Another invisible mother

In “Motherless birthing, and the one-way street of obstetric ‘choice’ “, I talked about a news story in which the hero was the person “delivering” the baby on a plane, and the mother was invisible. Well, here’s another one.

[image credit: Fox]

Captain using first aid book delivers baby on shrimp boat

This story ran in the CNN “Heroes” section. The man attending the birth is the hero, of course, not the faceless cartoon of a mother who didn’t do anything except express her happiness after the event. And it’s all about the doing – he “delivered” the baby, he “scooped him out”, he “did the only thing he could”.

When the cook on his shrimp boat went into labor 30 miles offshore, captain Ed Keisel grabbed a new roll of paper towels and a first aid handbook and did the best he could.

He successfully delivered Cindy Preisel’s baby boy, even though the baby’s feet emerged first.

“I’m no doctor, but even I knew that’s not supposed to happen,” Keisel said. “I reached with my fingers… as gently as I could and popped out his left shoulder and then his right,” he said. “But then the little guy was stuck by his head, being strangled. So I did the only thing I could — I waited for a contraction and then slid my fingers in around the top of his head and scooped him out.”

But the newborn wasn’t breathing, so Keisel gently administered CPR. “I started giving mouth-to-mouth, three short puffs, and then thumping and rubbing its back,” he said.

The baby began to take short breaths, and after 20 to 25 minutes of CPR, gulped in air. His lips turned rosy and he started crying. “I was so happy and relieved,” Cindy Preisel said. “It’s hard to put into words.”

Keisel used net twine, sterilized in boiling water, to tie off the umbilical cord and cut the newborn free from his mother.

Friends waited at the dock in Freeport, about 55 miles south of Houston, with bottles and baby clothes.

It’s great that he could resuscitate the baby, just great. It’s lovely that a healthy baby was born.


I can’t help wondering if the baby might have not needed resuscitation at all if the first aid book had included the one golden rule of attending a breech birth – “HANDS OFF THE BREECH“. Yanking on a breech baby deflexes the head. The head then presents a larger diameter, and is more likely to get stuck and/or cause large perineal tears.

The first thing we were taught with regards to attending a breech birth is to sit on our bloody hands if we couldn’t keep them to ourselves. The only time to touch a breech is to help guide the baby out – after the nape of the neck is fully exposed. And that may well not be necessary either, especially if the mother has been let to position herself (hands and knees is particularly good for breech births) instead of being plonked on her back.

So. If you’re ever assisting a mother to birth a breech baby? Hands off. The mother can do the work. Don’t yank, don’t tug, don’t pop, don’t scoop. Sit on your hands.

Categories: gender & feminism, health

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14 replies

  1. Hurrah for the medicalisation of childbirth, eh? Most folks seem totally convinced that women’s bodies are incapable of birthing on their own, that needing outside intervention is the normal order of things.
    The captain did what he thought he ought to, and he must have been overwhelmed with what he thought he needed to do. Happily the baby survived him interfering when it wasn’t needed, and it’s not his fault that he didn’t know any better.
    But if more folks realised that women’s bodies birth OK most of the time on their own, everybody could have been a bit more relaxed instead of panicking.

  2. I can’t take this in, I’m still recovering from the man who delivered his second child in a Barina on the way to hospital…
    Spot the ‘second child’, yup, his wife had done all this before. He hadn’t been there for the first kid, and he hadn’t been to antenatal classes, but he delivered the baby. She just prayed.

  3. The captain did what he thought he ought to, and he must have been overwhelmed with what he thought he needed to do.

    Absolutely. I tried to make the point that this is something the first aid book might have included in its information on birth, not that it’s something everyone should magically know. (Maybe I should emphasise that more.) We’re socialised to believe that birth requires interference and intervention; I don’t blame him individually for that, and I give him props for knowing his CPR.

  4. You mentioned ‘hands & knees’ rather than supine but think of Abram’s missus, Sara – being apparently barren she sez “go into my handmaid that she may give birth on my knees” or the Caananite ‘daughters of the land’standing up holding onto a tree branch. Buddha’s mum also is said to have used this mehtod.
    What really bothers me is that the poor kid is being BOTTLE FED already!

