It's a story that small children love and teenagers dread (especially if they have company present). It begins, "I remember the day you were born," and may include photos, slide shows or videos. Every birth is remarkable and life-changing to those involved, of course. But statistically, most births follow a certain pattern. That makes these stories comforting for worried, expectant friends, but can make them tedious to other audiences (small children excepted).
If the mother telling the story is one of the 4 million women who's given birth each year in the United States since 2000, you can probably expect her to describe an uncomplicated birth by vaginal delivery (although increasingly, it may have been a cesarean section) [source: CDC]. It almost certainly took place in a hospital, although more women have been opting for home birth in recent years [source: Wyckoff]. If she's a first-time mother, she was probably in her early to mid-20s [source: CDC].
But some stories are far from typical. Each of the five we've collected here puts a new twist on the expression "the miracle of birth." In some, you may see divine intervention. In others, you may suspect a divine sense of humor.
Our first story will strike a chord with many parents who know that having a baby keeps you on the run. This mom takes it all in stride.
Someday, if June Miller walks around Chicago for the first time and feels like she's been there before, she'll be right -- in a way. June was born just hours after her mother, Amber Miller, jogged and waddled those streets at 38 weeks and five days pregnant (40 weeks being full term) while taking part in the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9, 2011.
It's generally safe for experienced distance runners to continue competing under medical supervision while pregnant. In fact, some researchers think that pregnancy serves as mental and physical conditioning. Doctors warn against taking up the sport during pregnancy, but do recommend less demanding forms of exercise.
Miller follows in the footsteps of other runners who have mixed marathons with maternity. For example, world-record holder Paula Radcliffe was back in training one week after giving birth to her daughter, Isla. Ten months later, she won the 2007 New York City Marathon.
And actually, the Chicago Marathon wasn't the first time Miller ran with a baby on board. She had competed in the Wisconsin Marathon five months before, also while carrying June [sources: AP; Longman]. If prenatal experience counts for anything, June will have a head start if she inherits her mom's love for running.
After reading our next story, you may ask, "What was he thinking?" We'll supply the details. You can answer the question for yourself.
Video recordings of births aren't known for their high cinematic value. But Zachary Russell did a pretty good job, especially considering that he was filming while preoccupied with another task: driving a car.
The drama began on Jan. 20, 2012, when Jennifer Russell went into labor. Zachary settled his wife into the passenger seat of their Ford two-door for the 45-minute drive from their home in Waxahatchie, Texas, to the birthing center in Mansfield, where the baby was meant to make her debut. They should have had plenty of time: Labor averages 16 hours for first-time moms like Jennifer [source: Moisse]. Instead, Jennifer's water broke and baby Willow began her descent down the birth canal on Highway 287.
Fortunately, the birth came off without a hitch. Undaunted by the unusual circumstances, Zachary whipped out his cell phone and captured the event, driving one-handed. After a few close-ups of pavement and pans of the countryside, Willow is seen emerging, red-faced and squalling. Jennifer carefully untangles the umbilical cord from around Willow's neck. At the birthing center, Willow was declared a healthy 8 pounds or so (about 3.6 kilograms).
To us, Willow's delivery embodies the digitally connected age she enters. Her birth was recorded, and her grandmother notified minutes later, via cell phone. The video went global within hours, with 17,000 views on YouTube in her first two days alone [source: Betz].
Up next: A lot of kids get their own rooms -- after they're born. Giving her children the ultimate personal space earned our next mother inclusion in our anthology.
By our count, Maricica Tescu's delivery defied the odds not once, but four times.
First, Tescu herself was born with an abnormality called uterus didelphys. This condition results when the two tubes that normally merge into a single uterus remain separate, creating two individual wombs. It affects roughly 1 in 2,000 women worldwide. Granted, that's a lot of women. But Tescu conceived a child simultaneously in each uterus, one of only about 100 such occurrences on record [source: Chitale].
Second, both of Tescu's children were born alive and survived. Double uteruses rarely maintain one pregnancy, let alone two. Tescu's first baby arrived in December 2004, two months early. He was placed in the intensive care unit due to difficulty breathing. That's a common hazard of premature birth, the lungs being the last organ to develop prenatally. But he fully recovered in the hands of the team at Cuza-Voda Hospital in Tescu's hometown of Iasi, Romania.
Third, in uterus didelphys, premature labor in one uterus often triggers labor in the other -- but this didn't happen to Tescu. Doctors were able to let the other boy develop in the womb.
Fourth, the second baby was delivered full term. Doctors performed a cesarean section 59 days later in early February, 2005. By some calculations, the odds of a twin conceived in a double uterus being carried to full term are 1 in 5 million [sources: BBC News; Chitale].
Our next story shows that the saying "good things come in small packages" can be carried too far.
To appreciate Rumaisa Rahman's dimensions at birth, imagine holding a small sub sandwich from a popular fast-food chain. Delivered by cesarean section on Sept. 19, 2004, Rumaisa weighed 8.6 ounces (245 grams) and measured 9.5 inches (24 centimeters). She remains the smallest known surviving premature infant. Her twin, Hiba, weighed 1.25 pounds (566 grams), robust by comparison. The average American newborn weighs 7.5 pounds (3.4 kilograms) and measures 20 inches (50 centimeters) [source: Meyerhoff].
The girls were delivered at 26 weeks' gestation after their mother, Mahajabeen Shaik, developed dangerously high blood pressure, a pregnancy-related condition called preeclampsia. Their stage of development put them on the cusp of survival. Had they been born three weeks earlier, they would have had only a 20 percent chance of living, and probably with serious physical disabilities. Infants at 28 weeks and later stand a 90 percent chance of living without major impairment [source: Rochman].
