As children, many of us are fed fantastical tales of gigantic birds airlifting human infants to mask the icky, sex-induced reality of childbirth. But truth is stranger than fiction. And sometimes, babies are brought into the world under circumstances that would make delivery by stork sound believable by comparison.
In the United States, the Fourth of July holiday is usually capped off by a fireworks display that rivals the splendor of stars in the night sky. But in 2013, Mother Nature decided to inject her own brand of pizazz to Independence Day festivities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with the aid of her favorite sparkler: lightning. That night, expectant mother Kendra Villanueva and her boyfriend, Ian Gordon, were outside when the weather turned an ominous shade of thunderous. Before the couple had a chance to make their way to safety, a tendril of lighting leaped out from the sky and struck them as they passed under a tree.
A violent jolt of electricity ran a circuitous route through from Gordon’s ear and Villanueva’s body before exiting through her thumb. Both were zapped unconscious. Although Villanueva had weeks to go before her oven bun was due, doctors were forced to perform an emergency Cesarean in hopes of saving her lightning-kissed baby. Amazingly, the child survived.
Adorably nicknamed “Flash Gordon,” young Kimberly Gordon has been heralded as a “medical marvel” by specialists. But her high-voltage ordeal didn’t leave her unscathed. A one-year-old Kimberly struggled to digest food and was incapable of crawling or sitting up. And given the rarity of her circumstances, it’s impossible to map an expected developmental trajectory. On a much lighter note, Baby Flash’s hair purportedly has a bizarre propensity to stand up straight as if in a perpetual state of static cling.
9Against The Wind
There’s never really an opportune moment for a tornado to touch down in your neck of the woods. But having one assail your hospital during the birth of a child seems particularly untimely. Oklahoman Shayla Taylor found herself in that precise predicament when a twister bore down on her hospital as she tried to pass a bundle of joy through her birth canal. Unfortunately for Taylor, the arrival of her family’s latest addition, much like that of natural disaster outside, couldn’t wait. While her husband and four-year-old son took cover on a lower floor of the hospital, she was carted to a windowless room where the delivery could be completed.
Relocating failed to halt the twister’s furious onslaught. The tornado buffeted the building with winds blowing at 300 kilometers (200 mi) per hour, tearing the outside wall right off of Taylor’s operating room. Hospital staff shielded her with blankets and a human cocoon of their own bodies as tiles and lighting fixtures collapsed overhead. The room was reduced to a sloppy medley of debris and heavy machinery. Taylor, still not yet done birthing her baby, had to be relocated to a nearby hospital after being lugged downstairs on a flat board.
Even with a meteorological nightmare threatening to upend her delivery, Shayla gave birth to a bouncing baby boy via C-section. The parents named him Braeden. After seeing the way nurses defied death to protect her and her child, Taylor, herself an aspiring nurse, expressed a deepened commitment to helping others. However, that selfless service might have to take place elsewhere, as her brush with nature’s fury has since made Taylor rethink living in Tornado Alley.
8Trial By Forest Fire
In June 2015, Amber Pangborn reportedly left her Orville, California, home to visit a friend at a casino. But it was after leaving the betting house that the 35-year-old was forced to make a major gamble. While trying to drive to her parents’ house, the nine months of baby inside her decided to pay the world a visit. Trying to avoid a roadside delivery, she cut through a forest to save time. Instead Pangborn got lost and ran out of gas.
Stranded, she was forced to give birth in the backseat of a car (where babies are typically made, not delivered), at which point things purportedly got wild. According to Pangborn, to stave off the exhaustion, she dosed herself with meth. That narcotic pick-me-up—along with three apples, a can of soda, and a bit of water—would be all that she had to tough it out in the wilderness with her newborn daughter for three days. During that interval, she claims to have fended off placenta-hungry mosquitoes and bees, getting stung repeatedly in the process.
Desperation eventually took over, and Pangborn tried to start a signal fire in hopes of flagging attention. That signal quickly ballooned into a quarter-acre blaze, which—while unintended—did the job. The US Forest Service sprang into action and stumbled upon the marooned mother-daughter pair. A helicopter was sent in to rescue them.
Pangborn’s bid to brave the wilderness with her daughter Marissa in tow made for compelling news, but Child Protective Services officials weren’t exactly thrilled to hear her tale of post-childbirth drug use and accidental forest destruction. Concerned about the circumstances of her delivery, CPS took Marissa into protective custody. Pangborn has since sought to get her back.
