Surprise package … Lisa Steele with her daughter Olivia, 3, and Scarlett, who was an unexpected home birth. Photo: Brendan Esposito
There was a lot that was unexpected about little Scarlett Steele's birth.
Her mother, Lisa, never planned to give birth at home. And certainly not with four paramedics, her sister and her eight-year-old niece present.
Mrs Steele is one of 200 women who have called ambulances in the past two weeks after realising too late that they needed to go to hospital, according to the Ambulance Service of NSW. Paramedics have delivered 10 babies in that time, a much higher number than is usual.
One paramedic told the Herald she had delivered only three babies in nine years.
When Mrs Steele awoke with labour pains about 2am, a midwife at her birthing centre at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick advised her to take some paracetamol and lie down.
But it soon became clear that Scarlett was coming quickly.
"From when I woke up from being fast asleep to when she was born it was only 2½ hours," Mrs Steele said.
While her husband, Simon, received advice over the phone and updates on how far away the paramedics were, Mrs Steele tried to slow the birth, angling the bottom half of her body upwards to slow the baby's path.
"I did everything I could to hold off," she said.
Within 10 minutes of the paramedics arriving, Scarlett was born - at 4.31am, although a "dodgy" clock in the bathroom means they couldn't be sure of the time, Mrs Steele said.
Hannah Dahlen, a spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, said babies born at home accidentally were more common than planned home births.
The most recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that of 2567 women who gave birth outside a delivery ward or birth centre, only 1000 had planned it that way.
But Ms Dahlen said that women should not feel worried by early births and go to hospital too early.
"In some of our delivery wards more than half of the women admitted don't give birth, they go home," she said.
Arriving early could also increase the risk of medical intervention rather than waiting for a natural birth, she said.
Symptoms indicating a woman is ready to give birth include a strong need to push, feeling like going to the toilet, and weak legs making it hard to get off the ground. The latter were ''nature's clever way of keeping you down low'' so the baby did not have far to fall.