Linda Anderson is mum of three daughters, a passionate traveller, and founder of Mums On The Go. She’s also the principal coach of a2a Coaching, and you can connect to her via her website, Facebook and Twitter.
Mums On The Go is a directory of family friendly businesses, including cafes, hairdressers, gyms, and more. If you’re looking for somewhere where you can take your kids along, I highly recommend you check out Mums On The Go.
Today we’re going to be talking about an amazing birth story. We’ll be chatting to Linda, who’s the founder of Mums On The Go, and she had her baby on her living room floor. Before we get into Linda’s incredible story, I just want to make it really clear that births that are quick than three hours (when you hear about these crazy stories where the baby is born in the car, or in the ambulance, or in the hall or the front garden), it’s extremely rare.
It’s slightly more common with subsequent births, so if you’re a first time pregnant woman, this is really not something you should give too much time, attention or thought. It only happens to roughly 2% of all women, that their baby’s born in less than three hours. And then of course, that statistic is very rough, because how do you count it. It’s really hard to know exactly when labour starts, and everyone counts a little bit differently.
So we’re looking at about 2%, and of those it’s still only a tiny fraction of people who don’t actually make it to hospital. The best number that I could find was that of all the babies born in Australia, it was less than half a percent that were not born in hospital when that’s where they were planned to be. So we’re not including planned home births in that statistic. Less than half a percent are accidentally born somewhere other than where they wanted to be.
Have a listen today if you enjoy incredible birth stories. I know I do. Linda got a bit teary when I was interviewing her for this one. If you have any fear of unexpected outcomes, whether it is a very fast labour or you have some other concerns that things aren’t going to go to plan, Linda will be sharing with you at the very end of her interview just some of the ways she processed and planned for the birth, and some tips and advice for women who may find themselves in the same situation.
Newborn Mothers: Hi Linda! Thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Linda Anderson: Thank you, lovely to be here.
NM: I’d really like to hear about your amazing birth story. I think all births are amazing, but the really amazing one was baby number three. So if you’re very happy to quickly, as an intro, just tell me about your first and second birth experiences, that would be really awesome.
LA: Sure. So, my first two births were reasonably fast babies. They were five and a quarter hours each. Different breakups between the first and second stage in both of them, but total time the same.
My first baby actually came at 34 weeks, which was a surprise. So I didn’t get to have her in the birth centre like I’d planned. I ended up in a labour ward attached to monitors and not allowed to get off the bed. A bit surprised at finding myself in labour for the first time so early, but fortunately she was amazing and beautiful, and came into the world very healthy. So we were blessed by that.
My second baby was full term. She was born at 38 weeks, but again quite a quick labour. I was in a labour ward again that time, in a different city, but I was really blessed that birth. I had the most amazing midwife I could ever have asked to have that day, who basically just gave me space to give birth the way I wanted to in the hospital. They just let us roll with it our way and it was really lovely.
NM: So, how did you plan your third birth? I guess you had fairly quick births the first two times. Five hours is quick, particularly for the first. So did you have any idea that it was going to be so quick the third time, and did you plan anything differently?
LA: I never thought is was going to be as fast as it was. Never. But I also didn’t expect to be having a 20 hour labour either. I expected it to be very similar. I expected to recognise all the signs based on my first two labours of where I was up to and heading off to the hospital at the right time.
We were living back in Sydney again for my third baby, so again I had booked into the birth centre in the hope that I was going to give birth there, and that I’d have a full term baby again. All of those things that I was really wanting.
I didn’t really prepare anything differently. Obviously when you already have young children, one of the main concerns was just knowing that they were going to be cared for and that we had somebody nearby to us who could come quickly to the house if we needed to make a move reasonably quickly. I really was just very focused on the potential experience of finally getting to the birth centre and having a baby in a way I’d always imagined I was going to. I called it my ‘third time lucky’ no birth centre experience!
NM: So again, you were just really hoping for a natural birth and you were thinking mostly about your older children. And I know from my own experience, when you’re pregnant the second or third time (I’ve not had a third child), but any subsequent pregnancy you don’t really have an awful lot of time to think about you, do you?
LA: No, not at all! And look, I was really lucky. Both of my first two labours, they were natural, they were drug free, even with all the unexpectedness of having a premature baby and things like that. So I was blessed that I already had experiences where I had a lot of control over what was happening. But I hadn’t yet given birth in a physical environment that I had really wanted to have in childbirth. So that’s what I was really most looking forward to with my third baby.
