Baby foot
The authorities have now placed the baby into foster care. Creative Commons

A pregnant woman who gave birth after getting lost in a forest in northern California and has admitted taking methamphetamine after delivering her daughter. The woman said she took the drug to get an energy boost.

Amber Pangborn, 35, of Oroville in Butte County, says her newborn daughter Marissa is now in the custody of Butte County Children's Services. In an interview with the Chico Enterprise-Record newspaper Pangborn gave several possible reasons why the baby might have been taken from her, including the fact that both she and her child tested positive for methamphetamine following the three-day ordeal.

Pangborn says that Children's Services became involved after she and Marissa were found in a remote area of Plumas National Forest. They were rescued when Pangborn started a fire in a desperate attempt to get help and the flames leapt out of control.

"The whole side of the mountain caught on fire," she said.

Fortunately Pangborn was spotted by fire investigators.

"I was crying, I was so happy. I thought we were gonna die," she said.

Afterwards the mother and child were taken to different hospitals.

"They told me the night I went into the hospital that they were going to call them [Children's Services] because of the nature of me giving birth to her in the woods," Pangborn said.

As well as the unattended birth, Pangborn cited other reasons why Children's Services might have taken away her baby, including the fact that she gave up parental rights for her three other daughters while she was coping with her husband's suicide. She said she also drank heavily after her husband died.

Another possible factor was that she and Marissa reportedly tested positive for methamphetamine. Pangborn said she took a small amount of the drug after giving birth. She said that a man gave her a pebble-sized amount after she gave him a ride earlier on the evening she got lost. Later she took a wrong turning in the forest before her car broke down. After her labour pains started she gave birth in the back of the car.

Pangborn said she wasn't thinking clearly when she took the methamphetamine afterwards, but she had hoped it would give her the energy to get to safety.

"I had lost so much blood," she said. "I was pretty weak."

After giving birth wild bees were a hazard, as well as mosquitoes. "The bees wanted the placenta," Pangborn said. She was stung while defending her daughter.

She set off on foot with Marissa to search for water and for human help.

"It was very scary," she said. "I was really concerned about us surviving. I thought we were going to die out there." The mother and child were lost in the forest for three days.

She is now striving to stay optimistic, despite losing custody of the baby: "I'm just glad we're both alive," she said.