The creation of a child is a strange and miraculous process, and while few women experience a truly “average” pregnancy, some of them have some really unique experiences. Here are some of the most incredible birth stories ever recorded.
10. Earliest Premature Baby
The earliest born baby to have survived the ordeal was James Elgin Gill, who was born in 1987 in Canada. James was born at 21 weeks and 5 days old – meaning he was 128 days early. His birth weight was an incredibly miniscule 1 pound and 6 ounces.
At the time of his birth, doctors expected James to pass away since he was so drastically premature. They also said that if he did survive, his parents should expect him to have multiple severe handicaps, but the baby defeated the odds and grew up to be a healthy man.
9. Lightest Baby Born
Surprisingly, while he was the youngest surviving baby to be born, James Elgin Gill wasn’t the lightest. That title belongs to Rumaisa Rahman, who was born in September 2004 in Illinois. Rumaisa was one of two twins who were born via a cesarean at only 26 weeks since their mother suffered from pre-eclampsia, putting both the babies and her own health at immediate risk.
It’s common for twins to be fairly different in size and while Rumaisa’s sister weighed a petite 1 pound, 4 ounces, Rumaisa herself weighed about half of that – a shocking 8.6 ounces. She also measured in at a nearly-record breaking 9.5 inches long. While her sister got to leave the hospital in early January, Rumaisa had to stay another month, at which point she weighed 5.5 pounds.
8. Shortest Baby at Birth
Remember how we said that Rumasia Rahman nearly broke the record for the shortest baby born? Well that title was already held by Nisa Juarez, who was born in Minnesota in 2002.
Born 108 days premature (that is, she was born after 24 weeks and 5 days of gestation), Nisa also weighed under a pound at birth (11.3 ounces, to be exact), and she measured in at 9.44 inches. She was held for almost five months before being released from the hospital.
7. Biggest Baby
On the other side of the world’s smallest and shortest babies are those heavy and lengthy ones, and the world’s biggest baby record will make most women shiver. While the most famous record holder for the title of both longest and heaviest baby is “Babe,” who was born in 1879 to 7-foot-11 giantess Anna Bates and her equally tall husband, Babe only survived for eleven hours after birth – which is why he was never even given a real name. Even so, Babe went down in the history books for weighing an amazing 22 pounds and measuring an unheard of 28 inches at birth.
While not as famous as Anna Bates and her “Babe,” Carmelina Fedele holds the title for heaviest baby (though Babe still claims the title of the longest). While the child’s name was withheld when he was born in Italy in 1955, Fedele’s baby weighed in at an unbelievable 22 pounds and 8 ounces. And unlike Babe, Fedele’s son survived.
6. Longest Delivery
If there’s anything pregnant women tend to fear more than a premature baby or one that tips the scale at over 20 pounds, it’s a lengthy delivery. While a 36 hour labor is enough to make the most dedicated mother shiver, that’s nothing compared to the record-breaking 75-day-long delivery experienced by Polish mother Joanna Krzysztonek. But then, most women are trying to get their babies out when they go into labor, whereas in 2012, Joanna and her doctors were doing everything possible to keep her drastically premature babies inside the womb until it was safe for her to deliver them.
It all started when Joanna, who was pregnant with triplets, went into labor at only 21 weeks. The first baby emerged from the womb and quickly died as it was too premature to survive on its own. So doctors opted to delay the delivery as long as possible in order to save the lives of the other two babies. They gave Joanna medication to stop the contractions, tied off the umbilical cord, and put it back in her uterus and placed her in a bed tilted at 30 degrees with her feet pointed to the ceiling. And there she sat, nearly upside down for the next 75 days of her life. Finally, at 32 weeks in, she gave birth via cesarean section to two healthy baby girls who each weighed under 4 pounds.
While Joanna’s story might not be like those of most mothers, it still counts as labor because birthing began at the start of those 75 days and without the quick-thinking of her doctors, her two living babies would have been very unlikely to have survived.
5. Longest Gestation
The average pregnancy is 280 days – or about nine months. Ask most mothers who carried all 40 weeks and they’ll tell you that it seemed like that last month dragged on for about a year, so just imagine how Los Angeles resident Beulah Hunter felt when she went through a pregnancy that actually lasted over a year in 1945.
Doctors didn’t actually accept Beulah’s report that her pregnancy lasted 375 days, especially since her daughter, Penny Diana was born healthy at birth – whereas many babies who go significantly over their due dates suffer from a number of health problems (which is why these days most women are induced by 42 weeks and this record is unlikely to be broke any time soon). After reviewing Beulah’s pregnancy test and the reported date of her last menstrual cycle, though, it was confirmed that she was telling the truth. The reason the baby managed to stay in the womb for a full year and ten days was because Penny developed abnormally slow. In fact, while her first fetal heartbeat should have been detected in July, it wasn’t heard until September. Additionally, while you’d think a baby who had an extra three months to develop might be a little large, Penny only weighed 6 pounds and 15 ounces at birth.
