Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

'I really thought we would have a little bit more time': Helensville mum on baby's surprise arrival

Nick Keene was adamant his daughter was going to be born one minute after he and wife Ellen arrived at hospital.

He was wrong.

Babies don't follow plans and little Esme Keene was no exception.

She arrived on the front seat of the family car, as her father drove in darkness along the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway just after midnight on October 30.

Neither of her parents are quite sure where their 3.54kg bundle of joy entered the world.

It was somewhere after Kumeu and before the Boric Food Market, where they pulled over to scoop the newborn off the front seat and into her mother's arms.

'You need to pull over, she's here'

Even then, it took her husband about a kilometre to realise his second child had been born, and stop the car, Ellen Keene told the New Zealand Herald.

"I was like 'um, you need to pull over, she's here' and he was still doing 60 kilometres an hour. I said 'no, she's here, now'."

In Nick Keene's defence, the only sound before his wife spoke was tyres hitting bitumen and music from the radio.

He told the Herald he had decided the baby was "going to pop out a minute after we got to the hospital".

"Ellen was trying to tell me and I kept driving for about a kilometre. I realised we were not going to get to the hospital. It was quite surreal."

Ellen Keene couldn't remember the song playing when Esme arrived, although she had heard Rupert Holmes' Escape (The Piña Colada Song) earlier in the journey from their Helensville home to Henderson's Waitakere Hospital.

When Esme arrived, all she heard was silence.

Kneeling facing the rear of the car, she had not been pushing, but suddenly realised she could feel Esme's head.

"I just thought 'oh my gosh' ... I didn't think I was going to have a baby in the car. She went down into the seat. It was dark and I couldn't see her. She wasn't crying."

Ellen and Nick Keene's new baby daughter Esme. Photo / Dean Purcell
Ellen and Nick Keene's new baby daughter Esme. Photo / Dean Purcell

Surprise!

After the couple stopped, Nick Keene found his daughter in darkness lit only by the car's interior light.

After letting out a little cry, and looking reassuringly healthy and pink, she was tucked snugly into mother's dressing gown for the 10 minute journey to hospital, Ellen Keene said.

"I think everyone thinks it was scary but I was never scared. The only thing I wanted to hear was that first cry, and that's the same wherever you are. When I heard that it was like 'boom, done'."

At hospital they were greeted by a surprised midwife and an even more surprised grandmother, Ellen Keene said.

"My mum was in the carpark and I just pointed down with a big grin on my face. There's a big long pause when someone reacts to something like that. My mum started crying."

Esme is her second child, following son Arthur, 3, and her children's arrivals couldn't have been more different.

Arthur's birth following a painful, 12-hour labour. With Esme, she felt no pain.

She had, sceptically, tried hypnobirthing - using meditation during labour - at the suggestion of a friend.

She also sang Beatles' songs, including Eleanor Rigby and Let It Be, as her labour progressed, and thought it may have masked quite how advanced her labour was.

The couple began the 30 minute journey to hospital when contractions were about five minutes apart, she said.

"I really thought we would have a little bit more time. I was kind of waiting for it to hurt, because it hurt like hell last time. But this was the most painless, stress-free labour.

"How weird is that?"

- NZ Herald

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