#181 | A Motherless Mother in Recovery Experiencing Birth As the Ultimate Surrender

October 5, 2022

Melissa Pennel was thirty-four years old when she was pregnant for the first time. She already had experienced significant life challenges: She had lost her own mother a few years earlier, plus she was seven years sober. Her pregnancy presented several health scares along the way, such as a two-vessel cord and a perceived hole in the baby's heart, eliciting words like possible "fetal demise" from her providers and the potentiality of "organs not developing normally". Her baby was also breech until 36 weeks, keeping Melissa questioning whether her own ego and attachment to a natural birth were the reasons for her challenges. She then went post-term, all the way to 42 weeks, despite pressure from her providers, and during a vaginal exam at her check-up, the amniotic sac "accidentally" ruptured. Due to her work in recovery and a strong muscle for accepting responsibility, she kept coming back to the feeling that she was somehow creating these situations herself - she called this "the choke-hold of control". Melissa caught herself forming negative beliefs like, "Everything's going wrong" and "Nothing is going to be easy." Once her OB broke her waters, she was advised to be induced, and an extremely long and difficult labor ensued.

Traumatized by her first birth, Melissa both took greater responsibility and surrendered further in her second pregnancy, realizing that the only person who had to "have her back" was herself.  A year later, she birthed her second daughter on her terms and far more quickly and easily than she dreamed.

Today Melissa views pregnancy as a powerful vessel for self-growth and transformation--a container she says which, "poured MiracleGro on all her issues," while learning the delicate balance of what she could and could not control. 

Melissa is the author of the following books:

Questions You'll Wish You Asked: A Time Capsule Journal for Parents and Children
Questions You'll Wish You Asked: A Time Capsule  Journal for Grandmothers and Grandchildren
The Motherless New Mother's Pregnancy Journal


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View Episode Transcript

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

But it was sort of this idea that like we do have a hand in the energy within our womb and thinking, Is my baby only still inside me because I'm so terrified of what's on the outside. I was also very attached to it looking one way. I will speak for myself and say, I think that there was definitely some ego in here. And now that I'm like, aware of my recovery, self talking, I definitely wanted to be able to say, I had an unmedicated birth. I did it. I was 34. I hadn't turned 35 yet, but I it was already being I felt treated like geriatric pregnant pregnancy, there were, there was just no support for me to continue past 39 weeks, they wanted to induce me at that point old, are you 34? Did you just say, geriatric pregnancy?

They were treating her that way? Why was 30 because she was almost 35.

I cannot, I can't, I can't, I can't handle these. These conversations. I just can't.

