#43 | Katie's Birth Story: Twins Born Naturally Against All Odds

August 19, 2020

In the United States approximately 90% of mothers with twins give birth by C-section, the majority of which are scheduled. Katie Novack of The Wonder List is a travel blogger who never planned on having children. Suddenly she and her husband of 13 years discovered they were not only pregnant - but with twins! They felt a strong desire to bring their babies into the world vaginally and discovered pretty much until the moments the babies came out that this would be no easy feat.

Katie's here with us today, just four weeks postpartum, to tell us what happens when your intuition speaks louder than hospital staff and how hiring the right provider can make all the difference. 

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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.

In the United States, approximately 90% of mothers with twins give birth by C section. The majority of which are scheduled. Katie Novak is a travel blogger who never planned on having children. Suddenly she and her husband of 13 years discovered they were not only pregnant, but with twins. They felt a strong desire to bring their babies into the world vaginally, and discovered pretty much until the moment that babies came out that this would be no easy feat. Katie is here with us today, just four weeks postpartum to tell us what happens when your intuition speaks louder than hospital staff, and how hiring the right provider can make all the difference.

My name is Katie Novak and I am a lifestyle blogger. I live in Los Angeles, particularly Beverly Hills. I went to school out here I met my husband out here and my husband and I were never really in the market to have children. We're big time travelers. In fact, you know, I've been doing writing and blogging about travels for about two years. So in September when we found out we were pregnant We were just surprised, elated, but kind of filled with mixed emotions of Oh my god, like we didn't we weren't really trying to have kids. To be honest. We've been married for three years, but I'm 36 now. And we met when we were in our early 20s at school. And then actually, when I went to the cinematographer for my first visit, when they found out was pregnant, the woman who was there the snog refer was like, Oh my god, I swear you have two babies. And I'm like, how? Because twins don't really run in my family. And, and neither in his family, but I have heard and I'm sure you guys can attest to this, that as you get older, you know, your egg count becomes more fertile, apparently. So basically, I think what was what had happened is that two eggs had dropped at once. And that's how my twins came to be. So we found out there were two sacks and that I was having twins and we were like, oh my god. How is this happening? You know, I'm pregnant. It was pretty much amazing. second trimester I traveled a ton. I went everywhere even before the pandemic came in. We were in Asia in January, and all like just traveled domestically. And then when obviously when COVID hit and march we've been staying put. And like I said, like, towards the end, I just felt very huge and very much contained in my own body and very much like, Oh my god, I got to get these kids out. Tuesday, June 9, I was called to go into an induction at the hospital at midnight, my dad dropped us off, we check in. I hadn't really spoken to anyone about this, but for some reason, I thought that I wasn't going to be induced till the morning because I had asked my ob, why am I checking in at midnight? And he was like, Oh, you know, it's insurance purposes or something. So what? Yeah, I checked in at midnight and I was like

Trisha that says, make any sense? I think it's because if you check in at midnight, you're now the next day and it gives you the maximum amount of time. Maybe for insurance purposes, why not let her sleep through the night and come in? Another assuming that? Yeah, I mean, that would be the wise I mean, for your body.

I know. I know. So that was when the, when the pandemic hit, my husband and I were optioning home births ourselves, they were allowing husbands and delivery but not in postpartum. And that really upset us because he wanted to be there. And I've heard stories of women, you know, being by themselves for five days in the hospital, and I was like, I don't really want to go through that. So during the time we optioned homebirths and I had found a doctor. This is before I switched OB's I found a doctor who wanted to who was like, Yeah, like you do a home birth but with twins, I was like a more high risk. I don't really know of homebirths with twins, or even option waterbirth because I really wanted to do that. But again, with twins, I wasn't sure of like the high risk situation and what to expect? I don't know. So, so we spoke to the guy who wanted to do the home birth and he's like, Look, if you're if, if you're going to do this, do it but if you're not, there's a great ob at your hospital, who does who specializes in vaginal breech delivery or twin natural delivery? Because obviously, I did have a natural delivery with twins and everybody I tell that to is like, how did you do that? Like most doctors around the country, I don't know if you guys know that. But most doctors if you twins or want to jump right into C sections.  Yes, that is why we were so excited to hear your story.

