The British tabloids seem to love a good story about a baby that gets its little self born before the midwife arrives or on the way to the local hospital (usually in rush hour traffic). I once saw a bit of film that was taken in a London (Eng) tobacconist’s shop; a birth caught on the store’s security camera. The parents had been out shopping in downtown London when the woman realized the baby was on its way. They went in the tobacco shop to use the phone and, while the father was in the back telephoning, the woman gave birth to the entire baby in her black stretch pants. She was leaning over the counter and the whole thing was caught on tape.
Recently on the Australian midwives email list, there was a story of a woman who gave birth in the front seat of her husband’s car on the way to the hospital in the morning rush hour. Traffic was at a standstill so she held her newborn up to the window so the other travellers could have a look at a little one so new.
We seem to have one or two of these stories in our local paper every year, too, so it’s not a completely unusual occurrence. I usually send these stories off to my pal, Laura Shanley, who is the guru of the unassisted birthers in the U.S. She always points out to me, and it’s true, that the mother seems to have a bit part in these dramatic productions of the news media. Full credit for heroism and quick thinking goes to the father, child, passerby, ambulance dispatcher—anyone BUT the woman. She seems to have a bit part and, if anything, is just a naughty person for putting all those people through a lot of worry.
What is missed is that birthing a speedy baby without any professionals around is actually a safe process. I have read these stories for 30 years and have never seen a single one that involved a true complication. In the one that I have linked above, there’s some talk about the baby being bluish but that’s normal and unmedicated babies are able to clear their own airways just fine if left alone for a minute. A cord around the neck is not an emergency and can easily be unwound by the birthing woman. Two important things that happen in these straightforward births is that 1. the cord is left to pulse until the baby is breathing well because there are no clamps handy and 2. the baby is held continuously by the mother which helps insure that she does not bleed heavily.
The one thing that I did love in the British story is the photo of the father with that “new Dad sheen” on his face. I’m sure that the newspapers will continue to write these stories with all the drama laced throughout them but, remember, birth is a healthy, normal elimination process of the body that happens smoothly, easily and quickly for some women and their babies. It’s an emergence, see?