My name is Melissa Pennel, and I am so happy to be with you. I love the show. And it's been really pivotal on my own journey. I live in Northern California, which will actually come into play during my story because of an aspect how that affected my my birth. I have two daughters, Tilly, who just turned three last weekend and then Mira, she just turned one in April. Yeah. And I already found myself forgetting my daughter's name. So hopefully this goes okay. So I would I would love to share my birth story. And, and part of why I reached out is, for one, I am just a total birth nerd. And with no intentions to get pregnant again, we think about it, but it's not very likely. And my pregnancy is behind me. It's just an area I'm fascinated with because it is it has been so transformative for me and not in ways that I expected. And it's funny because if I would have heard i The idea that that birth and becoming a mother would change me so much. If I would have heard that before I'd had kids, I kind of would have rolled my eyes in the way that I did when women would act like it was so different for them after kids. And I think I felt a little bit excluded, especially as someone who didn't plan to have kids I never was sure I would. Now on the other side of that bridge, I understand it a lot more because I feel like in a lot of ways pregnancy. And I'll just start with my first one. Like poured Miracle Gro on all of my issues that were already there, and really revealed them to me. So I got pregnant 34 with my first baby and the pregnancy, if nothing else, because like I mentioned, I was never sure I wanted kids and I had done a lot of work on this question. But that was what I was really wrestling with is this mental the space you're trying to create in pregnancy for the fact that your life is totally about to change and what that will mean and then I lost my job which was just made it sort of chaotic. Anyway, it was more internal. I'll say that my issues with pregnancy wishes kind of the story of my life were in my mind. They weren't necessarily in my body. But then I went to my anatomy scan at 20 weeks and I was I got an A message afterwards that I forgot the vocabulary that they used, but I didn't even get a call it was part of what made it so difficult for me. I was just kind of interpreting the the scan myself with these words I didn't understand and I remember fetal demise being like the words basically offering that whatever it was that was wrong could result in fetal demise. And I was like I'm pretty sure I know what that means. And anyway, finally I got a hold of a doctor who explained that I had something that I'm sure you're familiar with, called a to vessel cord, the baby her umbilical cord when we knew it was a her at that point. Wasn't developing normally. And it isn't even the most abnormal of abnormalities. That's something that they were really trying to reassure me with is it happens in one at 100 births. Most of the time, it's totally fine. But some of the time it's not in here all the reasons that it might not be and I just remember lots of genetic issues, liver and kidney like possibilities of organs not developing correctly and You know, I mentioned my mental health. And I should also mention, I'm sober. I've been sober now a decade at that point, I think I had been sober about seven years. And I bring that up. Because I'm active in recovery and actively turning toward my own work and my own healing, I have to work really hard to stay. Okay. And I don't say that dramatically. But it's like, my brain wants me depressed, it wants me anxious. It takes the words fetal demise. And just nurses that I had gone into it wanting low intervention, I had watched the business of being born, I started to read item A. But once this anatomy scan revealed the to vessel cord, they wanted all this additional testing and of course, extra ultrasounds and extra visits to the doctor. And it just felt like the wheels came off the wagon of my like, crunchy, oh, I'm just like not going to the, you know, I wasn't brave enough to have a homebirth. I don't know if that's the right word to use. I wasn't willing to go, it's not the right word to use. I'm just gonna say that right now. It's not a matter, it's not a matter of being brave at all. So I don't want anyone to think that. And I don't want you to think that about yourself in your first pregnancy.

Yeah. Which is really, I think a big part of my story is the stories around these things. Because as my pregnancy continued to play out, and as I went through all of these additional tests, and when you get additional tests, it's almost like if you look even closer, then more possibilities, present themselves, and they found a little hole in the baby's heart. And always these things that they would find would be offered with, well, it's probably fine. But if it's not here, all the things you could think about. And here are all the additional tests we recommend. And I think that I just really took the, the negative and it was just hard for me to let go up. And I think a challenge of being pregnant is that the feelings that arise arise within the same body that is growing this life that you want to protect from anxiety, and stress and cortisol and all of the things that you know, I wanted a real sanctuary because I wanted all that I could really do was sort of envision this baby developing healthy and being fine. And so I think that was a big practice to is really again, turning toward like mindfulness practices and breath work. And baby was also a breach, I will mention that she was breached until 36 weeks. And she did finally turn head down. But in between the weeks, I think it was like when they start sort of, at least in my OB practice, they started sort of worrying around, I think it was 34. Like it became less Oh, she'll turn and more. I remember when they suggested a cesarean. And I was just very,

