You probably don’t know the first thing about delivering babies. That’s probably fine. Most of us are in professions where it is never likely to be an issue.
Anyone can become an accidental midwife, though. As evidenced in Loralee’s hilarious, moving post, you can find yourself delivering a baby when you least expect it. Even if no one in your household is pregnant.
Should you find yourself in the unlikely but by no means impossible position of emergcncy baby catcher, here are a few things you should know.
Expectant dads, you may want to read and take notes. I know a few men who’ve caught their babies when the midwife didn’t get there on time, and one who had to deliver his son on the side of the road.
I also don’t know a thing about birthing babies, so I consulted Ina May Gaskin’s book “Spiritual Midwifery”, one of the classic texts on the subject. She’s talking to midwives, so I extrapolated a bit. This shouldn’t pass for medical advice, just common sense based having given birth, attended births, and reading a lot:
- Don’t panic. The laboring mom is going to do most of the work here. Your job is mainly to help her stay calm.
- Do call for help. Call her midwife or doctor. If you can’t reach them, or if they think she needs emergency care, call 911.
- Try to guess when the baby will come. This sort of a black art, even for doctors. There are some guidelines, though. A woman with contractions several minutes apart may be in a lot of pain, but she’s not likely to deliver within the hour. A laboring woman who is having frequent, intense contractions may. If she says she needs to poop, she’s probably feeling the baby coming down her birth canal. Get ready to catch!
- Clean yourself and the space as much as possible. You may not have access to sterile gloves and disposable sterile pads if you’re, say, driving a car. Do your best: wash your hands, sterilize them if you can.
- Offer moral support. Encourage the mother to trust her body and her own instincts when it comes to pushing. Midwife Ina May Gaskin likens coaching a mother through the pushing stage to helping someone park a truck: “All right, bring it on a little. Hold it for a few seconds. Ok, a little more.”
- Once the head has crowned, look for the umbilical cord around the babies neck. About 2 percent of babies are born with the cord looped around their necks. In most cases, Ina May says, you should be able to loosen it enough to slip it over the baby’s head and continue the birth.
- Finishing the birth. After the head comes out, you can gently support the baby’s head. When the mom is ready to push the rest of the baby out, the shoulders may seem stuck. Again, you can very gently use your hands to help the shoulders emerge. Go slow, let the mom do the work, and above all: gently support the baby. Newborn babies are slippery. Do not drop the baby!
- Keep baby warm. Once the baby is born, wrap him or her in a blanket right away, against the mother’s body.
- Clear the baby’s airway. You want to get the baby breathing right, right away. Clear away any mucus around her mouth and nose, and try to stimulate her a bit.
- By this time, really, if you followed steps one and two, trained medical help should have arrived. They can take over caring for the baby and new mother. You can enjoy a well-earned moment of bliss.
Want more tips? Youtube offers up helpful video instruction on how to deliver a baby.