NM: That’s beautiful. So tell me, what actually did happen?
LA: So… I was 39 weeks pregnant, so the most pregnant I’d ever been. When you’ve had a premature baby things like that are things you think about and have a laugh about. I was 39 weeks pregnant, I had experienced pre-labour pains in the daytime And I had experienced those in my second labour, so they were familiar to me. So I went about my day, and I asked my husband to come home early. I rang my girlfriend (she was on call for my children), to say, “Look, I can’t promise anything, but I have a feeling you should probably keep your phone on tonight and let’s just see how life rolls.”
I was quite uncomfortable by the time I went to bed and had a lot of trouble falling asleep. And then at around 1am, I well and truly moved into having contractions. And they were 10 minutes apart, which is pretty relaxed still. And they were too strong for me to stay in bed. I couldn’t lie there anymore; they were toe-curlers as I like to call them.
So I got of bed and I went down to the lounge room. It was the middle of winter, so I turned on our gas heater. I turned on the TV; the Olympics were on. I thought I was going to get to soak up some Olympics in the middle of the night while I paced and moved and kept my body going in a way it needed to, to go through the contractions.
But as soon as I got up. As soon as I had the heater and TV on, my contractions shifted immediately to being four minutes apart. Which really surprised me. It was to me quite a dramatic shift in intensity. And I thought maybe it’s just because I got up and it will calm down again in a minute. We won’t wake anyone up yet; we’ll wait and see what happens.
And I did that for about 15 or 20 minutes, and they weren’t slowing down; they weren’t easing off. So I thought, right, we’re moving a little bit faster here. I better get my husband up and we better start making a few phone calls, and let’s get on with this.
So I woke my husband up and I asked him to phone my girlfriend and get her to come up. Peace of mind that the children are looked after is really important. I rang the birth centre, and I remember saying to them, “I realise I haven’t been in labour very long, but I feel very clear that I need to start organising myself and my children, and I’d like to come in.” And they were absolutely fine about that. I hung up the phone and put it on the mantelpiece above the fireplace.
I literally took two steps away and my waters broke. I remember kicking the rug away from my feet (because I was worried about making a mess!), and I stood there going, Wow, my waters just broke! And it happened in a time and place in labour that it hadn’t happened in the other labours, so I didn’t quite know what it was going to be. For all I knew, I still had hours ahead of me. Or not!
My husband came back from ringing my girlfriend to find me standing there with my waters broken, and I said, “Can you go and get me a change of plants please? This is really uncomfortable.” And, in the time it took him to walk down our hallway and back to me with a fresh set of clothes, I was in serious labour. I had intense urges to push. I was down on the floor, down on my knees and I knew that baby was coming really quickly.
So I’m yelling at my husband, “Get these pants off me!” And of course, he’d go to try and touch me and I’d have another contraction and I’d be like, “Don’t touch me! But get these pants off me, the baby’s coming!”
I was really concerned about the fact that I was still fully clothed, and this baby was really coming very quickly. I asked him to call the hospital back, because there was no way we were leaving our house. So he rang the hospital and they said they’d send an ambulance. But my husband couldn’t hear what they were saying because he was in the room with me. So he had to keep going into the kitchen to speak to them, and then come back to me and relay messages.
In amongst all of this, my girlfriend arrived and it had literally been seven minutes picked up the phone at her house. She thought she was coming to look after the kids, and my poor girlfriend arrives to find me having a baby! She was really worried about the kids waking up (they were aged four and 20 months old at this point), so she was in the hallway hovering in case they came out.
So my husband’s coming in and out from the kitchen. He’s on the phone; he’s got instructions. The hard thing for me about it was that I felt quite alone in my experience. Because I knew other people were there (I could hear them; I could hear activity), but they weren’t with me. Nobody was on the ground at my level with me. And I really, really struggled with that. In fact, I feel quite emotional talking about it. Nobody did anything wrong. Everyone was just like, Holy crap, what do we do?!
NM: So what you really needed was perhaps someone to just get down there and say, You can do it, you’re doing great.
