My birth journey is a long one, but how could it be short when there are 9 births? I had 4 c-sections, then 3 midwife-attended VBACs at home, 1 planned unassisted VBAC, then another planned unassisted with transfer for delivery.
My name is Ann. It was 1979 and my first baby was supposedly three weeks overdue. My doctor sent me in for x-ray pelvimetry, something I had no idea was both a dangerous thing for a baby in the womb and a useless exercise. He told me from that that I probably was “too small” to deliver this baby, but that he was willing to give me a trial labor. I was to check into the hospital Thursday morning for induction.
The morning I arrived, I was brought up to a room where a nurse gave me an enema and a shave and got me settled on the labor table. She also got an IV ready and put an external fetal monitor on me. As we were waiting for the nurse who was supposed to stay with me through labor, this nurse noticed that I was having contractions, according to the monitor. I couldn’t feel a thing, but I got very excited. I thought maybe this baby would fool them all and come on its own.
As it turned out, the staff was too busy that day to spare a nurse who could stay with me full time, and apparently when pitocin is being administered, you’re not supposed to ever be left alone. (What does that tell you?) So after a couple of hours on the table, they came and told me they were sending me home. They told me if I didn’t want another enema the following morning (believe me, I didn’t!) not to eat or drink anything before I came back the next morning. I went home really hoping that natural labor would kick in and I’d have this baby without their help.
Through the night I had some contractions that I could feel, but nothing ever got regular, so back to the hospital we went next morning. This time they lost no time getting me hooked up to everything, including the pitocin drip. At first the contractions were very manageable, and my husband and I were so excited. I remember the nurse chuckling and saying, “They all start out this way. Just wait a while.” Well, she was right, because before long they were very difficult to handle, plus I was vomiting and extremely miserable. I was made to lie on my left side, which made the contractions even more painful. My husband helped me breathe through them, but often I would just lose it and thrash through them. I felt like such a failure because we had been to Lamaze classes, and I felt that I should be able to stay in control, but I just couldn’t. My husband was sweet and supportive the whole time.
Probably around 5:00 in the evening (this was a Friday, now, remember), my doctor stopped by. He had been in a couple of times to check on me, but I barely remember him being much involved. I had dilated to 5 cm, but stayed there for hours. Now he had the nurse break my water. When nothing happened, he looked at the monitor and said something to the nurses, who then told me that the baby was in distress and they needed to do a c-section. For the first time during the long day, I was relieved of the drip and allowed to sit up in a chair. The contractions continued, and they were still painful. I felt like with each contraction I could feel the baby’s head trying to ram its way out through the chair. But I was so exhausted I was glad I was going into surgery to have it over with. I had not eaten for about 32 hrs.
My son was born at 6:06 p.m. weighing 6 lbs. 12 oz., with a head circumference of 13 ¾”. I had a general anesthetic, so I was out of it for quite a while. I remember being groggily wheeled to my room and having my husband excitedly ask me if I’d seen him yet, and wasn’t he cute! He was so proud and excited. I was just tired and faded in and out as visitors came to see how I was doing and congratulate me.
A long time later my baby was brought to me to nurse, and we fumbled the job pretty well. Periodically a nurse would come in and wake me up and make me cough while she pressed a pillow hard against my stitches. It was so difficult and painful. I just wanted to be left alone to sleep. My baby and I spent a week in the hospital, and we continued to have problems nursing. They were giving him water bottles, and when I’d try to get him to nurse, he wouldn’t latch on properly, and finally they ended up having me use a nipple shield, which worked okay, but we never got the nursing thing down well until we were home alone. We were absolutely delighted with our little son, and I recovered very well after the week in the hospital.
We weren’t planning on getting pregnant again any time soon. We were having a wonderful time with our little boy. But almost exactly on his first birthday, I found out I was pregnant again, in spite of using contraceptive foam. My doctor explained that I had a “tipped” uterus, which made it difficult to get the foam in the right place. I casually asked the nurse practitioner on my first visit if there was any chance I could deliver vaginally, and she replied, “Oh, no. The doctor never allows that.” It was no big deal to me. I figured after labor, a c-section was a cinch. So my daughter was born by scheduled c-section, weighing 8 lbs. ¾ oz., with a head circumference of 14½”. This time I had decided I wanted a local anesthetic, because I’d read they were safer for mother and baby, and I’d get to see my baby immediately after she was born. Plus I hoped recovering would be faster. The anesthetist paid my husband and me a visit the night before to try to talk us out of it. He tried to scare us that it was more difficult and it wasn’t the way he liked to do things. We believed it was better for us, and we were trusting God to keep us safe, so we stood our ground. Again my baby and I spent a week in the hospital and again I recovered well. The hardest part is standing up for the first time. I felt like my stitches were all going to fall out and my stomach was going to fall open. Once that trauma was over, things progressed well.
I suspect in the back of our minds, we figured we had our boy and our girl, and that would be that. But I also didn’t want to trust foam again, and I didn’t want to go back on the pill. At that time I came across a book explaining a natural birth control method, so when my periods returned, I started doing that. My daughter was only ten months old when I got pregnant again. During the prenatal interview, when the nurse asked if we’d been using birth control and what kind, I answered that we had been using a natural method. “So naturally you got pregnant,” she quipped. She was going to write down that we’d been using the rhythm method, but I explained that it wasn’t exactly rhythm, it was called “The Billings Method.” That elicited the joke from my doctor, “Oh, is that when he’s in Billings, you abstain?” It was very embarrassing, but I lived through it.
