#2 | Lee's Birth Story: A 42-year-old Mother's Fast, Unplanned Home-Birth

January 3, 2020

Today on the podcast we're debuting our Birth Stories segment with an incredible account of a woman whose planned hospital birth had a plan of its own. Lee is here today to share her remarkable story of how a forty-two year-old woman experienced an ecstatic and transformative birth experience in the most unexpected of places. This story is as inspiring as it is surprising.

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If you enjoyed this episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends!

Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from you and will strive to feature your questions and comments on upcoming shows.

You can check out online and in-person prenatal, breastfeeding, HypnoBirthing childbirth classes and postpartum events at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut.

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

View Episode Transcript

I was thinking about a story I heard in Cynthia's class about somebody having a baby in the bathroom. And I thought, I can do this. I can do this.

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.

Today on the podcast, we are debuting Our first story episodes with an incredible account of a woman whose planned hospital birth had a plan of its own. Leah is here today to share her remarks. A story of how a 42 year old woman experienced in ecstatic and transformative birth experience in the most unexpected of places.

Yes. So my name is Lee, and I'm from Greenwich, Connecticut. I have two children. My son is 10. And my daughter is eight. And my husband's name is john. We have been married for 12 years. But you wouldn't know that by the anniversary I got from last month which says you've been my rock for 11 years.

Maybe you've only been his rock for 11 years. That's right.

But I figured that the the gift was enough. It's you know, it's either here I remember the gifts so this year was my year but it's okay. Not the count. That's the thought that counts. But um, yes. So I grew up in Greenwich and I went to school in New York for fashion and ended up in a in a shoe career for almost 20 years doing design product development, working on the time traveling, my husband had gone on some trips with me and having a family and children was just definitely not something in the forefront of my of my mind. I guess I never really thought about it. I just didn't think it was it was for me. So after we got married and our honeymoon, I realized I was pregnant. And I was a little disappointed when I found out initially because I thought the timing was not something that I was ready for. You actually found out on your honeymoon. I know when I got back and I was working and I didn't quite feel right and wasn't sure why can I jump in here for a second? You? You just said you weren't feeling quite ready. So understandable because you had just gotten married. But how old were you at that point?

I am. I am older than John Okay, so yeah, how did he feel sorry, just, you know, he was extremely supportive, which I'm so grateful for. He always said that we, you know, we didn't have to have a family, he was just happy to be together. And I really appreciated that. So, when I found out I was pregnant, initially, again, I wasn't really too thrilled. I thought I'm still, you know, in the middle of my career and working really hard. And I felt it to be a bit of an inconvenience. So after a couple of weeks, I kind of, you know, tried the idea on for size and definitely then got more excited about it. And then unfortunately, I miscarried. So I thought, Okay, well, everything happens for a reason. And the timing just wasn't right. The following summer, I found myself pregnant again, but by this time, I was I was ready for it. I had let the whole idea marinate and I thought, you know, I've done a lot of things in my life. Life and gone to a lot of places. And the one thing I haven't done yet was have children. And I was like, I think I think I can do this.

So when I found out I was pregnant,

I, you know, went to my doctor and had the various appointments. And I realized that there are certain things that were not in alignment with my beliefs. Now, I didn't have a doctor beforehand. I had to just kind of find one that was convenient for me at office in the city and an office in Connecticut. And I said, Well, you know, what, what kind of birthing experience do you think I could have? Can I can I kind of move around and he said, I would just call the hospital and talk to so and so and, and they'll kind of give you some ideas. I said, Okay. So when I did that, I again, I didn't really get the answers I was looking for, but I didn't know what they were.

You sort of got redirected to somebody else. And I did. I did. And I didn't really have anybody to pull from Most of my peers were in the fashion business, and most of them unmarried and lovely, great people, but nobody had children or young children or just had a baby. I couldn't ask them. So what did you do? And what are your resources? I kind of had to figure it out for myself. And although I'm the youngest of five kids, and my brothers and sisters have children, they had children a while back, so nothing was really relevant. I knew that again, I could do this. I just needed some guidance and resources. So I started looking on the internet and I found something called a doula. I had no idea what what what it was. I thought this is for me. So I asked my doctor if I could have a doula in the room when I was giving birth. And he said, Well, if you want to waste your money, and how well my doctor said something somewhere in my story, guys, not that hard. Yeah, it's mine. It's so that was the big red flag and I thought, you know what, I need to make a change?

