When Charlotte Christensen's water broke at 4am on the same day as torrential rain and flooding cut off parts of the Coromandel, she knew getting to hospital from Whitianga would be difficult.

But she did not expect to give birth without her husband at her side after a terrifying night-time drive across the peninsula in driving rain and an emergency helicopter flight as floodwaters cut off her home.

"We knew he was due but we were hoping we wouldn't have to travel in the weather," Christensen said.

Little Nathan Allan Christensen arrived safely 20 minutes after the Westpac Waikato Air Ambulance landed at Waikato Hospital yesterday, following a frantic few hours for his mother and father Damon Christensen and their 2-year-old daughter Emily.


The couple, both 39, thought they were fully prepared for Nathan's March 9 due date, with a packed car ready to make the three-hour drive from Whitianga to Hamilton at the first hint of labour.

After a caesarean birth with Emily, Christensen was advised to give birth again in the well-equipped and resourced Waikato Hospital.

When her water broke at the same time as a scheduled high tide that morning the mother-of-two feared being stranded in the peninsula town.

"Whitianga does get cut off if there's heavy rain and that's worsened by a high tide."

Baby Nathan who was born yesterday to Whitianga's Charlotte and Damon Christensen. Charlotte was in labour during yesterday's wild storms and flooding in the area. Photo/Belinda Feek
Baby Nathan who was born yesterday to Whitianga's Charlotte and Damon Christensen. Charlotte was in labour during yesterday's wild storms and flooding in the area. Photo/Belinda Feek

She woke Damon and the pair drove out of town with toddler Emily asleep in the back.

"We headed south and didn't get five minutes out of town before we struck flooding and cars off the road."

By this time it was about 5am and the Tairua-Whitianga road, State Highway 25, was already in chaos after a night of heavy rain across the upper North Island, which caused slips and flooding, road closures, power cuts and several evacuations of school camps.

"So then we headed north. We thought if it's flooded there too we can then swap over into our 4-wheel-drive but miraculously that was fine.

"It was scary. There were a lot of waterfalls and a lot of rock falls. It was very dark with heavy, driving rain but everywhere it was low lying, where we were expected to be flooded out, we got through."

After two hours the family made it to Thames Hospital but the birthing unit was only staffed by a lone district nurse because midwives in the region were landlocked by flooding.

By now Christensen's labour was established, her contractions four minutes apart and the situation was becoming more urgent.

"We didn't realise but if we'd tried to continue past Thames there was no getting past. But we had decided at that point we wanted to stop and get assessed and get some help."

A midwife managed the normally five-minute journey to Thames Hospital in 45 minutes to come to the couple's aid.

It was 8am and the contractions were getting stronger.

The on-call obstetrician at Waikato Hospital was telephoned and the decision was made to send two hospital midwives via the rescue helicopter because SH25 remained closed.

At 10.45am Christensen, now with continuous contractions, was loaded into the helicopter. Damon and Emily had to stay behind.

"I really wasn't aware of the time. We were 20 minutes in the air and from that time I went from 'It's going to be hours, to baby's coming now'. I could feel it. By the time they got me in the delivery suite it was 20 minutes and he was out."

Despite the seriousness of the situation Christensen said she did not panic.

"I guess it was turbulent. I wasn't really paying a lot of attention. It was a lot of screaming and squeezing of hands. It was [hard without Damon] but I was also really pleased Emily wasn't there."

She said the hospital midwives remained calm and it was "really reassuring" to see her obstetrician and her own midwife when they landed.

Nathan weighed a healthy 3.6kg and despite the precautions he was born naturally.

"As it turned out, apart from a helicopter, there wasn't any intervention required."

Meanwhile Damon and Emily managed to finally get through SH25 and drove to the hospital, meeting their son and brother about 1.30pm.

For now the couple are staying in Hamilton and hope to head to Auckland over the weekend, where they sent Emily to stay with her grandparents.

Christensen said because more heavy rain was forecast for the Coromandel this weekend they would not be risking another wet-weather drive just yet, and would be waiting for the rain to pass before they make the trip home.