Karla Akuhata from Ngāti Awa had a big shock this past week.
She gave birth on Tuesday - but she hadn’t even known she was pregnant.
Now she has little Tamarangi Meihana Delta Akuhata-Cole, who she gave birth to at her parents’ home in Whakatāne.
“I was freaking out but he was making little snuffling noises so I knew he was okay and it was just surreal,” Akuhata says.
Akuhata also has a son who is 15 years old but she didn’t think she could have another child at 41 and she has found it difficult to have more children anyway.
She says she is used to missed periods, she didn’t have any reason to get a pregnancy test and she had no symptoms such as morning sickness.
“Everyone I have talked to said 'you didn’t look pregnant' and I didn’t feel pregnant. I was doing everyday things.”
But at 4am on Tuesday she began to bleed heavily and had a stomach cramp. She went for a shower and, when she got back to the room, the pain was more intense.
“I knelt down by the bed and breathed through it because that’s how I had got through with the other one, by breathing and keeping myself relaxed.
“I think my body was going through labour without my mind even realizing it. And that’s when I reached down and felt his head - and knew that I was having a baby."
Karla delivered her son Tamarangi on her own at 5:30am. He weighed three kilograms.
Later that morning nurses checked on both mum and baby who were found to be both hale and healthy.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board clinical midwife manager Natasha Rawiri said such births were well-recognised worldwide “and normally tends to be seen in either very young or much older women, and women with very irregular periods.”
Grandfather worked in mill using poisons
She says this is not the first time this has happened in Aotearoa. “On average we have two to three women each year presenting either in quite advanced pregnancy, or in labour, not having any prior knowledge of being pregnant.”
Karla's dad, Kereama Akuhata, was a worker at the Whakatāne Mill starting in the 1960s at which time they worked with toxins.
He is part of Saw Mill Workers Against Poisons and believes his working conditions from the past are still affecting the lives of his children, grandchildren and the next generation.
Four days before Tamarangi’s birth, Karla had given evidence on her own story at a people's inquiry, talking about how the poisons have impacted her family through not being able to have children easily.
“My baby sister is still trying for a child, my brother hasn’t been able to have any children of his own.”