Yes. I mean, I everyone I've spoken to I couldn't believe that my doctors did this or just at least gave me the option. So when the doctor recommended my ob recommended this gentleman, he was like, you have to go see him. So at 32 weeks, I changed OBS. I interviewed this doctor who's a little bit older. He just has been at the hospital for a while. He's kind of an institution there. He's been operating since the 70s. And he had a lot more experience like my my original ob was a wonderful man and it was nothing against him. It's just a lot of these new doctors I'm finding that are coming out. I have no idea about natural delivery or they would rather just, you know, like we talked about go straight to a C section.

They often say the older OB's  like the 70 year old ob might actually be more supportive of a natural birth because when they were in obstetrics school, they still pursued a vaginal birth, at least a trial of labor. And now more and more, if not exclusively obstetricians of multiples, scheduling your C section, right and right, if you have a C section, it doesn't have to be scheduled. So it's interesting that you came to that, because we've heard that before. In many cases, the younger ones have never even seen it done. Or they wouldn't even have had any experience at all.

And you guys talk about, you know, you if you specialize in HypnoBirthing. So I read that book, and I did a HypnoBirthing class and it talks a lot about that, particularly how the woman who founded it or whatever, when she speaks around the country that a lot of the doctors coming out of the medical schools now aren't really, you know, strong in no understanding natural deliveries or breech delivery or any of that. It's like that's all they've learned in medical school. And it's kind of sad actually, because it's kind of like honestly, like, it's like a dying art. What my ob did in the delivery room, to me was a form of art because there's so Much more passion involved. So here we are. I switched OB's at 32 weeks to go to this new guy named Dr. Barry Brock out of cedars you know, I had a few appointments with him. It was amazing that even at 32 weeks because I have heard that some doctors won't take you that late and a third trimester, it's you know, and I was like, well, I want my dream birth. And I found out that both of my twins  well, one was vertex and the other one was breech. So what what the OB? What Dr. Brock had told me was Look, the first one can be vertex he's like the first one. I don't care if it's vertex or breech. I'll get it out. It's the second one you always worry about.

