Posted: May 29, 2014 9:00 AM
Even when moms have perfectly mapped out birth plans, sometimes babies have other ideas — like making a grand entrance into the world well before Mom reaches the hospital. Check out the unusual birth stories Gabby Domingues and Shirley Bonanni share about welcoming their bundle of joys in an emergency home birth, one inside and one out in the snow.
Photo credit: Dr. Heinz Linke/ E+/ Getty Images

Gabby Domingues

While Gabby and her hubby patiently awaited the birth of their second child, they feverishly worked to renovate the house in which they lived during her pregnancy. "The renos of the kitchen and bathroom were supposed to be finished ages before the baby was due," shares Domingues. "But of course, we were dragging way behind and didn't even have running water in the bathroom." Yet, with a 9-year-old son eager to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night and the baby's due date still a week away, the Domingues family was surprised when Gabby's water broke while making the neighborhood rounds.

"I wasn't feeling any contractions, so I lay in bed all night trying to time them with a contraction-tracking app on my phone." But, with a nervous mama worried about the possibility of infection, she took a cab to the hospital during the wee hours of the morning while her husband and son rested before school and work.

Headed back home

After being sent by the hospital to labor at home, Domingues returned to her abode to find she'd forgotten her key. By the time her husband arrived, the discomfort of contractions started to kick in — but so did her urge to nest. "I insisted on going home because I'd just been sent home by the hospital; plus I wanted to get some stuff done," she confesses. As this multitasking mommy-to-be loaded some laundry into the wash, she started feeling lots of pressure and informed her husband that she wasn't up for a car ride at the time. "At this point I am in a weird limbo of denial!"

The 9-1-1 call

With an ambulance ride in mind, Domingues told her husband to call 9-1-1. But, while he was on the phone, her baby had another plan: She was making her appearance now. As soon as she realized she could feel the baby's head coming and going to the hospital was off the table, Domingues wrestled with an equally daunting decision: Should she deliver the baby in the bathroom or the bedroom? "I was trying to decide which room I should go into; I am a neat freak and didn't want a mess on the bedroom carpet or bed, but the bathroom was a disaster. Then Hubby just told me to get on the bed." Within a couple of minutes and her husband being coached by the 9-1-1 dispatcher over the phone, Domingues delivered her daughter on the master bed amid the renovation and way outside her birth plan.

Listen to the call below!^

The emergency home birth aftermath

Gabby Domingues in ambulance with newborn daughterWhile an unexpected at-home delivery in a home that's being renovated can be scary enough, the four minutes after the birth of the baby before the ambulance arrived were much scarier for Domingues than the actual delivery. "It felt so long. I remember I kept thinking (and yelling), 'Where are the people? Where are the people??' I was worried about her welfare, especially because at first she wasn't crying." Luckily, the labor and delivery of her precious daughter was complication-free, so Domingues' husband simply tied the healthy baby's cord off with iPod ear buds and awaited the arrival of the second most important player in this unusual birth: the ambulance.

"We were both A-OK. The baby and I both needed to take antibiotics and be monitored for 24 hours at the hospital to be sure no infections had been incurred," assures Domingues.

Photo credit: Gabby Domingues

Shirley Bonanni

Shirley Bonanni of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, wasn't surprised to go into labor with her second child three days after her due date. When she was awoken in the dark morning hours with contractions 10 minutes apart, she assumed she had time before heading to the hospital. After all, she was in labor with her now 2-year-old son for 20 hours during her first pregnancy. "I was talking to my husband, walking around, but I felt the contractions getting more intense so my husband was getting the car packed and calling my in-laws to let them know we were coming by to drop off our son," shares Bonanni. So she jumped into the shower to take the edge off the contractions but she noticed one important detail: the contractions were coming a lot quicker and each more intense than the former — almost back to back.

Snowy conditions on delivery day

On this snowy morning, Bonanni's husband was only able to get the car halfway up the road in their housing development, but he'd prepared by purchasing a sled just in case. So, when her husband came back into the house to sounds of his wife wailing, he stayed calm but knew they had to move quickly. "My husband called my in-laws and asked them to come over immediately knowing we wouldn't have time to drop our son off," explains Bonanni. "He told me I had to walk to our car, that I could make it. But, I told him that I could not walk and that the baby was coming. I could feel my body pushing!" As they disagreed outside in the snow, her husband made the final call: "He told me: 'You're getting on the sled!' and pulled me to the car."

A sled ride away

About halfway between the house and their car, Bonanni realized she could feel her body pushing, but as luck would have it her in-laws pulled up in the nick of time. Her in-laws immediately called 9-1-1 to help guide them through the process, but, "I was freaking out because my body was wanting to have this baby now. So my mother-in-law told my husband, 'You have to get her clothes off!' so I had to strip off my snow boots and jeans right there on the sled in front of the now several neighbors who had wandered outside." While the plan was to get Bonanni into the car from the sled, she was still in the perfect birthing position on her back to safely deliver the baby. Although several neighbors were all shouting out directions to her husband from their own 9-1-1 calls, this calm daddy-to-be was in the zone and only focused on Mom and Baby. With the head in view, it only took Bonanni a couple of pushes and their bundle of joy made her grand entrance into the world.

Keeping Baby warm

Amid the chaos, Bonanni's husband had thought to remove his heavy fleece coat to wrap the baby in after delivery as the 15-below wind chill factor could have daunting effects on their newborn. Instead, using a big comforter a neighbor had brought out to wrap the baby as soon as she was born, he broke the umbilical cord, bundled their newborn and jetted off to the safety and warmth of their home as her in-laws and a neighbor tended to Bonanni. And, that's when the adrenaline wore off. "Suddenly I was cold, so the nearest neighbor invited us into the house where my husband and other neighbors carried me in on the sled into the warmth. My mother-in-law stayed with our children until the ambulance arrived 30 minutes later." After a 48-hour stay in the hospital, both Bonanni and her healthy newborn were given the all-clear to return home.

Shirley Bonanni
Photo credit: Shirley Bonanni

What to do in an emergency home birth^

Should you face your own emergency home birth:

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Collect warm, clean water if time permits
  • Gather clean, dry towels to clean and wrap the baby
  • Labor in the center of your bed, if possible
  • Do not push — let your body naturally deliver your newborn
  • Ensure Baby's breathing
  • Wrap your newborn's body and head in a towel
  • Breastfeed until help arrives

Could you deliver your own baby in a similar situation? With a steady head and a few supplies on hand you, too, can keep yourself and your newborn safe until help arrives. Regardless of your birth plan, discuss emergency procedures with your OB-GYN so you can be prepared in case an emergency home birth or other unusual birth place becomes a part of your own birth story.

Read more about labor and delivery

How to handle an unexpected home birth
Are routine IVs necessary during labor?
6 Signs of labor