Accidental Unassisted Birth, Down Syndrome, Mom Catches Baby Born En Caul

by Shary Douthett on December 3, 2015

My pregnancy with Blake was discovered in October 2014; I had noticed clothes not fitting well for a while and was having to pull my t-shirts down when wearing Tyler on my back. I didn’t think much of it until one day I posted in a tandem nursing Facebook group, complaining profusely about how painful it was to feed the kids at that time.

I hadn’t had a period since forever, so it didn’t occur to me that anything might be going on until another dear tandem nursing mama friend ordered me gently to go and ‘pee on a stick’. Which I did out of curiosity. Poor hubby got told via text message as I was quite stunned & speechless at a positive result. Very delighted – absolutely – but just unexpected!

It explained my chaotic thinking that seems to occur early in my pregnancies, and my stress and anxiety type of symptoms. A bit of magnesium had helped with that, and that was all I had thought of it. I’m thankful that my naturopath had put me onto folinic acid which I had been taking (mostly haphazardly as I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant until I at least had a period) – that small amount of planning was very valuable.

There was a few things happening. I got sick with a sinus infection that I couldn’t shake, and we had a homeschooling camping trip that we went to before going to a GP in November to organize an ultrasound to figure out how far along things were.

So we went for the scan, to be introduced to the student radiographer who would be doing our dating scan. The poor girl just about fell over upon having a look, as instead of seeing the little jelly bean she expected, she saw a 17 week old baby. Oops!

It seems I’d bypassed ‘morning sickness’ somehow (something to be thankful for), but I felt like I’d missed a big chunk of the pregnancy by being so symptom free. Or in denial of the symptoms I was noticing perhaps.

So with that scan started our roller coaster. The senior radiographer came in & did a bunch of measurements, more so than what I understood. We went home happy to now have an ETA for bub, but this was interrupted by being contacted by the GP fairly immediately to go in to ‘discuss’ the scan.

My memory is hazy of this appointment; I mostly remember the horror of ‘chromosomal abnormality’ and ‘termination’ being mentioned in the same sentence, multiple times. Thankfully my husband had been able to come with me to the appointment.

My 2yo had fallen asleep in my arms nursing during the conversation. I carried him out while we were escorted out the back exit; I handed him to my husband at the car & fell into a heap. My first & only thought was “what have I done to my baby?” There was no question for us about continuing the pregnancy. This was our child, no matter what.

So we then had multiple appointments at King Edward Memorial Hospital. Whilst they were respectful & knowledgeable, they were puzzled by our lack of desire to confirm any diagnosis, and also by my desire to birth at home.

The first scan was organized quickly, about a week later. It wasn’t until we were there talking with the obstetrician afterwards about it, that I realized it was so they could still offer termination (which they did, a number of times), as they will do it up to 20 weeks. This discovery just broke my heart to learn. However, the appointment where I was told bub had a heart defect was the hardest, as it meant that our plans needed to change for the safety of the baby. However, I told them we would wait until the next heart scan before making any decisions.

I could see the pity in their eyes, with a knowing that I would be disappointed look about them.

Thankfully, during this time, I engaged the services of my gorgeous independent midwife who rescued me from feeling sucked into the medical world, where I truly don’t fit. I don’t think like they do, yet somehow I was ending up with multiple scans despite only having had one at 20 weeks for my previous two pregnancies and having to justify myself constantly. To them & in my own head.

This pregnancy was difficult & I had to work hard to protect myself in my bubble. I was offered the hybobirthing course by a doula-in-training friend, and it was amazing! Among the anxieties of the pregnancy and the busyness of 2 other little ones, it gave me a small amount of time each day to just enjoy bubby and to relax & block out the negativity that we are all so very susceptible to while pregnant.

So the second cardiology scan was basically, “Oh, that’s not what I thought it was. Baby’s heart is fine and perfectly safe to be born at home if you want. Just have it checked out when you’re ready.” Such relief! It was amazing and infuriating at the same time. And still the obstetrician wanted one last scan about a week later.

So, by the time I was done with the scans and follow ups, etc., I got a few weeks of just enjoying pregnancy as it should be and as it is intended.

My beautiful Blessingway was organized by some amazing friends for when I was about 36 weeks. It was a gorgeous day and I feel so very lucky to have been as super spoiled as I was. It really wasn’t until I had some hindsight & had birthed & felt a bit more normal emotionally that I experienced full appreciation of how truly blessed I am with my friends. This special photo was taken by Capturing Adventures.

CapturingAdventures

On Thursday 2nd April (at about 36w4d) we went to playgroup as usual. I was on my butt a lot. As usual. I was getting a lot of tightening, but nothing out of the ordinary. I was getting Braxton Hicks anytime the kids had a feed. I complained at one stage, had another mama put her hand on my tummy to comment that there was still plenty more room. Maybe there was.