  5. Yikes, it gets worse, as it happens. The Houston Chronicle reports:

    When it became obvious the 73-foot boat wasn’t going to make it to port in time, the three started getting ready for the delivery.
    “He started coming out butt first,” he mother said.
    “I knew that wasn’t good, so I just reached in there and yanked out a leg, and then I plucked out another leg,” the captain turned midwife said.
    The shoulders came out, but then the baby’s head refused to come out. “I was afraid I would dislocate his legs if I pulled too hard,” Kiesel said. “So I just reached in there and got hold of the back of his head and pulled him out.”
    The baby’s first bottle was an emptied and boiled soy sauce bottle with a nipple made from the finger of a rubber shrimper’s glove.

  6. Why didn’t she just put the dang baby to her breast?!

  7. Maybe she’s got implants or something.

  8. Yes, yes, I know, it was a knee-jerk response on my part. I should clarify: If they were headed off to shore anyway, why not just put the baby to the breast instead of spending what is clearly a long time thinking about how to — and putting a lot of energy into — feeding the baby artificially? I mean, they REALLY put some thought into that, when even I, who have had multiple breast surgeries (but no implants) — and the scarring from my surgeries have severely compromise my milk supply — even *I* wouldn’t have worried about my baby starving to death in that amount of time. I would have let the baby suckle and not worried about getting a bottle until getting to shore, because the amount of time on the boat wasn’t long enough to cause a starvation — or even dehydration — problem for a newborn.
    I’m floored at the fact that their first thought seemed to be to feed the baby artificially and not at his mother’s breast, especially given his trauma and the less-than-sanitary conditions… But I guess now that I think of it more, if the baby suffered from hypoxia and possible brain damage, perhaps the baby can’t figure out how to suckle properly…? That’s always a possibility. I’m sorry, like I said, my first reaction was that one, and I realize it was a bit insensitive. Some babies can’t nurse, or don’t want to. A baby that’s just come out of the womb doesn’t usually have that problem, though…. Preferences like that usually manifest later on (a few days, weeks, or months later). Anyway, sorry if my first comment was a bit rash.

  9. Nothing rash about your comment, and I didn’t mean to imply there was. It was simply the only answer I could think of off the top of my head.
    But yeah, if they all didn’t know enough not to think that the best response to a breech presentation was to pull like mad, then I’m guessing they didn’t know that the baby wouldn’t starve if it didn’t feed right away either. Or maybe they just wanted to quiet it and couldn’t think of any other way if suckling wasn’t working.

  10. That makes good sense.
    Well, no matter what happened, it was probably harrowing all around. A breech delivery definitely requires knowledge and finesse:
    I’m actually really happy for everyone on that boat that the baby was born without any complications, all things considered.

  11. A breech delivery definitely requires knowledge and finesse: <a href="</blockquote&gt;
    A breech delivery requires a lot of knowledge. A breech birth really only requires one key bit of knowledge.
    This is why I think comprehensive first aid books should contain these basic bits of knowledge for birthing. Assist mother to find her own position. Hands off. Baby onto chest, dry, keep warm, keep skin to skin, put to breast.
    Trouble is, this sort of birth is so far from the deliveries you see on TV, that I think people tend to go into the TV script when they panic. And I don’t blame them for panicking; it’s a situation so far out of the normal course of things nowadays that that is likely to be the usual reaction.

  12. Here’s one for the rule proven by exception:
    ””I guess we should have been more specific and said one more child, not one more set,” said Victoria, 39, who delivered the couple’s second set of triplets after 34 weeks of pregnancy.”
    Victoria Lasita is not the midwife or obstetrician – she is the mother of a new set of triplets, quoted in a Herald story this morning.
    ps two sets of triplets, and 3 grown children. Wow!

  13. I’m glad that she was mentioned so prominently, but how odd that the exception is a case where she gave birth by caesarean, so that someone else actually did do the work this time.
    I guess she is the focus because of the incredible rarity of natually conceived triplets happening twice, and her body is the only one that made that happen.

  14. This story makes me furious. The idea that the man was heroic in this situation and the woman’s courage doesn’t rate a mention. Livid. Great post, thanks for drawing my attention to it. Your critique was spot on!

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