Well, that's interesting. Am I hearing you right? He said it doesn't matter if their first one is vertex or breech right? I've always heard the opposite as long as baby a is head down. They kind of make way for baby and create all this space for baby. So he said he would attend your delivery of baby a baby A is breech. Yeah, he didn't care. He was Got it out? Yeah, he's like, I don't know. I know. He basically he could get it out either breach or vertex is what he said. And I was like, Oh my god, you know, and then my girlfriend's a nurse in Florida where I'm originally from. And she was like your doctor does breech delivery. That's so unheard of like, we don't even do that at our hospital. And so I was like, Yeah, he claims he had so much confidence, all this so I'm going man, I really picked him at that point when he had that, like, exuding that confidence. I was like, I know I picked the right doctor. When I went into the hospital, obviously, I they started introducing me right away. My sir. So and this was full term, 38 weeks. So I check in the hospital. The first thing they start to do is do that magical balloon insert the Foley balloon. Yeah. Which, to me is really uncomfortable as I'm sure you guys have known if it was in and, like, right, so. So I had the badge in a balloon and right away Right after that I had decided to get the epidural a little earlier just because I was I had heard about pitocin and and I just normally I can handle it I have a pretty good pain threshold but with this I was just already going in with nerves and so much going on so and then after the epidural kicked in, that's when they were administering the pitocin and that had kicked me in gear to about five centimeters all the way through Tuesday morning into Wednesday morning, Wednesday night, around six o'clock, I was still only dilated until five centimeters. So cut to Wednesday at about six o'clock at this point. Mind you, as you know when you're induced, you can't eat anything in case of a C section. So we're cutting to Wednesday night at six o'clock. So I'm already kind of starting to get kind of like tired and you know, I haven't eaten I'm surviving on ice chips and pretty much drugs so to speak right from the hospital. So So then they kicked up the pitocin and I started to dilate more, which was good. I think I got me to about eight centimeters before midnight. And then finally at three o'clock in the morning, of course, just as I'm, like, exhausted from like everything happening and at three o'clock in the morning, two o'clock in the morning, they broke my water. And three o'clock in the morning my doctor comes in, and my ob and he's like, yeah, you're fully dilated, let's go push but at this point, I'm like, Oh my god, it's three o'clock in the morning, almost Thursday. It's been 24 hours since I've eaten anything. How am I going to muster up the energy to actually go push at this point? I haven't really had any any liquids. You know, it's ice chips. Here. They're wheeling me into the O R. And this is about three o'clock in the morning. I was fully dilated, wheeled me into the O R and I started pushing for I would say 20 minutes nothing was happening. Nothing was coming down. I was just like, Oh, I'm pushing as hard as I can. But sometimes I understand these things happen. So an hour passes. And then at this point, like, you can see people start to leave the room. And there's only a few select people still there because they're like, Oh my god, they probably thought, she's totally not going to have the energy right now to push. Let's try again in the morning, which is what happened. So at this point, it was like five o'clock in the morning on a Thursday, and they will need back to the room. Okay. And they and by this time epidural had worn off. So like, my contractions were severely crazy. And I could really feel them at this point, right. So I'm like, and then at this point, it was this change of staff, again, these nurses come in. So this is where it gets kind of crazy with everything. So the nurses, the new nursing staff comes in in the morning and they're like, Look, we need to practice pushing because you know, and I was like, okay, but if I In my head, I'm thinking, if I practice pushing here, how am I going to have the energy to push it when I actually need it? She even puts a bar up and I'm like doing different positions. And I'm like, Oh my god, like, I'm, I just I want to get these kids out at this point.

Yeah, yeah, this point 36 hours already. So I'm the head of the nurses, the OB department comes in and says to me, look like we have to be honest with you the kids are still they're not coming down the birth canal. It's getting kind of dangerous. Have you be fully dilated. And so now there are two women in there that the woman from the nursing staff who's been helping me push and then the head of the OB like department at cedars and basically said, Look, you have two options. We can try to keep pushing, but we do have to let you know that if nothing comes out soon, you need to be ready to have a C section. And my mind was blown at this point because it's like, I've been laboring for 36 hours here, I switched OBS at 32 weeks, especially, you know, I found this guy did the research on him because I this is what I specifically wanted for my birth. And now you're telling me that my only option, it might have to be a C section. This is bs pretty much. And so at this point, I'm completely exhausted. We do a few more pushes. And then she's like, I'm so sorry, we're gonna have to have a C section and I'm going I look at my husband, we both like pretty much had tears in our eyes because I'm like, you can see like my, my dream bird flying out the window. And I said, Look, at this point, I'm exhausted. I haven't eaten in 48 hours, I have no energy, we need to just option and do the C section because I want ultimately I want the kids out healthy, you know. So, um, did they give you what we call a medical indication for the C section. What was their rationale for telling you you needed to see section?

I can guess failure to progress. Yeah, it's interesting because that's not really a medical indication, right? If the heart rate is fine if your blood pressure is fine, they're not seeing the presence of meconium that's not a medical indication. So it's it's so interesting how and then they had you so tired. They were depriving you of food despite the research that fully supports that birthing women need food and must have food and water and hydration. And there you are. And you still you still had it in you to say you wanted to keep going.Yeah, just I just like I'm wanting to jump out of my seat right now being like, just eat something other than other than ice chips, please get something Ah, it's so painful to hear that you were put in that situation and they brought you in at midnight to begin with. And you said you still said you had more to keep going? What happened next?

