ambulance and the trained E.M.T.s.
On my way through the kitchen I noticed both the digital still camera and the video camera sitting there, just waiting for someone to pick them up - I could have video-taped the whole thing!
When I arrived at the front door, the cop was pulling out of the driveway - he had been even more useless than the volunteer first aid folks - and the real ambulance was backing into the driveway.
Just then, a car pulled up and my mother stepped out. She came to the front door and asked "What's all the commotion?"
"Sally just had the baby," I answered in an ah-duh sort of tone.
"She called me an hour ago to come over and go to the hospital with her!"
"Tool late," was my answer.
We went inside with the E.M.T.s, who promptly cleared the room of the ineffectual volunteers. Kelly and I took Samantha out to the front living room - she was crying again and needed to calm down.
After about fifteen minutes, the E.M.T.s managed to get Sally and the baby out of the house and into the ambulance, where David joined them. Samantha and my mother were getting into the car so that they follow them to the hospital. Kelly cleaned herself up in the bathroom and the two of us went out for drinks!
And in the end...
Everyone turned out just fine.
- The baby, Alicia, did have a little congestion problem for a week or two, since we didn't have any way to clear the mucus from her mouth and nose after the birth (neither did the first aid folks).
- I never found out why it took so damned long for help to arrive - thank God I wasn't laying on the floor having a heart attack! I never would have survived the 30 minute wait for assistance. Don't get me wrong - I have the utmost respect for first aid volunteers. They save lives every day and work tirelessly to help. Something just went wrong that night, and the ones who showed up had no idea what to do in this situation. Same with the policeman - I'm really not sure why he even went into the house, other than to make sure that everyone was okay.
- According to Sally, this "stand-up" birth was far less painful than her first delivery, which was a traditional hospital one. The first time she was in labor for hours and needed the drugs eventually, even though she had planned on a natural childbirth without them. This time she was in labor less than 2 hours, and had no pain meds. At least for her, giving birth at home was a lot faster, and less painful...
- My mother was upset that she had missed everything. She'd had no idea that things had progressed so quickly. I never even knew she was on her way over, or I would have called her on the cell phone.
- Samantha recovered nicely from the trauma of seeing her mom in such pain, and she used to enjoy telling the story about how she saw her little sister being born. The first time I heard her tell it, she said that "Mommy pooped the baby out". Since she was standing behind Sally the whole time, I guess to a 3 year-old it did look exactly like that...
FYI - In the interest of privacy, all names and dates have been changed...