Could it be twins?!! Ugh ~ yes, this is me near full term with my fourth pregnancy. I gained 75 lbs. and had a bigger belly than septuplet mom, Bobbi McCoughey.
Warren’s vasectomy reversal surgery was successful ~ which meant that, at age 29 ~ I had the potential for many more babies in my future. I was a bit nervous about the pregnancies and deliveries ~ but not overly so since the only reason we’d taken this step was that we felt very strongly that the Lord was leading us to commit our reproductive lives to Him ~ and I felt confident that He would take care of everything as I leaned upon Him for strength and wisdom.
Although I’d already had three c-section deliveries, I was hoping that I could find a way to avoid having to have all of my future babies delivered surgically. As I understood it, the doctor back in Nevada who attended me at my first birth had done a cesarean because he saw a large bone spur in my pelvic area which was preventing the baby from being able to fit through the birth canal.
Even before I became pregnant, I made an appointment with my doctor to ask him ~ if I had that bone spur removed, would I then be able to deliver my babies vaginally?
“That tumor is not in the way,” he told me. What?!! He explained that when he had taken x-rays of my hip area after Chassé was born and the pain in my left side was so unbearable that I could hardly walk ~ he could clearly see that I do have a huge spur right where I sit down ~ but it is not in a place where it would prevent me from birthing my babies vaginally.
“Then why have I had three c-sections?” I wanted to know. Well, it turns out that there really was no good reason ~ only that the first doctor had run out of patience so declared me to be “too small” to give birth. And because of the first cesarean ~ I had automatically scheduled repeat c-sections for my next two babies.
A friend recommended that I read the pro-VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) book, Silent Knife by Nancy Wainer-Cohen. That book opened my eyes to the fact that a large percentage of surgical deliveries are completely unnecessary ~ and I could see all the factors (young age, 1st pregnancy, lack of education, low income, etc.) which set me up to have a c-section though there was really no medical reason why I couldn’t have delivered Angel naturally. I started to wonder if I might be a good VBAC candidate.
I made an appointment with the Christian OB/GYN who had been so helpful (not!) when I was trying desperately to find out what the bible says about birth control. I explained to him how my first three c-sections had been totally unnecessary and asked him if it would be possible for me to have a vaginal birth.
“Well, we can let you try…” he answered. Then he went on to explain all the conditions (only permitted 24 hours of labor, epidural already in place, surgical staff on standby in case my uterus ruptured and I needed an emergency c-section and hysterectomy). My mother was in the room during that appointment and when she heard the doctor mention “catastrophic uterine rupture” ~ she completely panicked and insisted that I should not even try it ~ why take a risk like that? I was really annoyed that she so easily fell for this man’s “scare tactics” ~ so I ignored what I considered to be a major overreaction on her part.
Afterward, I heard the doctor laughing about it in the hall with his nurse! “How’s that for a challenge? And she’s not even pregnant yet!” I was so infuriated that I vowed never to go back to that doctor or his clinic again.
When I found out that I was expecting our first “reversal baby,” I got busy in earnest ~ searching out all of my birthing options. The more I read about VBACs, the less enthusiastic I became about going to the hospital to give birth. All of the natural labor information placed a strong suspicion on standard obstetrical practice ~ insisting that any interference with the natural birthing process would lead to a progression of interventions culminating in a highly technological surgical delivery. The more I found out about “natural childbirth” ~ the angrier I became when I thought about how I had been railroaded into having three c-sections. I was beginning to really hate doctors.
There was a mother in our local home school group named Alice who, although she herself was a registered nurse working in the OB department, was strongly pro-natural childbirth, having delivered her babies at home ~ and she was studying to become a midwife. We talked about my birthing options, and I asked if she knew where I could find a midwife who might be willing to assist me in delivering at home. I didn’t actually think that I could have a home birth after having three cesareans ~ but, I’d been reading so much about home birth being a safe alternative for women who couldn’t get the birthing experience they desired at the hospital ~ so I wanted to at least check into the possibility.
Alice told me that she did know of a midwife ~ she couldn’t tell me her name or phone number, but she promised to talk with the woman and have her contact me. The practice of midwifery is illegal in Nebraska, she explained ~ so the midwife had to be careful to keep a low-profile. When I was about four months along, I received a call from Judy Jones. Alice had already filled her in on the highlights of my birthing history ~ and Judy told me that she would be willing to meet with my husband and me to discuss the possibility of attempting a home birth. Truthfully, it seemed like something out of a movie ~ and I wondered what sort of shady deal I might be getting myself mixed up with.
Judy came to our home in early August. She explained to Warren and me that, while it is illegal for a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) to attend a home birth in Nebraska, she was a Direct Entry Midwife (DEM) ~ meaning that she had received her training through apprenticeship and self-study ~ and was not licensed by any government agency ~ and there were no laws in our state which addressed the practice of DEMs attending home births. So ~ it wasn’t technically illegal. “Midwife,” she explained, means “with woman” ~ and that’s all her role as a Direct Entry Midwife would entail ~ she would be “with” me during the delivery ~ but I was actually the one who would be delivering the baby.
It was a little confusing ~ but she gave us a printed “Home Birthing Parents Agreement” which explained everything she’d told us in detail so I could read it over and we could sign it if we agreed to have Judy attend the birth.
I’d been so unsettled about choosing a provider ~ plus, by my fourth pregnancy, I felt like an old pro ~ everything seemed normal and I could tell that the baby and I were doing fine ~ so I had not yet received any prenatal care. Judy offered to do an exam and I agreed. She took my blood pressure, did a urine test and checked my glucose. Everything was pretty normal ~ my blood pressure was a little low (96/64) but I assured her that for me, that was actually a bit high as my BP was always on the low side. Next, Judy palpitated my uterus ~ and told me it was enlarged, but not enough to measure. She listened for a fetal heart tone with her fetoscope, but it was too early to hear anything.
For the most part, Judy’s exam seemed pretty similar to what I had experienced at the OB’s office ~ except she didn’t weigh me ~ she explained that weight gain was not all that important so long as the mother was eating a healthy, high-protein diet and drinking plenty of red raspberry leaf tea. She gave me a list of dietary recommendations and suggested that I also drink dandelion leaf tea because my hemoglobin was a little low.
We talked for a while longer about my risk factors ~ and she assured me that home birth could be a very safe option so long as I was careful to follow a healthy diet and to educate myself on natural delivery. She gave me a list of recommended reading materials ~ most of which, she could loan me from her own library. At the top of the list was The Joy of Natural Childbirth by Helen Wessel. I borrowed that one and was eager to get started reading.
Judy was very soft-spoken, gentle ~ quiet and settled ~ grandmotherly. She was about my mother’s age with thin, graying hair, a long, sharp, pointed nose, a thin smile and eyes that seemed very patient, understanding and wise. She and her husband had six children ~ the first four had been hospital births before she “became wiser” and delivered the last two at home. One of her sons had drowned in a rafting accident at age 16. I couldn’t imagine how horrible that must have been ~ and when I heard her story, I was amazed at her ability to trust the Lord and find peace through such a tragedy. Wow ~ I was genuinely impressed by her Christian testimony.
Judy spent nearly three hours with us that first visit ~ answering all of our questions, asking plenty of her own questions and listening with interest to the answers we gave. For quite a while, we just chatted about our lives, our faith, our testimonies. I decided that I liked her ~ and I was encouraged to think that my next birthing experience might be very different from my previous hospital births.