7Born Over Troubled Waters
In May 1995, a decade before Hurricane Katrina laid siege to New Orleans, the historic city was beset by record levels of flooding. As rising waters wreaked $3.1 billion of havoc and forced widespread evacuations, Maria Tanzini found herself grappling with an altogether different water problem, namely, when hers would break. The night before her due date, a torrential downpour drenched the city, and the pregnant Tanzini started having contractions. She, her husband, and her parents packed into a van and tried to go to the hospital. Water climbed to the door handle, and the van soon stalled. At this point, they saw no other choice but to travel on foot, despite waist-high flooding.
As the family faced down the flood on foot, fortune shined on them in the form of a sturdier vehicle. A local bar owner spotted the group from his four-wheel-drive and offered Maria and her husband a ride as her parents waded back home. The water levels surged upward, making travel increasingly difficult and dangerous. Then an ambulance showed up to intercept the trio and bring the Tazinis the rest of the way to East Jefferson General Hospital, where Brittany Tazini was born.
The Tazinis’ story of perseverance and almost cinematic luck made young Brittany a media darling. She was quickly dubbed a “miracle baby,” a representation of New Orleans’s own robust character. For Brittany, now an adult studying cosmetology, it’s just an annually retold story of a time she can’t remember. According to the young woman, “I don’t even think it really happened to me. I wasn’t there.”
6An Unusually Long Wait
If television and film have taught us anything, it’s that when a pregnant woman’s water breaks, a squealing infant is just around the corner. But there was nothing speedy or intuitive about Gideon Whitchurch when he was born. His parents had suffered through five years of miscarriages and unfulfilled hopes to conceive him. Then, just 28 weeks into the pregnancy, his mother’s water broke, and Gideon kept the eager parents waiting once again for an extremely long time—over a month.
It’s not unheard of for a child’s amniotic sac to break before he or she is ready to make a grand entrance. It’s a phenomenon known as premature rupture of membranes (P-PROM), and it’s observed in about 3 percent of pregnancies. When a woman’s water breaks too early, infection becomes an ever-looming threat. Things looked dicey for Gideon. With just seven months of growing under his belt, he would be susceptible to various complications if delivered. Doctors hoped they would be able to delay his arrival by two days. Gideon, however, stayed nestled in his mother’s womb for a whole 39 days after her water broke.
According to the mother, doctors informed her that the chances of a remaining in the mother’s body even a full week after amniotic rupture were about only 5 percent. To last 10 days would be “a miracle.” But ever the procrastinator, young Gideon took almost four miracles’ worth of time before he was ready to greet the world. Thirty-three weeks into the pregnancy, the baby was finally delivered via Cesarean. After a five-month stint in the neonatal intensive care unit, Gideon was right as rain.
5On Shaky Ground
The Nepal earthquake of April 2015 was the country’s deadliest on record, claiming more than 8,500 souls. But even among the carnage of the 7.8-magnitude monster and a second large quake that followed, life found a way. As thousands tragically died, hundreds of babies were born, with the UN estimating that 126,000 expectant mothers were impacted by the disaster. Among those women was 28-year-old Dolma Tamang.
Tamang was consumed by a pile of rubble that used to be her house when the quake hit. Somehow, she not only survived but clawed her way from underneath the remnants of her house. But Tamang still found herself in a serious bind. She had suffered multiple injuries, and her breathing was labored. She had no idea how the building collapse had affected the child she was carrying, and the nearest health post was in ruins. Reaching the next closest clinic would require a three-hour walk across earthquake-ravaged terrain, and Tamang was too weak to manage it.
The mother was trapped in terrifying limbo for two weeks before going into labor. But just when it seemed she would bring her child into unfettered chaos, a Japanese mobile clinic happened by her. To the relief of everyone, she gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy.
4An Ambush From Within
A soldier must be prepared for anything: withering physical exertion, the unremitting gore of combat, and the possibility of dying. UK footballer and lance bombardier Lynette Pearce was undoubtedly ready for all of those things when she shipped off to Afghanistan for a six-month deployment. She had completed her training, passed arduous physical fitness tests, and was ready to rock on the battlefield. So Pearce must have been floored to find out just days after she’d fought off Taliban insurgents during an attack on her base that she had completed her training and stared down militant death itself while pregnant.
Pearce thought she was simply having stomach pains when she approached medics, not labor contractions. But as it turned out, someone had planted a baby bomb in her uterus before her tour of duty began. In 2012, five weeks before it was due, that adorable explosive detonated. According to Pearce, it was the first time she even knew it was there. She had at least experienced the telltale symptom of unexplained weight gain, but she apparently didn’t experience anything that tipped her off. Her commanding officers were also stunned.
