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Queanbeyan baby delivered over phone

Date

Ian Warden

Kelly Stocks of Queanbeyan, NSW gave birth to Lila, home alone, with the assistance of the 000 call centre.

Kelly Stocks of Queanbeyan, NSW gave birth to Lila, home alone, with the assistance of the 000 call centre. Photo: Melissa Adams

If Alexander Graham Bell is in heaven monitoring the uses being made of his 1876 invention the telephone, he must be immensely proud of the way it was employed in Wollongong and Queanbeyan in the small hours of Saturday morning. His clever contraption enabled Melissa Arnold, a triple-0 control centre officer in Wollongong, to play a saintly part in the delivery of the baby girl of Kelly Stocks of Karabar, Queanbeyan, 184 kilometres away.

For Stocks, the nightmare of every pregnant woman came true, when she found herself alone at home (her husband, Alan, was on his way home from Yass, having taken their young son James to in-laws in the bush) and with her strong-willed baby declaring its determination to be born, now.

Stocks dialled triple-0 and suddenly wasn't alone after all, because she had the reassuring company of Arnold.

Melissa Arnold, Ambulance Control Centre Officer, who helped from Wollongong with the Queanbeyan home birth.

Melissa Arnold, Ambulance Control Centre Officer, who helped from Wollongong with the Queanbeyan home birth. Photo: Supplied

The baby girl, Lila, was born during the tense 19 minutes the two women were in conversation and while the woman in Wollongong was using the ''pregnancy protocol'' to advise the woman in Queanbeyan. But it's clear that Arnold, as well as being super professional, was being warm and comforting over and above the call of duty.

Arnold was still sounding buoyed and delighted about Saturday morning's events when this columnist spoke to her yesterday. She had been deep into her 12-hour 6pm to 6am shift when, at 3.20am, the phone rang and it was Stocks with her delivery irresistibly under way.

While there's a step-by-step protocol for these imminent deliveries, Arnold explained, it involves things like urging the impending mother and/or a companion on the spot to fetch some towels (with which to wipe the newborn's face) and a blanket (in which to wrap the baby once it emerges) it was a bit fraught to expect Stocks to go galloping around the house. But everything worked out.

''Kelly was great!'' Arnold rejoiced yesterday. ''[Laughing] She actually kept me calm! But I've got three kids myself, so I've obviously given birth three times, so I have a sense of what's happening.''

Nineteen minutes is a long time in childbirth. Things happened quickly, as Arnold typed out all her conversation with Stocks and sent it to a screen in the ambulance that had begun its rush from the Canberra Hospital. And so, when Stocks, lying on her Karabar couch, called out ''Oh, the head's coming out!'' Arnold was able to pass on this breaking news to the scurrying ambos.

''I just kept telling her to breathe whenever she had a contraction and kept reassuring her and reassuring her and telling her I was with her and saying 'Yes, I'm going to stay here with you.' Then, [with the baby born] just to hold the baby to her chest. I kept talking to her. I asked her 'Is it a little boy or a little girl?' and [laughing] I remember her saying 'I don't know, I haven't checked yet.' ''

Arnold has had a few experiences like this. Yesterday she recalled one time when she was on the phone to an excitable father at a birth, running through all the advice and ''Dad put the phone down. And he didn't come back! But I heard the baby begin to cry in the background, so I knew all was well.''

On Monday (columnists get all the best gigs in journalism), I sallied forth to see the new baby and her parents. Lovely Lila, (she has a wonderful thatch of black hair just like her father's) was radiating serenity in spite of the turbulent circumstances of her arrival. Her mother works for Southern Cross Media at Watson and her father is in the air force.

Memories of the morning are still very fresh for Kelly Stocks. She remembered things with a kind of quietly excited stream of consciousness.

''[Things suddenly accelerated] and I thought 'I have to call triple-0.' And I did and I laid down on the couch. I told Melissa 'I need an ambulance' and she said 'It's OK, they're on their way.' She was timing my contractions for me and telling me when to breathe and everything. And then I had to push at one stage and felt the baby coming out and then she did come out and I freaked out a little bit. She started crying straight away and Melissa told me to check that the cord wasn't around her neck, which it wasn't, so everything was good. So I cuddled her and then a few minutes later the ambulance arrived and they took over and I calmed down a bit.