My doctor scheduled this c-section two weeks before my baby’s due date. This really surprised me. I hadn’t noticed before that c-sections were scheduled well in advance of due dates. I had always harbored a secret desire that the babies would come early and thwart the c-section process. Now I realized that they never stood a chance of that. When I went in to have an amniocentesis done to determine if the baby was ready to be delivered, it came back negative, and I was so disappointed to find out that I had to wait another two weeks to test again. Next time she was ready, though, and my second daughter was born weighing 7 lbs. ½ oz., with a head circumference of 14″. By the way, my doctor had offered to tie my tubes “while he was at it” this time. Probably figured anyone who was dumb enough to try natural birth control was dumb enough to keep getting pregnant. Fortunately for me, I had good counsel to not do anything permanent, so I declined.
This surgery didn’t go so well, though. Again I had a local anesthetic, but there was a “window” in the anesthetic, meaning that I could feel a certain section of my body that had somehow managed to not get numb. As I was being sewed back up after the baby was delivered, I could feel everything. When I tried to explain what was happening, they at first ignored me, then didn’t believe me. I found myself reaching out from under the sterile drape trying to convince them I could feel the stitches and it was agony. That got their attention. I’m not sure what happened after that. I passed out, either because of the pain or because they gave me a good dose of general.
Immediately after surgery, there was a period spent in what they call the recovery room, where the nurses observe you until you come out of the anesthetic or apparently meet some criteria that indicates you made it through safely. In all three cases, I experienced uncontrollable shaking and chills. I thought maybe I was in shock, and it really scared me, but nobody ever explained it to me. My brother-in-law happened to know a couple of the recovery room nurses the third time, and they told him they were really worried about me. But, still, no one would say what went wrong. Later in my room, when my doctor came to see me, I asked him why it hurt so much. He snapped at me, “You knew what it would be like.” He wouldn’t explain anything more. The anesthetist came in later. He was the only one who seemed at all concerned or apologetic. But he, too, was evasive about what happened. I never did get an explanation.
In addition, recovery was complicated by very painful abdominal gas. It was bad enough to make me cry, especially since it was in the same area where my stitches were. When I would ask a nurse for help, there seemed to be minimal sympathy. They put me on my stomach with a pillow propped under my stitches. Maybe that’s all they could do for me, but they acted like it was a pretty small thing to complain about.
After that I didn’t even entertain the idea of another baby. Not wanting to take any chances, I got back on the pill. Unbelievably, when I went in for my checkup and to request a prescription for the pill, my doctor said, “You should have more babies. You’re so healthy and you come through so well.” Can you imagine the nerve? He always acted like nothing had gone wrong.
Several years passed, and the Lord began working on my heart, first just about being on the pill and the dangers to my health that imposed, but also enlightening me about how the pill works in two different ways. One way is to prevent ovulation, so one doesn’t get pregnant, but the other was to thin the lining of the uterus, so that if one DID become pregnant, the fertilized egg could not implant, and a spontaneous abortion would occur. I was devastated to think that I could have unknowingly been responsible for discarding a baby that way. So I convinced my husband that we shouldn’t use the pill anymore. We started using a new thing at the time called the sponge. It’s a spongy, donut-shaped thing containing spermicide that you insert. It was comfortable, and even though it always seemed to shift, it was effective.
But then the Lord began to really go after me. Was it any different? He seemed to challenge me, to stop a life after conception than to prevent a life from being conceived in the first place? He showed me that if I had had my way, neither of my daughters would have been conceived, and I was struck how awful that would have been and how much I would have unknowingly lost. And I saw that He didn’t want me in charge of who would be conceived or not conceived or when. I was, however, less successful in convincing my husband right away to throw all caution to the winds.
Still, the Lord had His own way of doing things, and somehow he touched my husband’s heart, too, and I suddenly found him willing to take chances. My second daughter had just turned five when I got pregnant again.
The Lord had also orchestrated a “coincidence” for me during this time where I “accidentally” tuned into a Phil Donohue show where he was interviewing two women about unnecessary c-sections. I listened in awe as they described the circumstances that had led me to my first one, and the lies that had resulted in two more planned ones. I found and devoured their book, Silent Knife by Cohen and Estner, and became convinced that I’d been ripped off. With this pregnancy, I wanted those births redeemed. My husband and I agreed that we would not go back to the same doctor, but would find someone willing to give me a trial VBAC.
This was a long, agonizing search. I was torn between a belief that my doctor should be a Christian this time and the belief that I should not be examined by a male doctor anymore. But the Christian doctor I interviewed had a “We can try it, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you” kind of attitude. He told me a lot of horror stories, and culminated with the one about the couple who decided he wasn’t the man for the job, and they’d gone off somewhere else, and ended up having a c-section anyway and had to come back and ask his forgiveness. I felt really uncomfortable with what I perceived as not much faith in God’s natural processes. So I ended up deciding on a female doctor who was not a Christian, but who seemed to be very supportive of the idea. She was fairly willing to answer all our questions, although once, when I asked her if she would wait for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it, she replied, “That’s bull—-. The cord doesn’t pulse.” I kind of wondered, but everything else seemed to be okay.
