Birth Story: ‘I gave birth in the hospital carpark’

Posted in Birth Stories.

three images of Jackie with baby after birth outside hospital

The birth of Jackie’s fourth child in 2019 was both swift and dramatic. It came as a surprise, as it was an unplanned pregnancy, and Jackie already had three sons.

However, she successfully gave birth to a daughter named Gemma just a few meters away from the entrance to the hospital’s emergency room, right in the carpark!

A surprise pregnancy

Jackie and husband David

Jackie and her husband, David, met while living in South Africa. They decided to immigrate to Australia in 2010 after they had been married for two and a half years. Jackie was also six months pregnant with their first son at the time of moving.

Fast forward to 2019, Jackie and David had now been married for 11 years and time had blessed them with three sons who were aged nine, seven and three. While Jackie and David found that they had never struggled to conceive of their children, they both felt their baby-making years were behind them. Little did they know that the universe had different plans in place for them.

With Jackie at 41 years of age, and David at 46, it was a huge shock to the couple when they discovered they were expecting their fourth child. ” There was a lot of rocking in the corner and sleepless nights as we wrapped our heads around the thought of a fourth baby.” Jackie shared with Mum’s Grapevine.

‘I thought I would lose the baby’

Jackie's positive pregnancy test

The night before her first doctor’s appointment, Jackie experienced bleeding. “At that moment, I fully expected that I would lose the baby. The next morning the bleeding had eased, and my GP referred me for a dating scan as we weren’t sure of when I conceived.” Jackie’s scan showed that she was only five weeks along in her gestation. She was warned that it might be impossible to detect a heartbeat via ultrasound because it was so early. However, when they looked there was a little flickering on the monitor and a heartbeat reading of 108 beats per minute.

“The bleeding was put down to a small subchorionic hematoma which resolved itself. Once we realized that this baby was a gift, just like her brothers, we began to get quite excited about the new addition. David and I debated whether we were going to find out the gender beforehand or wait for the ultimate surprise at birth. But like always, I needed to know and plan for the new baby”

An unexpected baby girl

Jackie's ultrasound confirming gender

The 20-week ultrasound arrived and Jackie had made up her mind that she wanted to know her baby’s gender. Upon informing the ultrasound technician about their desire to know the baby’s gender he said “Yeah, it looks like a girl”. After three boys, Jackie and David couldn’t believe that they weren’t having their fourth boy. Eventually, Jackie was able to accept that what she was seeing on the screen was their first daughter and excitedly the shopping for girl clothing commenced.

With her previous pregnancy’s, Jackie had experienced short labours. From the time of the first hint that something was happening to the time of her baby’s arrival, the time elapsed was getting shorter with each birth. “With my oldest, the labour was seven and a half hours. With my second, the labour was two and a half hours and with my third, the labour was only one and a half hours long.”

Jackie had experienced natural births during all her labours with only gas for pain relief. During her second and third births, she also had a water birth and she was keen to repeat this experience. Her Caboolture Public Hospital Midwife Group Practice midwife, Kathy, was also excited to assist Jackie to achieve this goal again. Their biggest concern was that Jackie’s labour could be extremely short, so she was advised to head to the hospital as soon as she felt the first contraction.

Options to bring on labour

Jackie's pregnant belly at 26 weeks

“Due to my age (I was 42 when I gave birth), my midwife informed me that I wouldn’t be allowed to go past 40 weeks as there is a risk of the placenta decaying once 40 weeks is reached. So, we discussed other options to bring on labour before being induced at the 40-week mark.

“I had had stretch and sweeps with my 3rd boy so was happy to utilize that method again. At 38+4 weeks, I had my weekly Wednesday appointment with my midwife, Kathy. Since I had passed the 38-week mark, she asked if I was happy for her to do a stretch and sweep. I think my response was along the lines of “Yup, let’s go digging!” Nothing immediate happened that evening barring a bit of discomfort from the stretch and sweep.”

‘I was leaking amniotic fluid’

Jackie at 35 weeks pregnant

The following evening, Jackie headed to the toilet when she noticed that she was leaking fluid. As this was how labour with her first baby had started, she wasn’t about to take chances that it was happening again. After contacting her midwife, it was agreed that Jackie should go to the hospital to get checked out. Leaving her sons at home with her friend, Steph, looking after them they made their way to the hospital.

“Once we arrived, I was hooked up to the CTG to monitor our baby girl and it was confirmed that yes, I was leaking amniotic fluid. But I was not in labour and was having no regular contractions. Kathy suggested we get something to eat and I take a long walk around the parking lot. Funny enough, that Mcdonald’s meal was the first time we had been out to eat, just the two of us, since our 10th wedding anniversary.

