'The baby just fell into his hands': Queensland mum's amazing roadside delivery

Saalia Maestrom gave birth on the side of the road.
Saalia Maestrom gave birth on the side of the road.  Photo: Supplied

Saalia Maestrom had feared she would give birth on the side of the road, but she still can't believe it actually happened.

​"I had this conversation so many times with the midwife, but they were sure it wouldn't happen," the 34-year-old from Port Douglas says.   "She said I would leave on time and not to worry."

Saalia's labour began at 8am Saturday April 18.  She kept in touch with her midwife at Mareeba Hospital by text and 30 minutes later the midwife advised her to come in.

Baby Summer River.
Baby Summer River. 

"I was very nervous.  I had wanted to leave at 8am," she says. "I was stressed but thought they know better than me, so I'll just trust the process."

Saalia was booked into Mareeba Hospital, which was about 100km away, the nearest hospital at Mossman, a 15-minute drive from her home, closed its birthing unit in 2003.  

Saalia's first daughter was born after an eight and half hour labour so she'd been advised to expect at least a four hour labour this time.

But thirty minutes into a painful and anxious drive, after trying to stand up in the car during contractions, Saalia instructed her husband, Conan to stop the car.

"There was no way I could keep going for another half hour," Saalia says.  "We stopped; I walked back and forth twice, and my water broke.  Fifteen minutes later the baby was there."

Conan had been in touch with the hospital during the drive, but where they stopped the car was a mobile black spot.

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Thankfully, a couple driving past stopped to help.  The woman went to get mobile reception to call an ambulance, while her husband, a former paramedic, stayed.

Saalia was on all fours on the grass, telling her husband the baby was coming.  Conan still thought she was delirious with hormones and tried to persuade her to get back into the car.

"I said there was no way I was going to get back in the car.  We had some towels and the couple had some towels.  I was down on my knees holding my husband. I pushed the first time and felt baby's head.  Conan said, no there was nothing there and we can still make it to hospital," she says. 

"I pushed the second time and he said, 'oh my gosh I can see the head'. We looked at each and said, 'what do we do next.  Do we pull the baby out?  No, we need to push'.  I kept pushing and the baby just fell into his hands.

Roadside birth

Proud parents with baby daughter Summer River. Photo: Supplied

"I was in my own world.  I tried to focus on me."

It took the ambulance another 40 minutes to arrive, during which time Saalia became increasingly cold and started to shiver.

Once at the hospital Saalia birthed the placenta while the midwives said they had wondered what had happened when the communication stopped and joked that she hadn't needed a midwife after all.

"It was surreal.  It was an adventure.  But at the same time in 2020 that shouldn't happen.  When I sent the photo to my dad, on an Iranian island, he said, 'what the hell.  Why are you on the grass?'.  He couldn't believe it," she says.  

"Lucky this wasn't a traumatic experience but when you are in labour you should be able to just focus on your baby and connecting with your baby instead of driving and wondering if you will make it."

Mossman locals, Caroline and Ian Arcus, were travelling to buy a television when Conan waved them down and asked if they had mobile network.  

"I noticed Saalia kneeling down on the lawn and luckily the council had recently mowed the lawn, otherwise she would have been knee deep in long grass," Caroline says.

"She was using her hospital bag as a pillow.  It was just beautiful.  I would hate to think if it was a complicated birth."

As Caroline drove to find a signal and call the ambulance, Ian, a former paramedic, stayed to help.

"The first thought in my head was that it was the first birth in 11 years, but fortunately Saalia was on her knees on a blanket and gravity played a part.  Conan pulled the baby out and we made sure she was breathing and checked the pulse," Ian explains.

Caroline said when she returned and realised the baby had arrived, she fell to her knees.

"I touched her cheek and told her she was amazing.  She was still in a bit of pain at that moment.  But she was so beautiful and calm and cool.  I couldn't believe it."

Port Douglas mum, Jessie Goetze, was heavily criticised in the news when she freebirthed her first baby in 2017; an option she chose rather than potentially delivering on the side of the road.

She has been fighting to have the birthing unit reopened at Mossman Hospital, which was closed by Queensland Health apparently to centralise services.

Saalia hopes other women won't have to go through the same experience and is joining the push to have services at Mossman Hospital re-opened.