I didn't want that. And it felt very out of control. And again, I was doing all of the things I was doing the spinning babies and inversions. And I went to acupuncture and chiropractor and massage like pretty much turning toward everything that I could to turn her and she did turn, she did flip head down. But I always look back at that. I think, again, this is like the chokehold of control, versus doing all of the things to ensure you have the birth that you want, and to put baby in the best possible position genuinely to be born. There's a very fine line between those two. And I was constantly asking, like, what is me I would I would do things like ask my baby, is there a reason that you're not head down and try to honor you know, her positioning? Because my brain was just like, everything's going wrong. I'm putting air quotes up. That's the story that I had, because nothing is going to be easy, including this. So I guess I mentioned that because she did turn head down and there's a part of me that always wonders, maybe she would have turned head down then anyway, but I spent a long time feeling very stressed. Like if you would have asked me about my pregnancy within that couple of weeks, that's really all that I would have said. So she did finally turn head down. The Tet dip, she continued growing on track that was a big worry of the to vessel cord is growth issues. And everything looked fine. And as we got closer to birth, I was still really planning for an unmedicated hospital birth. And I hired I'd hired a doula early in my pregnancy who was supporting me through this and I was always so grateful for that. I rented a birth tub we were allowed to do that to send it into the hospital. I was doing all of the things to try and stay healthy and active and prepare my body for birth. And then I reached, you know, 38 weeks 39 weeks I went I went post post dates. And I continue to hold on to this idea that as I had read and heard different women have different gestational links and that this isn't wrong air quotes. This is just my view. Audrey and I also had I mentioned that my mom had died a few years before. And this was something I always wondered is what had her birth stories been with my brother at night? Because I know there can be consistencies within families. And you know what, I remember that I had this like, I was actually my best friend that remembered my mom telling a story that she went overdue with me. She was like, she told me that she went three weeks overdue with you. And I was like, she did three weeks overdue and, you know, wishing I could ask her like, did they pressure you to induce did you get induced, like how did that work out, but I never knew. So I just kind of had that in my brain that this could be normal for women in my family, and really trying to tune in to how I felt because again, there's that difference between holding on to my version of how this should go with like a death grip of like, No, this is I want to unmedicated when I say naturally mean spontaneous, spontaneous birth, versus all of these things my doctors want and I'll mention when you have a two vessel cord, I was 34. I hadn't turned 35 yet, but I it was already being I felt treated like geriatric pregnant pregnancy, there were, there was just no support for me to continue past 39 weeks, they wanted to induce me at that point.

How old are you? 34? Did you just say, geriatric pregnancy?

They were treating her that way? Why was 30 because she was almost 35

I cannot I can't I can't I can't handle these. These conversations. I just can't. It's, it's so wrong. It's so unfounded. It's so unethical, I just okay, I'm just gonna breathe for a minute.

The combination of a to vessel cord and being almost 35 meters, high on their, their radar for problems.

I mean, hearing it said, like that you hear the ridiculousness of it. And then being within that experience, and having the only medical professionals, you know, aside from my doula, the only birth workers around me, essentially implying that I'm being irresponsible. And I remember, you know, I continue to wait, I continued to I was being monitored, I was going to NSPS, twice a week and, and really monitoring myself looking for movement, how I felt, because that is something that you it's hard to put words to, but I do think that we have that attunement to, things feel fine that I feel baby feels good. But I remember at my 42 week appointment, I got that far, the nurse putting on my blood pressure cuff to check me and saying, but aren't you worried about your baby? And that just burned into my mind? Because it felt like, now I am, you know, when I'm sitting here having a nurse tell me, don't you care? Like, it felt like, how stupid How selfish and that, you know, again, gotten to my brain. But at that 42 week appointment, I asked for a cervical check. And I had avoided that I'd really been trying to again thinking like doesn't matter, and will it just get in my head if I, you know, appear ready for birth? And during the cervical check the the OB broke my water. And she said it was an accident.

I'm sorry. You know, how often do you know how common that is? You know, I'm, I'm always apologizing for sounding cynical. And this is one of those moments like sorry, if I sound cynical, this is so common. I actually teach it now to my clients. When I talk about the the and necessity of vaginal exams in pregnancy. And I say if you agree to one for whatever reason, preempt it, say to them, be careful, you don't rupture my waters now, because we hear this all the time we hear oops, or we even hear oh, that's just a coincidence. I just pulled my hand out as they ruptured. I'm sorry, if I'm stoking the flame here with my reaction. But that's my reaction. It doesn't sound like an accident or coincidence at all. What was your impression of that?

You know, she had been leading up to that counseling me on and this is without actually looking at my placenta, but talking about that my placenta was aging, and it was irresponsible to keep going. So it was definitely I think, had I known that that would happen. I wouldn't have the check. And yet it did. And since then, I've definitely been like, Oh, that was on purpose. She thought I should have the baby. She made sure that it happened that day. For sure. What do you think?

