Boats, Lawns and Worse: Seven Extreme Birth Stories

Some mothers' story of survival in childbirth seem more like fiction than fact.

ByABC News
May 7, 2009, 6:21 PM

May 8, 2009— -- Until they step into the delivery room, most people's notion of childbirth comes from the very graphic end of "The Miracle of Life" in health class or the canned comedic version out of Hollywood.

"People are used to the Hollywood delivery -- a woman is in a restaurant, she's fine, happy, and she has one contraction and she's delivering within minutes," said Dr. Donnica Moore, an obstetrician. Then add some panicked dialogue, perhaps some slapstick and some smiles at the end.

But Hollywood's writers can't top the truth. In anticipation of Mother's Day, ABC News compiled some of the most amazing tales of delivery in odd places.

Obstetricians say not to worry since the chances are quite slim that you'll deliver a baby in a tree or on a plane. But for good measure, doctors have also offered some advice for what to do if the baby comes before help arrives.

When Jessica Higgins' and Jennifer Coffman's children ask where they were born, these moms could actually put down the garden hose and go point to the place.

Two women in the last two years have found themselves delivering on the front lawns of their suburban homes, and not as some new experimental home birth plan.

Jessica Higgins, of Fullerton, Calif., was driving home from the mall with her 2-year-old in the back seat when she realized she was about to go into labor, according to The Associated Press.

Higgins managed to make it to her driveway and call 911, but it was too late.

By the time police got there, baby Mary Claire was already out.

"She was just standing in the driveway rocking the newborn, who was still attached to the placenta," Officer Manny Ramos told the AP. Father Jeff Higgins got there in time to cut the baby's umbilical cord.

A similar event happened to Jennifer Coffman last July, except she delivered her baby on the front lawn of her Ann Arbor, Mich., home at night, by flashlight.

Although she once spoke out about the story to a local blog, Coffman's now a bit reluctant to share details about the circumstances.

"I'm not really a public person," she said.

Dr. Michael C. Lu said this sort of emergency delivery is very rare.

"It actually doesn't happen that much if you give your patients good instruction about when to come in," said Lu, who is an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and public health at the University of California Los Angeles.

"For me in the last 10 years it's happened three times out of probably over a thousand deliveries," he said.

Rare as these unusual births may be, when Coffman heard of other stories mothers had been through, she was grateful.

"I thought a lawn was bad, but a tree?" she joked. "At least I had my feet on the ground."

Earlier this year another baby was born in a tree, although in more criminal circumstances. According to reporting by the Australian Associated Press, a pregnant woman and her husband were dragged from their home in Papua New Guinea in February and hung from a tree after local neighbors accused them of sorcery.

Mother Nolan Yekum gave birth just moments before she freed herself and ran to safety with the baby. According to the Australian AP the father, Paul Yekum, escaped too and went into two weeks' hiding with his wife and baby until local officials sorted out the witchcraft dispute.

"The biggest risk for the baby is making sure that in the first few minutes of life is that we can clear the secretions and making sure it can breathe on its on own," said Moore, author of Women's Health for Life.

Kiesel tried to clear the baby's nose, rub its back and after 25 minutes of CPR, the baby boy breathed on his own.

"I was so happy and relieved," Cindy Preisel told the AP. "It's hard to put into words."

Moore said such a story is an example of the very real dangers of childbirth.

"A lot of people think, well, women have been delivering babies for centuries on their own, long before there were doctors and trained midwifes," said Moore. "But maternal and newborn deaths were also at a much higher percentage."

Moore said a quick birth like Kalbi's ordeal is often called a "precipitous birth," and frequently is associated with a complication such as a detached placenta.

"My delivery was so sudden," Bhuri Kalbi told Reuters. "I did not even realize that my child had slipped from the hole in the toilet."

According to Reuters, many trains in India have toilets that are just chutes which empty directly on the tracks below.

Once she awoke from her fainting spell, Kalbi told her relatives what happened. The train stopped and staff at a nearby station found the baby girl on the tracks, alive.

"It happened so fast. I didn't have pain, just shock," Mann told Sesame Place employees.

A woman in a nearby stall asked Takia if she was all right, and Takia opened the door with her brand new 5-pound, 11-ounce baby in her arms, according to a press release issued by Sesame Place.

"We sent Elmo and Abby Cadabby to visit the mother and child at St. Mary's Medical Center at Longhorn," said Paula Pritchard, director of communications for Sesame Place. "Actually, this is the second baby born at Sesame Place. A little boy was born 10 years prior."

Jayda, the baby girl, turned out fine and the Manns received season passes for 2009 as a gift.

State troopers told the AP that they were trained to handle deliveries, but preferred not to have to do so.

"It's part of our basic curriculum at the academy," said state patrol spokesman Jeff Merrill. "You secretly hope you don't have to use it in the field."

Lu said in cases like these, it's best to call for help rather than continue driving.

"In those situations it's wise to play on the safe side -- if it looks like you're not going to make it to the hospital, call the ambulance because they can get to you a lot faster than you can get to the hospital," said Lu.

"The call for help is probably the most important thing, the other thing that's important to do is to protect the mom," Lu said.

Lu said that often in a precipitous birth, the baby is coming out so fast that it can do damage to the mother. Lu recommends for those at the birth to gently place a hand on the baby's head and to guide its speed as it comes out.

Four pushes later and her baby was out.

Even in that situation, Moore said the best thing a bystander could do is to call for help.

"Even a doctor in a park, the most important thing they can do is calling an ambulance," said Moore. "Even if an ob-gyn happens to be walking in the park, he isn't going to have something to clean the baby, to suction the baby, to tie off an umbilical cord."

After the baby comes, Moore said it's important not to assume the mother and child don't need to go to the hospital.

"Even if they look fine, even if the baby is cooing and nursing and everything looks fine, it's very important to get them checked out," she said.