Labor started on a Friday and poked along, off and on, throughout the weekend. Sunday evening it seemed to pick up some steam but not really take off, and I had an appointment Monday morning anyway, so we just went in usual time. The nurse could immediately tell I was in labor, but when my doctor checked me she said I was less than 1 cm. dilated. She had me go home and let her know how things went. Occasionally, she’d call to see how I was doing, but it just kept poking along. Sometimes it was hard to handle, and sometimes it was barely there. On Tuesday around noon, when things hadn’t really picked up, she had me come back in. She checked me and I wasn’t much further along. She was concerned, though, when she detected a puddle of meconium-stained amniotic fluid. So she told us to go straight over to the hospital so they could start monitoring.
We did. An external monitor was put on, but in almost no time, the nurse expressed impatience with its accuracy and said she wanted to put in an internal monitor. We knew that that meant breaking the water and also screwing a sharp thing into our baby’s skull. These were some of the issues we’d discussed beforehand and said we didn’t want. Already we were being pressured to do it, and our doctor insisted she felt it was important. So my husband, already upset and feeling helpless, agreed. At the same time, my mom, who was taking care of our three older children, called to say she had taken the kids to the park and locked the keys in the car. My husband had to leave and missed the next comedy of errors. It took four tries to get the internal monitor attached correctly. Each time it ended up being hooked somewhere on my cervix or something. Finally they called in some supposed expert who never missed, and he missed, too. They did manage to get it in the right place, poor baby, in the end.
I was pretty much confined to bed because of the monitor, but I did have a little bit of freedom to sit up rather than lie down. Still nothing seemed to be progressing. After several hours of contractions with no progress, the dreaded pitocin was suggested. I begged to be allowed to move around first to see what would happen. Because of the monitor, though, they still couldn’t let me go walking or anything, but they agreed to let me sit up in a rocking chair. I started rocking as hard as I could. Finally things started to move. The contractions got closer and harder and I could actually feel the baby move down. I had a really sweet nurse on duty for several hours in the evening who encouraged me so much, praising me about how well I was handling the contractions, and letting me know that progress was being made and saying she bet the baby would be born before she went off duty.
Unfortunately it wasn’t. She went off duty only to be replaced by a nurse who breezed in, glanced at the monitor chart, and announced without explanation that I had to get back into bed. She insisted I lie on my left side, the absolutely most painful position to handle contractions I’ve experienced, and almost immediately I was having a very hard time keeping myself under control. I began vomiting again from the pain, like with my first birth, and feeling like a failure. I was still only five cm. dilated, and there was kind of an unspoken assumption that since that’s where I got stuck before, that’s where I’d stay stuck now. At that point I was pretty much given the choice of a c-section then or a trial with pitocin, so I opted for a trial, and things got worse and worse, more painful, harder to handle, etc. I was given an epidural, which was welcome comfort, but still nothing. Finally they decided they were going to give me another epidural and increase the pitocin, but before they increased the pitocin, they wanted to take a fetal sample to make sure the baby was handling the stress okay. Interestingly, there had been no mention of stress following the initial discovery of meconium, in spite of all the monitoring. When the nurse went to take the fetal scalp sample, she asked if anyone had checked me lately, and announced that I was fully dilated. Unfortunately, I had just had my second epidural, so, although now everyone was saying I could push, I couldn’t feel the contractions. After a couple of coached pushes that were ineffective, someone tried a vacuum extraction to try to get the baby down lower, but that didn’t do anything either. In the meantime, the baby’s sample was analyzed and the nurse came rushing back in alarm to say the baby’s oxygen level was way down, and they needed to rush over to surgery.
On the way down the hall, my doctor, who I must credit with seeming quite disappointed, too, kept coaching me to push whenever she saw a contraction coming on the monitor, but the timing just couldn’t be well coordinated, and nothing happened. I went into surgery and my second son was delivered by yet another c-section at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. He weighed 6 lbs. 8 oz. Because of the alarm preceeding his birth and the meconium, he was rushed to the neonatal ICU and had an intravenous feeding tube installed through his umbilical cord site and was put on oxygen. Within a short time, though, they admitted he wasn’t as sick as they thought he’d be. Still, it was two days before I was allowed to hold him and try to feed him. In the meantime, I was pumping to get colostrum and establish a milk supply, and the stress and letdown and guilt were incredible. I felt like my husband was blaming me for insisting on trying this, and he felt like I was blaming him for letting everything get out of control.
The baby was required to stay a full week to check for infection, but I was not allowed to. In order to be close enough to nurse him, I got special permission to stay in a little room in an old nurse’s dorm. Whenever it was time to nurse, they would call me. In the meantime, I was expected to pump to try to build up my milk supply. The stress increased because they would weigh him before and after each feeding and insist he wasn’t getting enough. One time the nurse even said he’d lost weight during the feeding. He would seem content at the breast and wanted to nurse a long time, but I was often rushed and encouraged to be done. One time, when I was just relaxing and enjoying the nursing session, a nurse said brusquely, “That’s enough time on that side. Hurry up.” I also found out that he often cried right after I left, and they’d give him the little milk I’d managed to pump, then give him something else. Needless to say, nursing was not getting off to a good start. If my doctor asked me how much I got when I pumped, and I said quite a bit, she’d wonder why there was so much left after nursing. If I said hardly any, she’d wonder why my milk supply was so low.
