A woman who unexpectedly gave birth on a cruise ship months before her due date says she wrapped towels around the one and a half-pound baby boy and, against all odds, she and medical staff managed to keep him alive until they reached port.
Emily Morgan, of Ogden, Utah, said doctors did not expect tiny Haiden to live, but thanks to strong lungs, a makeshift incubator and an early arrival in Puerto Rico, he made it. He’s now receiving care at a neonatal intensive care unit in Miami, Florida.
Mrs Morgan, 28, said the baby was due in December, but contractions began on August 31 during a seven-day cruise around the eastern Caribbean that her doctor approved to celebrate her daughter’s third birthday.
The pregnancy had been uneventful, so she was shocked when the contractions began just past the halfway mark in her pregnancy.
'I had felt him kicking'
She thought they might be false labour but she and her husband called medical staff when they saw blood. A doctor aboard the Royal Caribbean ship told her she could not give birth because they were still 14 hours from the nearest port in Puerto Rico but holding back was not an option, Mrs Morgan said.
“I knew the baby was coming,” she said.
After the delivery, she said the doctors told her she had miscarried and she should get some rest, but she insisted on seeing the baby. About 45 minutes later, medical staff said the baby had survived but was not expected to live long.
“I had felt him kicking. I felt the process of him getting bigger,” she said. “I said, ’I’m going to see him, I don’t care if he’s alive or if he’s dead’.”
'A feeble cry'
They brought her to her newborn son, who was wrapped in towels wet from the birth. He was wearing a tiny oxygen mask on his face.
“He was crying, like a little feeble cry,” she said. Along with his healthy pink colouring, it was a positive sign that his lungs were relatively strong.
As the hours went on, she insisted he be wrapped in fresh, dry towels, and she helped staff tuck microwaved saline packets around him to create a makeshift incubator. They used a sanitary towel to keep his head warm and tried to avoid touching his sensitive skin.
Meanwhile, the captain was speeding the boat to Puerto Rico, and it arrived about two hours early. It was none too soon – black spots were starting to appear on Haiden’s fingers, indicating his circulation was starting to fade.
Two ambulances rushed the family to a hospital and they were transferred to a children’s hospital in Miami a few days later.
Mrs Morgan said she was initially frustrated when officials did not at first let her see the baby, but now believes they were just trying to protect her. She added that they had been very responsive in helping her family navigate a difficult situation.
Less than 10% chance
Haiden is now making good progress, being fed breast milk through a syringe into a tube in his stomach – two tablespoons at a time over the course of 90 minutes.
He is expected to stay in hospital until his December 19 due date.
It is not totally clear what caused Mrs Morgan to go into early labour, though doctors have said it might have been related to dehydration, an elevation change or the differing temperatures at sea, she said.
A baby like Haiden born so early and so far from a hospital has a less-than 10% chance of survival, said Dr Bradley Yoder, medical director of the newborn intensive care unit at the University of Utah.
Babies born months premature are typically whisked into intensive care immediately and given medication to help them breathe.
“I’m surprised the baby survived, to be honest,” Dr Yoder said.