Ultimately, some critics still doubted the story, claiming that Beulah must have had a miscarriage around three months in and then gotten pregnant again almost immediately, although her doctor laughed off such accusations saying such a scenario was “quite impossible.” These days, not only would a mother be unlikely to be allowed to carry a baby so long, but her progress would have been tracked a lot more closely if there was any concern as to how slowly the child was developing – as back then, ultrasounds weren’t used during pregnancy like they are now.
4. Most Teeth at Birth
It’s not entirely unheard of for a baby to have teeth at birth, though it is still fairly rare. In most infants, teeth don’t begin developing until 5-to-8 months in, but in 1990, Sean Keaney of the UK was born with a shocking 12 teeth already in place.
Doctors recognized that having so many teeth could cause feeding problems for the baby, so they extracted them. Sean then grew a second, full set of teeth at 18 months old. No word on whether those were still “baby teeth” or if he had a third set hiding below the gums as well.
3. Most Surviving Multiples
Say what you will about 2009’s headline-grabbing “Octomom” Nadya Suleman, but there’s no denying that it couldn’t have been easy to carry eight babies to term or that she remains the record holder for most number of babies successfully carried at once.
If you weren’t already familiar with the Octomom story, the basics are that Nadya already had six children through in vitro fertilization and then decided to implant 12 of her stored embryos at once. Eight of the fertilizations came to term and when the news got wind of the story, Nadya got a new nickname and she became the center of a major medical ethics debate (both then and now, doctors advise only implanting three embryos at a time for a 33-year-old woman). High numbers of multiple births can put the mother and babies at serious risk for complications, including death, premature birth, and more. While her fertility doctor claimed the implantation of 12 embryos was a mistake, the Medical Board of California didn’t accept his story and the doctor lost his license as a result.
Nadya was not actually the first woman to carry octuplets to term, but the previous sets (also all conceived through artificial insemination) all resulted in at least one of the infants dying within a week after birth. As of today, all of Nadya’s octuplets survived – as well as the six other babies she carried prior to the pregnancy that made her famous.
2. Most Surviving Identicals
It’s one thing to have eight children when you have 12 embryos implanted in you, but to carry five embryos that all split from one single egg – that’s practically a miracle. Amazingly, the Dionne quintuplets, born in Ontario in 1934, were not only the sole set of identical quintuplets to survive into adulthood, they were also the first known quintuplets to survive infancy. That’s particularly impressive when you consider that they were born two months premature in a time where the prognosis for any baby born that early was pretty dire.
During pregnancy, their mother, Elzire Dionne, suspected she might be carrying twins, but in a time before sonograms, no one would have dared imagine that she was actually carrying five girls. Doctors later believed she originally had six embryos but one of them miscarried. Unlike most modern multiples, the girls weren’t delivered via cesarean section but vaginally in the Dionne’s farmhouse.
The Ontario government declared that the girls’ parents were unfit to protect them from exploitation, so the government took custody of the quintuplets and quickly started putting them on display three times day. Because Canadians love irony, apparently. Separated from their family (though they were raised right across the street from them), the girls were a popular tourist attraction, bringing in over three million people before they were returned to their parents at the age of nine. As if that weren’t bad enough, a trust fund for the girls was frittered away and they eventually had to sue the local government to get any compensation for their childhood exploitation.
1. Longest Time Between the Birth of Two Twins
Twins always tend to joke about who is the older of the two – even if the “age difference” between the two is only a matter of minutes. When it comes to Amy and Katie Elliot though, the age difference is a little harder to ignore as these twins were born almost a full three months apart!
As you might imagine, the age difference was a result of one of the twins, Amy, being born prematurely – at only 23 weeks and 5 days, to be exact. At only 1 pound and 3 ounces, Amy was immediately taken to intensive care and then the mother’s contractions stopped dead. Even after doctors tried to induce labor in the mother, Maria, to speed things up the next day, the contractions wouldn’t start again so the girls’ parents agreed to let nature run its course. Maria was induced successfully at 36 weeks, a full 87 days after her first twin was delivered. The two girls were reunited in the nursery two hours later. The second twin, Katie, weighed a healthy 5 pounds 10 ounces and was released from the hospital five days after delivery, while her premature sister had to wait another seven weeks before she was sent home.