Before she left, Warren and I had signed her “Home Birthing Parents Agreement” ~ she gave me a list of birthing supplies which we would need and the address for “Spirit-Led Childbirth,” a company from which we could order a home birthing kit.
So we were set to go ~ if everything went as planned, I would be giving birth to this next baby at home.
I admit that it was a scary thought! BUT ~ I told myself ~ c-section deliveries are scary too ~ even dangerous according to Wainer-Cohen. So it’s not as though I had the luxury of choosing among several equally safe and supportive birthing options ~ in my situation, due to all the c-sections coupled with the fact that I planned to have as many babies as the Lord sent our way ~ I had to choose what I felt was the best birthing environment from my limited options ~ all of which involved no small amount of risk. At least, by choosing home birth, I would be in control of all the various factors which support a good birth experience.
Still ~ I had my doubts. We lived a few miles out of town ~ which meant that the nearest hospital is about a 20 minute drive from our home. The natural birthing books which I was reading assured me that this was close enough ~ in most situations which require transport to the hospital, 20 minutes would be plenty of time ~ if nothing else, we could call an ambulance and a team of trained medical professionals would arrive on our doorstep in a matter of minutes.
There were other objections which ran through my head ~ but every time, I was able to obtain reassurances that being at home was at least as safe as going to the hospital ~ possibly even more safe because technological interventions often caused complications in VBAC deliveries.
I began reading The Joy of Natural Childbirth ~ it is written in novel format which I hardly had patience for because I really just wanted the facts presented clearly and quickly ~ plus, the pregnant mom in the story is so incredibly unbelievable with her sugary-sweet tone and almost complete naivete regarding pregnancy and birth. Give me a break! But ~ I did get the overall message ~ that childbirth is a natural function and female bodies can be trusted to deliver the babies they conceive and nurture in the womb. The book went so far as to claim that the process could even be pain-free as the word “pain” which was part of the woman’s curse in the Garden of Eden is the same word which is translated “labor” or “work” when applied to the man in the same passage. Since it is not a given that the man’s efforts to bring forth fruit from the ground would involve pain ~ why should we believe that a woman’s “labor” must necessarily be painful?
The more studying and reading that I did ~ the more home birth seemed to be a workable solution for me. I also prayed quite a lot about the decision ~ and, while I did feel that the Lord was steering us in the direction of home birth as a way to provide for the deliveries of our future babies ~ I never really felt a sense of peace about the decision. This made me very uncomfortable ~ so I asked Warren to fast and pray for guidance and direction. Warren was in the habit of fasting when faced with big decisions ~ so he was willing ~ but even so, I continued to feel uneasy about delivering the baby at home.
As much as I’d have liked to devote all of my time to seeking the Lord’s will concerning my upcoming delivery ~ I had plenty of other things to do. Early in the pregnancy, I had taken a “step of faith” by leaving my job at the answering service to become a full-time stay at home wife and mother. Warren and I both worried a little about how we were going to get along without that extra income ~ but we had become convicted about me going out to work and leaving my family to fend for themselves. So, even though we really could use the money, we were trusting the Lord to provide as I did the right thing by coming home to serve my husband and children. Sure, I was technically “employed” with the paper ~ but since I would be doing it out of our home ~ and it really was supposed to be Warren’s job ~ being editor and publisher of a monthly newspaper did not actually count as being a “working mother.”
In the early years of publishing the paper, I did all of the layout myself. I started out on a word processor and eventually got a desktop computer. We did not yet have an internet connection, so putting each issue of the paper together was fairly labor-intensive. I got most of my material from Don Wildmon’s American Family Association (AFA) Journal, Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine, Morality in Media and similar conservative Christian organizations. Most of what I printed early on with the paper included boycott information (AFA was boycotting Disney because of “Gay Days,” Target because of something like a donation to Planned Parenthood, plus there was a lengthy list of smaller companies which were being boycotted for advertising on “indecent” TV programs ~ such as NYPD Blue, etc.) ~ I also did a legislative alert which I assembled from local pro-life, pro-family groups which were monitoring the Nebraska Unicameral.
Pastor Jon Shonebarger wanted to write a column for the paper. I thought it was a terrible idea considering that he didn’t actually support what we were doing. He did not want to address current events or encourage Christians to be active, effective citizens ~ that was all a waste of time to his way of thinking. Pastor Shonebarger wanted to preach the gospel. He told Warren and me that as long as his column appeared in the paper every month, the church would be willing to pay for an advertisement. Warren and I both felt a little dirty for going along with the arrangement ~ not because we didn’t agree that preaching the gospel is important ~ it’s just that Pastor Jon seemed to think that Norfolk Baptist Church was the only true church in town ~ well actually, we thought that too ~ BUT, while I was very diplomatic about it ~ Jon Shonebarger’s attitude came across in his writing. We were a little concerned that our paper ~ which was being distributed in several different denominations ~ might lose credibility if we appeared to be too narrow-minded. As usual, Pastor Shonebarger got his way in the end ~ I printed his column ~ but I put it towards the back of the paper in the hopes that it would not be well-read or attract a lot of attention.
I wrote a monthly column which usually included updates on our family along with plenty of photos of the children ~ it seemed to me like the news over the years was always, “We’re expecting again!” or “A joyous welcome to our newest blessing!” Many readers told us that my monthly column was like getting a “letter from home” ~ before reading the news, columns, or other features ~ the readers would turn to page 2 to find out what’s new with the Bennett family. On the rare occasion that I skipped my column (when I was just too sick, busy or worn out to get anything written in time) ~ people made a point of letting us know they missed hearing from our family. Over time, I began to realize that many faithful readers came to feel as though they knew us personally ~ like we were friends and even family ~ which was a big part of why nearly everyone renewed their yearly subscription whenever their bill became due.
Home schooling was going fairly well. Berea and Chassé were still too young for formal schooling ~ so it was just Angel, and she was a quick learner so mostly I would just give her Abeka workbooks and she did just about all of the work on her own. The thing about home schooling which was taking up a good deal of my time was all the “biblical family values” ~ the lifestyle which I found very fascinating and wanted to learn more about.
Part of the attraction for me was the idea that home schooled kids develop a remarkable maturity well beyond their years simply because they are spending the majority of their time with mature adults (their parents) and so were much more likely to adopt their parents’ Christian faith and values. I remembered that Joann (the pastor’s wife from the Salvation Army who introduced me to home schooling) had mentioned that one nice thing about home schooling is that teenage rebellion was not a given ~ it was quite possible to raise children in such a manner that they did not feel the need to “test the boundaries” or assert their individuality ~ and so, for home schoolers, it was possible to just skip over the teenager stage and go straight to mature adulthood.
Such a smooth transition sounded far more appealing to me than Dr. James Dobson’s description of the teen years as a whitewater rafting ride over the rapids ~ just hang on as your teen learns to navigate the swirling currents and makes it safely out the other side. Yikes! I wasn’t looking forward to such terror and uncertainty ~ and I just couldn’t imagine that my sweet Angel would ever question my judgment or engage in risky behavior. No ~ I much preferred the home school version of young adulthood ~ no teenagers for me, thank you!
I did want Angel to have plenty of opportunities to develop her talents. We had to give up on the dance lessons because, even though her teacher was a Christian lady who always chose conservative dresses for her girls ~ during the performances, other classes of girls would dance provocatively in very immodest outfits. I felt embarrassed to invite Angel’s uncle (my brother, Jimmy) to her dance recitals because he might be tempted by all those young girls in revealing dance costumes.