I just have to say they're the hardest working and lowest paid people in the industry I gained and coming from the person who stands to make so much money or bring in so much revenue for the hospital. It's, it's really, it's really remarkable comment. Yeah, I just have to ask before you continue. Did the doctor make any comment about your age? And if so dying to ask? Okay.

Yes, of course, of course. So, I was going to be 40 with my first child.

So, I was in a high risk category, according to my doctor, my doctor, although I was extremely healthy wanted me to take various tests and other things that I felt were unnecessary and I did eventually advocate for myself and say, I don't want to do certain things. I felt fine. I had thankfully a great pregnancy. I felt healthy. I was exercising and eating right And again this just didn't kind of sit with my my beliefs it didn't wasn't an alignment with how I felt and how I kind of saw my birth even though I wasn't quite sure what that looks like yet I was trying to kind of pull it in piece it all together an important part after I secured my doula and was looking into a new practice, I did find a doctor midwife practice. And granted this is all in Cortland Manor, New York, which is about 45 minutes from where I lived, but to me it was worth it. Absolutely. But I needed another piece. I wasn't going to do some sort of heavy panting while I was trying to have a baby. I just knew it wasn't for me. So I looked on the internet, and I found something called HypnoBirthing. And I thought Wow, that sounds like a totally jives with who I am. And that is how I found Cynthia and I took her class which was amazing. Husband john and i did and it was just like, it was like the glue that just put everything together. I was so thankful. My new practice my doula, and Cynthia's hypno birthing class just kind of made my whole new path of having a baby seem just perfect.

With the new practice that you were at, did the imagine that the issues around age regarding testing in the in the higher risk categories that they put you in still existed? But did you feel treated differently by the new practice in terms of just the idea of being a 41? Were you 41 at this point, or 40? I was 4040 being a pregnant 40 year old woman, because a lot of times it's women will feel that their practitioner is treating them differently, almost like you're too old to be having a baby. Why are you even you know why you've been doing this?

I think I felt that before. First time with my first doctor, and he, although respectful in his own way, I just didn't feel understood or supported or supported. The second practice was all female. And I definitely felt like they were in alignment and they understood. And although it was older, they they didn't really they weren't so as concerned, right, they weren't so concerned which which was great, which was wonderful.

So, my son was born in May. And I remember kind of the time leading up to it, and just get you get you're a little nervous at your first baby. You're not quite sure what to expect when things are going to happen. And I went into labor on Friday night, and it was quite a long labor because he wasn't born until Sunday night. So I thought, Friday night contractions surges everything I went through to the hospital, which is 45 minutes away. And they said, Oh, you're one centimeter and I thought, wow. I'm going to be in for the long haul. Thankfully, the hospital up in Cortland Manor sent me home and didn't make me stay, which I was very grateful for. So we made the drive home. And the next day, I went back, but I went to my daughter's house, she helped things progress a little bit, went to the hospital and went into a tub. They have wonderful birthing rooms there. And my son was born at about 1030 at night, on Sunday.

So when you arrive to the hospital, do you remember how far along you were at that point?

Um, I don't know how to measure it, but I felt like I was ready. But I wasn't quite ready because by the time I went to the hospital, and by the time he was born, it was still a few hours. Okay. So I, you know, had to pace myself but again, first pregnancy it wasn't quite sure what to expect. My doctor was wonderful. It was her first water birth. So she was super excited. My doula was there and was very respectful and understanding of hypno birthing and used all the right terminology. And everyone was fantastic. Did you have any intervention whatsoever? Did you have an IV? Did you have an episiotomy? No, you didn't have an epidural. Was there any intervention? Not during your labor? None. None. In fact, while I was breathing and doing some relaxation methods and kind of, you know, in my own head with, you know, trying to really get into the zone, I know that I was checked by the doctor, not check, not internally, but just she wanted to make sure that the baby's heartbeat was okay. And she was kind of amazed. She said, you know, the baby's heart rate is so perfect and steady and just calm she said, I'm just gonna let This B,

So you actually never had a vaginal exam? No, that's amazing. No, that that's so rare. That is so it's so rare and a hospital birth but and I didn't have in the hospital birth and I also refused it during my appointments towards the end. That's, that's very good to hear. Because it's really not that for women to know that that is a choice that is a choice to have agile exams even during labor to Oh, yeah, that's, I didn't know it's so hard to get through the hospital door without them saying, Well, how far along she will somebody's gonna have to check or we need to know, right? It was a very supportive community. I'm very grateful for them and the experience, okay, so as, as, unfortunately, these wonderful bursts like yours, particularly at the age of 40 are rare. And that in itself is a remarkable story particularly also that it lasted 48 hours and we know that in so many facilities in the US in particular, they're pushing for C section after a fixed number of hours. Each Without a medical reason for doing so. But it's your second birth story that is really unusual and interesting. So we would love to hear two years later when you contacted me for a refresher class, because you're pregnant again at age 42. What happened with your next earthly?

