Childbirth is about as predictable as a cranky toddler with a full glass of juice — it can get messy. When the new-human-delivery process is allowed to naturally unfold, it rarely fits into a sterilized box. Nope, it often spills out, splashes onto your favorite shoes, and demands you step into your ability to roll with it — even if “it” laughs in the face of your birth plan.
I recently attended a gathering for maternal health care workers and many of their clients, where I heard hundreds of birth stories — some of them, completely insane. I received permission to share a handful of the most intense stories (some women wishing to remain anonymous), in the hopes that you can take comfort in knowing that even if your birth goes sideways, rolls down a hill, and falls into a murky pond — you can handle it, and will come out of it a stronger (totally badass!) mom.
Here’s a glimpse of the stories from five women I find far superior to any superhero …
1. Giving birth 33,000 feet in the air
This mama birthed her baby on a plane! Her second daughter came six weeks early while she was on a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle for her baby shower. She suddenly found herself sitting in a pool of fluid, thinking her bladder had cruelly failed her. Then she felt it — all of it.
There was a doctor on the plane who helped deliver the baby speedster (only 45 minutes from water breaking to head emerging!) while the mom utilized the calming effect of the sea of clouds beneath her to make it through the quick (but intense!) series of contractions.
The plane landed 15 minutes after birth. Both mom and baby were met by an ambulance on the tarmac and taken to the nearest hospital. Both were healthy and have an epic party-story for the rest of their lives.
2. The 4-year-old doula
Emma was in active labor, waiting for her husband and midwife to make it to their house for her home birth. Her 4-year-old daughter was the only person present, and because she had been listening to her mom’s birth prep recordings and sitting in on the at-home prenatal appointments, she calmly coached her mom to “breathe deeply and visualize your body opening like a flower.” She also did a light touch massage on her mom’s back. The baby was born moments after the husband and midwife arrived, and the child was present for the entire birth, continuing to coach her mom through the emergence of her baby brother. Future master midwife?
3. Induction by rattlesnake scare
Natalie was two weeks past due when she decided to walk around her country property trying to induce labor. She walked past a pile of rocks and stumbled back when she heard a rattle. There was a six-foot coiled rattlesnake on top of the rocks flicking his (or her?) tongue at her. She went into labor on her run/waddle back to her house and was taken to the hospital after her husband took this photo of the labor-inducing serpent.
4. Giving birth in traffic
Traffic is promoted from an irritant to a code red misery when you’re in labor. This mom was stuck in dead-still Los Angeles traffic behind an overturned semi as she was in the sticky thick of labor, trying to get to the hospital. It was her third birth and her baby was moving much faster than the cars around her. She called her OB’s cell to ask what to do and learned the OB was stuck in the same traffic. They figured out they were only a few cars away from each other, and because the OB was driving to the hospital with her husband, she was able to hop in the car with the mom and help deliver the baby.
5. The C-section turned vaginal birth
Danielle had dreamt of a vaginal birth, but at 38 weeks gestation her baby was still in the breech position and she did not feel comfortable attempting a breech birth. She tried everything (even handstands in a pool!) to turn the baby but nothing worked. Her last meal before her planned C-section at 40 weeks was spicy Indian food with her husband. She had a fitful stomach as she slept that night and when she went in for surgery the following evening, the OB gave her belly a feel and then said they needed to do an ultrasound. Turns out the baby had flipped! She was told to go home and went into labor four days later — after eating more Indian food!
Next time you’re faced with an unforeseen challenge, let the mega-unexpectedness of these “births gone good” fill you with a knowingness that you can make it through anything, and relief that you’re not stuck in traffic with a human coming out of your body.