LA: I just needed someone eyeball-to-eyeball with me. So I just needed someone tuned into me. But things were happening so quickly that I didn’t have the capacity to ask for it. I was literally just so intensely focused on what was happening to my body, and where this baby was at, that I could not tune into anyone else or even ask for anything. It was just, take care of myself and everybody else take care of themselves, and somehow we’re all going to ride this roller coaster.
I remember at one point my husband came in to me with a message from whoever he was on the phone to at the hospital, and he’s like, “They say, ‘Don’t push!’” It was the only time I swore in this whole experience. I was like, “What the f**k! How can you not push right now?!”
And again, if I’d been able to step outside of myself, if I had that capacity, I would have just said, Hang up the phone, there is an ambulance coming. Hang up that phone and let’s just deal with this ourselves. But I didn’t have that capacity at that time.
NM: No, of course you were already in that primal brain. And I think you’re right, this idea that you can stop or start pushing is quite insane, because any woman who’s given birth knows that it is not something that you do, it’s something that happens to you.
LA: Yeah! And it happens to you and you just respond. You just do what your body is asking of you. And you can’t not push!
NM: The other thing in hindsight is that usually, just in case anyone listening to this is worried that they’re going to have a precipitous birth and have their baby on the living room floor, usually when it happens really quickly like that is because everything is perfectly fine. The baby’s healthy; the mum’s healthy. It’s not common. When you have a very quick labour, there’s not usually complications.
So I think you’re right. If you’d had any sort of thinking brain you would have gotten a hold of that situation a bit better. But you were already in the zone, weren’t you?
LA: I was totally in the zone. And so it was a quite surreal experience hearing all this activity going on around me and just not being connected to any of it. The nice thing was, I wasn’t ever worried about my baby or about what was happening. There was no fear involved; there was no anxiety involved. It was just like being one hell of a rollercoaster ride, and you just knew you had to hang on and ride with it. Not fight it; not resist it, just accept that I’m one hell of a ride and don’t quite know when it’s going to stop, but hold on tight. A Here we go, let’s do it! feeling.
So in amongst all of this, the ambulance arrives. I hear footsteps coming down my hallway and one of the ambos got down with me then and introduced himself, and I remember thinking, Yeah yeah, whatever. Who are you? Come in.
And at this point the head had already come through and my husband’s with me, and he was holding the head of our baby. And I remember the ambo saying to him, “Right, move out of the way!” Thinking, it wasn’t very long since they’d been phoned, surely not that much could have happened in the mean time. And my husband’s like, “I’m holding onto the head. I’m not moving until you’re here in position.” And the ambo’s like, “Oh, ok, right! Let’s get into gear.”
So within a matter of another contraction or two, she was delivered. And it’s one of the things I really noticed in contrast to my other births: is that because it happened so quickly, I didn’t have time at any point in the process to connect to the moments, because the moments were racing past so quickly. I can remember all the different pivotal moments and stages and experiences and conversations with my first two labours. I can’t remember a thing really in this third labour, except the overall ride.
And so when it came to the end and she was born, I just remember I’m on all fours and I’m just in shock almost, and just didn’t quite know what to do or how to react. It was just like, Oh my God, what just happened to me? What have we all just gone through in this really short space of time?
It was very surreal. But she was beautiful; she was healthy. Perfect Apgar scores. Again, another piece of evidence for me that I was not totally connected to myself and what was going on, was because it was so cold outside that night, the ambos started to dress her almost immediately (once they’d checked her). And I turned my head and I could see them dressing her and I just couldn’t move and I couldn’t speak, and I was just so depleted and shocked about what had happened. But I didn’t stop and say to them, Don’t dress her! I want to hold her, skin-to-skin for a while. That’s what I do.
And I was just so tuned out that it wasn’t until a little bit later and I was holding her, and I’m thinking, Why has she got these clothes on? And I took them off to hold her then.
So that’s how it happened. We had some time at home; the ambos needed to wait and see whether I would expel my placenta at home. They give you a certain amount of time to allow that process to happen. They’re not allowed to give you the injection that people frequently have to manage that birth stage. After a while, it was evident that that wasn’t going to occur in the time frame you have, so they took me into the hospital with my husband and my baby.
I was really fortunate that the birth centre had space for me when I got there. So although I didn’t get to give birth in the birth centre, I then had that really beautiful, soft, welcoming space to just lie on this big bed with her, and be close to her while they checked me out and helped me with the placenta. I needed to be stitched, I’d torn during the experience.