Plus ~ it was kind of a hassle to get her into town once a week for lessons since I was the only driver in our house. I was very relieved to find out that one of the pianists from church gave lessons ~ and Sandi would come to our house. That would be much more convenient for me ~ and so Angel began taking piano lessons. Her teacher was extremely talented ~ and she was patient too ~ which made her a good teacher for younger students.
We tried to be more involved in the church than simply attending services on Sundays. Nearly all of the programs were age-segregated which is something we had decided not to participate in ~ and so we volunteered to help clean the church once a week as a way of at least doing something that would be a sort of “hands-on” ministry. I missed the practical help of all the social programs at the Salvation Army ~ but we had left that church and so felt that we should find a way to be servants at Norfolk Baptist. Each Saturday, we went as a family to clean. Mostly, Warren watched the two little ones while Angel and I did the work ~ but Warren also knew how to run the vacuum, wipe down church pews, etc. ~ so he would do whatever he could to make himself useful.
Despite my reservations about home birth, one Sunday shortly after Judy’s visit, I announced to the ladies’ Sunday school class that we had decided to have the baby at home and I asked for their prayers. I can still hear the collective gasp which went around the room full of shocked and nervous women. Afterward, several of the ladies approached me privately to express their concerns for my safety and that of my baby. I put on a confident smile and explained that I had done my research and knew what I was doing. None of the women seemed satisfied with my reassurances ~ but they continued to be supportive ~ and they let me know that they would definitely be praying for me.
Now, it’s possible that I made a false connection ~ but it really seemed to me that as soon as those church ladies started praying for me ~ one thing after another started going wrong in my pregnancy. All the sudden, my belly got huge! I could not believe how quickly I was gaining weight ~ and I remember standing sideways in front of the mirror just amazed that, although I was only in my sixth month, I suddenly looked like I was past ready to deliver.
Here I am at the end of my second trimester ~ I realize that many moms already look “ready to pop” so early in their pregnancies ~ but keep in mind that I am just short of 5 feet tall ~ and my pre-pregnancy weight was only 95 lbs ~ by my sixth month, I’d gained 45 lbs. ~ so for me, this was remarkable.
All the weight gain was making me extremely uncomfortable. Part of the bone condition which I inherited from my father includes a bunch of tiny bone spurs all over my ribs. My big belly was pushing up on my rib cage ~ causing those little bony growths to be squished together and rub against each other ~ and there was no relief because nothing I tried could make the bumps quit aching. I had grown huge so suddenly ~ and my tummy felt like it was much too heavy for my muscles to support it ~ so I began wearing a pregnancy support belt ~ but before long that didn’t help either ~ so I whenever I walked, I would pick up my belly and carry it in my arms to keep the muscles from pulling. I was not used to being so heavy ~ so I also had a constant backache which prevented me from sleeping comfortably.
By my seventh month, I was starving ALL the time ~ my hemoglobin was down and I was spilling sugar and protein in my urine ~ which, I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded bad so I followed orders when Judy told me to cut out all sugar and add nettle leaf and yellow dock to my diet. I joked with Judy that she had started out asking me to drink tea that tasted like weeds, then she wanted me to drink actual weeds, so if I went along with her, what would she ask of me next ~ that I eat dirt? LOL
My mother, who has a reputation for being “the herb lady” ~ kept me well-supplied with whatever supplements Judy recommended. Before long, I was taking so many vitamins and herbs that I was sure I would choke to death on the pills. “How healthy would that be?” I wanted to know!
Despite following a strict high-protein diet with no sugar, few carbs, and plenty of fruits and vegis ~ I constantly felt extremely hungry. Every two hours, I would eat an entire meal’s worth of high-protein food ~ otherwise I would get the shakes and a terrible headache. When I asked Judy why I was always starving to death ~ she checked my blood sugar level, found that it was low ~ and told me that so long as I was eating healthy food, it didn’t really matter how much I ate. When I expressed concern that I was gaining too much weight, she reminded me that weight gain is not actually an important factor in a healthy pregnancy.
Toward the end of my second trimester, as I was laying in bed one night, I tried to roll over and felt a sharp, burning pain in my lower abdominal area. I felt like I’d pulled a ligament ~ but the pain was so intense and I felt it so deep down that I called Judy to come and check me to make sure it wasn’t something worse. I was afraid that maybe the tearing I’d felt was actually my uterus coming open. Judy assured me that my uterine scar was not tearing apart ~ but, she suspected that I had torn a hernia ~ plus, I had been having frequent, strong contractions so she recommended bedrest.
Warren called the church to ask for prayer ~ to my surprise, Peggy and the other church ladies organized a schedule to have meals delivered to our home every evening. I couldn’t believe they would actually do that for us ~ especially since I hadn’t been particularly nice to Pastor Jon. “But I’m only six months along,” I protested ~ nevertheless, Peggy assured me that the ladies would be delivering dinner to our home every evening for as long as I was on bedrest ~ plus, while the women were at our house to deliver a meal, they would help out with any chores that needed done to help keep the place in order. Wow ~ that was completely unexpected. Sweet ~ but definitely unexpected!
I was too big to get in and out of bed ~ so I took to sleeping in the recliner in a semi-sitting position as it was too much of a strain on my ligaments whenever I tried to stretch out. Before long, standing up was too painful of an ordeal to be worth the trouble, so a lot of the time, I would crawl on my frequent trips to the bathroom.
The days were getting long and tense at our house as I was too miserable to be pleasant ~ and with all of us cooped up together all day, every day ~ we were getting on each other’s nerves. I was actually a bundle of nerves. I wasn’t used to having an elevated blood pressure ~ it was running around 107/72 ~ which is not “high” but I was used to it being much lower, so I felt very anxious and stressed out. I could feel blood “whooshing” through my brains ~ my ears were hot and my heart was pounding. I had all of the physical flight-or-fight responses to fear ~ and so I felt afraid even when my mind was telling me that there was no reason to be so scared.
To soothe my nerves, I did a lot of embroidery ~ I made a quilt for the new baby ~ and I also crocheted a blanket. Warren set it up so that I could work on the paper without getting out of the recliner ~ so I managed to keep the paper going even when I felt like I might just crawl out of my own skin.
My mother would come over often to visit and to help out around the house. Every time, without exception, her visits would end in some sort of confrontation with Warren. It wasn’t just my mom ~ he did the same thing to the church ladies who were delivering meals. He was trying so hard to keep everything running smoothly within our home despite me being bedridden and practically useless ~ he was already stressed, but whenever an outsider came to our home and started doing things her own way ~ trying to be helpful, of course ~ it only stressed him more and he would, in his usual “friendly” manner, try to control everything and talk incessantly while he was at it about why it had to be that way in order for him to maintain any semblance of order in our home.
The church ladies were very patient and understanding ~ after all, they couldn’t imagine how difficult it must be for a blind man to take care of three young children while their mother was on bedrest. Mimi, on the other hand, could only tolerate Warren’s micro-management, criticism and control for so long ~ and then she’d lash out and say something unkind due to her irritation with Warren. Invariably, she would “lose it” right in front of the children ~ which made Warren all the more determined to get control of the situation and somehow convince “Grandma” to admit that she had been wrong or had misunderstood his intentions ~ and he really wanted her to admit he’d been right all along and deserved an apology ~ in front of the children, of course.
In spite of the frustration, Mom continued to visit ~ it was only in later pregnancies that Warren managed to run her off altogether.
With Grandma visiting frequently and the church ladies coming every day with meals and to help out, it was a period of relative ease for Angel.