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So I have said, Okay, if that's what we have to do, I kind of have to surrender because I want my kids out healthy. And at the time I didn't register to me because granted, I was so exhausted and drained at this point, it didn't register to me to think and say, You're not my ob, I don't really want to listen to anyone else. But my ob, that's who I'm here for. That's who I want the advice from, I don't want an advice from a nurse. I don't want an advice from this guy that I have, specifically, you know, told me that he can do that. She says to me, and your doctor is in a conference right now and might not be able to make the first half of your C section. And I'm going, are you joking? Like, what are my options right now, you know, so, that is the question. So ultimately, I was so irate and livid at this point. I'm going I can't believe I wasted all this time laboring when I could have just said scheduled a C section. So I'm going through all this emotional turmoil and and What have you cut to five so there's they start to prep me for a C section. They start rubbing me down with that water and then they give you this great shot and I'm going okay, I've already like even text my parents and my girlfriend's like, I'm not really the kids aren't coming out I'm not getting my dream birth but at this point I just want him out healthy. I don't even care. Cut to five minutes later. This is where like the silver lining is just like come through the darkest of clouds. My ob comes running into the room and pushes it just like kneels over me. And it's like, are you okay? And I'm like, not really I go I'm kind of upset I go I'm really upset. I go I specifically searched out to change obese for you. Late in my pregnancy. I go I and then now they're telling me I have to have a C section when I could have just scheduled that as opposed to laboring for 36 plus hours and you know, being drained of all my energy and food and all of these resources. And now you're telling me I have to have a C section and that wasn't in my birth plan at all. So then cut after he says, hold on a minute. He does a quick pelvic exam on me right then in there. And he's like, she doesn't need a C section. She's positive three. With her birth with the birth process, which I guess is like, right, it's like zeros at your at your pelvis and a positive three means like, you're ready to push. Yeah, so the so cut two. So he's like, let's go. Let's go push. So I'm like, oh my god. So here in my head, I'm thinking, we went from thinking of my dream birth plan to then switching to a C section. Now all of a sudden, we can go push to have my dream birth plan again. So we've already cried out the fact that I'm probably gonna have a C section. Now back to Oh my god, there's a beacon of hope that I can have my birth, the birth I So I looked at my husband and I'm like, I am going to push the hardest ever, like, I want to have this natural birth. I'm like, so set on it, they will meet to the bar, I go in there and there's like all these people, which I get, like, if I have a lot more, let's just put it then it was at the 3am pushing a team of women around him. There's like six women, including the women that told me it was impossible for me at this point to have a vaginal birth. And I'm thinking to myself, I'm totally going to prove you wrong. And then they have the team in the background ready, and all of the women were actually turned out to be amazing and cheering me on. I pushed as hard as I could I push and 20 minutes later, my first child forest was born. Seven and a half pounds. It was awesome. I cried. I mean, I cried. specifically because I was just such an to get that to that moment I felt like I was an Olympian who's trained for the Olympics and got gold kind of I know that sounds crazy but it did just from everything that went through and from and from to having the obstacles that I overcame to getting to that point. And at this point like you can see I'm pretty pale because of no energy still or no nothing, no sustenance in my body at this point. So for so my first boy came out 20 minutes later, and then I labored for another 12 minutes which apparently a lot of my friends who are a set of twins are like 12 minutes between twins is pretty cool is a long time to labor. And then 12 minutes after that, I am Gabriel. My second kid was born at eight pounds, one ounce, eight. Those are great sizes. Yeah, I was carrying like when they both head down a one way As the first one was vertex The second one was breach.

Oh, so he supported you through a breech birth. Yeah. And I just and I, yeah, he did. He did everything it was like, what had become more of a nightmare had turned into like my fantasy I know that like over like in a matter of like 20 minutes, all the emotion, the emotional rollercoaster I went on. And it was it was pretty surreal. And at this point, I was like, I could have had a C section or 20 minutes later, push out my first kid, like, the fact that C section was even an option. It was was unnecessary, you know, never necessary. Never. It's provider provider provider. And this is a perfect example of how much power the provider has. I mean, you're the only one giving birth, you're the only one delivering your babies. But look at how easily this was almost a completely different state. story in your life and in your son's lives. And, you know, we always say there are three things that determine the outcome of a birth one is the provider. Two is the mother and her physiology her what she's saying and doing and three, the position of the babies, you didn't have the position of the babies in your favor and look at the power of the other two things. So they don't all have to be going for you necessarily. But no you and having the right person in the room, you change the whole outcome.