So that night, hubby went out for a few drinks, which he rarely does. He didn’t get home late, so played with the kids for a while before they went to bed. But oh my gosh, I laughed and laughed and laughed at them. I’m surprised my waters didn’t break on the spot just from sheer pressure.

That night I was messaging a lovely friend who listened to me and supported me so much through the pregnancy. I was telling her how I had googled something about Braxton Hicks being more intense at night for some reason (I actually forget why now! Hormones perhaps?) and that I was glad to have discovered the reason for my nightly discomfort. I had my hypnobirthing track on to go to sleep to – it was after dozing through 3 or 4 changes of tracks that I thought I’d have a shower just to try to settle them down.

It was about 2am and I messaged my midwife to let her know. She replied with something to the effect of “have a good sleep” which just confirmed my idea that the discomfort would ease. The shower felt amazing but when I hopped out, I just wanted to walk around a bit. I let hubby know I was up and he went back to sleep. My 2yo woke so I hopped into bed to feed him. As soon as I could, I got back up as breastfeeding was NOT helping me relax!!

I wandered around the house and found myself swaying against our crazy-never-ever-tidy bookcase. All good. I was chatting to bub, reminding them to wait at least until Sunday so I’d be 37w and we could avoid any hassle. I was looking forward to going back to sleep.

Little 2yo person woke up again, wandering out to find me. Hubby got up with him. I sat on the lounge to feed him this time; quickly demanding hubby sit next to me while I squeezed the shit out of his hand through two contractions. And I call them contractions with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. There was still no acknowledgement in my mind that a baby was probably joining us that night.

I had to peel my 2yo off me and hand him to hubby. I just couldn’t do it, I needed to get into the shower. I was so torn by his sadness, but needed to go. Hubby picked up our little boy and walked and cuddled him to help him sleep.

I managed to send a text to my midwife as I was adjusting the water temperature of the shower “I think I need you here” at 3:30am. I vaguely recalled the same panicky feeling from my previous birth, and remembered how pushing helped relieve the pain, so as soon as I got in, I braced on the shower shelf and pushed.

It worked! It felt so good to push! But did anything happen?

I had a bit of a feel, totally clueless and only really just checking for a head which I was disappointed not to feel. Then the next wave came over me. I instinctively knelt on one knee, put my hands down… and caught my baby en caul! No wonder my waters hadn’t broken. (I was waiting for that as a sign of truly being in labor, just as I was waiting for morning sickness to start ha!) It was an amazingly brief acknowledgment as I wiped the membranes away immediately because I was very aware of being alone and needing bub to breathe.

I sat cross legged on the floor of the shower with him. I think I turned the water off somewhere along the way and called hubby, who it seems nearly ignored me as he almost had little guy to sleep. So they both came in to meet our newest gorgeous family member and cover us with towels. It was 3.33am.

blake baby 1

We got the big sister up who had just woken anyway and eventually called our midwife to come join us.

From there we had a few hours at home adoring our beautiful baby, before being ordered/ threatened/ whatever into KEMH by the pediatrician there, because bub displayed features of Down Syndrome. So we spent about 5-6 hours there while multiple staff examined him, x-rayed him, took blood, tried to vaccinate him, tried to admit us …all for no apparent reason than “people prefer to be in hospital if their baby has Down Syndrome.” Um, no thanks.

We eventually left and finally got our family home together late in the evening. We were so, so fortunate to have a beautiful friend waiting patiently to bring us dinner, heat it and serve it to us. I’m sure we were just in a total daze and exhausted by the energy exerted to protect our perfect baby. I still feel a loss from that time in hospital when we should have all been snuggled up together, discovering each other, but so absolutely grateful for the support around us and that I didn’t have to leave him at any time.

blake baby 2

So, little Blakey is the youngest of three. He has two adoring, loving siblings. We are all so lucky to have each other & I so look forward to watching them all grow together <3

blake baby 3

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca December 3, 2015 at 10:24 pm

Such a moving birth story.. And such a strong family! <3

Reply

Katie December 10, 2015 at 8:33 am

Congratulations!

Reply

Cheri December 12, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Thank you for sharing your birth story. I used to be a labor doula once upon a time, and now find myself pregnant again. This was the ONLY reason I was ever thought to be high risk, with my previous pregnancy nearly 10 years ago. I know this is going to possibly be a hurdle I face again. It’s really nice to be able to read someone’s birth story from this perspective, because I never have found a report in all my years telling me why exactly I needed to be in a hospital if my cub had indeed had that lovely extra chromosome. Thank you, a million times. You have no idea how much this calms me. Beautiful birth story. I especially love the “Um No.” over interventions. Blessings to you and yours.

Reply

Tania June 5, 2016 at 4:47 am

Cheri – I have just seen this! How is everything going? This is my story <3

Reply

Ana December 12, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Love your story, he is adorable!
I was in labor and I had no clue about it either, got in the tub and also felt like pushing made me feel better, pushed less than 5 times and the baby was born.