She spent her time playing with her baby sisters and reading, reading, reading. I found some great historical fiction novels through the home school catalogs ~ Christian stories that taught character lessons and biblical family values. One such series which Angel seemed to really enjoy was the Elsie Dinsmore books by Martha Finley. Now here was a little girl who, at the tender age of 7, so loved Jesus that she could only think of serving him and her dear papa whom she adored beyond imagining. What a lovely picture of a faithful daughter’s devotion to both her heavenly and her earthly fathers. Oh ~ I sure hoped that Angel would pick up some of that attitude towards her dad as she devoured every available book in the Elsie series.
Although Judy was scheduled to visit once a month ~ she ended up coming much more frequently due to all the problems that I was having. Early in my 7th month, I got a urinary tract infection for which Judy recommended that I drink cranberry juice. During that visit, there was a slight trace of blood and leukocytes in my urine ~ my blood pressure was elevated ~ and my fundal height measurement was already 36 1/2 cms. I continued to have regular contractions which, although mild, prevented me from sleeping for any length of time. I took a lot of lobelia tincture to relax my muscles and lessen the contractions.
And I ate … and ate … and ate!
I was starving!! I couldn’t figure out why I was so hungry ~ my blood sugar was always low and although I was eating significant quantities of high-protein food every two hours ~ I felt as though I was starving to death all the time.
By the end of my seventh month, I was having “very strong” (I told myself they were only “strong” ~ not painful) contractions every 2-3 minutes, lasting for a minute or more ~ for several hours every day. Since the contractions were strong and regular, Judy would come to our house, examine me (there was never any change in dilation), set up her birthing equipment ~ and then suggest that I take some lobelia tincture and soak in a warm bath. That usually was enough to slow down the contractions ~ but they still continued strong enough to prevent me from sleeping.
We were no longer following anything like a regular schedule for check ups because the contractions had Judy at our home at least once a week ~ often she would stay overnight to watch me ~ once she stayed with us for 10 days straight ~ just sure that the baby could be born at any time. Judy was with us so much that she was beginning to feel like family. We talked for hours about nearly every subject imaginable. She told me about her children ~ about her days as a young mom of many ~ about her son who had died….
As “part of the family,” Judy was around to witness the way that Warren dealt with the children ~ especially Angel. She spent a lot of time talking to me about the importance of upholding my husband’s authority to the children and insisting that they show him respect. In many instances, when it seemed to me that Warren was over-doing it with his discipline, Judy was in complete agreement with him ~ she always backed him up as “head of the home.”
With Judy there supporting Warren completely in all of his doings with the kids, he seriously stepped-up his chastising and discipline of the children ~ especially Angel. He wasn’t letting them get away with anything. He felt justified in micro-managing every little detail of whatever the kids said and did ~ with Angel, he even insisted on knowing and approving or disapproving of her thoughts. With Judy’s encouragement, Warren grew more confident in his style of parenting and he didn’t seem nearly so hesitant about confronting the children about whatever it was they had said or done to displease him.
Judy assured me that the way to build a husband’s leadership skills was to allow ~ and encourage ~ him to lead. By standing fully behind him in every instance ~ he would learn to take charge as the “head” of the home ~ and the children would soon figure out that whatever Dad says, goes. What if Dad was wrong? Well ~ that was between him and the Lord. Hard as it is at times, Judy told me, the mom’s role is to support the father ~ and leave it to God to deal with his failures. If both husband and wife are faithful to seek the Lord and do His will ~ then He would be sure to protect the children and to compensate for whatever the father lacked in skill and wisdom. Of course, the wife should pray for the father of her children ~ but it’s essential that she never contradict him or do anything which might undermine his rightful authority as protector, provider ~ and priest in the home.
I considered Judy’s words ~ but I was just sure that if she really understood how unreasonable and how mixed-up Warren could be much of the time ~ she would offer suggestions for how to get around the more unpleasant confrontations so that Angel did not have to needlessly endure his rants and tirades over silly misunderstandings and imagined slights. Judy had several opportunities to witness Warren’s confusion and pettiness ~ but rather than seeing it as a problem and giving me ideas for how to deal with the situation ~ she continued to fully support Warren. There were no exceptions ~ a godly wife respects her husband and by her example, she teaches the children to respect and honor their father. Anything less than full support would be opening doors for Satan to come in and seize the children’s hearts and minds ~ it would be sowing seeds of bitterness and rebellion which would grow into a harvest of anger and hatred, and eventually lead the children to reject their father ~ and his God.
At the same time that I was having increasing difficulties with my pregnancy ~ another situation was developing which was almost as stressful and which I came to believe was directly responsible for the troubles that I was experiencing.
There was a growing discontent among the congregation at Norfolk Baptist Church. Although I had always been careful not to speak a word to anyone other than Warren about how I disliked Pastor Jon ~ apparently there were others who didn’t particularly appreciate his overbearing manipulative ways either. A lot of others.
Our piano teacher and her husband were among the first to leave the church. Sandi did not say anything to me about why they left ~ I figured that she did not want to talk against the pastor or contribute to any discord at the church. I respected her for not bad-mouthing Pastor Jon. BUT ~ we soon received a visit from the pastor ~ he wanted to let Warren and I know that Sandi and her husband had been saying some very terrible things about our family and our newspaper. I couldn’t believe it!! Sandi was at our home once a week and she was always so pleasant ~ and her husband, who worked at the post office, was kind and friendly ~ they both seemed to like our family ~ so why would they say anything bad about us?
Pastor Shonebarger explained that Sandi and her husband had become very bitter and ~ sadly, it appeared that they were falling away from the Lord and from Truth. He wanted to let us know what they were saying behind our backs because we needed to protect ourselves from their gossip and lies. After he left, Warren and I talked about how shocking it was ~ those two were such a nice Christian couple. How sad. Of course, Pastor Jon was right ~ we couldn’t have Sandi telling lies about us ~ and then coming over to teach Angel piano lessons as though she hadn’t done anything wrong. Close to tears at losing the friendship of such sweet (we had thought!) people, Warren called Sandi’s husband and let him know that we could no longer have her in our home teaching piano.
We began hearing a bit here and there (mostly from a couple of the ladies who were bringing meals in the evenings) about trouble brewing at the church. We hadn’t attended in weeks since I was on bedrest ~ so we really had no idea what was going on. I was having plenty of discomfort of my own ~ so I just did not feel like getting mixed up with a bunch of church squabbling.
About a month and a half before my due date, I was already measuring 40 cms. ~ and although Judy insisted that weight gain was not important, I stepped on the scale anyway and found that I had gained over 60 lbs. Yikes!!! I was so huge ~ I could hardly move. My belly felt like I was carrying an elephant. I was starving to death (how could someone who’s gained 60 lbs. in 3 months be starving?) ~ so anxious, so stressed … WHAT was wrong with me??!!
I was crying and shaking as I complained to Warren that I really thought I should go to the doctor and find out what was going on. After hearing so much about how I wanted a natural birth, believing that going to the doctor would be the first step towards another c-section, and not really knowing what to do, Warren called Judy.
I’ve already told this in another post, but I want to include it again here in this section of my story:
I was feeling particularly horrible ~ my heart just racing and I felt so scared ~ I told Judy that I really needed help ~ I really needed to go to the doctor. Judy drove to my house and did the usual check and assured me that ~ although I was still spilling sugar in my urine (+1,000) ~ I was okay and the baby was fine.
“Why am I so hungry?” I asked her for the zillionth time. Well, she suspected that I was carrying twins. Wow ~ wouldn’t that be awesome?! I was excited at the thought for a few minutes ~ but in my heart, I knew there was only one baby ~ something was wrong. Even though we really didn’t have the money for it, I insisted that I needed to go to the OB/GYN. “I can’t handle this anymore ~ I feel like I’m dying!”