The next three months were a nightmare of the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced. I was angry over the failure of the vbac and angry over the way I was being thwarted trying to nurse my baby. The day I got home with my baby, my milk gushed in. He gained four ounces in one night. But in spite of that, my doctor didn’t want me exclusively breastfeeding, and gradually the supply decreased. So on one side was me convinced if they’d just leave me alone, I could easily feed my baby and on the other side them convinced I didn’t have enough milk and insisting I keep supplementing by pumping or with formula. My husband and I were as distant from each other as we’d ever been in our marriage, and I didn’t care one bit, because my whole world seemed to have fallen apart anyway. I can’t explain how I got through that period of time, other than by the grace of the Lord. Eventually it was over. I had taken back control of nursing my baby and was out from under any doctor’s supervision. My son was doing fine.
My husband and I now were in agreement to let the Lord have control of our family planning. So, not surprisingly, I was pregnant again soon after this son’s first birthday. I had done more reading in the meantime, and one book in particular was helpful. It was from NAPSAC and gave the names of some Christian midwives who might assist me with my next birth. This seemed ideal since I would this time have both a female and a Christian. My thought was that I would have a midwife with me during the labor and birth in a hospital to run offense for me against whatever doctor I had. Plus, I figured she would know a sympathetic doctor she had worked with before. I was sure my husband would not consider a home birth after how badly the last birth had gone.
When I contacted the closest midwife and told her my situation, she was so encouraging and sweet. She was very excited that I would want to have a home birth. No, I hurried to explain, I don’t think my husband is ready for a home birth. She lived almost 90 miles away, so she referred me to someone much closer, another Christian midwife. As I talked to her, she let me know that she would be delighted to work with me towards having a home vbac. Oh, no, I rushed in, I really don’t think my husband would go for that. She offered to meet with my husband and me to talk things over. When I approached my husband about the possibility of employing a midwife and meeting with this particular one, I said, “But, I think I should warn you that I think she’s going to try to convince you that a home birth is the way to go.” I nearly fell over when he answered, “Well, I just don’t think we’re ever going to have a successful birth in the hospital.”
Our meeting with this midwife was a turning point in our lives. She was a woman so full of faith in the process God had created to birth babies, and she was confident I could succeed. She put up with my many idiosyncrasies, such as backing out at the last minute of an exam by a male doctor who was agreeable to do backup for a home birth. She never hesitated to explain anything or answer questions. And when only two days before my due date tragedy struck when my sister’s baby died within hours of a home birth, she succumbed to only a moment’s panic, wondering aloud if we should quickly find a backup doctor. When I repeated that I felt the Lord had led us to her and that she was the one we were to stay with, she agreed immediately, and plans proceeded.
My sister’s baby’s funeral was on Monday, and I began having irregular contractions during Sunday night. The funeral was about 90 miles away, so we called the midwife in the morning to see what she thought of me taking the trip. She didn’t think this first natural labor would go quickly, so we went ahead, planning on leaving our older children with my mom, and then coming home and giving birth!
After the funeral, driving home, I was excited to be able to feel real contractions about twenty minutes apart. When we got home around noon, we got the bed ready and our supplies out, timed contractions, and stayed in touch with the midwife. The contractions got closer together and harder, but manageable. I wasn’t at all experienced in how hard contractions got before they were serious, and I kept wanting the midwife to be there. Around 4:00 p.m. my water broke during a trip to the bathroom. There was meconium in the fluid. I knew from reading that this didn’t have to mean there was a problem, but I wasn’t sure how my midwife was going to receive the news, since meconium had been such a big issue in my last birth. We left the fluid in the toilet so she could assess it when she got there, and paged her. We waited and waited and she didn’t call. We tried again. Contractions were getting more intense, and we really thought she should know my water had broken.
Finally she called and agreed to head on over. When she arrived, with an apprentice midwife along, she was confident and businesslike. She assessed the meconium as being light and not a problem. I was so relieved. The rest of the time she was just there to encourage me, help me through the contractions, make sure I emptied my bladder frequently, monitored the baby’s heartbeat, and helped me move from place to place. Mostly I was on the bed sort of semi-reclined, and that’s the position I was in when I was told I was fully dilated and could start pushing.
Sometime during the pushing, my midwife said that there was too much blood. A moment later she was more emphatic. “We have to stop this bleeding.” We all started praying against the bleeding. My husband commanded it to stop in the name of Jesus, and the midwife exclaimed, “It stopped! It was just like a faucet being turned off.” After that, though, she said the baby had to be born right away. I’m not sure if it was because she was afraid the bleeding would start again, or if there was something actually wrong with the baby, and for some reason I never asked later on. But she had me push even when there were no contractions, and she sort of reached in and helped him out. She later said that was a miracle, because normally there would never be enough room to do that. The baby was fine, and I didn’t bleed any more, but when the placenta was delivered, it was folded in half! The midwife said that probably meant it partially detached before the birth. I was so grateful that she hadn’t panicked right away, but trusted God and turned to Him first. Everything turned out perfectly fine. By the way, this baby weighed 8 lbs. 6 oz., my biggest baby yet. Not bad for someone who was “too small” to deliver a 6 lb. 12 oz. baby. He was born at 7:24 p.m.
