Airplanes and Birth Certificates

Airplanes and Birth Certificates

Airplanes and Birth Certificates, An Ultimate Mother's Day Story

The day that I became a Mother was nothing short of a miracle!

It was a day that the stars aligned, people were where they were supposed to be and had anything been even slightly off, would have been disastrous...

Let me take you back to 1999.  My husband and I were overjoyed to find out I was pregnant, the day before we left on our honeymoon hot vacation to Mexico.  Married six months earlier, we didn't want to waste anytime.  I have to admit, it happened much sooner than I had expected and so, when I was feeling a bit off, I went to my doctor to get a blood test just to be sure.  Yup, I was definitely pregnant!

I loved being pregnant and I was one of the lucky ones; very little morning sickness and I felt amazing throughout my pregnancy.  As we got further into the trimesters, my doctor began to worry a bit more about my heart and the fact that my baby was in the breech position.  He sent me out to Winnipeg to an OBGYN that specializes in high risk pregnancies.  Things were still looking good for my due date of October 4th and we were expecting to have a C-Section if the baby didn't turn on her own.

At the time, we lived up in Flin Flon, MB.  Isolated and more than an 8 hour drive away from the city, my doctor in Winnipeg felt it was necessary to move there for the last month of pregnancy. She wanted us to be safe and in a location where major medical was available IN CASE something were to go wrong with delivery.

On August 31st, my bags were packed, sandwiches were made and my Dad was planning on driving me to the city as my husband was working.  I really was not looking forward to being away for a whole month but knew it was what I had to do.

That night as we lay in bed, discussing our plans that would follow the next month, MY WATER BROKE! 

It was midnight.  I remember feeling paralyzed.  I couldn't think.  I really didn't pay attention in Childbirth Classes because I assumed that I would be having a C-Section.  Thankfully, my husband’s police training took over and he calmly got me ready and took me to the hospital.  We waited for my doctor to arrive and for labour to progress.

The baby still hadn’t turned and I was 5 weeks from full term.  The back labour began to get progressively worse, my contractions closer together and the decision was made that I would be taken to Winnipeg by Air Ambulance to have a C-Section.  The air ambulance was waiting for us at the airport.

September 1st, 1999 was a miserable night.  It was rainy and cold.  It was decided that an extra pilot on board would be preferable, leaving no extra room for my husband to fly with us.  He, along with my dad, started the eight hour drive to Winnipeg with hopes of arriving long after we were there.

I boarded the airplane on a stretcher with my feet pointing towards the front of the plane. I was greeted by 2 friendly nurses who were on the flight with me.  Labour pains were getting much worse  by the time we were ready to take off.  Because my mom was a nurse she was able to come into the ambulance with us for the trip to the airport. 

 Shortly into the flight, my labour pains and pressure began getting much worse. I said to the nurse, “ I think I feel something.”  She proceeded to check me and the next thing to come out of her mouth is not something you never want to hear from a healthcare professional that is taking care of you...


All of a sudden things started going in double time.  The two nurses on board  were moving about in a flurry;  getting out supplies, talking on a radio (assuming to a doctor) and communicating with the pilots that there has been a change of plans...we need to land the plane right away, we are having a baby!

I had one nurse at my head and one at my feet.  There was NO DOCTOR on board because the flight was only supposed to be an hour and half to Winnipeg where the medical team would be waiting for me to do a C-Section.  

I pushed and screamed, and the nurse continued chanting Oh, fuck! Oh, fuck! In what felt like one fail swoop, my baby was born a footling breech.  The plane landed just outside of the Pas, Mb.  Still a flurry of commotion!

My baby was quiet.

The plane door opened quickly and there waiting was a doctor, an ambulance and two paramedics.  As the door opened, my baby was literally thrown into the arms of those waiting and whisked away to the hospital.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the pilot exiting the cockpit, his face white as a ghost and trying not to make eye contact with me.  As I lay there, still and quiet, this enormous feeling of peacefulness came over my body. I remember thinking, “What just happened?  I didn’t just go through all of that to not go home with a baby.”  Before I got too deep in thought, another ambulance had arrived to take me to the St. Anthony’s hospital in the Pas.

Now, to give you a little context in the timeline…

12:00 am -water broke

2:45 am -left the hospital in the ambulance to meet the air ambulance at the airport.  My Mom was able to escort me to the airport.

3:00 am -boarded the air ambulance

3:15 am -gave birth and the plane landed just outside the Pas

Upon the return to the Flin Flon General Hospital, my Mom was notified that I had had my baby in the air, landed in the Pas and we would both be treated at the St. Anthony’s Hospital.  Not having any way to get a hold of Dale to let him know what had transpired, my Mom notified the RCMP to see if they could track him down on the highway.  As it turned out, he was only minutes outside the Pas and once pulled over, was escorted to the hospital where he was able to see our baby before I did.  Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

She was a tiny little girl, at only 5lbs 4oz but what she lacked in size, she made up in fortitude!  It was touch and go for a while and her APGAR scores were really low.  Within a few hours a NICU Team flew in from Winnipeg to take my baby back for specialized medical care. 

How do you let your baby go with strangers after carrying her for 8 months and only having minutes with her?

Several hours later, it was arranged for Dale and I to be flown to Winnipeg on another air ambulance where I would be admitted to St. Boniface Hospital and be reunited with our baby.  When we first saw her in the NICU, she was tiny.  Adorned with tubes and wires, an IV in her head and bells and dingers going off everywhere.  It was terrifying for new parents to see. She was fighting though!

As the days went on, she got stronger and started to gain weight. Sidney Rhys (otherwise known as Air Sidney to some of our family members) was born 5 weeks premature as a footling breech.  No drugs, no doctor and on her own schedule.  

Division No. 21, Unorganized is what is printed on her birth certificate. 

After a couple week stay in the NICU, she was getting stronger and ready to go home.  Two weeks old and already taking her third flight on an airplane, how many can say that?  It is not how I expected Motherhood to begin but of course were so happy to get home and begin life as a family of three.  

I’ve been a mom for almost twenty two years now and every time I tell this story, I am still emotional.  I know that things could have ended very badly but we put our fears and faith in the healthcare team and the people around us.  I would be remiss to mention that I know things don’t always work out this way for some families and I consider myself lucky to be a Mom, it is by far the greatest gift that I have ever been given and I don’t take that lightly.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms!  Whether you have given birth, have babies in heaven, are a step-mom, adoptive mom, mom to your kid’s friends, fur mom or are the one that nurtures and cares for others, this is your day to celebrate. 

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What a story to tell! It brought me back to when my girls were born and seeing 3 different hospitals (yours takes the cake though). I’m so glad all worked out well for you and Syndney!


Such a lovely Mother’s Day remembrance. Wow!! Love Sidney’s tattoo. Thanks for sharing!!

Cheryl Peters

This story never gets old for me! It was a crazy windy chilly night and I thought my ride to The Pas Hospital would never end. However it was so beautiful to see this tiny little girl squirming in her incubator…but how adorable. Today Sid is a beautiful woman with a big heart! We are so blessed as family! Thanks to Jeri Holmes for driving me to The Pas that cold and windy night! Happy Mother’s Day Marla!

Marlyn Fehr

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