DUBAI // The parents of a baby girl born in the lobby of a hotel returned to the scene of the birth yesterday to begin their life as a family.
Konstantin Rodygin, 31, a Russian expatriate, his wife Valentina, 25, their young son and the newborn baby were greeted by hotel guests and staff as they returned to the Grand Midwest Tower Hotel in Dubai Media City, where they live in a serviced apartment.
Mr Rodygin held his sleeping two-day-old daughter in a carry cot - her face shielded by a lace cloth in accordance with Russian tradition - as he recounted the events leading up to the dramatic delivery.
"When we made our way downstairs, we thought we still had several more hours [until the birth]," he said. "It was very unexpected."
Mrs Rodygina woke with contractions at 8am on Monday. The couple were relaxed, her husband explained, because the birth of their first child had been a "very long" process and they had been told the second birth was likely to take at least six or seven hours.
At about 12.40pm, they decided to make their way to the hospital but when they walked from the lift into the lobby, Mrs Rodygina's water broke.
"She said, 'OK, I will stay here', and my friend suggested we take her up to our room," Mr Rodygin recounted. "But then she said she could feel the baby's head, and that maybe she is going to have the baby. Then I called personnel and asked them to help and they ran to us."
Housekeeping staff grabbed cushions from a nearby sofa and laid them down with sheets and towels beneath and over Mrs Rodygina, while others created a human wall around her, using more bed sheets, to protect her privacy. The child, a healthy 4kg baby girl, was born within three minutes, her father said. Peter Flynn, 23, a front office executive at the hotel, helped with the delivery. The umbilical cord was not cut until the baby was taken to hospital, he said.
When the ambulance arrived to take them to Al Wasl Hospital, the child was already asleep and had successfully been fed by her mother. "It was amazing," Mr Flynn said. "I could hear the baby before I saw it. She was crying, so we knew she was OK."
The baby had been due the day before. Her parents, who have been in Dubai for just under three years, have not yet named their daughter, although they have narrowed down the choice to either Anna or Alena, her father said.
It is a Russian tradition to keep the face of a newborn child covered for a period of time, allowing only its parents and the midwife to see it. Yesterday, the proud parents introduced their little one to the world as they posed for pictures. Hotel staff yesterday spent the morning preparing pink balloons, party hats and a welcome sign to celebrate the family's homecoming.
"As a human being we never know what will happen at any time," said Nilmini De Alwis, the executive housekeeper at the hotel, who also assisted Mrs Rodygina. "We wanted her [Mrs Rodygina] to feel special and that she belongs here, especially because she didn't have her mother or father with her. But her husband was like her doctor, he was very supportive. It was wonderful."
Drawing on her own personal experiences of childbirth, she was able to support the couple. "I remembered when I delivered my own child, the hospital nurse showed me how to tickle the baby's feet to help them start to take milk. So I tickled the baby's feet to help," she said.
Inaam Ullah, the hotel's frontline manager, said this was the first time he had seen a birth at a hotel in his 16 years in the industry. He said the staff, worried and excited, cleared the area and brought pillows, bed sheets and towels to help with the delivery. "Once we knew the baby was safe and the mother was OK, I relaxed. Under the circumstances the mother was very calm. It was a very exciting time, we were so elated afterwards for them."
Mr Rodygin thanked the hotel staff for their assistance and the effort they had gone to in welcoming them back. "They were immediately running to us," he said. "I want to say a huge thank you for their support."
He said both sets of grandparents were living in Russia but would likely come to visit their new grandchild in the coming months. In the meantime, they were hoping to spend the afternoon resting after a hectic 24 hours and regular wake-up calls through the night from their hungry new arrival.