The same midwife helped with the delivery of our next baby. He was eleven days “overdue” and I had start and stop labor starting Thursday and he wasn’t born until Sunday afternoon. She waited patiently for things to kick in. We finally called her around 1:00 a.m. Sunday when contractions started getting intense. She arrived shortly with two midwife assistants, but after listening to me breathe through a contraction or two, she dozed off on the couch. I was inclined to moan a little louder to make her more sympathetic, but anyway, nothing much impressed her, and we kept plugging away through the night.
Contractions remained consistent and occasionally I’d feel a little release or tendency to relax the pelvic floor at the end of each contraction. I kept moving around a lot, but eventually got tired and decided to settle in an incliner. The midwives moved drop cloths around me and propped a birthing stool under my feet, and once made me raise my legs way up and encouraged me to push, but it was excruciating, and I was hollering at them that I couldn’t stand that position. During one of the pushes on that chair, though, my water broke. No meconium! I think that was around noon. Still I pushed and pushed with no results. They kept trying me in different positions. I remember that I had recently read that in some tribe they hang the laboring women from a tree branch so that gravity can help birth the baby, and I was starting to think they might as well do that with me, we had tried so many positions, and I was exhausted from pushing so long. It had already been a couple hours.
Finally we really went to praying, especially confessing any wrong thoughts, since by that time I had been really railing against God in my mind about how this was going. Right after that, one of the midwife assistants suggested I try squatting. As I said, they could have hung me from a tree by then, so off the bed I went, got into a squat with my husband sitting on the bed to support me from behind, and in two pushes, out he came, at 2:43 p.m.! Nine pounds 1 oz. this time, in perfect condition except for a somewhat odd shaped head, and all was well.
My midwife had told me earlier in my pregnancy that she was not going to be able to attend this birth, because of legal problems she was having. Midwifery was not legal in our state at the time, but there had been a big push to get it legal, and a lot of the midwives had made a bold stand before the legislature with records to prove the safety of home birth, etc., and in doing so, of course, had to expose who they were. Then, when the legislature voted it down, the attorney general had a lot of ammunition to use against any who continued practicing. In spite of this, after she had told me she couldn’t risk being at my birth, she later contacted us again and said she was sure the Lord was telling her to be at my birth. This woman is remarkably brave and full of faith.
By the time my next baby was due, though, a law had been passed requiring midwives to be certified by the state, and ironically my midwife, who had founded the state’s Christian midwife’s association and had probably delivered more babies than any other midwife in the state, was not passed. So this time she felt she could not be the primary midwife, but could legally assist a certified midwife that she was good friends with.
One thing I pressed for this time was to pass on the routine blood and urine tests, because I felt they opened the door to fear, and they had just caused unnecessary alarms that had been meaningless in my last two pregnancies. The primary midwife was not too thrilled, but my regular midwife was excited to take another step out in faith. However, my due date was nearly two weeks past, with only a hint or two of anything imminent. I was also refusing internal exams to avoid an accidental stripping of the membranes or any other risks, so more and more the primary midwife was coming to the conclusion that I was too difficult to deal with. When I hit the two week mark, she bowed out, saying (not to me but to my regular midwife) that she believed it wouldn’t be a good birth. Because of the conflicts we had had, I had been praying that only those people the Lord wanted at my birth would be there, and it turned out my sister had specifically prayed that this midwife would NOT be there.
So, there we were again, and my dear friend in faith was not about to desert me. My labor started the next day, day 15, around noon, but once again it followed the last labor’s pattern, consistent contractions of reasonable intensity, not painful, occasionally stopping for a couple of hours. I could doze in a chair from time to time and I was pretty uncomfortable. I walked a lot and squatted during contractions trying to keep things going. The contractions never were closer than ten minutes apart. This continued through Friday and into Saturday. My midwife had called on Thursday and knew about my pokey start, and we were sort of thinking maybe we wouldn’t contact her at all, to spare her from getting into any legal trouble. But on Saturday she called to see how things were going. Nothing much had changed, but she offered to come over and see how things were going later in the evening, after she’d checked in on a situation at the hospital and I felt I could use the input that everything was all right.
She arrived around 8:00 in the evening and asked me if I’d agree to an internal exam. I did, and I was 8 cm. dilated. I was so excited! I had not been truly uncomfortable at all and had progressed that far! I was sure the baby would be born before midnight.
Unbeknownst to me, my husband had gotten a word from the Lord that the baby would not be born until Sunday, and that it was another boy. He had gotten the word Thursday night but hadn’t wanted to discourage me that I’d be in labor that long again, so he had kept it to himself. Now he confided to the midwife to give her the freedom to go home and rest if she wanted, and a little later went ahead and told me, so that I wouldn’t get too excited too soon. I still figured, “Okay, 12:01, what do I care?”
But I continued the same way throughout the night and morning dawned with still no baby. As I wandered around the house enduring contractions, my midwife dozed on one couch in the living room and my husband on another couch in the family room, and I kept wishing someone would wake up and feel sorry for me.