I know I know. And, and the trust you had in yourself that you had in yourself in that moment to be like to stand up to the head of the OB department of the entire hospital and be like, this is not how I want to go exam because even after after almost 48 hours of labor, I think it you know, almost any woman would be like, you're right, you know, right. Right. I'm so exhausted and you're so fit. okay, you're just like I how am I even gonna have the energy to push at this point. But it's truly like a heroic story and to think of how much how much empowerment you gained from this experience versus had you sort of surrendered to the decision of the head of the OB department, how different your, the rest of your, the way you looked at your journey into motherhood and your birth experience for the rest of your life would have been altered.

Oh, my God, I know and I, I coming out of like just recovery and postpartum and thinking about things. I'm happy, obviously elated that I got I did ended up getting my dream birth but to get there was such a roller coaster and it is all about the provider. And really, if you want to have your dream birth, you have to do the research on it because and you know, look, a lot of women are just like, I don't want to deal with that. I want to I have a girlfriend who's pregnant right now who actually is Using my old ob, because she had a C section already. I mean, that's this guy also does that he also the guy who delivered my kids, the doctor, if you had a C section before and you wanted a natural delivery, he'll do that too. Because I know a lot of doctors won't if you already have a C section, they're not going to do natural, right? It's like they'll always just do c section. But this guy, I had a nurse in my postpartum recovery room say, Oh, I have a C section for my first kid, but I'm actually using your doctor because he's willing to do a natural delivery, although I had a C section for my first child.

I love this guy. We need to meet him. And you know, he, I mean, the fact is, is he, to be honest, when they told me he was in a conference and all of this I'm thinking why this just does all didn't add up to me and it just made me feel like what is this? Why would she be giving me advice on something that's I'm supposed to be just discussing and listening to my ob about why would You be telling me Well, you're not gonna be able to do this. And it's like, you're not a doctor. So you almost get the feeling well, he was out of the way. They were going to jump in there and intervene when he wasn't aware of what they were doing is do you think that was what was happening? Was he aware that they were putting that pressure on you?

You don't know. He claims that the woman went up to where he was having his conference that I use quotations on that because I'm like, Where are you having a conference? And, and he claims that she went up to the room and said that I wanted a C section.

No, you never know. Yeah, that I would. I had, like, resorted to a C section because I was too tight. It was just the babies weren't coming down and all of this. Are you saying? They were telling you you needed to have a C section and they were presumably telling him you requested one? Mm hmm. Yes, that is unbelievable. I know. And I was added next year, I would I would love to have conversation between the two of them after your birth.

Katie, what are you really proud of?

I'm really proud that I didn't listen to the system, so to speak, and I and I just felt I believed in my gut and I knew what I wanted and I knew that I the road to get there was a difficult but I'm really glad I stuck with my intuition because honestly, I run into moms with twins now or just people, you know, listening to my story and they just are like, wow, you I can't believe you had twins vaginally. That's like so unheard of. Literally, I think about it. If one baby was eight pounds, the other one is seven and a half. I mean, I was probably including the placenta is carrying about 20 extra pounds and that you know, even through my pregnancy I traveled I wasn't afraid to do certain things and how healthy the boys came out and how they are now and like postpartum. I'm breastfeeding mixing in with formula. It's hard for me to breastfeed both But they're both doing amazingly well and just the experience of labor in general was so just like it seems like a blur now but in the moment you you reflect and you're like God, what did I go through?

what you said about being proud of yourself for not becoming, you know, part of the system is so, you know, you hit the nail on the head because your birth story is remarkable. And your birth story it had it had just been one baby would still have been impressive to have a vaginal birth after that long and after having been fully dilated for that long but to have done it with twins, and one twin who was breech is sort of like out of this world. incredible story.