Well, Cynthia, I had a unplanned, unassisted home birth in the bathroom.

Can't wait to hear this. So I realized that I'd like to have another child and I also knew that age was a factor. I also didn't think that conceiving was going to be an issue. I didn't want to take the risk. So my husband and I decided to have another baby. Fortunately, it didn't take very long and I was pregnant again. And then when I was at, you know, when I gave birth, I was 42 I went back to the same provider, because I figured they were a great fit. And they were. I had the same doula and I was planning on going back to the same hospital in Hudson Valley and having another waterproof unmedicated natural water birth. So, things changed a bit leading up to when my daughter was born. I had woken up early on a Wednesday morning at about 4am. And I was just really uncomfortable. And I thought that maybe this is start of, of labor. I had told my husband who was sleeping at the time that you know, maybe shouldn't go to work because we might go to the hospital later tonight thinking this could be another long, long process. So I I got up, I walked around, I realized that there wasn't really much I could do so I decided to Kind of calmed myself and listened to some relaxation, Rainbow relaxation. And I had recorded a few of them using my own voice. And I sat on a yoga ball in our other bedroom, kind of hunched over on the bed and just breathing into the surges. I definitely noticed that they were pretty strong. And although I wasn't timing them, I felt like they were coming pretty fast. So everybody was still sleeping. My son was actually in the other bedroom. It's a little house 1920s everything is connected by little hallway, there's a bathroom and three bedrooms, and I'm in the other bedroom. And I'm breathing and my husband comes in and he kind of looks at me and he's trying to talk and I keep kind of waving him off because I'm taking a deep breath in and then I kind of exhale with this like, throaty hum as long as I can and Really, in the moment you're in your zone, I'm focused, I'm focused. So it's a hot July morning, and I decided that I think I should take a bath, a nice cool bath and see if that just helps things. So my husband helped me and I was in the bath for about a half hour. And again, at this point, I thought, I'm not sure if I can move. I don't think I can go down the stairs if I were to leave. And I'm not quite sure how long I can stay in the tub. And I definitely felt my searches a lot stronger and coming pretty quickly. But again, I was so in the moment, it was like laser focus of just concentrating solely on my breathing, breathe in and breathe out. And that was it. I mean, while I was in the tub, and I was kind of like leaning over the tub and my husband, I don't know where he was. I thought well, I knew something was gonna happen. Soon and I tried to call it was like a dream you know when you try to use a phone and a dream and you like be can't figure out the numbers and stuff. So I tried to call my mom to tell her like, I think I'm gonna have a baby soon. I don't know how I thought it was gonna speak. So sure enough, she answered and it was right in the middle of like a surge. It's like the cruelest thing we can possibly do to a mother. I did the same thing to my mother when I was in labor with my son. I called her she answered my head a surge and I just got silent and as soon as I could speak I was like, I do you literally can't speak in those moments.

No. I remember someone saying you know in your labor when you can't talk, right when you can't not talk anymore. It's always that that's always the gauge. That's always the question.

I can't freakin tell. Yeah, but by that point, it's pretty damn close.

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I stood up in my water broke, and my only thought was just to get down on my hands and knees. And that position felt just the most comfortable and natural at the time. And I was on my hands and knees on our bathroom mat and leaning against our vanity and kind of rocking into it as I was breathing in and out. And my husband had called my neighbor to come over to watch my son. And just as that moment I heard the door click and my son is now awake when you say you heard the door click what door click did your son open his own bedroom door because he woke up? Yes, I know that. I know that sounds right.