‘It brought me to my knees’

Baby Gemma after birth

“After a 2-hour parking lot walk, we returned to the labour ward. And nope, I was still not having regular, consistent contractions. Kathy said to go home, try to get a good night’s sleep and call her in the morning. When we got home, the kids were all fast asleep. Steph offered to stay over that night just in case I went into labour overnight. Surprisingly, I had a great night of sleep! I woke up around 6:15 am, hopped into the shower while hubby made us coffee and started the kid’s breakfast.

“I climbed out of the shower around 6:30 am and while getting dressed I noticed that my lower back was beginning to ache. Every one of my labours has started with a lower back pain niggle. At 6:45 am, my first contraction hit. It brought me to my knees it was so severe in pain. I shouted out to my husband that we needed to go. I called Kathy to let her know that my contractions had started. Straight away they were 2 minutes apart, 1 minute long. She said we needed to leave now for the hospital. Hubby rounded up the hospital bags, packed school bags for the boys, and bundled me into the car. Steph took the boy’s off with her at the same time. We left for the hospital at 7 am.”

‘It felt different’

Gemma and Jackie after quick birth

“Luckily, traffic was relatively light during the 20-minute car ride. The same could not be said for the contractions that were coming thick and fast. I was struggling to get a breath in between the cascading contractions. I pretty much squeezed all the blood out of hubby’s hand. We arrived at Caboolture Hospital at 7:20 am and found a parking spot about 50 meters from the emergency entrance. As I swung my legs out of the car, I could feel that something had changed, that our baby girl had dropped, and even said to hubby, something was different.

“I must have made it 10 steps when I squatted down onto the road with a big contraction and felt the need to push. Once it passed, I managed to get up and carry on walking. But again, 10 steps in, another big contraction hit, I squatted down and again felt the need to push. Hubby was unsure of what to do – leave me alone to run for help or stay with me. At this point, one which I am eternally thankful for, a midwife coming on duty saw me in the parking lot and came over to render assistance. I told her that I needed to push. She put her hand down between my legs and straight away called the hospital to let me know that my baby’s head was crowning.”

‘I can’t believe this is happening’

David holding newborn Gemma

With the help of the midwife and her husband, Jackie was able to get off the road and onto the pavement, although she was still 15 meters from the emergency entrance to the hospital. Jackie was now squatting and unable to stand up and walk.

“When I looked up, I saw emergency personnel running towards me. Hubby was holding my hand, just repeating “I can’t believe this is happening.” I did think neither can I babe! The midwife who originally came over to help was crouching down beside me. She was an absolute angel whose name I did not know, keeping me calm in the chaos of the moment. When I looked down, there must have been about 10 pairs of hands and a pile of blue liner paper. At one stage someone mentioned that they needed to cut my underwear off me. I nodded not caring that my Kmart undies were being destroyed.”

‘I felt like a celebrity’

Gemma after dramatic birth

“My skirt was hiked up to my arms and I pushed about two times, and felt her head come out. I felt just a relief come over me. I reached down for her once her shoulders were out and pulled her up to me. Our beautiful daughter arrived at exactly 7:30 am! Immediately all the nurses and midwives around me broke out in applause.

“My first words were “it IS a little girl”, something I needed to see with my own eyes, especially after three boys! My midwife Kathy arrived as I was pushing our baby girl out. She even thought to herself when she saw the sheets being held up “please don’t let that be Jackie!” I hadn’t even noticed that the hospital staff had provided privacy by holding sheets up around us and I am grateful for that! A hospital bed had been brought outside and I managed to hobble over while holding our baby girl as I still needed to birth the placenta. I was wheeled inside the emergency entrance to another round of applause. I felt like a little bit of a celebrity!

The last piece

Gemma with each of her brothers

Jackie was moved into the birthing suite where David was able to cut their daughter’s umbilical cord. Jackie delivered her placenta while her daughter was being checked over.

“Even though Gemma arrived 10 days early, she weighed in at a very healthy 3.41kg, was 50.5cm in length, had a head circumference of 34.5cm and her APGAR score was nine. Kathy informed me that I had experienced a precipitates spontaneous vaginal delivery of just 45 minutes. It hit me then what had just happened that morning and became quite emotional.

Jackie, David and their family at Christmas 2022

“The whole morning felt surreal. But I figured everything about her had not been planned and it seemed fitting that her birth was the same. Funny enough, a friend had a coffee van, which was parked outside the private hospital next door. She heard the commotion of me giving birth to my baby and recognized hubby standing next to me. She sent me a message to ask if it was me since everyone was talking about the “lady who had given birth in the parking lot”

Just six hours after her daughter’s birth, Jackie and David were able to take their daughter home and begin their life as a family of six. They describe Gemma as the last piece of their family puzzle.

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