Westmead midwives safely deliver eager baby in hospital foyer

Athena and Jie Yeo are all smiles after delivering baby Tobias on the floor of Westmead Hospital’s main foyer in November 2020.

Young Tobias Yeo just couldn’t wait to join the world last year, being delivered on the floor outside Westmead Hospital’s florist.

Proud mum Athena Yeo valiantly laboured at home for nearly 36 hours, even getting some baking done between contractions that started around 5am on Monday, November 16.

“At this stage it was light and not very painful, I was able to get around and do things throughout the day. I was baking and making buns and was thinking, okay, this is not too bad!” Athena said.

An updated family photo at Christmas

Athena’s husband Jie encouraged her through the gradual process, and by Tuesday afternoon her contractions were painful and frequent enough that the couple’s midwife encouraged them to come into hospital.

“My dad and husband pretty much carried me to the car as I tried to help them as much as possible by walking too,” Athena said.

“My screams were heard by my friends in the neighbouring units, who later told me that hearing my screams in active labour is not something they will ever forget!”

After being helped to a seat in the hospital foyer, Athena waited for a midwife to fetch a wheelchair to take her up to the birthing unit.

“As I stood up, I felt another contraction coming and gritted through my teeth saying ‘I can’t! The baby is coming!’ The midwife checked and indeed the baby was coming!” Athena said.

Midwives Marika Lee and Rhiannah Neaves were there to help the couple to the birth unit, but when they saw the baby’s head they realised Athena wasn’t going anywhere.

“I got one of my colleagues to run upstairs and grab a Doppler so we could listen to baby’s heartbeat through the contractions and birth. The neonatal team prepared a resuscitation trolley just in case,” Marika said.

Marika Lee delivered baby Tobias on the ground to the right of the Westmead Hospital florist, with the help of many staff including fellow midwife Rhiannah Neaves.

“We had people from the emergency department, security and obstetrics helping to hold up a sheet for privacy. It was a well-organised emergency.

“Mum could’ve worried but she just closed her eyes, listened to us and listened to her body. It was magical.”

Athena said she “didn’t pay much attention” to her public location.

“All I did was follow the voice of the midwives as they encouraged me to push long and hard for the first few pushes. In the end they said to ‘blow out the candles’ and I did! Soon after, out little boy Tobias was born. I was so thankful when he was placed on my chest and to see his beautiful face. The pain was so worth it.”

During the birth Tobias unfortunately swallowed some meconium, a baby’s first poo that usually comes after birth but is sometimes released during labour.

He needed treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit to help his breathing and antibiotics to prevent any infection from the meconium.

Jie and Athena were by Tobias’ side as he spent a day in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Tobias did well with his doting parents by his side, and was able to join Athena on the maternity ward within 24 hours, rather than the 48 hours that was planned. The happy family was back home and settling into their new life by Friday.

“We are truly thankful for all the people at Westmead who has helped us along the way for bringing baby Tobias into this world,” Athena said.

“Sorry if we forgot your names, but you know who you are!

“Ultimately we are thankful to God who has given Tobias life and is carrying us through this.”

Marika said she was grateful to hear that Athena had fond memories of the unusual birth.

“She should take her hat off to herself, she did so well,” Marika said.

“It was as normal as birth should be in not very normal circumstances! It went really well, it was a beautiful birth. We kept things calm, there was no yelling or shouting, we just did what we normally do every day in the birth unit.”