Oh, boy, everything change evangelist and he's just one to two. Okay, two, okay. He's two years old, six years old. So you know we were relatively quiet. I was very quiet I again just the the breathing in and breathing out and Uh hum. And he obviously heard some some movements. So he got up my husband scooped him up and brought him downstairs. So here I am on my hands and knees, kind of rocking into into our vanity on our lovely bathroom. And just breathing in and out and my husband, who was on the phone on and off, I believe with my midwife just trying to update her. He looked at me and he goes, we need to go to Hudson Valley. And I just I shook my head. I couldn't I couldn't, I couldn't talk. I couldn't find the words. And then he looked at me, he goes, we're gonna go to Greenwich, and I just shook my head even harder now. And the only thing I said is, I'm having the baby now. Oh, I remembered a story I heard and Cynthia gives me chills. Like, I feel like moment. I can feel this moment. It's like, not going anywhere. It's just happening. You are so in your space and you knew exactly what you needed to do. And in going somewhere was not that it wasn't there wasn't there was no choice, no choice, no choice at all. So I was on my my hands and knees. Breathing rocking against my vanity on my bathroom mat and I was thinking about a story I heard in Cynthia's class about somebody having a baby in the bathroom. And I thought, I can do this. I can do this. At the same time, within two surges, I could feel my baby just come down and out. And my husband john, caught her. And I grabbed my arms underneath her as well. And he placed her right on my chest. And john must have picked up the phone and he was talking to my midwife who was trying to figure out what was going on. And john just said, it's a girl. And she said, okay, and she walked him through some simple steps and we rubbed her back and she let out a little cry. And I could hear my son downstairs in the living room going, baby, baby. And that was the only sound you could hear during that whole time. process. So here I am on the bathroom floor leaning against the wall with my new born baby girl on my chest. And we wrapped her in some towels and she started nursing and, and that was it and and and it was the most beautiful, empowering, peaceful, incredible experience that I had ever had.

You're reminding me that you wrote me an email containing your birth story Three days later. And after you told your story to me by email, you wrote the sentence. It was the most amazing, gentle, beautiful experience, but it contained a typo and it was the only typo in this long two page dense email you sent me. What you actually wrote was I was the most amazing, gentle, beautiful experience. Do you think that was any accident?

I know I don't. I don't. I think it was just such a transformative experience, just how you felt the most powerful experience and changed you forever. It did and what a beautiful story and was your husband combed through all of this? Was he like he was he was it was your calm presence, keeping him calm.

And I always wanted to ask you, because according to your written version from several years ago, it sounds like the first thing you said to him during the entire labor after you will come up. It sounds like the only thing you said was I'm having the baby right now. Is that yes, how it went. Basically, you will come up and said it might be some time today or tonight. And then you were in your zone and then the next time you spoke you said to him having the baby right now basically, all right, that was it. I wouldn't change anything at all. I think maybe secretly in the back of my mind, I always wanted a home birth but I never envisioned that it would be quite kind of  wait like what happens next? This is always the question. from people what now you're home, you're with your partner and there's a baby on you. I mean, what happens what happened with the placenta, the cord? Where do you go from there and what was the timing? Well, you start breastfeeding right away what happened?

I did I started breastfeeding right away and right on the bathroom floor right on the bathroom floor. We john got me a pillow and some towels. I'm sure it was quite a sight. The midwife is on the phone and just gave us some simple instructions. We put the placenta wrapped it in a towel and put it on top of the toilet seat. So that it was higher than the heartbeat so it would pull us out.

So you had already birth the placenta. You did not cut the cord. I did the placenta it was actually fine and very easy. Fabulous. Thank goodness. So yes, it was the baby and the placenta and me We're all hanging out in the bathroom, and acted tied together, right? together yeah and we stay there for a while I stayed there for for a while. Did you at some point cut the cord or did you just leave the placenta attached to the cord until the cord fell off?

We left it attached. We left it all attached.

Wait a second. It would take a few days to fall off. You didn't have it attached for a few days. Did you miss a lotus birth? You didn't do that? Did you? No, no What? No, but I didn't I didn't cut it in the bathroom.

We left it there we stayed there you didn't cut it at some point that day.