I think it's highly suspect. Yeah, it's highly suspect. Yes, definitely. I mean, it's not that easy to break a bag of water with just a vaginal exam. If you do have to put a little effort into it. It's not like just touching the bag of water breaks it.

Yeah. And you know, I think as we talk about that, that's part of what played into the story of this is my fault because I remember reading about or here wringing about that if you didn't, and I was very conscientious of my nutrition and pregnancy. And yet, I thought, well, maybe I somehow didn't supply a sturdy enough bag of waters maybe this is because like I had a plant based diet, which you can be vegan and have a really healthy pregnancy, I intentionally, like sought resources and figured out how to get enough protein. And

I will also add at 42 weeks, it is possible that your bag of water was ready. Like it could have it could also add that the later you get in pregnancy, the more likely it is to rupture feet, you know, had that exam at 39 weeks, and it ruptured. That would be pretty intentional, I would think but it's possible. We'll give her a little bit of polish, give her we'll give her love it. But I'm sure she was very eager to get you into labor.

I think if it hadn't been sandwiched with the year being irresponsible, it would have felt a lot more. I definitely agree. It's possible. All of this is possible. I think it was the the lack of support and the fear that had been being infused for weeks before that. And so once my waters were broken, they don't let you leave. And I say that knowing you know, I could have gone against medical advice, but you go straight to labor and delivery. And I they did examine my amniotic fluid. And it was lower because I remember it didn't not very much liquid came out when she said oh, your water just broke. And I was like, Are you sure because that's that just felt like the little you know, a little bit of pee and, and my my, my bag was lower in fluid. And it did indicate that they they didn't let me leave, I immediately started being monitored. I didn't start any kind of induction yet. But they just put a heart monitor like a remote heart monitor on the baby. And I was admitted. You made a comment earlier about your diet. So I don't know if I cut you off from the point you were making about your diet and had that you had done research and you were making some point about I think she was talking about the integrity of her bag of waters. Okay, so that was No, I think I think yeah, it was essentially just saying I found it. You could look you can look at it two ways it just happened. Or there was something I had done wrong. And that's a big part of this pregnancy is that I accidentally subconsciously had thought maybe there was something I did wrong. Even going this late in in pregnancy, I started to think, Am I just afraid, you know, I read stories about women who are saying your baby's safe inside of you. And this is you holding on. It wasn't this overt? Like this is your fault, mom, but it was sort of this idea that like we do have a hand in the energy within our womb and thinking is my baby only still inside me because I'm so terrified of what's on the outside. So it's just fed into the self blame. And that was a lot of what I had to unpack. So I'll zoom forward. So I stayed. I was admitted. I didn't agree to an induction I wanted to see if I went into labor. And my body didn't do anything. I think I went that was 9am that my my waters were broken at 9pm I agreed to me. So I always forget how to finish that Prestel misoprostol, and that was after really talking it over with my medical team. My doula who was really first on all of this. And I started that and contractions did start and stop and start and stop. And essentially for the next day, my body would get really amped up and it felt like try to go into labor and then just call back and it seemed like it wasn't happening naturally like it seemed to be coinciding with the miso itself. And yet here we are, you know, the clock is ticking, getting further from my water breaking and the next night. I just know that the next night was when contractions, I think it was with my third dose of me. So contractions got really intense. And ultimately, I had really gone in there not wanting an epidural wanting to leave or actively wanting to labor at home. That obviously was my goal at first because I knew how long things could last. And I didn't get any of that. I ultimately got exhausted I think it was so I was my waters broke in the morning of July 8, July 10 at 12am was when I got the epidural and I was in labor for most of that time because like I said, my baby might my contractions would keep sort of cooling down. But it was just this really It felt very defeating. I felt like I had failed. I think that there was this part of me that again thought Is there something I'm doing is it because I can't let go. I also was told I couldn't use the birth tub to labor because of the two vessel cord my Waters had broken because what was the third thing? Oh being postdates so that took the comfort I guess you could say of this way that I had intended to labor I Um, and I was just exhausted. And did they not let you use the birth tub because they couldn't monitor you they wanted continuous fetal monitoring because of the to vessel cord and postdates. I think were they trying to say there was something about being in the water that was harmful? Do you know, I was gonna say I think that was it. But as I remember, I was wearing a remote monitor that was fine for the water, because I remember them specifically saying that I think it had to do with infection, or there being some issue with the fact that my water had broken early, I don't think that it was the monitoring itself, because the monitoring, I can understand, but the rest of it is just nonsense. You know, there's nothing there's no increased risk of infection and being in the water.

