With all the drama of a movie script, this heart-thumping birth story is equal parts beautiful and thrilling … and it was all captured on camera.
Anna Carolina A. Bandeira, known as Carol, wanted a birth with as little intervention as possible but she never dreamt she’d give birth in the car park outside her home in Rio de Janeiro, with her husband, her obstetric nurse, doula and birth photographer cheering her on.
Here’s the birth story of little Arthur, who was in a big hurry to be born.
A long-awaited pregnancy
Carol and her husband Andres had been married for a year before they found out they were expecting their first baby – something they had been longing for. The couple decided during the pregnancy that they wanted a birth that was as intervention-free as possible,
“During pregnancy, I could see that normal birth is seen as ‘abnormal’ in Rio de Janeiro,” Carol explained. “I went through some obstetricians, but they either did not have a normal delivery, just had caesarean sections, or charged a bill for vaginal delivery.”
After much research, the expecting mum chose a hospital for delivery, and a birthing team – including doula Roberta Reis, obstetric nurse Amanda, and photographer Graziele Pereira from Um Novo Olhar (UNO). It was under their guidance that she came up with a birth plan that would include labouring at home for as long as possible, as long as there was no risk to the baby.
“We had a pre-delivery meeting and, there, we were sure that this had been our best choice! With the doula and the obstetric nurse, we redesigned our ‘strategy’ and went on, confident that this way we could rest assured that our child was fine while we tried the much desired normal delivery!”
Carol worked up until 39 weeks, and enjoyed a final meal out with her husband to celebrate Valentine’s Day and their wedding anniversary.
“We ate, we went home, we organised what needed to be organised and we got ready to sleep. It even crossed my mind that it might be the last time we went out without our son in our arms, but I didn’t take that thought seriously or comment it with my husband, so as not to create expectations in someone already naturally anxious.”
The start of a dramatic birth
Carol woke the next morning feeling a little crampy, and after discovering she had some bleeding, contacted her birth team.
“I figured it was the mucous plug just coming out, but I called doula, obstetric nurse and obstetrician to make sure it was that. Everyone said yes, it was probably the mucous plug. As the bleeding wouldn’t stop, I called our obstetric nurse again, who said it was normal, that she could continue to leave throughout the day. I followed up on the plans: I drank coffee and started organising what was still messy in our son’s room. At 2pm, when I stopped for lunch, I realised that the colic (cramping) had turned into mild contractions, which came and went, were not rhythmic or had regular intervals.
“After lunch, I lay down to rest for a while and, as there was a clock in front of me, I realised that they were getting ‘regular’: they happened, more or less, every ten or fifteen minutes. It was like this until 4pm, then those contractions disappeared. I reported what happened to our doula and our obstetric nurse, who asked me to inform them if there were any changes. At 6pm, these contractions returned. Again, I got in touch, reported how they were and I was told to take a warm shower, but not to worry about timing, at least for now, because, ‘it was just the prodromes’ and they might not be working. I was obedient, I took a warm shower, which was supposed to relieve the pain, but that didn’t work.
“I spoke to our doula, who thought it strange that the warm bath had not relieved, but continued to instruct me not to time. I went back home, put the childbirth playlist to play and exercised on the pilates ball for about forty minutes.”
Carol spent the night moaning through her contractions but trying not to wake her husband.
“Sometimes, when the contractions took a break, I would get up and go to the bathroom, because the pressure was so great that I thought I would urinate all the time. He heard my moans, hugged me and tried to calm me down, but I just knew that if this was just the beginning, I couldn’t take it until the end. When it dawned, he didn’t know if he was going to work or if he stayed with me, but I, still thinking that it was nothing, that these contractions could dissipate at any moment, for fear that he would lose a day of work for nothing, in a new job, told him to go, that would keep him informed.”
Her husband went to work while Carol continued to work through her contractions at home. She told her doula about how her night had progressed, and she was asked to time her contractions for an hour.
“In the first hour, intervals of five to seven minutes between contractions, each lasting thirty seconds. Roberta, our doula, said that I was entering the latent phase of labour and warned me that she would get ready to come, already in contact with the nurse and the photographer. At this point, I regretted having sent him to work, because I needed his support and I wouldn’t have him. As he was far away, after asking me to come back at lunch, we decided that I would talk to my mother, so that someone nearby would find out and so that she could arrange something for me to eat, because I hadn’t been able to have breakfast. I told her, who told my father and asked my grandmother’s caregiver to prepare a mashed potato with chicken for me to eat. Some time later, my father came here with the food, but I left it to eat later.”
Close to midday, Carol’s doula and obstetric nurse arrived, and her husband began to head home from work.