When things got particularly uncomfortable, I’d head for the bathtub and soak in the warm water. Usually it slowed down my contractions and gave me a rest. Around 9:30 I was in the tub and I knew that, since it was Sunday, a fellowship of family members would be meeting at 10:00, so we called them to pray that the labor would really get going. Less than ten minutes later, as I sat in the tub, my contractions picked up and I involuntarily pushed, and it seemed like a spurt of water came out. I hollered that I was pushing, and my midwife came and helped me out of the tub and to the bedroom. She set me up on a birthing stool and I tried pushing a few times. Then she decided to try me on my hands and knees on the bed. This seemed to be much more effective. After several pushes my son was born at 10:15 a.m. weighing 7 lbs. 4 oz. He came out with a gush of water — and meconium from head to toe! My midwife had brought a special piece of electric suction equipment with her and she used that to clear out his nose and lungs. He didn’t seem to be having any problems.
I couldn’t believe how good I felt immediately afterwards. I felt like I could run around the block a few times, I had so much energy. The Lord had provided me with incredible strength.
It was a year and a half later before I got pregnant again, the longest natural spacing I had yet had. In that time my midwife had left the state because of their continued refusal to certify her. My husband and I didn’t really talk about it much. It was just sort of understood that this time we would do it on our own. It seemed as though the Lord had brought us along this road step by step, and now He had removed all the last props we had.
As we approached my due date of September 24th, my husband thought he heard from the Lord that the baby would be born on the 15th and that it was another boy! This time he didn’t keep it to himself. We fully expected it to come to fruition. We went out to dinner to celebrate our last free night for a while, and a couple of hours later I had some good real contractions. When I went to bed, they stopped. Around 10:30 I was awakened by a contraction and began having fairly convincing contractions about every twenty minutes. I really thought I’d have the baby by midnight, and was thrilled to think I only had to go through an hour of labor. Beats four days any time! But they petered out by midnight, and no baby arrived.
My husband was under a lot of stress at work and at the same time his father was undergoing more cancer treatment and wasn’t doing well. So he was trying to spend a lot of time helping in that situation, while dealing with problems at work, and the baby’s lack of cooperation in arriving on time was beginning to tell on his nerves. In addition, being wrong about thinking you’ve heard from the Lord about something tends to rattle your confidence! My due date of the 24th came and went. One week went by, two weeks went by. At least last time I had STARTED labor on the 15th day, but that, too, passed with no sign. My husband was climbing the walls. Day 19 was a Sunday and my husband was at the very end of his rope. He told me that he was ready to present me at the nearest emergency room and tell them this baby had to be born NOW. He was very concerned that he was going to end up with a dead baby AND a dead wife!
I freaked and cried and carried on. He said since it was Sunday, he wasn’t going to do anything today. Finally, I asked if I could go for a drive by myself. I drove to our church’s prayer chapel and got on my knees before the Lord and cried my heart out. I was there about an hour. As I went out and stepped up into our van, I felt a little pop and an almost imperceptible spurt of water. I stopped in my tracks. My water had never broken prior to labor in any of my other births, and I wasn’t sure if that’s what had happened.
I drove over to a nearby park and went into the restroom to try to assess the situation. My clothes were definitely damp, but not in any way soaked the way I would have expected if my water had really broken. I took a walk around the walking path, probably about a half mile, hoping to stimulate some contractions. Then I drove home and told my husband that I thought my water had broken just a little bit. I kept waiting for contractions to start, but when we went to bed, nothing was going on.
Around 11:00 p.m., I woke up with a contraction, and lay in bed waiting for another. They began to come steadily, about twenty minutes apart, strong enough to get me too excited to sleep. Eventually I got out of bed and went downstairs to walk around. At times I propped myself on the couch and could comfortably breathe through contractions and even doze on and off. When I went to the bathroom I was encouraged to see that I was beginning to lose my mucus plug. The amount of mucus loss increased through the night. Gradually my contractions got closer together. By morning, they were about ten minutes apart.
My husband came downstairs around 6:00 a.m. and asked me what was happening. “Well, I think I’m in labor,” I said. I didn’t know if I was looking at four more days before the baby was born, but because of the encouraging signs of the mucus plug going and possibly the water having broken, neither of which were consistent with my longer labors, I was hoping it wouldn’t be that way this time. My husband notified work that he wasn’t coming in, and I continued in consistent, only slightly uncomfortable labor all day.
Around 5:00, I was beginning to grumble that this wasn’t very much fun. My husband got the kids fed and around 7:00 gathered us all together to pray before putting them to bed. In the middle of that I had a contraction that I really had to breathe hard through, and all the little kids just stared at me! The four little ones were put to bed, and the three older ones went downstairs to stay out of the way.
I had really begun to believe something about my other labors that I planned to implement this time. That was, I wondered if a laboring woman can have an urge to push on one contraction, but not necessarily have it on succeeding contractions. With my first two natural labors, I had never felt an urge to push. It was just, “Okay, you’re fully dilated, start pushing.” I experienced a genuine urge to push with my last baby, but then was told to push with each contraction after that. I had really begun to wonder if this resulted in either a prolonged pushing stage, or stress on the baby. So I was determined that I was going to assess each contraction individually, and not fall into that trap again.