Pearce quickly went from combat hero to concerned mother when her son was born early. But she wasn’t the only one who was unprepared for the event. The medical staff was well versed in stitching up wounded soldiers but had little in the way of obstetric preparedness. But the base was able to incubate the child, and a special pediatric team was deployed to tend to him. The momma warrior later returned to the UK with her battle-christened baby, excited to tackle childrearing.
3The Unenthused Ex
In May 2012, Latonya Bowman of Detroit was nine months into her pregnancy and ready to go the distance. But not everyone was looking forward to it. Bowman’s ex-boyfriend, Jamal Rogers, had already sired two children and dreaded the prospect of a paternal hat trick. So rather than respect the mother’s wishes, the consummately resistant Rogers hatched a plan to brutally kill Bowman.
Rogers had Bowman bring him home after they enjoyed a night at the drive-through together. The 22-year-old Bowman came face-to-face with a gunman waiting in Rogers’s garage. That individual turned out to be Rogers’s friend and crime partner, Antonio Mathis, whose task was to make Bowman disappear. Mathis restrained the terrified woman with duct tape and deposited her in the backseat of her own vehicle. From there, he took her to a deserted field, whereupon he drenched Bowman with lighter fluid and set her ablaze. Desperate to extinguish the flames, the woman propelled her body out of the car and tried to roll on the ground. Mathis, determined to extinguish her life, shot Bowman.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, Bowman pretended to die on the spot. Mathis bought the ruse and made a hasty exit. The burned and bloodied Bowman then climbed into her car and drove to a phone to call her mother. Within days of the heinous murder attempt, doctors wrested the baby from her womb in an emergency procedure. Both mother and child survived.
Police quickly caught onto Rogers’s involvement in the crime, as the devious dad lacked the savvy not to incriminate himself. He and Mathis were tried and convicted for the attempted murder of Bowman and her baby. Both received life sentences.
2Between A Rock And A Hard Place
In April 2013, workers at the Bangladesh-based Rana Plaza garment factory could sense the danger. The eight-story building had formed massive cracks, making employees skittish about entering the facility. Unfortunately, all their employers could see in the safety concern was the threat of money going down the drain. They prodded the workers to get to work, and the buckling building gave way. The imploded structure left more than 1,100 dead and marked one of the few instances when the world paused to scrutinize the horrendous and sometimes deadly conditions thrust onto the people who make many of our clothes. But aside from a newfound awareness, there were few things to place in the “positives” column. Among the positives, one was both diminutive and amazing.
Situated under a mess of collapsed columns was a young woman and her newborn son. The baby was born amid the chaos of the collapse, but in a stroke of almost preternatural luck somehow escaped the mortal peril which would claim so many others. His mother had seemingly also avoided serious injury.
When rescuers reached the woman and child, she bade them to save her son first. Other women on the scene chipped in by cutting the still-attached umbilical cord, and the newborn, followed by his grateful mother, was wrested from the wreckage to safety.
1Hell Hath No Fury
In stark contrast with her name, 31-year-old Ruby Lee Love was feeling rather hateful on June 5, 1982. Embroiled in a triangle with a man named Ennis Walden and his 17-year-old pregnant girlfriend, Linda Whiteside, an evidently scorned Love opted to break things off in murderous fashion. As Walden and Whiteside were out walking, Love fired a single gunshot. A bullet burrowed into Whiteside’s back and punctured several organs before wedging itself between the two halves of her unborn son’s brain.
Daniel Whiteside was two and a half months short of being born, but he was already a victim of gun violence. Doctors were forced to pull him from his mother’s womb via emergency C-section. Little Daniel’s head was a mess of shattered skull and blood, but against all expectations, he hadn’t died. Now it was up to the doctors to keep him alive. The premature infant couldn’t yet withstand the physical strain of brain surgery, so doctors placed Daniel on life support. His brain aided the rescue effort by growing a protective covering.
While most children delivered at that stage spend at least a week on a ventilator, Daniel was able to breathe on his own in half that time. In August, the bullet was dislodged during a half-hour surgery, and Daniel was well on his way to a healthy recovery three months after his gunshot-induced delivery. He tended to sleep more than most babies and had weaker muscles on the right side of his body, but all things considered, his health was pretty peachy. It’s unclear how Daniel’s life unfolded from there, but he certainly got off to an incredible start.