Reply

April December 12, 2015 at 10:23 pm

congratulations on the beautiful addition to your family and an amazing birth. So proud of you for standing up for yourself and baby! Your awesome!!!!

Reply

Vera December 13, 2015 at 1:41 am

This is the most beautiful birth story i have ever read. And the way you talk about your children so lovingly just warms my heart and makes me want to be a better mama. God bless you and your beautiful family. This touched the deepest parts of my heart and made my week. Thank you for sharing!

Reply

Ellabee December 13, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Oh my goodness what a lovely story! well the parts about the beautiful people, your family and friends and the independent midwife.
But also what a terrible story. I feel grim rage about the attitudes in medecine to our beautiful kids. Our bubs has DS and although I said no thanks to testing, they couldn’t help but notice at our scans and their stoney faces told they felt there was something ‘wrong’ with the baby. DS was ‘suspected’ as soon as he was born- I had a super short labour, under 2 hours, and rushed to hospital for midwife assistance (first birth!) and then they took him up to the special ward and put an ng tube down and checked oxygen levels etc while I lay in bed on a drip two floors below. A lovely paediatrician explained that was completely unecessary and bubs could have stayed with me. Lovely bcos he knew it was wrong to treat us that way.
Thank you for sharing and love to all of you.

Reply

Brittany December 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

Wow!! That is a great story! Ah yes…by my 4th kid(Unassisted as well) I knew that “Oh Hey I’m pushing” feeling well…But it did take 4 kids to convince me that my baby was indeed seconds away. So is Mister Blakey as healthy as he is is happy? No heart issues to be concerned of? I would be terrified if he was okay, but you were such a warrior mama! Get us out of this hospital!!! Darn right! And good for you!

Reply

Tania June 5, 2016 at 4:48 am

Brittany – he is perfect <3

Reply

Brittany December 14, 2015 at 1:44 am

Oh and I meant to mention, he is PRECIOUS! Look at that sweet latch he got right away, and he looks a lot like my youngest in the last pic, the chubby cheeks and bald head! SWEEEEETIE!!!!! Good job family!

Reply

Lacey December 14, 2015 at 3:35 pm

I love seeing more birth stories with babies with the special extra chromosome. I have a 3 1/2 year old son with Ds. He is the love of my life. Welcome to the family! Our story was featured on this blog as well. Search “Ari’s Journey Earthside” if you are interested.

Reply

Jessica December 14, 2015 at 4:28 pm

This is a lovely story and I’m so inspired by your appreciation for your children! What a beautiful set of photos. But please remember to vaccinate your kids! My youngest has leukemia and his compromised immune system relies on other people’s vaccinations!

Reply

Tania June 5, 2016 at 4:50 am

Jessica, kiddos with DS also have compromised immune systems, so we have chosen not to vaccinate him. I hope your youngest is well, my brother had leukaemia also xx

Reply

Sara December 14, 2015 at 7:31 pm

What a beautiful story and an even more beautiful baby!! What a lucky little boy to have such a mama as you.

Reply

Gloria Lemay December 15, 2015 at 2:21 am

Such a lovely story. Thank you. You’ve touched on something that I’ve witnessed but don’t see written about anywhere. The way that nursing an older toddler brings on the birth when the baby is really ready to come. In your case, it was a few weeks early but I’ve seen women who are 42 weeks gestation and nursing an older toddler do the same thing. Nursing does not bring the baby out in the days before the birth, BUT on the day that the baby chooses naturally to be born, a breastfeeding session (which is usually the last thing the woman wants to do but what can you do when it’s the only thing to get the toddler down for a nap . . . .) seems to work like a magic potion to bring the baby in the belly out. Gloria Lemay, Vancouver, Canada

Reply

Tania June 5, 2016 at 4:52 am

Gloria, I’m so privileged to have you comment – thank you! I have read a few of your books a number of times over my pregnancies <3

Reply

Naomi December 17, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Wow, what a beautiful story & birth! I know how drs pressure to terminate, how dumb they made me feel and can relate to your words. My baby did not have Downs and did not survive her condition. I loved reading you! The only sad thing is that you could not capture that awesome baby of yours en caul! My 5th child was en caul but midwives here for some reason did not let my baby’s sac intact and ruptured as the head got out… so no amazing capture for me either! Love that you went on nursing, I never got passed 28w … Beautiful children, thank you for sharing!

Reply

Marissa Clauson December 17, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Congratulations! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

Reply

Jane January 19, 2016 at 1:29 pm

O wow, how strange. I had an unassisted birth of an undiagnosed downs syndrome baby girl last May – with an IM, the amazing Amanda Garside. Your baby is totally gorgeous and a wonderful story xxxx

Reply

Kim September 3, 2016 at 12:25 am

I’m awake late at night just browsing the BWF blog and came upon your post. It had me in tears. What a story! I love that you ended up having him in the shower and in the caul! Wow! What an awesome birth story! THank you for sharing it!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: