When I asked her how she expected the baby to come out, she slowly pointed to her belly button.
"She was texting in between each push."
Birth plans are great, but anyone who’s actually given birth knows how chaotic, unpredictable, and downright crazy things can get. And those who help deliver babies for a living, namely midwives and doulas, have seen more than their fair share of insanity. And while, yes, there is a big difference between the two—midwives are clinically-certified care providers who are trained to work with doctors and medical staff, whereas doulas are more like birth coaches and supporters—the one thing they do have in common is the amount of shocking delivery-room drama they’ve witnessed. Here are a few of the stories they’ll never get sick of sharing.
“I was delivering a woman’s third baby, and she was three-centimeters dilated once she was settled in her hospital room and I started examining her. Since both her previous deliveries were fairly quick, I asked the nurse to call me if she needed to use the restroom or shower so she could be reexamined. I knew she could dilate fast, as many women who’ve had multiple children do. I stepped out of the delivery room for a moment to use the restroom and returned to hear the nurses screaming, ‘Risa, come quick, the baby’s coming!’
“I ran down the hall, opened the labor room door, and my patient was in the shower, leaning back and pushing in a semi-squat position with the baby’s head crowning. The warm shower water was running down her entire body, and I had no time to do anything other than get down on my knees and deliver the baby bare-handed—in the shower! After she delivered, and was finally comfortable in bed with her new baby, she confided in me saying, ‘I always wondered what it would be like to give birth in the shower.’ Well, now she knew! It could have been a dangerous situation, but fortunately it all worked out. And thankfully I had another pair of scrubs to change into.” —Risa Klein, certified nurse-midwife at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s in New York City
“Last January, I was called in to help a client who was going into labor with her first daughter. When we met months earlier, the mom-to-be had told me how nervous and anxious she was about going into labor. I knew from the start that this would be an extra-sensitive case. When I arrived to the hospital, she was already in the midst of excruciating labor pains.
This meant I had to snap into action—fast. Instead of resorting to additional medication or a C-section, I suggested that my patient and her husband dance the bachata, a couple’s dance that originated in the Dominican Republic. They both looked at me like I had five heads, but I explained that keeping her in motion would act as a natural pain reliever from the contractions. While the method of dancing in labor is certainly not conventional, it does help pass the time and proved, in her case, to relieve the pain.
More importantly, it fosters a more holistic birth by keeping stress to a minimum. The parents welcomed a healthy, happy baby girl who will most likely come to love Spanish music—once she learns to walk.” —Nyra Zaracho, a licensed doula in Philadelphia.
“I was delivering this one woman whose cell phone was going off non-stop with text messages throughout her labor. Even when it came time to push, she still had the phone in her hand and she’d text in between. It wasn’t until I had to ask her to physically hold her legs up that she finally put it down. Once her baby was born, I gently placed her newborn on her stomach, as I do with all my moms, and I saw that her cell phone was already in her hand. She was texting away and barely holding onto her baby. I was stunned. ‘Put down your phone,’ I demanded somewhat firmly. I explained that this was the time—in her first moments with her baby—to bond with her. ‘But I have to tell everyone,’ she said. ‘They can wait, but your baby can’t,’ I replied. She put down her phone and finally looked into her baby’s eyes and kissed her lips.” —Anonymous
“When my clients arrived at the hospital, needing a scheduled C-section for medical reasons, they told me their friends would come to help them. When I entered the room minutes later, after doing my computer work, there were two nuns at her bedside. I was surprised, but have to say that they were wonderful, uplifting and exactly what this woman needed to inspire her to deliver her baby. While I had delivered a few babies to wives of rabbis, I’d never had clergy present at a birth. Having experienced it, I actually would encourage more women to reach out to their religious leaders and members of their place of worship if they can provide a calming presence." —Anonymous
“I had a young girl who was 17 and new to this country. She didn't speak a lick of English, came from a remote region in Mexico, and had only completed sixth grade. Fortunately, she and I knew enough Spanish that we were able to communicate. As with many first pregnancies, she’d gone past her due date, so she had to be admitted for induction. After several hours of laboring with no pain medication, she reached full dilation. So I cleaned her up and asked, 'Are you ready to have your baby?'
“She looked at me confused, and asked, 'What do you mean?’ I told her it was time to start pushing and she said, 'Pushing? Pushing what?' At this point, I realized she had no idea what was about to happen. When I asked her how she expected the baby to come out, she slowly pointed to her belly button.
“I softly explained that she would have to push the baby out from her vagina and that sometimes it can take a while. One can only imagine what must have been going through her mind. She looked over at her partner, who looked just as confused. I'm not sure if it was because he was unaware as well, or simply shocked by her lack of knowledge. But after about a half-hour of explaining the entire process, she began to push. Unfortunately, a vaginal delivery wasn't meant to be—the baby never descended so she had to have a C-section (through her belly after all)." —Cynthia Rodriguez, certified nurse-midwife in New York City
“When family members want to witness a birth, I usually have to explain that only the partner, doula, and sometimes the parents are allowed to be in the room with the mom. But at this specific hospital in New Jersey, some of the nurses were a little more lenient and allowed more family members in the delivery room. When my laboring patient asked if a few of her relatives could come in, I politely accepted. An hour later, I went back in the room to see how she was doing and was surprised to find the room so jam-packed with people that it felt like I was trying to flag down a bartender in a crowded restaurant.
"There were 15 people, family and friends of all ages, surrounding her. It was the largest group of relatives I’d ever seen in a labor-and-delivery room, but she was happy as a lark. For the actual birth, I asked her clan to leave while her husband and mother stayed for the delivery. Once the baby was born, and she was bonding and breastfeeding her baby, I left the room to find that they were all still outside the room, clapping and applauding. I told them they could go back for the finale to see their healthy baby.” —Anonymous