We had a really long time, and it was just beautiful to lie and be. And I came out of shock when I had that time to rest and connect with her.
NM: That’s beautiful, what an amazing story. I can definitely understand that shock, I’ve talked to quite a lot of women who’ve had quick births. And the response from other women is often, You’re so lucky that it was only three hours (or one hour or five hours). You’re so lucky!
And for a lot of the women who have quick births, some of them may feel lucky, but some of them just feel like you were saying. It’s really hard to integrate that experience, and it can take a long time to process what actually happened. It really can be quite a shock, and it’s not always smooth sailing just because it’s quick!
LA: No. Obviously, there are blessings in the fact that it’s quick, but what I say to people is, every experience and intensity that you had in your own labours (however many hours they last), all of those things still happen. You don’t miss any steps; they’re just at fast-forward, high speed. And that’s really intense to go through as an experience, to ride that wave of high-speed intensity, and to be ok with it and just let go.
NM: Yes. And then, of course, you’ve got to get straight down to the business of being a mum, which is a very busy time. And managing the relationships with all of your other family members, and breastfeeding, and coping with all the sleep deprivation. How did you actually, and when did you, find time to process that birth experience. And how did that affect your early experiences of motherhood?
LA: I think the most important thing for me was, I actually chose to be admitted to the hospital that day. I had a choice; I could have just come home and was given no medical reasons that I had to stay in the hospital. But I chose to be admitted to hospital and a room was available for me to have to myself. Because I actually just wanted 48 hours to ground myself with this new baby, and to create a space just for us to bond and just ground ourselves after what had been quite a crazy ride into the world.
And the hospital staff were really surprised that I stayed. They just expected that I would go home, and I got mixed responses at the hospital, like, Why are you staying? Shouldn’t you go home?!
The nice thing was, when you’ve had your third baby and once your are admitted, people pretty much leave you alone! Unless you call for something or need help, they figure you’ve got it sorted and give you a lot of space. So that was the first thing I did to help process, and to help get what I needed.
NM: And again, I think for a lot of people, those first couple of days in hospital is just a relief from household busyness and chores and visitors. Just being able to have that space at home, when you’ve already got kids in particular, it’s very difficult, isn’t it?
LA: And my second child was only 20 months old, so I wanted to be able to go home and rationalise with her about why mummy just needed to have a sleep, or rest, or spend time with the baby. So, it was really good for me to give myself a couple of days before I re-entered being a mum to my older girls as well.
I don’t feel like having a really fast labour particularly impacted my sense of mothering to my youngest daughter, and it didn’t impact breastfeeding. I don’t think that it impacted any of those things. They flowed well for me, and they always have. I’m very lucky in that regard, so that was all fine.
My girlfriend and I became a whole lot closer! We had a much deeper friendship after that because she actually came over for a debriefing when I came home from hospital, because she had this hugely emotional experience being present to that experience, and so unexpectedly for her. She actually came over one afternoon after I’d come home from hospital, and my husband and myself and my girlfriend just sat around and talked about it. Talked about what a wild, crazy ride it was together. So I think that was very helpful.
NM: So another step of that processing is having a debriefing, just talking about it.
LA: Yeah! And we all had kind of different parts of the experience that were important to us, that we had connected to depending on what our focus was. So it was quite interesting for me because I was quite disconnected for a lot of it because I was just so in my own zone. It was really interesting for me to hear about what they were experiencing and processing at that time as well.
How do you process it, and how long does that take? Simply that fact that, my daughter’s almost two in a couple of months, and the fact that I still felt emotional sharing with you that sense of aloneness that I had in the moment. The fact that still comes up when I speak about it, it tells you that you process most of it and it’s not a thing on a day-to-day level, but somewhere in your soul and in your core of who you are, I think there will just always be a part of you that has a strong emotional connection to what you went through. And that’s ok.
NM: I totally agree with you. And I’ve talked to people whose children are adults, and even they’ve got grandchildren now, and still if you ever ask them about their birth story, for a lot of women it’s still such an emotional experience.
