…as told by a former semi-professional baby-catcher*
1. Don’t freak out. Seriously, don’t be the kid that faints when we actually need you. Breathe. Get calm. Breathe again. And wash your hands. You can do this. Get blankets, towels, or cloth of some kind.
2. Call for help if you are on your own. Call 911. Not because this is a crazy freak emergency, but because you might need someone to talk you through this crazy thing. And because medical professionals are trained in neat ways.
3. Get into a good spot. Find a bed or comfy floor space. At the very least you should pull over the car. Don’t worry about your car seats or your jacket that she is sitting on. Get settled and remember to breathe and remind the soon-to-be-mom/banshee to breathe too. Get in whatever position is comfiest for her. Let her squat, stand, kneel, bend on all fours, lean, stretch out, howl. This is her body and her thing. Her body knows what feels best.
4. It is called ‘catching’ for a reason. Don’t try to pull on baby as you see it start to emerge. Instead, do the opposite really; cup your hands into a “U” shape and press back gently on mom under where baby’s head wants to come out. Get ready to catch. Let her breathe and encourage her to push only when she feels a contraction. Encourage her to save her energy and refocus between contractions.
5. Smile, encourage, make good eye contact, breathe. Your demeanor here matters. If you are a total spazz, you aren’t helping and you may even really be causing more harm than good. During these critical moments, you need to be really present and grounded and encouraging. Try to stay calm.
6. First things first: take care of the head. When baby’s head emerges, help wipe away mucus from the mouth and nose. Help clear the airway. Babies don’t normally belt out a scream right away. They need a gentle rub to get moving sometimes. Just be sure you can clear what you can. Also, check for the umbilical cord. If wrapped, don’t worry too much. If wrapped tight, keep baby close to mom and try to place your finger between the cord and baby’s neck to create a bit of space for the baby to breathe.
7. Babies really are slippery. Don’t drop the baby. I can’t stress how slippery they are. Don’t look away. Don’t move for anything else. Don’t pose for a photo. Be prepared to catch. Have a blanket right there to wrap baby in immediately like a little taquito. Rub the baby’s back gently to encourage breath (stimulate the soles of their feet by gently rubbing). Wrap baby up and be careful to not tug on the umbilical cord as you do. Place baby on mom’s chest to keep him/her close.
8. Wait for the placenta to deliver. Normally, this will happen in the next 10-15 minutes or so. Do not tug, pull, or do anything really to the cord. As the placenta begins to emerge, have something ready to “catch” the placenta as well. Tupperware, plastic bag, whatever.
9. Depending on how far you are from medical care, don’t even worry about cutting the cord. In some cultures, the baby and placenta remain attached by the umbilical cord for days before it spontaneously and naturally detaches. There is no need to cut it right away. If you do want to cut and clamp the cord, wait for about 5 minutes, or at least until it stops pulsing, and clamp the cord by tying a knot with string around the cord about 4-6 inches from the newborn. The cord will be surprisingly tough to cut; it will require a sharp knife or edge.
10. Be sure the baby is warm, and put a hat on the newborn as soon as possible! A tiny hat! Do not wash the newborn for at least 24 hours. Be sure that mom is comfortable and keep mom and baby as close as possible. Celebrate!
* While I am trained as an EMT, I learned many tricks and techniques from midwives around the world. These suggestions for delivering a baby come from my experience. As stated earlier, when assisting with a delivery, it is important to call 911 or seek the support of a medically trained professional such as a midwife or doctor.
About Our Contributor
Sara Bates received a Watson Fellowship to travel the world studying midwifery, midwives, and the issues surrounding women’s health. She will soon be starting training to become a Nurse Practitioner/Nurse Midwife so she can catch even more babies.