How One Baby Saved Her Mother's Life

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We often think that as parents, we have it all figured out, but there are times in our lives when our children will teach us more than we could ever expect.

Or even, in some cases, something that could save our lives.

Shelly Cawley was one mother who thought she knew the best way to bring her baby into life. She had planned on a natural birth, Fox 8 Cleveland reports, but as it happens with many labors, the plans changed.

Cawley developed a blood clot, which led to more complications during labor and then her blood pressure spiked. (High blood pressure during pregnancy is a very dangerous complication and in general, there's usually no treatment except to deliver the baby.)

Because of the complications she was experiencing, Cawley's doctors decided that she would need an emergency C-section and her daughter, Ryan, was born perfectly healthy.

Cawley, unfortunately, did not fare so well.

Her body immediately began shutting down. Unlike most C-sections, which occur with regional anesthesia, Cawley's was done with general anesthesia, meaning she already had breathing tubes put into place. That fact alone was the first in a series that would eventually save her life. Because her body shut down so quickly, she would have died right there on the table before the doctors could have placed the breathing tubes, according to her husband.


To help her body heal, Cawley was placed into a medically-induced coma and remained at the hospital. 

It was then, at her most helpless and vulnerable state as a new mother, that Cawley's baby saved her life.

A forward-thinking nurse suggested that they place Ryan on Cawley's chest to help remind her what she needed to fight for.

And incredibly--it worked.

As soon as her newborn daughter started crying on her chest, Cawley's condition began to improve immediately. Her vital signs of heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen levels began to stabilize, the hospital stated. Somehow, even through her unconscious mind, Cawley's body responded to her baby's cries. "If that wouldn’t have happened, Shelly wouldn’t have been here today,” Jeremy told ABC News.

One week after Ryan stirred Cawley into fighting for her life with just her presence, the medical team brought Cawley out of her coma. She entered into a complete rehabilitation program to regain strength and skills for about six months.

Today, Ryan is 14 months old and is a beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed baby girl with her mother's wide smile. Cawley is about to graduate from nursing school and will surely take her experience of the mother-child bond with her in her practice.

"I genuinely believe with my full heart that Ryan is the reason I am still here," she concluded to ABC News.

Even though their skin-to-skin contact didn't occur immediately after birth, that mother-child bond may have very well saved Cawley's life. And if you (let's hope) don't find yourself in a coma after birth, skin-to-skin contact after birth will still provide important benefits for both you and your baby, including temperature regulation for your baby to help keep her warm, upping your chances of successfully breastfeeding, helping to stabilize your baby's blood sugar and lowering stress.


Anderson GC1, Moore EHepworth JBergman N. (2003).Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(2):CD003519. Retrieved from

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