When Waiheke Island resident Rachel Demchy went into labour in the middle of the night, she thought there would be time to make the early morning ferry.
With contractions coming half an hour apart at 4.40am, Rachel’s midwife also believed it would be safe for her to make the 6.05am trip to Auckland.
On the island, it’s normal for mums to take the ferry as soon as their contractions start. There’s also a very high percentage of home births, with an emergency helicopter available if required. But for Rachel (39), it was too late. By the time she and husband Brendan (40) got in the car, her contractions were just 10 minutes apart. And after the seven-minute journey to Matiatia Wharf, they were coming every 30 seconds.
“My contractions were too close together. I was in so much pain and mumbling, ‘We’re not going to make the ferry.’” By the time they arrived at the terminal at 5.40am, Rachel was feeling like she wanted to push. Brendan immediately called emergency services, who told him he would have to help deliver their baby.
“The voice said, ‘You need to find somewhere to lay her down and I’m going to tell you how to deliver your baby.’ I don’t want o hear those words ever again.”
Fortunately, a number of nurses and midwives from the island catch the early ferry for their hospital shifts in town. They could see Rachel was doubled over in pain and quickly came to her aid. “It’s great living in a small community,” says Brendan. “Pretty much every person going to the ferry stopped and offered to help.”
Ferry staff opened the firstaid room at the terminal, but the bed was too high for Rachel to climb on, so they took off the plastic sheet and placed it on the floor. One nurse delayed the ferry from leaving by five minutes so she could look for midwife Juniper Tengblad, who she knew was on board. Juniper then joined the couple and Brendan’s mother, Laurene Butler, in the first-aid room. Rachel – who had begun to deliver Joshua – knew she was in safe hands.
“I remember hearing her voice – it was so calm – and I felt at peace. “I shut everything off and just focused on her voice and instructions.”
Fifteen minutes later, Joshua Hao Brendan Demchy was born, weighing 3.8kg (8lb 4oz). This delivery was not Rachel’s first dramatic experience – she went into labour on the ferry with her oldest son Caleb (now 2) two months prematurely.
The three-hour hospital ordeal which unfolded meant his birth was far more stressful than Joshua’s arrival. They do say that number two comes in half the time, but because I’d carried Joshua to full-term, I thought there was no way. But yes, he did come out in half the time.”
Both Rachel and Brendan have lost count of how many times they’ve told Joshua’s story and Rachel declares that’s the end of their dramatic tales, saying, “This is the last one.”
The Demchy’s family and friends have enjoyed teasing the couple about the birth. One friend even joked they should have called their baby Marti because he was born at Matiatia Wharf.
“They say we want to make our births more exciting than the norm and that’s why we’re trying to trump Caleb’s story,” says Rachel. “They also say Joshua should have a lifetime ferry pass.”