I was laying on the couch and Judy got down on her knees beside me and did what she called a “diaphragmatic release” ~ in which she put one hand under my lower back and her other hand on my lower abdomen and then waited patiently while the uterine muscles relaxed. It did calm me down ~ and while we waited, Judy told me a bible story.
She told me about the time when the children of Israel were wandering the in the desert ~ and the Lord was providing for their every need ~ even raining down manna from heaven for them to eat. But the Israelites grew tired and impatient ~ and greedy. They demanded meat ~ and the Lord sent so much quail that the children of Israel were sick of it.
“They had meat in abundance,” Judy explained, “but they suffered leanness of the soul.”
Leanness of the soul … that’s what happens to those who don’t trust the Lord through their trials ~ those who seek “worldly” remedies and don’t have the faith to believe that God will never give us more than we can handle.
I absolutely dreaded the thought of having a lean soul ~ I would not disappoint the Lord by giving in and going to a medical doctor who would no doubt insist on doing another c-section delivery and thereby rob me of the testimony which the Lord was working in my life through this difficult circumstance.
Later that evening, the symptoms started again ~ the pounding heart, the shaking, the fear ~ and the contractions HURT! (Never mind about The Joy of Natural Childbirth ~ this labor was painful!) Judy suggested that I take a warm bath which would either make the contractions go away, or else intensify them and really get my labor going.
I settled my huge body into the tub and tried to breathe deeply and relax. Tears welled up in my eyes and I prayed a very pitiful prayer, “Lord, you must really think I’m tough ~ if you think I can handle this. Please just let me feel okay.”
The contractions slowed, my heart rate calmed down ~ I didn’t feel quite so nervous. But I was SOOOOOOOOOO tired. For months I had been unable to sleep more than 15 minutes at a time because of the contractions and the pain from all the added weight. I was feeling so discouraged. So worn down.
I reached for the razor to shave my legs and suddenly had a vision of myself cutting my wrists open and slowly bleeding to death in the bathtub. “When Judy comes to check on me and finds me dead,” I thought to myself, “MAYBE then she’ll believe me when I say that I really CAN’T handle this.”
The next day, I called a friend from church and told her that Judy was pretty sure that I was having twins. TWINS! Word spread pretty quickly ~ and everyone was very excited for me. I still doubted that I was actually carrying twins ~ but Judy seemed so confident that I began to allow myself to consider the possibility. Wouldn’t that be something? We had trusted the Lord ~ and now He was blessing us with TWO babies. I’d always wanted twins ~ wouldn’t that be perfect? I started thinking of names ~ if it was girls, they would be Hazelle (after Warren’s grandmother) and Heather ~ just because I liked those two names together.
The ladies at church began to question whether I should still be considering home birth after three c-sections if I was carrying twins. It did seem rather unthinkable. But then ~ so much of what the Lord had done in my life already was unthinkable ~ and I’d been reading those natural childbirth books of Judy’s ~ and Judy herself seemed unfazed by the idea of home birthing twins. And besides all that ~ deep down, I knew there was only one baby.
A HUGE baby, I thought. Whenever I picked up my belly so that I could move around, the baby seemed to be so heavy. Now ~ the thought of delivering a big baby vaginally did make me nervous. Still ~ somehow, I managed to have faith that everything was going to be fine.
When I was nearly nine months pregnant, Judy suggested that I try taking GTF (glucose tolerance factor) chromium supplements to help control my low blood sugar symptoms. I started taking one tablet a day ~ and immediately the intense hunger lessened. I was still hungry ~ but not starving ~ all the time.
One day, I was again feeling incredibly anxious ~ terrified for myself and the baby. I called Judy ~ who came to our home once again and checked on me. There was glucose in my urine ~ +1,000 ~ plus a trace of protein. My blood pressure was 114/72 ~ the highest it’d ever been ~ my heart was racing, my head was spinning and I felt like jumping out of my skin. My hands and feet were swollen. The contractions were so strong that I began leaking amniotic fluid whenever my belly tightened. Judy listened for the baby(ies)’s heart tone ~ 180.
Something’s wrong with the baby, I insisted. Again, Judy performed a “diaphragmatic release” and calmed me down. After a while, the fetal heart rate slowed down too. We were fine, Judy assured me. She suggested that I increase the chromium ~ and no tub baths since she was concerned that I might get an infection if my water was indeed broken.
For the next two weeks ~ my condition remained about the same. My legs were swelling up and when I laid down on the couch in order to elevate my legs and reduce the swelling, I felt like my brain was filling up with blood and my whole body was spinning ~ I would reach out and grab hold of the couch because I felt like I was falling. I kept a pad underneath me at all times because I was constantly leaking amniotic fluid ~ I wondered how long I could leak like that before the water ran out and my baby was left with nothing to float in! Judy encouraged me to drink plenty of liquids and assured me that the amniotic fluid would replenish itself.
By the beginning of February, I decided that I was close enough to my due date ~ I was so miserable from inactivity that I just had to get up and get out of the house. My mother took me shopping at Wal-Mart. I felt incredibly stiff ~ and so swollen that it hurt to move. My ankles were huge ~ not that I could see them because my belly was so big ~ but I could feel how swollen they were ~ and it hurt like crazy to walk for any distance at all. Nevertheless ~ I was walking. I hoped that I could get labor started in earnest because I was so ready to be done with the pregnancy.
The next day, Judy came to check on me ~ everything was getting worse and I really expected her to tell me that something needed to be done. My blood pressure was 126/86 ~ I cannot describe for you how horrible it felt to me to have my blood rushing through my head and my heart pounding like someone was trying to kill me. My fundal height was 46 cm ~ and I was still a couple weeks away from my due date. Glucose ~ +1,000. Judy was hearing two distinct fetal heart beats ~ one was 140 and the other was 160. The contractions were endless ~ I couldn’t time them because it seemed like they never ended ~ like it was just one continuous contraction all day long ~ and all night too. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept for more than 15 minutes at a time.
After almost 6 weeks of increasingly strong, regular contractions ~ my cervix was 65% effaced and dilated to 1 cm. Whoopee.
I was so discouraged.
We were all discouraged. Warren was trying so hard to be supportive ~ he hovered around me making suggestions for ways to make me feel better ~ whatever I asked for, he jumped up to get it or make it happen. He was worried. Everything was so tense and stressful. I was getting snappy over the least little thing ~ and since it was so unlike me, that had Warren stressed out and feeling defensive too. He was tired of all the company coming and going ~ it was nice that my mother and the church ladies wanted to help ~ but, he felt overwhelmed with always having to stay on top of things ~ trying to figure out where they put stuff and then putting it all back in the right place so that he could find what he needed when he needed it.
While I was stuffing my face all day long ~ trying to keep the low blood sugar symptoms at bay ~ Warren wasn’t eating at all. He was fasting and praying for me ~ and for our baby. (Babies?) He was becoming thin and weak ~ and still, he was keeping up with the two little ones (with Angel’s help, of course) and serving me in whatever way I needed. I felt terrible to see him looking so worn down and stressed out. I tried to relieve his burden in whatever way I could ~ tried not to complain ~ tried to do as much as I could for myself although it was so difficult just to move without pulling a muscle or feeling like I might fall over from dizziness.