Tipping the odds in the twins' favor: Premature girls fare better than boys, and their doctor had delivered the previous record-holding preemie in the same hospital, Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, 15 years before. Shaik had been given steroids to spur the twins' brain and lung development. After delivery, they were attached to respirators with breathing tubes the size of spaghetti strands.
As of 2011, Rumaisa was in first grade, following an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). She was lagging slightly in fine motor skills in school but on par for language skills [sources: BBC World Service; CBS News; USA Today]. However, successful outcomes like hers are the rare exception.
Next: One perilous birth means life for thousands of children -- and adults.
During the last days of pregnancy, an expectant mother may feel as much anxiety as excitement. In the moments after, she may feel as much relief as joy. Sofia Chubongo must have felt those emotions in the extreme.
It was March 1, 2000. A month of excessive storms, including a cyclone, had sent floodwaters rushing inland to the East African country of Mozambique. Hundreds were known to be dead. Another 100,000 people awaited evacuation, including some 7,000 Mozambicans trapped in trees.
Sofia was among them. She had taken refuge above the Limpopo River, which had swollen in some places to 80 miles (128 kilometers) wide. Chubongo's situation was especially desperate: She was due to give birth.
After three days, rescue helicopters from the South African Defense Force arrived. At that same time, Chubongo went into labor. A soldier descended in time to cut the umbilical cord. The drama was captured by an army of international TV crews [source: BBC News].
While Chubongo and the baby, named Rosita, recovered in a hospital, their plight was broadcast around the world. By giving human faces to an overwhelming tragedy, they inspired a flood of donations to relief groups and aid from governments. They went on a worldwide fundraising tour. Their government gave them a new home and established trust funds for Rosita.
Doulas don't have any medical training but many mothers depend on them to be in the delivery room. Find out more about doulas from HowStuffWorks.
- Associated Press. "Woman Runs Marathon, Gives Birth." ESPN. Oct. 11, 2011. (Feb. 16. 2012.) http://espn.go.com/chicago/story/_/id/7084374/oh-baby-woman-runs-chicago-marathon-gives-birth
- BBC News. "Mozambique: How Disaster Unfolded." Feb. 24, 2000. (Feb. 20, 2012) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/655227.stm
- BBC News. "Twins Are Born Two Months Apart." Feb. 9, 2005. (Feb. 16, 2010) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4249203.stm
- BBC World Service. "The Image of Rosita." Aug. 13, 2001. (Feb. 24, 2012) http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/people/highlights/010423_rosita.shtml
- Better Health Channel. "Premature Babies." March 2010. (Feb. 18, 2012) http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/premature_babies?open
- Betz, Jonathan. "Baby Born in Moving Car on Highway." Jan. 24, 2012. (Feb. 16, 2012) http://www.wfaa.com/home/related/Special-delivery-arrives-on-the-highway-137965158.html
- CBS News. "World's Tiniest Babies: How Are They Now?" (Feb. 16, 2012) http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-204_162-10010544.html?tag=page
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Delayed Childbearing: More Women Are Having Their First Child Later in Life." August 2009. (Feb. 23, 2012) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db21.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Recent Trends in Cesarean Delivery in the United States." March 2010. (Feb. 23, 2012) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db35.htm
- Chitale, Radha. "Woman With Two Wombs Gives Birth to Twins." ABC News, March 3, 2009. (Feb. 18, 2012) http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=6992987&page=1
- Jooste, Bronwynne. "Baby Born in Tree Now a 10-Year-Old Girl." IOL News, May 5, 2010. (Feb. 16, 2012). http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/baby-born-in-tree-now-a-10-year-old-girl-1.482858
- Longman, Jerè. "Two Steps Back, 26.2 Miles Forward." The New York Times. Sept. 23, 2011. (Feb. 17, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/24/sports/after-thoughts-of-quitting-paula-radcliffe-resumes-chase-of-elusive-olympic-medal.html?pagewanted=all
- Mbugua, Martin. "Chaos -- and New Life: Child Born in Tree Above Mozambique Floods." The New York Times, March 2, 2000. (Feb. 16, 2012) http://articles.nydailynews.com/2000-03-02/news/18127953_1_rescue-flood-victims-mozambicans-mozambique
- Meyerhoff, Michael. "Understanding Newborn Characteristics and Development." (Feb. 23, 2012) https://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/baby/understanding-newborn-characteristics-and-development-ga.htm
- Moisse, Katie. "Backseat Birth Caught on Tape." Good Morning America, Jan. 24, 2012. (Feb. 16, 2012) http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_ParentingResource/backseat-birth-caught-tape/story?id=15428362
- Nierenburg, Cari. "Some of World's Tiniest Preemies Are Growing Up Healthy." WebMD. Dec. 12, 2011. (Feb. 20, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20111212/some-of-worlds-tiniest-preemies-growing-up-healthy
- Rochman, Bonnie. "Incredibly, World's Tiniest Preterm Babies Are Doing Just Fine." Time. Dec. 12, 2011. (Feb. 20, 2012) http://healthland.time.com/2011/12/12/worlds-tiniest-preterm-babies-are-doing-just-fine/
- USA Today. "World's Smallest Baby Ready to Go Home." Dec. 21, 2004. (Feb. 19, 2012) http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-12-21-smallest-baby_x.htm
- Wyckoff, Whitney Blair. "Home Births, While Still Uncommon, Are on the Rise in the US." NPR. May 23, 2011. (Feb. 20, 2012) http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/05/20/136500621/home-births-while-still-uncommon-are-on-the-rise-in-u-s