''And so [laughing, and pointing to the venue of Saturday morning's excitement] I gave birth on the lounge! But luckily we already have a new lounge on order. It's due to be delivered next week. So this one's headed to the tip!''

''And Melissa! She was wonderful. She was the best.''

Perhaps the serene Lila will be told, one day, of the part that Melissa Arnold and Alexander Graham Bell played in her safe arrival.

14 comments

  • Lovely article, Ian... Congratulations to all.

    Commenter
    Sonia
    Date and time
    November 13, 2012, 11:03AM
    • There is something very wrong with the world when it seems surprising or shocking that a woman can actually give birth alone and even more, not in a hospital. Of course women can give birth, even without a phone. Most do around the world all of the time. This fantasy that a woman needs a doctor or a hospital or someone on the end of a phone just indicates how we have terrified women into believing they cannot give birth!!!

      Commenter
      R.Ross
      Date and time
      November 13, 2012, 11:31AM
      • R.Ross no one is saying that women are incapable of giving birth. but it is indeniable that in the modern era, with medically assited births, rates of still births and mothers dying during child birth have been drastically reduced.

        Commenter
        imste2
        Location
        Barton
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 12:21PM
      • R.Ross, the unusual aspect is that she was alone with absolutely no physical assistance, not that she was at home or didn't have a medically trained person present. Whether in a traditional or modern society, it's unusual to give birth alone. Come to think of it, I would guess that giving birth alone would be almost unheard of in a traditional society, and more common (but still unusual) in modern society. My reasoning being, with no (or limited) access to a car, there will always be someone within easy walking distance who can assist with a birth.

        Commenter
        Judy
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 12:44PM
      • Also R.Ross, most women around the world don't give birth on their own.. in most cultures where they don't have hospitals other women support and help the woman who is giving birth, the older women who have had their own children then help the new mothers. Very few women would be totally alone during labour and delivery. I have had 3 children and I think it would be pretty scary to go through that on your own.

        Commenter
        FLT
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 1:04PM
      • Well R.Ross, wish you would just be happy that it all turned out so well. So are you male or female? If female I hope you gave/will give birth without these so called fantasies that most of us women have. If your male, its best you don't comment on something you will never experience in your entire life.Its not that easy and yes its scary most of the time, more so because we are concerned for the safety of the baby.

        Commenter
        La
        Location
        Carnegie
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 1:11PM
      • @R. Ross: I feel as though we're hijacking this lovely story, but if you ever visit Africa, visit a fistula hospital and see what happens when women always give birth 'naturally'. Ask a medical person what happens when the cord's wrapped around the baby's neck; when the woman hemorrhages after giving birth; when they baby doesn't breathe of their own accord etc etc.

        Birth is mostly trouble free, but when it's not, help needs to be close at hand. Even most proponents of home birth (nb: NOT freebirthers) acknowledge that.

        Look to nature for what happens when we leave it to its own devices - the maternal and baby death rate is high in nature, much of it easily preventable. What's the problem with doing just that (preventing the easily preventable deaths)?

        Commenter
        bornagirl
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 1:11PM
      • R.Ross, it's not shocking that a woman can give birth alone; it's just unusual in a developed nation like Australia. This is a heartwarming tale of two women, geographically separated, going through something amazing together. Ever heard the phrase "good news story"?

        What should be shocking is that so many women in the developing world don't have access to qualified medical assistance, even over the phone. It's the difference between life and death for many women and their babies and they are incredibly grateful for whatever they can get. They tend to appreciate vaccination, too, unlike so many misguided Westerners who haven't witnessed the risks first hand and therefore underestimate them.

        Commenter
        Tess
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 2:11PM
      • We ended up having our 2nd baby delivered in our car on the way to the hospital (Katoomba) - thankfully it was the 2nd. It does happen, people are surprising in their ability to adapt and get on with things sometimes.

        I don't think the tone of the article suggests surprise or shocking at all - just a nice story.

        Commenter
        Ben
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 3:49PM
    • R.Ross giving birth with one or more people in attendance is still a rather intense experience for most. This story has no overtones of surprise or shock, it's just a lovely story about two people sharing an intense experience with a beautiful gift at its end. Well done Kelly!

      Commenter
      Sam
      Date and time
      November 13, 2012, 12:45PM

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