Mom was discouraged too. She had been over frequently ~ and she tried to be positive and helpful, but it was all getting overwhelming. She hated seeing me suffer with all the anxiety and the contractions and not getting any sleep. She couldn’t walk in the door without getting into some sort of argument with Warren ~ we were all cranky and irritable ~ and I was honestly surprised every time that she came back.
Even Judy seemed tired and discouraged. The smile was gone from her eyes ~ and at times, she seemed genuinely frightened for me ~ though it never lasted long as she would begin praying or else making positive declarations about whatever she could find that was going right ~ she tried very hard to keep us all focused on the Lord and His power. One evening as she was bent over my belly, listening to the baby’s heart tones with her fetoscope, she seemed so old ~ so tired ~ I couldn’t help looking at her long, sharp nose and thinking how much Judy looked like a wicked witch straight out of a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. I felt bad for thinking such a thought ~ and immediately switched my gaze from her nose to her lips which were tightly closed in a slight smile ~ my feelings towards her softened as I realized that she really did care about assisting me to have a victorious home birth and a triumphant testimony which would bring glory to the Lord whom we both loved with all our hearts.
I feel tired and discouraged just writing this now ~ and all the more so considering that we still had almost three more weeks to go.
I felt horrible. Actually ~ horrible does not begin to describe how I felt. Tortured comes close. Day after day, I was absolutely miserable ~ and Judy, Warren, Mimi, and I spent all our time trying to relieve a bit of the suffering. It did occur to me ~ often ~ that I could just go to the hospital at any time and have a c-section delivery and be done with it all. It was so tempting ~ it was what I really wanted, I told myself … BUT …
I was taking extra chromium and that seemed to alleviate some of the feelings of starvation. I was walking around some ~ that helped with blood circulation and reduced some of the swelling ~ though it was a challenge to keep from soaking everything whenever I got up because I was still leaking just about continually. I found that Royal Jelly gave me some energy ~ while Herbal Tranquility calmed me down so that I didn’t feel so frightened and nervous all the time.
A week before my due date, I was measuring 48 1/2 cms. ~ my growth was so phenomenal that Judy had begun to measure my girth too ~ my normally 21″ waist had grown to 119 1/2 cms. ~ that’s almost 47 inches. MAN! It’d better be twins, I thought ~ for all this trouble that I’m going through ~ I’d better be getting two babies!
My back was ACHING ~ I just could not take it another minute!! Finally, Judy suggested that I see a chiropractor to get some relief from the back pain ~ maybe then I would be able to sleep and I’d feel better.
Dr. Davis, the chiropractor ~ was a good-looking, but very arrogant, conceited man whom I could hardly stand. I already felt like the FAT LADY in a circus act ~ but at the office, I was made to dress in one of those skimpy gowns ~ and then the doctor made me do all sorts of silly gymnastics while he assessed my condition and determined what sort of adjustment I needed. “Raise your hands above your head. … Bend over. … Walk towards me in a straight line. …”
He had me lay down on the exam table while he palpitated my tummy ~ not too gently, I might add. When he finished examining me, he did a crack-a-practic adjustment that hurt like “heck” and had me wondering if he might break my bones. Ugh! That was much worse than the back ache. And it cost me $70. I left there thinking that I should have just stayed home.
Three days later, I came down with the flu. And this was no ordinary 24-hour bug ~ I was sick, sick, sick for eight days. Fever. Vomiting. Shakes. More vomiting ~ I threw up until my stomach was too sore to move ~ so I curled up around my big belly (as close to the fetal position as I could get) and prayed that I could die. Through it all ~ the contractions did not ease up. The low blood sugar symptoms increased ~ I was starving, so I ate ~ but I couldn’t keep anything down. With nothing in my stomach, I had a constant headache ~ I was shaking and sweating and my nerves had me feeling like I was on the downhill slope of a death-defying rollercoaster.
You might think that with me being so sick ~ the church ladies might have stayed away in order to avoid getting whatever bug had me barfing all day long. But the situation at church had really intensified ~ and several families had made the decision to leave the church. I was thinking that they might have waited until after the baby was born ~ but no one consulted me about the timing of the church split.
Talk about distressing ~ we had friends on both sides. Some of our friends chose to stay and support the pastor ~ other friends ~ equally good Christians and sincere believers ~ felt that they could not stay any longer. All of the ladies were bringing us meals ~ and when they came to our home in the evenings, they would tell us the news. We heard both sides ~ all the details. I never felt like these ladies were trying to convince Warren and I to go one way or the other. All of them were there to help us ~ their first concern was with getting me healthy again ~ and with making sure everything was okay with the baby ~ which I assured them was the case since Judy constantly told me that we were just fine.
Warren and I really did not want to deal with choosing sides in a church split. Sure, Jon Shonebarger had his problems ~ but to leave the church seemed rather drastic ~ a little escapist ~ after all, if a married couple hit some rough spots, the first step is not to bail ~ and we felt like our commitment to the church was a similar situation. Before we made any decision, lots of communication would be needed ~ we had to be sure that we were following the Lord and not just our own feelings. “We don’t have to decide right now,” I told Warren. “Everyone can just wait until this baby is born and we can really think about what we’re doing.”
In the meantime, families who had stayed ~ and families who had left ~ both were very supportive and friendly ~ no pressure, only kindness and generosity.
It really was just too much to think about when we really needed to concentrate on the pregnancy ~ and delivery ~ of this baby. (Babies?)
With all of my anxiety and paranoia ~ caused by the blood sugar problems I was experiencing ~ I became convinced that it was all the upset at church which was opening a door for Satan to come in and mess with my pregnancy. I was thinking that we’d been discontented with Pastor Jon for quite some time ~ and I’d been hearing about “spiritual covering” ~ meaning that if a person is under proper spiritual authority, they would be protected from spiritual attack ~ so I reasoned that it must be my own rebellious, unsubmissive attitude towards Jon Shonebarger which had taken me out from under that umbrella of spiritual protection ~ and that’s how it was that the devil was having free reign to make me absolutely miserable.
I expressed all of these thoughts to Judy and Warren. Actually ~ now that I’m thinking about it ~ it seems to me that Judy, who knew about the church split ~ was the one who put this idea in my head in the first place. Judy suggested that we pray about this ~ and then asked Warren if he’d be willing to have Jon Shonebarger and the elders of the church come to our home and pray for spiritual protection for me. Of course, Warren agreed ~ he was willing to try anything.
Pastor Jon anointed my head with oil ~ olive oil from my birth kit which was supposed to be used for perineal massage ~ it was hard not to laugh and think of the whole thing as a silly joke ~ but I was desperate for relief ~ so I did my best to take it all very seriously. He prayed for me ~ and then all the elders took turns praying and finally Warren prayed for me too.
I didn’t feel one bit better. Ugh. I had to get up from the chair and go to the bathroom to throw up again.
After the men left, Judy did another exam. My fundal height was 55 1/2 cm. ~ that’s 3 cm. more than Bobbi McCoughey had measured when she gave birth to septuplets (seven babies) the year before. My “waist” was now 50 inches around. On my chart, Judy wrote: +3 swelling of ankles, pain in bladder area, urgency, frequency and burning on urination, urine ~ leukocytes ~ trace, blood ~ more than 10. Not really caring what Judy thought about weight gain, I stepped on the scale out of curiosity ~ I had gained 75 lbs. For someone who started out weighing 95 lbs. ~ that was pretty impressive. Ugh. No wonder I’m so miserable, I thought to myself as I threw up again.