Well somebody came and cut it with we had cut it later. Okay, we had had a cut later on cut it. I've had one client who never cut the cord. Yeah, no kidding. I will do that. That's why I was I was curious. I mean you don't have any of the you know the birthing stuff there to do it. Right. I mean that you have to have that stuff you don't sure I you know, I probably would have considered it. I just wasn't planning on having my daughter in the bathroom that although probably not, you know, dirty was certainly not tidy. And I would have gotten a new, pretty bath mat that I picked out myself, but none of that existed. Well, what had happened is we were at home. My husband was talking to the midwife. She's like, okay, you know, why don't you meet me at the hospital? Hudson Valley? And we said, okay, sure. So then my husband called our doula who was driving to the hospital thinking she's going to be meeting us there. He calls her up and he was like, Hey, I just wanna let you know, it's a girl. She was like, oh, okay, great. She's like, how's everybody doing? Fine. I was like, Alright, I'll meet you at the house. So she came to me to set the house, which was great. She was so it was fantastic. Because I moved to the bed. I laid in the bed for a little while. And we're all just having a very, you know, kind of peaceful Kumbaya party. And she said, You know, I think we need to get to the hospital because the midwife is really going to kill me if we don't get there. So we did we we kind of packed everybody up and the placenta As well, and we all gotten to the back seat my husband drove, actually it was in the trunk. We all lay down the bench and lay down me, my daughter, the placenta, and my doula. We have a video driving through Greenwich, Connecticut.

Yes. Has everyone a shower as everyone is getting up for work? We're driving down our little street and they're kind of taking like a double take like, oh, john, what's going on?

And what would you say is the reason that you had to get to the hospital? What's that all about? Um, your midwife wanted you there because I think she just wanted to make sure that everything looked fine internally. I think I had a small tear, but it was it was fine. So she gave me a little stitch. And then john cut the cord there. I think they just wanted to make sure everything was fine. They were all at the hospital. They were lovely and respectful.

That's the typical protocol that we're not necessarily number three. You go there to basically kick out you assume it's almost as though you assume the baby had been born there and they have a sheet at court and there's a lot of postpartum records Yeah, making sure that your bleeding is within normal limits check the baby check the baby check your check if you need stitches, anything like that.

So it was it was both Wow. So how long were you at the hospital? Did you get to go back home pretty quickly.

They had given me the option to stay the night, all three of us and and I decided to take them up on it. I think looking back, I might have just gone home. But I knew my son was fine with a relative back at the house. So we were home the next morning pretty early. And it was and it was fine. And our our pediatrician met us there and even checked out beautifully. My daughter everything was fine. Did your son have a chance to come in the room and See his sister? Or was it something that that wasn't part of a plan for you guys, you know, because nothing was planned. I didn't really think about think about it. I think when we left he was at like my neighbor's house before a relative could could actually come to the house and be with them. I think I was looking to not upset him. I thought I wasn't sure if I was going to come home or not. And the fact that I was just leaving with a baby, I inhibit and he was too i didn't i think i was avoiding upsetting him. Right. I think if we knew we were going to camp out at the house, and I was going to be checked out there. It would be fine. But I think I was thinking about his feelings and just wanting to him not to worry.

Yeah, this wasn't something that you had talked about. prior to having the baby. Yeah, everybody has different feelings on whether they want their children present data birth or not, but certainly if they do, plan to have their children present, they It's usually something that was talked about in advance and this was just such a an anticipated.

I think I think I heard about leaving the house with another baby is the part that might have been the most alarming. I can't imagine if he had walked in even during the labor but to leave and be like, okay, mommy's leaving out with another little Yeah.

It's understandable. You're about to know that a two year old Yeah, right, exactly. So have you ever asked yourself? What did Eva's birth? Bring you? or How did it shape you in a different way above and beyond that of your already wonderful natural first birth?

A popular question that I get asked all the time. Why not just call 911 I said it wasn't a medical emergency. I just had a baby. That's all.

I guess all I can say is that there's an inner strength that I feel we all have and if You can tap into it, you can, you can basically do anything. And I think she gave me a really good look into that inner strength. And it was it was trusting in my body and trusting in my baby and just kind of repeating those words over and over again. Because sometimes I think about different things in my life. I can't think of one right now, that kind of compares. But if I'm about to go into some, you know, new challenge, I kind of think to myself, well, you know, my daughter was born in the bathroom, I think I can handle this.

There's really nothing more affirming than trusting yourself through the birthing process. And it's like in that moment, you knew exactly where you needed to be within yourself. And you stayed there. You weren't persuaded by anybody on the phone, or anything that your husband was saying was like, I know what I'm doing in this moment and you did it and it had the effect. Right outcome and that that that trust that you built in yourself in that confidence that you now have in your body and yourself is like it's life changing. It is life changing. It is when you see a pregnant woman walking around what do you find yourself hoping for her or wishing for her?

I just, I want her to have the exact birth that she wants. I want her to be heard. I want her to to be respected and I want her to trust in herself.

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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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