One thing that happens is when you’ve got high oxytocin in your brain and body (and obviously that happens in childbirth), then you have a more clear emotional memory, and a less clear rational memory. So you might not be able to remember the details, but you’ll remember a moment, or you’ll remember a smell, or you’ll remember a song, or a noise. Or just an emotion, like that feeling of aloneness. Because of the effect that oxytocin has on the long term memory, it really can stay with you for life.
And I guess my final question is, I know it’s a fairly irrational fear that a lot of pregnant women have; they’re worried that they’re not going to make it to hospital, when it’s in fact incredibly rare. But if any these listeners do find themselves in that situation, do you have any advice or support? Do you have anything you could tell them that might help to make it a little bit smoother?
LA: Sure. The first thing I would say is, don’t invest a huge amount of time and energy in worrying while you’re pregnant about this idea that you might not make it to hospital, because the odds are you’re going to be in hospital in plenty of time. But I do think it is important in our mental preparation for childbirth to ask, What if? What if that did happen to me, what would I do and who would I call? What if I was at home and in really fast labour? I would call the hospital first and tell them where I was at.
If you ever ring the hospital and they suggest to you that you shouldn’t come in right now, but your intuition (whether it’s your first baby or your third baby), you have a female intuition. If something in you is saying, I don’t want to be here, I want to go to hospital, just go. The worst thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to get there and still have loads of time, and the midwives will keep you or send you home. But don’t worry about that; follow your instincts.
Secondly, if you do find yourself at home or on route to the hospital, and you really know that baby is coming and you are having that experience, the best advice I can give is just to surrender. Let it be; it’s just happening. You can’t change it, you can’t stop it, you can’t make it be anything else. So just surrender and listen to your body. Your body knows; trust your body and it will all be ok.
NM: That’s beautiful. I also just want to add to that about trusting your body. We get quite obsessed with birth planning these days and I think there are some very important aspects about birth planning, but in the end I think birth is a really great initiation into motherhood, because it is so out of control. There is nothing you can do to choose how you give birth. Ultimately, it just happens. I think it’s your body, and it’s also your baby.
Sometimes I think people think that the mother feels like it’s all about her, when actually sometimes the baby just wants to be born in a particular way, or needs to be born in a particular way. There’s two people in a birth, so who knows what’s going to happen. I think your advice is good for any unexpected outcome.
NM: Thank you so much Linda. I’ve got one more question, I’ve just realised!
NM: You said earlier on that your third birth was going to be the birth that you wanted.
LA: Yes! Finally I was going to give birth in the birth centre, and be in the bath and all those things I really wanted to do!
NM: So, obviously that didn’t happen. Was that ok? Do you still feel any longing for that dream birth?
LA: No, not a longing. There is part of me that feels unsatisfied in my curiosity, in a sense of I’m not going to have any more children. So, I don’t know what it feels like to get into a birthing pool. What did that feel like for your body and your labour, and I’m curious about that. I wish I knew just from a curiosity point of view. But I don’t have a longing, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out.
I think the fact that I was transferred to the birth centre, and therefore got the post-birth benefit of that environment was really helpful. And I got to birth in my own home, which is a really special experience.
NM: And how did your husband cope with that?
LA: He was amazing. I’m really blessed that he was very hands on for the first two births anyway. He actually helped to deliver our second baby in the hospital, and helped guide her out once the head was through, and all those things. He’s always been very connected to the birth of our children anyway, so he was ready! I think secretly maybe he wished that the ambulance arrived a couple of minutes later so that he could have actually delivered her. But he was amazing.
NM: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Linda. I don’t know if you’ve got anything else to add?
LA: No, I don’t. But thank you for creating this space to share this story. And I really hope that it offers something to people listening to this too.
Well that was an amazing birth story. Thank you so much to Linda for sharing. Linda Anderson is mum of three daughters, a passionate traveller, and founder of Mums On The Go. She’s also the principal coach of a2a Coaching, and you can connect to her via her website, Facebook and Twitter.
Mums On The Go is a directory of family-friendly businesses, including cafes, hairdressers, gyms, and more. If you’re looking for somewhere where you can take your kids along, I highly recommend you check out Mums On The Go.
If you enjoyed this, I’d love you to sign up for my free weekly pregnancy podcast and share it with a friend. And if you have an amazing birth story that you’d like to share (maybe you had your baby in the car or on the living room floor), and you’d love to tell us all about it, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, and I’ll catch you all next week on Newborn Mothers free weekly pregnancy podcast.