Later that afternoon, one of the ladies who had left the church brought over some homemade chicken noodle soup. Oh ~ the soup tasted heavenly!! I ate a bowl full ~ and it stayed down. That was the first meal that I hadn’t thrown up in over a week. It felt so good! I imagined that feeling of relief was just what the Rich Man was longing for when he asked for Lazarus to dip his finger in water ~ just one drop of cool water on his burning tongue ~ the tiniest drop of relief from the torment ~that’s all he was asking for ~ one little drop ~ that’d be enough.
It was enough for me. I was satisfied ~ and so exhausted that with that soup in my stomach ~ I leaned back in the recliner and fell asleep.
I slept for three hours!!
Wow ~ for someone who had hardly slept for three months ~ that long nap was wonderful. When I woke up around noon, my stomach was not in knots ~ I wasn’t shaking or cramping or nauseated. I felt drained ~ yes. But ~ I thought ~ I’ll probably live.
I stood up to walk to the bathroom ~ and my water broke in a huge gush that seemed like it would never end.
Oh no. Not now, I thought ~ I’m too tired. I have no strength at all.
It was true ~ I was completely spent ~ much too exhausted to do labor and delivery. Nevertheless, I tried. Judy was there ~ feeding me Royal Jelly and Access energy bars. She watched over me as my body was hit with contraction after contraction ~ every time that my uterus would tighten ~ water would shoot out and I could not figure out where it was all coming from ~ I’d been leaking for over a month ~ and when my water broke it made quite a mess ~ shouldn’t I be completely out of amniotic fluid by now?
For months, I’d been having contractions nearly every day ~ so strong and so close together ~ it hurt like crazy ~ my uterus would get so hard that I felt bruised ~ and yet now that my water had broken, I was only having occasional contractions which were so weak that I barely felt anything. I was just so exhausted from all the days of flu ~ I’d thrown up everything I ate ~ so had no nutrition to fuel my labor.
I felt like a huge beached whale ~ just totally helpless.
In my mind, I wanted to get going ~ get this baby (babies?) out and just be done with it all. But my body just reclined in the chair and did mostly nothing … so tired … completely worn out …
Warren, on the other hand, still had plenty of energy. He was anxious and impatient ~ as was my mother ~ they both stood by helplessly wishing they could make something happen ~ get my labor going. They began to argue with each other ~ and the next thing I knew, Judy was suggesting that they take it somewhere else because the last thing I needed was to be put in the middle of their disagreement. Warren took mom out into the garage and tried his best to convince her that he was right about whatever they were arguing over. Mom just wanted him to be quiet and leave her alone ~ she wanted to be in with me ~ comforting me and just being available for whatever I might need. But Warren wouldn’t quit ~ he kept her out in the garage ~ going on and on ~ for such a long time that I finally asked Judy to get my mother and tell her that I really needed her to come hold my hand ~ that was the best I could think of to “rescue” Mimi from Warren’s endless contention. I was too weak to care about settling whatever misunderstanding was going on ~ but I hoped that Warren would at least leave Mom alone while she was holding my hand.
When Judy checked me, I was only dilated to 4 cm. ~ the amniotic fluid which I was still leaking during every contraction was beginning to have flecks of light green meconium ~ a sign of fetal distress. Judy told me that this baby really needed to be born ~ soon.
I remembered how my sister, Sandy had been sick all morning before she gave birth to Alex. The doctor had given her something to help her sleep and when she woke up, she’d felt better and was able to deliver her baby. I told this to Judy and asked for lobelia tincture to relax me ~ if I could just rest ~ maybe then I’d gain some strength. For most of the afternoon and early evening, I tried to rest. Judy was on the phone ~ calling prayer chains and individuals asking that they pray for me and my baby.
Around 8 in the evening, Judy suggested that we try nipple stimulation to get the labor going. I was very uncomfortable with my breasts bare and Judy pinching and twisting my nipples ~ but it did make my uterus contract ~ the contractions were coming about every three minutes and lasting for almost a minute. It wasn’t nearly as strong as the contractions I’d had over the past several months ~ but, hopefully it was enough to cause some changes in my cervix ~ hopefully, it would get things moving so the baby (babies?) could be born.
After a couple of hours of nipple stimulation, I was feeling sick and shaky again. I was getting quite irritable and just wanted to quit. Judy suggested that I take a bath ~ which I did and that was relaxing enough that I felt like I could keep going a little longer. I continued to take Royal Jelly and eat the Access energy bars ~ though I could hardly swallow because the flavor of those bars was awful ~ like eating seaweed or something.
Judy checked me again ~ 5 cm. Wow ~ a bit of progress. It wasn’t much ~ but enough to encourage me to keep trying.
All night long and into the morning, it was more of the same. Resting ~ nipple stimulation ~ into the tub ~ no energy ~ wanting to give up ~ no change in dilation ~ Royal Jelly ~ Access energy bars ~ contractions slowing ~ discouraged! ~ nipple stimulation ~ contractions picking up ~ renewed hope ~ so tired ~ gotta keep trying ~ baby needs to be born …
Throughout the night, I was thinking to myself ~ there has to be another way. I definitely did not want to have another c-section ~ but I just didn’t have the strength to do labor either. I wished there were more options ~ I’d have liked to have a choice. There had to be another way. I really wanted there to be another way!
By 10 in the morning, my cervix was dilated to 6 cm., the contractions were so slow and so weak that I just slept right through them. Judy was getting concerned ~ there was more meconium in the amniotic fluid ~ my water had been broken for almost 24 hours ~ the risk factors kept piling up.
All at once, there was some sort of switch in my brain and rather than wishing there was another way ~ I got this feeling that I HAD to get this baby (babies?) born ~ no more stalling, no more delay. I sat down on the birthing stool ~ the absolute most uncomfortable position that I could be in ~ but I knew that on the birthing stool, the contractions would pick up and I could make some progress. I would just have to endure the pain and get it over with.
I made it through 4 very strong contractions in that torturous position ~ I had finally found the determination to just do whatever it took to birth my baby (babies? ugh ~ what if it really WAS twins? how in the world would I have the strength to push out more than one?)
The amniotic fluid now was very green ~ there were flecks of meconium ~ the baby was in obvious distress. Judy had me sit back in the recliner while she made a phone call to consult with some other midwives. When she was finished talking, she informed me that it was time to transfer to the hospital.
I started shaking and crying and could not stop.
“I tried ~ I tried so hard!”
Judy assured me that, yes ~ I had tried ~ and that was important, but it just wasn’t working out and now we had to get to the hospital. She called the emergency room and told them a bit of my history and said that we were on our way. I was a little surprised ~ but also relieved that Judy was going to the hospital with us. Given how questionable her attending my homebirth was from a legal standpoint ~ I would have expected her to send us off alone.
The drive to the hospital seemed like an eternity ~ 20 minutes of sheer torture. For some reason, I had it in my head that since the decision had been made to transport and I knew I’d be getting another c-section ~ the labor was totally unnecessary ~ so the contractions should stop, right? Well ~ the contractions actually picked up ~ they were coming fast and strong and I’d totally lost all concentration so was not able to breathe through them and try to stay relaxed. Ow!! It hurt!!
Warren was in the front seat of the car next to Judy who was driving. In an attempt to be helpful, Warren would call out to inform me of every little detail of the car ride ~ “Judy is slowing down now for the stop sign.” “This stretch of road is bumpy ~ it doesn’t last long, just hang on.” “We’re slowing down now for the turn.” I had no idea why he was telling me this ~ it was annoying because his voice was so nervous and he just rattled continuously the entire time. I realized later that Warren was voicing what went through his head during every car ride ~ but that’s something to tell in another story …
Judy pulled up to the ER ~ and immediately we were greeted by staff ~ including Alice ~ my home schooling friend who had introduced me to Judy. “Alice,” I cried out ~ “I am dying!”