Unfortunately, I completely forgot that resolve as soon as I had my first urge to push during a contraction while using the bathroom. It was around 9:00, and afterwards I came into the bedroom, knelt by the bed, and said, “I’m going to start pushing. I hope it’s not too soon.” But it seemed fairly apparent after about an hour that it wasn’t accomplishing much. I was getting very tired.
Around that time my husband suggested I call my sister for encouragement. She has twelve children, five of which were born unassisted at home. She asked me if I was tired. I said yes. She asked me if I was discouraged. I said yes. She said, “Well, maybe that’s a good sign,” hinting that I might be in transition. I said, “Only problem is, I’ve been pushing for an hour.” She said, “Oh! Do you really think it’s time for that?” I said I wasn’t sure. She recommended I try to really tune in to whether or not I was really having an urge to push. This was at about 10:00.
After I hung up, I got into the bathtub and soaked in the warm water. Initially this slowed down my contractions, but after a breather, they started back up again in very good form. It was very uncomfortable trying to get through contractions sitting in the hard tub. So I got back out, but kept my goal in mind of not pushing unless I really felt the urge. At times the contractions would roll one right into another, with barely enough time between to take a breath. Once in a while a contraction would end in a definite pushy feeling, and I’d go with it, and others I could breathe through and stay in control.
Finally I sank to my knees by the bed and started crying. I was pretty sure this baby was never going to come. At that very moment, a contraction came and I could feel the baby just about to come out. I yelled at my husband, “The baby’s coming! Right now!” He looked sort of surprised, and said, “Okay,” in a very strange voice. I wasn’t sure if it meant, “What am I supposed to do about it?” or “What did you expect?” He got behind me where he could see and during a contraction he said he could see the bag of waters. That frustrated me because I was sure the baby had to be on its way out. For a couple of contractions, the water bag would protrude and then recede. Then the baby’s head came and the water broke at the same time. My husband wanted me to keep pushing to get the rest of the baby out, so I tried, but nothing happened until another good contraction came. Then, with the contraction and push combined, the baby came the rest of the way out. It was 11:10 p.m.
We were so sure this baby was going to be our fifth boy in a row that my husband kept referring to it as “him”. “We have to turn him over and suction him out,” he said, but when we turned “him” over, I laughed and said, “It’s a girl!” She didn’t need any suctioning really, and she was the most beautiful color of pink. She started nursing right away after we wrapped her up, and my husband went to get the kids. I was still kneeling on the floor, and after quite a while I was getting stiff, so I shifted my legs, and plop! Out came the placenta! I didn’t even have a contraction!
I thought this was the best birth ever. It was almost exactly 24 hours from start to finish, pretty short for me! I loved just having my husband near, and loved being able to call the kids to come see their new sister within minutes of her birth. It wasn’t particularly easy or pain free, but it was better than any of my hospital births, and even than my home births, with the exception of my first one, which went about the same way. I just think God is so good, and He wants birth to be very private and personal.
Saturday, December 12, 1998, I was lying in bed at 7:00 a.m., trying to squeeze a few extra minutes of sleep, when I heard and felt a funny little POP! I figured my water had broken. I was afraid to get out of bed. I’d never had my water break before the onset of active labor before. And I wasn’t expecting the baby, yet. This was my due date, after all, and I’m NEVER on time! Well, when I did get up and go into the bathroom, there was a definite extra gush of water, nice and clear, and I knew this was it. We were planning our second UC, and the timing seemed great, a Saturday, and my husband home for the weekend.
However, “it” progressed at the rate of MAYBE one contraction an hour for the next 33 hours. Once in a great while, I’d have two or three in an hour’s time, but never more. They were strong, but not painful. I wasn’t worried about the water breaking early, and several of my labors have started very slowly and dragged as long as four days, but there is usually a bit more activity than this.
When labor finally got going, around 4:00 Sunday afternoon, it progressed very fast. I had back labor, so figured I had a posterior baby, or at least an odd position, which isn’t unusual for me. In addition, I had a pain across my c-section scar. Neither pain stopped between contractions. I got into the bathtub, but I couldn’t get the water deep enough to really help. When I got out, I wanted to get into my big tee shirt I always birth in, but I couldn’t even manage that. I threw a towel around me and practically crawled to my room, and when my husband showed up, he had to help me get into my shirt.
I began needing to push, and pushed for about an hour, but it didn’t seem as if any progress was being made. I couldn’t feel the baby moving down at all. The pain was bad, and I was getting panicky. I wanted pain relief. Then we started seeing some blood, and that sort of scared my husband. I figured it was normal for there to be some, and it didn’t look like that much to me, but it did sort of dribble with each contraction. Later I found out that was pretty normal, but we weren’t sure at the time. I really kind of played that up, I’m afraid, trying to get my husband to take me to the hospital. I actually wanted him to call 911, and have an ambulance come to my door and give me a nice shot, and put me out of my misery. I was in a bad mental state. He had also seen some meconium, although he hadn’t mentioned it to me, and I hadn’t seen it myself. He got our son to drive us to the hospital. I knew as soon as they started helping me out to the car that this wasn’t what I really wanted, except the thought of pain meds was very appealing. I was praying the baby would come in the car and it would be over.
