Charlotte Wheeler-Smith had just smashed out a seven kilometre run, five k walk and a cycling session when she started having tummy pains. Incredibly, a doctor dismissed the pain as trapped wind.
Just an hour later she gave birth to a baby girl – and she didn’t even know she was pregnant.
A dramatic, unplanned pregnancy and birth
Charlotte, who lives in the Netherlands with her partner Dominic, says ‘instinct just took over’ when she was suddenly faced with not only giving birth, but having to resuscitate her baby.
“I had absolutely no idea I was pregnant,” Charlotte told The Mirror. “The only signs were stomach cramps two days before she was born.
“I thought I’d eaten something bad, or it was period pains, but I called a doctor on the morning before she was born, to be sure. He visited and said I had trapped gas and IBS. Then an hour later, I went to the toilet and an umbilical cord fell out of me. I could not believe what was happening.”
Charlotte, 31, says she got a sudden urge to push, and two little feet popped out.
“I was astonished, but I knew from watching One Born Every Minute that an umbilical cord coming out first is not good, because the baby is being starved of oxygen. And a breach delivery is harder. So I knew that I had to push with everything I had. I was strangely calm. I just knew I had to get our baby out.”
Charlotte phone Dominic, who was out for a run, and then an ambulance. He arrived just in time, with baby Evelyn Rose born breach in just three pushes, in the apartment building corridor. But she had suffered an umbilical cord prolapse, and had been starved of oxygen.
Dominic explains, “We’d called an ambulance, but I saw the little legs and, at this point, it’s just me and Charlotte. I rang the emergency services back and said, ‘You’ve got to get here now, guys!’ Charlotte is standing there, holding on to the legs. She pushed once, and it was half way up the baby’s calves, she pushed again and it was up to the hips.
“With the final push, the baby dropped out. Just three pushes. Charlotte grabbed her and passed her to me. She was really floppy and blue. Then we started chest compressions and tried to get air into her.
“In the meantime, the ambulance crew turned up and started working on her.”
Charlotte then realised the enormity of what had just happened. “I shouted, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a little girl.’ I’ve always wanted a little girl – a mini- me. I looked at her and she was so beautiful, with dark curly hair. I shouted, ‘Is she alive?’
“I really thought at that moment she was dead. Dominic had given her CPR that he remembered being taught in primary school. She was whisked away in an ambulance and we were taken in another.
“I didn’t know if she was alive or dead. Then the emotional rollercoaster started. As a woman who has just had a baby, your emotions are all over the place – I desperately wanted her to survive.”
Dominic and Charlotte’s parenting instincts then kicked in, as they prayed their little girl wouldn’t have any lasting damage from her traumatic birth.
“Five days later, the neurosurgeon came back and said to the doctor, ‘Have you sent me the correct scan, because this baby’s brain is absolutely fine,'” explained Charlotte. “She has no brain damage at all – a real miracle given the way she was born. We were so relieved, I burst into tears. We are so, so lucky to have her. She’s a dream come true.
“Being able to hold her for the first time four days after her birth was the best feeling in the world. It felt amazing and so special.”
Now, two-weeks after the birth Evelyn has been moved out of intensive care and into the children’s ward.
Charlotte has since been fielding the obvious questions about how she failed to realise she was pregnant. The lawyer explains she thought just getting pregnant would be a challenge after battling weight issues in her 20s.
“I was 27 stone (171kg) and my periods were very irregular, so I knew falling pregnant would be a struggle,” she says. Charlotte lost 95kg in 18 months and writes about her weight loss journey on her blog Slimming In The City.
She also says she didn’t have a baby bump, and continued to have her period while pregnant. She exercised daily, and was thankful she didn’t drink much alcohol during her pregnancy. “I feel really guilty I didn’t realise I was pregnant, when I think of the things I have done while she was in my tummy.
“I had surgery when I was two months pregnant – a breast uplift and skin removal after losing so much weight. They did a pregnancy test, but it came back negative! I’m so, so proud of my body and all it has achieved.”
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More birth stories from the Grapeviner community…
- Birth Story: Becoming a mum against the odds
- Birth Story: Fitness star Emily Skye’s dramatic home birth
- Birth Story: ‘I was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant’
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(Images: Slimming In The City)