“Shortly after they arrived, the interval between contractions increased to three minutes and the duration of each was between forty and fifty seconds. That’s when Amanda suggested that we do a touch exam and listen to the baby’s heart, to make sure he was okay and to see how the dilation was going. The three of us went to my room, waited for the contraction to pass and played the game. We were all surprised: 7 cm dilation. With the heartbeat, everything is also in order. I only knew how to cry, with emotion and joy, for having made it this far.
“Roberta suggested that I eat something, so I asked her to put some of the mashed potato with chicken. Between contractions, she gave me a few bites, but I couldn’t eat much. As my husband was already on the way, we decided to wait for him, not least because the girls didn’t drive and, well, I couldn’t do it from here to Humaitá. At 1pm, the bag broke. Soon after, my husband arrived. I was already worried that he wouldn’t arrive in time, but we waited. Shortly after the bag burst, another touch exam: 8 cm dilation. I decided to take a shower to go to the hospital and, meanwhile, my husband was already coming down with everything we needed to take.”
‘I realised there would be no time!’
Carol stood under the shower, labouring for 20 minutes until the hot water ran out.
“I had the feeling that I needed to go to the bathroom, but Amanda told me it was because he was already downstairs, that we needed to go soon, so that he was not born in a ‘vehicular birth’. I got dressed, with the help of Roberta, so we went down. With every step I took, I had the feeling that he was going to be born, that he wouldn’t have time – which made me very scared, because motherhood was distant and we were on a ‘general strike’ day. What if he wasn’t born well? What if something happened?
“Before I left the house, another contraction, another feeling that I was going to be born right there, another break – which, at this point in the championship, I didn’t even know how much longer it was … but my husband went up the stairs to get the car and go around: he would be waiting for us at the garage exit gate. Upon arriving at the Condominium Hall, another contraction, I was already saying that ‘he was being born’, that there would be no time – and screaming in pain, in the elevator hall of my condo. The contraction passed, we walked to the car so we could drive to the maternity hospital, already imagining how it would feel to feel the pain of each contraction stuck in a car.
“When we got close to the car, I realised that there would be no time, that Arthur wanted to come into the world right here. I told the nurse that I was being born, but she only believed when she bent down and saw that his head was already crowning. At that moment, I shouted to my husband, who was already in the car, to get out of there, in order that Amanda, our nurse, also joined in. He ran away, not understanding anything, and held me in place of our doula. Another contraction came, and with it, an uncontrollable urge to push. Then, another contraction, another force and, thus, our firstborn came into the world, in the parking lot of the building where we live, at the feet of the Sanctuary of Penha and next to the Parish of Nossa Senhora de Fátima, the place where all this history began. He didn’t want to leave here to be born in Humaitá, he didn’t want to deny his origins.
“After all this emotion (and this scare, because we were not prepared for it to happen that way), we got in the car and headed for the maternity hospital where this little one was born. Arthur was born at 1:43 pm. At 2:15 pm, we entered the maternity ward and were promptly attended. He was still connected to me by the umbilical cord, which had already stopped pulsing, so my husband was able to cut it. The placenta had not yet been laid, but it was already very low, so it could also be pulled out soon. After that, my husband followed the routine procedures in the nursery, but I was still a long time in the emergency room, because I had lacerations and had to undergo a suture. Arthur was born with 3.725 kg and 52 cm, Apgar Index 9/9.”
Carol’s doula Roberta told Mum’s Grapevine that in her two years as a doula, attending 50 births, this was by far the most dramatic.
“Labour has evolved very fast,” Roberta explained. “When we were going to get in the car to go to the maternity ward, the mother said she would not be able to get in because the baby was being born! And so it happened, the baby was born in that parking lot. It was very beautiful and exciting. The mother was satisfied, and touched, it was as she dreamed of a natural birth and without any intervention. The father was happy, but a little scared.”
Photographer Grazi said she had no time to adjust to the situation, and her instincts took over.
“Getting close to the car, I promptly opened the door and put a towel on the seat. When I finished putting on the towel, Carol had another contraction and shouted “HE’S BORN !” The nurse lifted Carol’s dress and Arthur was already crowning her.
“And in that, my camera was set up inside the house, another environment totally different from the outside area in the 1pm sun. I quickly reconfigured very quickly and started to click, there was no time to check. I thought quickly, saw the scenery and did it without even looking if it was good, but I imagined it was. This all happened in less than one minute after she said the baby was being born. I was asked if there was time to get her out of the sun and into shade. DO NOT. NO TIME! It went by like a jet. Was fast. Beautiful and exciting. Full of adrenaline and oxytocin. One of the most exciting births I’ve ever photographed”
What an incredible birth! We’re in awe of this brilliant birthing team who stayed cool and calm and brought little Arthur into the world in such dramatic fashion.