And I remember when the OB came in, this was the first day I stopped. They're not in labor yet, but not allowed to leave. And I was at a practice of rotating OBS. And this was the one that I had said, Oh, don't let me get her please don't let me get hurt because I just already had negative experience. And I really didn't get hurt because I was in labor for so long. She was off shift by the time I had my baby. But she was the one to come in and give me a talking to you about here's what your options are. Here's what they aren't. And I remember just feeling very, like talk down to and like hey, irresponsible mom that's like so attached to her unmedicated birth, like, this is how it's going to be. And that's how I felt at least that's one reason right there that some women believe they have prolonged Labor's sometimes there is someone on on call, that they feel so unsafe with, that when that person's shift is over, they can feel their body physiologically relaxing. So that's one part of it. But the other thing I wanted to say is, if there's one, I think if there's one way anyone gets sober, it's to take the highest degree of responsibility. And I anyone I know who's been through that program, or who's talked with me about getting sober, that's the one thing they all have in common. They're human beings who are at a point in their lives, who take much more responsibility than anyone in general society. I mean, it's it's, it's a remarkable and admirable degree of responsibility. And what was happening in your birth is you kept looking to yourself, Is this me? Am I not letting go? Am I not having the right thoughts? Am I creating this environment? It's just an interesting, it's interesting to hear you say that it's so easy to link it. Thank you for sharing that you're sober because it makes so much sense. Because so. So typically, we become victims instead. And you went the other direction, to say, What am I doing to create this? And it could be neither. It could be anywhere on that scale. But that's how you, that's how you operate in your mind.

And I so appreciate that reflection, because even just that reframing, like, bring some emotion, I think that that is so spot on. And I think that in recovery, we learn two things in really big ways. And one is responsibility. And another is powerlessness, powerlessness over that substance. But also, you have to really look at the difference between powerlessness and like, where your responsibility starts. And I think that can result in an over an idea of too much control. I think that, you know, speaking to recovery, we talk about a power greater than ourselves, and whatever you think about God, birth is a power so much greater than myself. And I really experienced that. The second time having the the way I could really feel that labor and just how uncontrollable it was. But yeah, I think that that's so true. And that could have been part of it. I just know that I was in labor for three days. I felt very out of control, very disappointed, terrified. That's another aspect of this because my I took a Benadryl, I think it was on day two, I was so exhausted. And that was when my baby's heart decelerations for started. And then after I did get the epidural and then started Pitocin, this is the to July 10, at 12am, I got the epidural. And what I remember is that I got it so that I could get some sleep and you know, get some relief from the agony that I had been in. And, and I remember that every time I would doze off, suddenly, the room would fill with nurses because the hearts the heart rate was dropping. And I'd be hustled to one side and hustled to another. And I started to again speaking to the story in my head, it felt like every time you let go, your baby starts to die. Like it was that extreme. There's something you have to stay awake. Yep, stay alert. So I didn't even let myself sleep because every time I did, and that didn't necessarily start the decelerations. But so, so just to ultimately, I guess summarize that last day. It's the memories that remain for me without looking at my own notes which I made are just The feeling of every time you try to relax or something goes wrong with the baby. And I did still get a vaginal birth, I was very grateful for that. I almost didn't, there were enough deceleration, they had me sign a release to say I consented to a C section. And then luckily, the pushing phase was very easy. From what I have heard across birth stories, it was a relatively short pushing phase. And she came out and she had a good Apgar score, though I don't remember it off the top of my head. So she was eight pounds, five ounces, very well grown. And I kept reassuring myself with that, because I'd had the two vessel cord and I think I really needed to know that things had been okay, she had developed a spine, I had been in that large percentage of people where things are totally fine. And so this is kind of maybe the theme that sort of raising in my story, because I want to take credit for that, right, like I ate very healthfully and intentionally, far better than I ever did before I was pregnant. And that is true, it does make a difference. So the responsibility that you know, does belong on us in this really beautiful way that like we get to eat well, while we're pregnant, or hopefully, in general. But I think therein lies the the fine line between what is in my control what was not in my control. And I think a lot of what I really healed, and healing is such, it's not a linear process. But what I really got to look at, in the story of my first birth was that I do need to let go, that I can do all of the footwork, and that's a recovery term, you can do all of the footwork to lead you toward what you want. And I think I've been thinking a lot about the difference between being committed, and being attached. And I was very committed to the healthiest birth I could have. And I was also very attached to it looking one way. And I say that because I will speak for myself and say, I think that there was definitely some ego in here. And now that I'm like aware of my recovery, self talking, we talk a lot about ego and the self and like the stories around things. And I definitely wanted to be able to say I had an unmedicated birth, I did it. I did it. And it it was about my baby. But at one point, it wasn't it was about me and the stories I had about how I got to think of myself because of the way my birth went. And I unpacked all of this during my second pregnancy, because I realized that there was this part of me that was afraid this could all happen again, you know, I could be bringing all of this, all of these thoughts, all of the story of this is going to be hard for me like things are so hard for me.