Katie, can you speculate? You know you're almost a month out right tomorrow marks one month since you gave birth? Yes. I mean, I'm sure you recognize now that like a woman refund And processes her birth story. thousands of times in her life, you've probably already done so hundreds of times told the story thought about it 20 hours out of 24 hours a day. Can you speculate as to what how you might be feeling differently? Had your birth gone the other way? Because how a woman feels postpartum is so important, and I don't think it's given enough. Attention Attention. I don't think it's given I don't think it's taken seriously enough. And can you imagine that your postpartum experience would be different had it gone otherwise? Oh, yeah, I feel my postpartum if if I had a C section, my postpartum would probably be a lot worse only knowing what I know now. And we've always speculated my husband and I about the healthcare industry or the you know, just doctors in general. Everything that was told to us and what I learned through HypnoBirthing and what I learned through the able to find a doctor who understood that I wanted a natural delivery and I mean, I think if I didn't if I had that C section I probably we would be, I'd be happy that they'd be out and that they were healthy but I would also sort of not have a little bit resentment maybe kind of flowing. I mean, how could you not write it's like you would live with the fact of like, yeah, I almost had my dream birth or I almost did it but you know, what? I my cervix didn't work the way it was supposed to. So this is how they came out, but don't but you know, but instead it was like, No, I was a warrior. I like pushed those babies out. And I was told, you know, I was misinformed on information that could have altered you know, the way I delivered.

It's, it's okay for a woman not to have her dream but what's not okay is for her to not have her dream birth and not be at peace with how necessary it was to go to a different birth plan, right? And we cannot we can all be really happy for a C section, we can all be grateful for the utmost intervention, but we have to believe it was in our best interest in the best interest of our babies. And in your case, you didn't have that conviction.

Yeah, it was almost like a cloudy, it was a cloudy explanation, I would have been going back in my head and thinking, what did they mean? Like why didn't I listen to my doctor? That would have been the number one question Why did I listen to this woman who's you know, part of the hospital you know, maybe she has experienced but she still wasn't my ob. And not even that. She wasn't, your the mother? Yeah, exactly. Your intuition was so much stronger than any body else opinion right and merely telling me that I would need a C section is because they weren't coming down my birth canal fast. And I'm like, I've never heard of this. But like, you know, when you're in that state of like, Oh my god, I'm so exhausted in your lane. He's all these questions and, and throwing this information at me and I'm trying to register it, but I'm also, you know, completely exhausted. So what do I have left to do? What do I have left to think about? Or or, you know, let's just get it done. I say this, but it's like my husband's look in his eyes was like, I cannot believe we're going through this.

I was just thinking of him because it's not an easy position for that birth partner, that birth companion to be there and to hear the medical staff saying one thing, and then the birthing mother saying another thing, and he was really connected with you really on the same page with you despite, you know, in the face of this long birth, and all these reasons to feel like stopping it sounds like he was completely sold on your perspective completely in it with you. I mean, is that how you felt or did he Yeah, conflicted.

No, he, I mean, I mean, this reverts back to a couple years ago. But a few years ago, I had a similar situation, not with pregnancy, but I had a hernia. disk, okay. And, uh, we every doctor in town wanted to do immediate spinal fusion on my back. So we had and I'm thinking, you know, why do I like spinal fusion? We as we did the research more and more about it, it was, this reminded me of the C section thing. Well, we found a doctor in town that didn't do spinal fusion was like, you just need physical therapy. You don't need to go under the knife for this, this is something that can be done naturally. And so with that experience in mind, that's when we were like, Why is everyone telling us we need a C section when you can do this naturally? And then that's why those two weeks we've had experience with the doctors telling us one thing, and knowing another side of the story and going well, wow, because here I am with a herniated disc. having twins with that, you know, on thinking about my back, and and I lived through my herniation without spinal fusion and now I live through, you know, imaginal work with twins. Without having a C section and it's just not going under the knife and looking back now I'm like God, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way than the way I had it you know, and I'm just glad that the doctor just came in at the right time and things just worked out the way they were supposed to when you reflect on it and you're just like, I can't believe I lived through that the boys lived through that and how we are now I'm just it's it's magical.

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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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