But we got to the hospital, went to L&D, and when they saw that I was fully dilated and pushing, wouldn’t give me anything for the pain! I pushed about another hour, in an awful position, in stirrups and half reclined. I had a horrible cramp in my right hip, which I always have during labor, and that position allowed no relief, but aggravated the pain. The baby kept coming down and then going back up, and they used a vacuum extractor that wouldn’t work properly (Praise the Lord, as I found out later how risky their use is! I saw a 20/20 show just a week or so later, and was horrified), and the doctor kept mumbling about how he couldn’t figure out why the baby didn’t just drop right out. I was tempted to suggest that maybe if they’d let me stand up, he would, but I was sort of in the frame of mind that I’d come crawling in looking for help, and now had no right to express any opinions.
The baby was turned in a funny position, but the doctor didn’t seem to think that should be keeping him from coming down. There was a lot of meconium, but the baby was never in any distress. He never had any decels. They suctioned him on the perineum just with a bulb. I got sick of their telling me not to push and did it anyway, and the rest of him plopped out. Then they took him over and used a machine, but they only got a very little bit of cloudy fluid from him. The cord was wrapped around his body a couple of times, but no one acted as if that was the problem, either.
The Lord was really there for me, because as soon as they found out I’d had c-sections before, they could have sent me in for another. Not only did He save me from that, but He didn’t even allow me to be cut with an episiotomy! I’m so in awe of that! Also, once it was over, I was so glad, of course, that I hadn’t gotten any pain meds. Because of how long my water had been broken, they put an antibiotic in an IV, and I did get some pit to deliver the placenta. No one asked. They just did it. The doctor asked how long it usually takes for my placenta to come, and my husband said something like twenty minutes. “That’s a long time,” the doc said. Sure it would be, if you weren’t sitting happily in your own home, cuddling your own baby at the time, but rather were in a cold, sterile room, in a hurry to get on to other business. Then twenty minutes probably seems like a lifetime!
The worst of it all, unfortunately, is everything that happened after to my little son. Since my water had been broken so long, they insisted on keeping him in the special care nursery for two days and putting a tube in his tummy for antibiotic treatment in case he had an infection. He had so many poke holes in him from blood tests. I feel really bad about that. I didn’t get to nurse him for four hours, but after that we were able to do well. The nurses were very nice. Word got around that we didn’t have insurance, so they were making efforts to cut costs for us. Only, it wasn’t true. We did have insurance! I found that rather odd, but really a blessing. Maybe they would have been more inclined to section me if they had known we could well afford it.
I’m horrified to think how easily I could have gotten sectioned, and that I thought I didn’t care at the time. But I would have been in the very depths of despair afterwards if I had. The Lord was faithful even when I wasn’t. Some things had happened in our families during the last year that had made me have a lot of fear, and I wasn’t trusting the Lord at all the way I should have been. I wasn’t prepared spiritually for the battle, and I think the Lord had to deal with some pride in me, as well. Please, don’t misunderstand this. I do NOT believe that we have to be in some sort of perfect spiritual condition in order for the Lord to “reward” us with an uncomplicated UC. I just really know I was not turning to Him or even trying very hard to trust when the going got rough. I sincerely pray that this story does not discourage anyone from having a UC, because I’d have another in a minute. I don’t have any way of knowing how things would have turned out if I’d stayed home. I feel in my heart that all would have been fine. My husband is less sure and doesn’t have the regrets I do. But I know he’ll go for UC again, too, if we’re so blessed.
I also wonder a lot about the spiritual element of going into the hospital. I mean, the moment I hit those “hallowed halls” I became a ranting lunatic. I behaved abominably. I’m sure I didn’t do anything much for giving UC’ers a positive image. The nurses were kind when they said I did “fine.” I never behave like that, even during the worst part of labor, at home. It was like surrendering control at the door. I found it very unsettling to look back on, and even felt like an idiot while it was going on. Maybe I’m just trying to place the blame other than squarely on my own shoulders, but it seems weird to me.
It is hard to deal with the disappointment. I was depressed and cried for two weeks. Most people felt I should be grateful that I had my healthy baby boy, and not be concerned about where or how he was born, and of course, I am completely grateful for him. He is wonderfully precious, and I feel extremely close to him. Finally I wrote out what I was thinking and why I was so upset and gave it to my husband and three oldest children. That helped a lot. It especially helped to tell my husband how I felt, and to know that he felt okay about the transfer. I felt particularly bad because I had raised so many issues to keep my husband from considering taking me to the hospital when we had our FIRST UC (modesty, drugs, risk of being sectioned, dangers, etc.), but when it came to MY fears and pain, all my supposed convictions went out the window. Very humbling.
I am praying that the Lord, in His graciousness, will allow me one more chance to trust Him through labor and birth. I know at the age of almost 47, it would be a very special blessing to have another child, and I am trusting that He knows what would be best for me and my family. I don’t want to want another baby just so “the story ends the right way.” So, since I can’t really trust my own motives, I must trust that He will only give me another chance if it is because that’s the way He wants the story to go.
My special Andrew Paul, 9th child, 6th son, was born December 13, 1998, at 8:07p.m., weighing 7 lbs. 14 oz.