And I wanted to let go of as much of that as I could in my second birth, which happened a year later, I always turned toward a lot of self help techniques. But I did a few birth story medicine sessions, where we really unpack like, what stories I had about my first birth, and how I needed to feel about my second birth. And I got really involved with I was already really educated I was reading it may again, I was surrounding myself with podcasts like yours and other birth stories that could remind me birth can be easy birth can be birth is not an emergency birth is healthy, like putting up all of the evidence in front of me to keep walking toward the goal, which is a healthy, spontaneous, I'm gonna say easy labor. And that's a term you can unpack in different ways. But my first one had just felt so hard. And and yeah, as I was doing that, I think it really confronted me with a lot of stories about myself and about the ways that I had gotten ultimately just like triggered in my first birth. And, and it was it was a really smart thing to do. I mean, I definitely, I think if you've had a traumatic or difficult first birth, ultimately, I think I just wanted in my second birth, I wanted to have my own back, I wanted to know that however things went that I had done everything I could and that I could have my own back with, with however things happened, which sounds so obvious, but I hadn't had my back the first time I had blamed myself a lot that had unspooled in this subconscious, creeping, achy feeling about the way things had gone. And I wanted to know how everything's going this one that I've got your back, Melissa, I know you did the best you could I know you had baby in mind the whole time. I know you looked at your ego and the ways that it told you. This is how things need to look. And I'm really grateful that I did that.

Melissa, you mentioned a birth story meant medicine session. What is that can just briefly answer because I know everyone's wondering and I haven't heard that term.

Yeah, so birth story medicine is it's I guess it's just like the umbrella that hangs over. I know there's certain practice shinners is a wave of training and it's essentially constructing your birth story. Like we think after we've had a baby, our birth story was written. But I'm actually a former life coach myself. And it's so much of our approach to the future comes from the stories we tell about the past. So birth story medicine is really looking at often traumatic or difficult birth stories that didn't go the way that you wanted them to, for whatever reason, however, good, it might look on the outside however you feel about it. So I think I was sort of just skimming over a second birth story, because ultimately, I was lucky in that I had a really healthy pregnancy. And I kept assuming, okay, something's gonna go wrong. And the anxiety was creeping in. But everything was ultimately fine. No red flags. I was post 35 at this point. But I didn't ever once hear the term geriatric pregnancy, which says a lot about did you have a different provider? Did you go to a different?

