Did you read last week about the woman in San Antonio, TX, who gave birth in a Chick-Fil-A bathroom on her way to the hospital? Mom, dad, and baby (who will get free food for life) are all doing great after their thrilling adventure, and of course, their story went viral.
After reading through the details of this birth, I wanted to unpack some useful information to share with expectant families. In the story, we learn that mom, Falon, had been having contractions that day, and in preparation for labor at the hospital, they made plans to drop off their two older children with a family friend at a nearby Chick-Fil-A while en route to the hospital. It was 10:00 p.m.
Lesson: Make solid plans (and back-up plans) for older children during your birth
This family had arranged with a family friend to watch their two children when it was time to go to the hospital. Exchange at a local restaurant along the way? Perfect! And this detail probably made the difference between baby born in the car vs. baby born in a restaurant bathroom -- neither is ideal, but at least the latter offers more space!
If you have older children and they will not be attending your birth, plan for a couple of different options for child care. The most convenient set up is for someone to care for your children in your own home. This resolves the need to make a stop when you are in labor and headed to the hospital, and it will be more comfortable for your children, especially if you go into labor in the overnight hours. The next best option is for someone to come pick up your children from your house when you think you'll soon be headed to your birth place. This allows you and your partner to focus on labor without having to think about logistics other than making a phone call.
Upon arriving at the Chick-Fil-A, Falon felt like she had to go to the bathroom and she couldn't wait. She banged on the doors of the restaurant until a manager, who was thankfully still onsite, opened up.
Lesson: Feeling the need to go to the bathroom while in labor could mean baby is coming
We don't know in this story whether mom felt the urge to pee or poop, but knowing what I know about birth, I imagine it was the latter! Feeling the urge to have a bowel movement when you are also experiencing intense contractions can be a sign that baby is very low, pressing on these nerves and tissues -- and that birth is right around the corner. Depending on your individual labor and whether you are a first-time parent, you could still have a couple of hours to go or baby could come quickly. In the case of this family's story, this was a third baby, and ended up being a faster-than-usual labor and birth (though it's not always the case).
Upon getting into the bathroom at Chick-Fil-A, we learn that mom straddles the toilet as she realizes her baby is coming. She told local news station, KENS-TV: “I couldn’t control it. I was basically [straddling] the toilet — I wasn’t even sitting down. I was literally standing giving birth, with one hand on the wall and one hand holding her head.”
Lesson: It is instinctual for people to give birth in an upright/vertical position
Despite what we see in movies and reality shows, when a laboring person is allowed to move and get into a position that feels most intuitive, they are likely to choose an upright or semi-upright position. Laboring and giving birth on your back, or in a reclining position, became popular in hospitals because it was easier for doctors. From a physiological standpoint (based on how our bodies work), it makes the most sense to give birth with the aid of gravity and bodily mechanics, in a more upright position.
Father, Robert, who was in the stall with his wife, assisting with their birth, noticed that as baby's shoulders emerged the cord "was wrapped around her neck TWICE." He said he didn't want to alarm his wife, so he told her to relax as he looped the cord off his baby's neck.
Lesson: Cord wrapped around the neck in birth is common and not typically an emergency
It's been a widespread cause for concern in birth stories told throughout the decades: the cord wrapped around the neck (known medically as "nuchal cord"). While this is a common worry among parents, it's rarely a problem in birth. Cord wrapping happens in up to 40% of babies. Most of the time when it is noticed in birth, the attending physician or midwife simply do as this dad did: remove the cord from around baby's neck, looping it over the head, and then birth proceeds as normal.
Babies with cords wrapped around their neck are not at risk of strangulation since they receive their oxygen from the cord itself -- they are not yet breathing through their lungs. Also, blood vessels inside the umbilical cord are protected by a thick "jelly" on the inside and a tough outer lining. The other concern is that cord wrapping will make the cord too short to safely give birth, but a too-short cord is a very rare occurrence. Learn more about the many myths and misunderstandings on the umbilical cord.
Robert reported that after two more strong pushes, their baby girl, Gracelyn, was born.
Lesson: Some babies, and especially subsequent babies, can come FAST
"Precipitous labor" refers to labor and birth that last for only 3-5 hours. It's a real thing, and while it can happen to first-time parents, it's more likely to happen to parents who have given birth before. It's impossible to know in advance whether your labor and birth will be a fast one, but there are some indications once labor begins. According to the American Pregnancy Association, signs of a rapid labor include a sudden onset of intense, closely timed contractions, little to no recovery/break in between contractions, sensation of pressure, similar to a bowel movement (feeling like you need to poop).
If you are experiencing what you think is a fast labor and you have time to safely move to your place of birth, then do so. If you feel that you do not have time, stay in your location and call the paramedics for support. If you are in a moving vehicle and feel like birth is happening, ask the driver to pull over to a safe place in order to assist you if needed. Then, have your support person call the paramedics.
In the parents' original story on Facebook, dad shares that they cut the cord while still in the bathroom. It doesn't say if this was done when the paramedics arrived or immediately after birth.
Lesson: The umbilical cord does not need to be immediately tied off or cut after birth
It's a common misconception that the umbilical cord needs to be tied off or cut after giving birth. Not only do you not need to do this, it's actually ideal for the cord to be left unclamped and uncut for a least a few minutes after birth in order to allow baby to get all of the oxygen and nutrient rich blood that's still in the cord. As long as medical help will be available within 30 minutes, the umbilical cord can be left alone.
The thought of giving birth in a car, bathroom, or other unplanned location can feel terrifying for expectant parents. It helps to know that while it does happen, it's not common. It also helps to know some tips for what to do in the event of an unplanned, unassisted birth. Check out our previous article "How to Safely Deliver a Baby When Medical Assistance is Still Minutes Away" for a helpful list of instructions.
We'd like to give our sincere congratulations to Falon, Robert, and baby Gracelyn on their birth!