I did? Yeah, I do think that made a difference. I was seen by midwives in the second, the second pregnancy, but still a hospital model. And by unit, you never heard a comment about your age, I just want everyone to understand that there are women who go through pregnancies in their late 30s, sometimes even in their 40s. And no one talks about their age. And there are women who are 34. And there I've had women write to me and say the due date is technically two weeks after my 35th birthday. And I'm just like, This is unbelievable that we get convinced by this absolute nonsense, as if there's this hard stop it just even if you look at a 40 year old, there's hardly anything to show for it. You mentioned having a new provider.

Yeah. So I do think that that helps. I think it was a fresh start. And I practice Hypno birthing throughout pregnancy, I did all of the things. But I think I just was telling myself a different story. And I was really leaning into something that I have heard called a birth vision, rather than a birth plan. And as I'm sure you and your listeners know, but I'll revisit it a birth vision is how do I want to feel about my birth, and the birth plan is very important. But it's more like the practical, here's my request. And I realized that the birth vision could apply, regardless of how things go. So I really visualized daily like feeling supported and safe and trusted, and trustworthy, and powerful. And that was a huge tool on my path. And I went, I had this hope that I would, I would have a sort of pregnancy this time, but I didn't. I went postdates again 41 weeks at 42 weeks it I started to really lose it because I think I was seeing like is this going to play out the same way again. And I felt really down about that. And there's a there's sort of like a spiritual aspect to the end of my pregnancy that I will just skim over and say, I think I had this moment of surrender. And again, leaning into that vision that I had been talking about my whole pregnancy and I had that one night and I woke up the next morning and labor and I had gone into labor a few times stopped and started but this was different and harder. And the short version of this is that I thought I had time to get to the hospital and it progressed really quickly because I didn't know I didn't know how long a spontaneous labor would be in my body. And apparently it's pretty short because I went from feeling okay to having a baby almost in my hallway and I started I was in the shower like trying to put off waking up my hubby because I knew he hadn't slept that much that night. And then my body started pushing and again I hadn't felt this the first time because I'd had an epidural so I didn't know that fetal ejection, like completely out of control you know power greater than myself feeling. So I went told my hubby I was freaking out I started screaming like a banshee. I wasn't doing the like calm like huh birthing techniques I'd seen in other videos. And we ended up calling the fire department because the baby was coming out in the hallway. And I don't remember this part. I don't remember any faces. I just remember tattooed arms and screaming at the top of my lungs. I'm pooping. I'm pooping because I was pooping genuinely I knew I was and I was also having a baby at the same time. And I just remember this like muscley tattooed arm saying hey, that's good. My wife said that every time you keep going you keep pooping. He also like wasn't encouraging you to push but that's very self conscious. That was so nice. I'm so happy that that person was there. I am

too. Yeah. So I ended up having the baby like seconds after I got to the hospital because I was taken by ambulance and we thought we were having it in the hallway but baby waited to come out until the hospital and and it was this real exhilarating. Like I felt it I felt transformed. And I think that a lot of it had to do with again like the stories I've been telling myself the way that it had transpired. It was very empowering. It was just a completely different story. And, and also, again, I think that in some ways my birth my first birth story, of course, it had to go the way that it did because it was my first but it was, it was the place that I really learned all the all the things that are now continuing to show up in motherhood because newsflash control issues don't just leave after you have a baby. It's like, suddenly, now you're comparing milestones? And is it something I'm doing as a parent, and that experience has been the starting point for me to really look at motherhood as a spiritual, transformative experience that is not like rainbows and butterflies. I'm not like, Oh, I'm used to healing as a mother. And it's so beautiful. It's like, gut wrenching the worst parts of myself just being brought to the surface in order to heal because it's so worth it. Like, what what a gift as someone that wasn't sure I wanted kids, what a gift to have the opportunity to evolve like that, and take a look at these things that totally hold me back in life and, and just be invited to face them. So yeah, I know I, I sort of skimmed the last birth story. But it wasn't as I guess, like, the events within it weren't at all as important as much as the way it felt so much different. So.

And can you pinpoint the difference between the two providers as being a factor? In the different birth experience? I mean, did it feel different to you? Did you feel more trusting with the second birth provider and because of that level of trust?

You know, I don't think so. It's not as binary as I might have made it sound. Both pregnancies, though I wasn't referred to as geriatric, both of them, they were highly, highly concerned that I was willing to go so late. And I was very much pressured, I could just see every appointment, it was like, there was a, like, cya, cover your ass thing going where they'd be like, I'm noting that I suggested induction, I'm noting. So I really don't think I had that, which is sort of the empowering part to think that I do think it was more of an internal change. And keep in mind that the provider that delivered my baby was just the ER doc that happen to be there when I shot her out right when I got to the hospital. So I think that there was a maybe that was part of my body, ensuring this baby almost at home, because I got to do all of that laboring in the safety of my bathroom. And and you're right, I think, as I talked earlier, and said I wasn't brave enough for a home birth, the framing of that being that I really wanted to be in that comfortable environment. I trusted who I was my surroundings. And I guess in some ways, I sort of sorted that out for myself accidentally.

Isn't there something really precious about the fact that you went so late and now you can imagine that your mother did just as legend has it? And you feel this connection to your mom like, Oh, look at how we birth mom? We both go really late? Did you have any feelings like that of connection to your mom? Oh, yeah.

No, I so did I think that this second pregnancy was like a real transformative experience. And something I didn't mention, because we went so late, and I probably shouldn't go into too deeply now is that I was really depressed that first trimester in my second pregnancy and really missing her thinking like, what was it like for her when she was pregnant with her second? Was she nervous? Was she scared? Who watched my brother when she had to have me like, well, you know what she induced all these questions that ideally, we get to ask our moms, and I, in my grief, I started writing down all these questions that I wish I had asked her and thinking, I'm gonna write these down for my daughters, because then no matter what happens, even if they never care, just in case they do. I'm writing my birth story I'm writing, not just stuff around birth, but like all the things I wish I had asked. And that actually, I ended up publishing it in a journal because I was like, if I'm gonna write this, I want other people to write it too. And it was, it became the it like took legs of its own, and basically supported me financially, like this journal that I published, just because it felt resonant and like this is an important thing for parents to write down answers to their kids. It just kind of ran away and became Now that's what I do is I published journals for families and completely changed my career path and, and that there's a deeper story there. But ultimately, there was such a connection to my mom, and she's been gone almost nine years. And in some ways, she ended up supporting me in pregnancy because this thing that's you know, was born from grief, ended up being the way that I was able to pay my bills for a while.

So that's congratulations. So they're downloadables that people can buy from me.

Journals. What a good example of how transformative birth truly is, for someone like it wasn't just your emotional journey. Transform your entire work life. Your entire professional led you down a whole different path and life? Yeah, I do think it threaded this connection to between what felt like my ancestors and I because as I was writing down all of these questions and answers I would sit with and this was actually a birthing from within exercise where they would say like, if your great great grandmother, were here, and you could ask her a question about birth, really sit and there's a ritual around it and get quiet and what what would she say? And this creation of like, the journals for parents allowed me to do that over and over and it just felt like this portal that was opened not just within me with pregnancy, but within the connections we share in our lineage, and it was really powerful. So I'd love to share those with you and questions you'll wish you asked. That's what they're called.

Thank you for joining us at the Down To Birth Show. You can reach us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or email us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com. All of Cynthia’s classes and Trisha’s breastfeeding services are offered live online, serving women and couples everywhere. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

I feel like you guys have the coolest job just because I'm such a birth nerd. And I listen to these not pregnant not planning to become pregnant. But I just feel like this is such a interesting area. And so as you talked about the ones that we don't even get to hear that you just sort of have to sift through and I don't know it just seems to me and also really trust it because it's such a tender part of us right as birthers I guess you might say so as women it's such a big part of big part of what it means to be a woman and there's so much there's so much challenge and difficulty and trauma around birth that I didn't even know it was as bad as it is till we got out there with a huge audience of people and start hearing the craziness and madness that people go through.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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