Coolly and calmly, Alice began to assess my situation. “Why is it that you believe you are going to die, Vyckie?”
I couldn’t believe that she wanted me to go into details for her ~ couldn’t she tell just by looking at me that I was going to die?!!
I was placed on a cart and wheeled into the hospital ~ down the hall, up the stairs to the operating room. There were masked people everywhere ~ all I saw was their eyes looking at me with alarm and confusion. They were asking so many questions ~ the only response I was able to muster was a terrified wimper ~ I just had to cry.
Judy had been stopped at the desk ~ she was filling the nurses in on all the details. Warren held my hand as my mother was trying to answer all the questions ~ after a few brief moments, both of them were ushered out of the room and I was alone. I was so big ~ it was hard to move me around, so the nurses cut the seams of my nightgown and underwear in order to get my clothes off of me. Someone placed an IV and catheter as another someone wheeled in a portable x-ray machine to determine if there was one baby or two.
“Please!” I was begging, “Can’t you give me something to make these contractions stop?!!” I insisted on general anesthesia ~ I just wanted to go to sleep ~ to escape from my body and go peacefully into obliviousness.
I saw Dr. V come into the room ~ he looked concerned, but as soon as he caught my eye, his face softened and he gave me a warm, reassuring smile. I started to relax and feel just a glimmer of hope that I might not die ~ but then the anesthesiologist started doing his thing ~ and the look in his eyes was of sheer terror. He set straight to work ~ monitoring my vital signs, checking his equipment ~ he placed an oxygen mask over my mouth and nose ~ and just at the moment, whatever medicine he’d given me must have kicked in because I could not feel myself breathe. I couldn’t feel anything below my neck ~ like my chest had just disappeared. I panicked! I wanted to breathe ~ I needed air!
Since I thought that the mask he was holding on my face was suffocating me, I started fighting to get out from under it ~ I just wanted to turn my head away and catch a breath of air. As I tried to turn my head back and forth ~ trying desperately to get away from that mask, the anesthesiologist held tighter. I looked into his eyes ~ why was this man trying to kill me? He looked confused ~ frightened ~ angry. If he’d just let up with that mask, I could get a breath and then I’d explain to him that he was cutting off my air and suffocating me ~ but he held the mask down firmly ~ he was saying something to me, but I couldn’t make it out ~ all I could think of was that I had to fight for my life ~ had to get away ~ my lungs were gone and it had to be something this man was doing … help!
All of the c-section horror stories that I’d read about in Silent Knife flashed through mind ~ I remembered all of the complications which could occur in the operating room ~ and suddenly I knew that it was happening to me. Something was going terribly wrong ~ I realized that very soon ~ maybe in the very next second ~ I would be dead. I was about to meet Jesus face to face. What would it be like? Would He be pleased with me? What about Warren and my little girls? They would be so sad without me ~ but the Lord would comfort them and I would finally be in peace ~ the agony would be ended and I would be without a body to torment me day in and day out. This all went through my mind in a second ~ I was ready.
I looked up at the anesthesiologist ~ puzzled, but resigned. He was going to kill me. I was ready. …
NO! I wasn’t going to let this man do this to me ~ I had to let him know that he was cutting off my breathing ~ I began struggling again with renewed determination ~ trying desperately to turn my head away from the mask. Quickly, the anesthesiologist gave me an injection of something …
I woke up in the recovery room with a fat lip where I’d bitten myself trying to escape that dreadful oxygen mask. I heard faint voices ~ and in just a few moments, I realized that I was not in Heaven ~ I wasn’t dead. Someone told me that I had a baby girl. Just one baby.
Well ~ I was alive ~ my baby was alive. We’d made it through. I should be glad. But, all the sudden I thought of all that I’d been through ~ I thought of my testimony ~ I thought of the church ladies who had been so concerned about me. They had been right. What would I say to all of them? I had been so sure that the Lord was leading me to have a home birth ~ what was the point of all that suffering when, in the end, I’d had to have another c-section? I didn’t get it. Didn’t want to think about it … I let myself drift back to sleep so I wouldn’t have to think.
I awoke in my room ~ Warren and my mother were there ~ looking relieved, but also very traumatized and defeated. Yeah ~ that’s how I felt too. A nurse came in the room and asked them to leave ~ she began checking my vital signs and she seemed thoroughly disgusted. She never said a word to me ~ just made sure I was okay and then walked out.
Soon, the anesthesiologist entered my room ~ he looked weary ~ and he told me that in all his years as a trained medical professional ~ he had never been so afraid for a patient as he had been for me. “Why did you keep fighting me like that?” he wanted to know.
I told him that I couldn’t feel myself breathe ~ and I thought it was because of the mask he was holding over my mouth and nose. The doctor told me that it must have been that the epidural was placed too high and made me numb so that I could not feel my lungs. I could tell that he wanted to ask me more questions ~ wanted to ask me why I hadn’t gone to a doctor much sooner ~ but I think he sensed that I’d been through way too much and I was already asking myself those questions ~ so he wished me luck and left me alone. I started to go over all the questions in my head ~ but it was just too overwhelming and all I could do was weep.
Judy came and sat beside me. I started to ask her all those questions which the anesthesiologist had spared me ~ but she encouraged me to just rest and save my energy. She seemed very calm and peaceful ~ her presence was comforting. I could tell that she was praying ~ something about the look on her face made feel like I had a Saint at my bedside ~ interceding for me ~ and that’s exactly what I needed right then.
A nurse brought the baby into the room. She told me that the baby weighed 8 lbs. 14 ozs. ~ not quite an elephant ~ but for me, that was one very big baby ~ previously, my biggest baby had been 6 lbs. 2 oz. And she was 24″ long ~ 24! I told the nurse she was going to have to re-measure because that was just impossible. Warren had already said that her name would be Hazelle ~ although, he wasn’t exactly sure that I didn’t want to call her Heather ~ he told the nurses not to write it down until they’d confirmed the name with me.
When Hazelle was placed in my arms, I recognized her instantly because of how heavy she was. I’d already been carrying her around with my arms for months in order to support my huge belly ~ so holding her again seemed so familiar ~ it was comforting ~ and at the same time, I just couldn’t help sobbing as I remembered all the trauma.
Always before, when I held my babies for the first time ~ I fell instantly and overwhelmingly in love. The bonding was automatic ~ look at my beautiful baby! Oh my gosh ~ what a precious little girl! But this time ~ there was nothing. I looked at Hazelle and I felt NOTHING. I was just too emotionally drained ~ dead inside. I couldn’t even manage to feel horrified that I did not immediately love my baby. All I could do was cry.
Hazelle began rooting around ~ wanting to nurse. OH! I was so tired. I was overwhelmed by how tired I felt ~ and I really didn’t have the strength to hold my baby and breastfeed her. I told the nurse to please just take the baby and give her a bottle. Judy told me, no ~ she would help me to get the baby latched on ~ and she would show me how I could nurse while laying on my side so I didn’t have to hold the baby ~ I could even sleep while she nursed. And that’s what we did ~ I was grateful to learn this little trick because it meant that I could nurse my baby effortlessly ~ and that’s what it was going to have to be ~ effortless ~ if I was going to do it at all because I just didn’t have an ounce of energy left with which to take care of my baby.
As the nurses came and went, it became increasingly clear that they were all extremely angry at me ~ and they positively hated Judy ~ they wanted her out of my room ~ away from me. But Judy didn’t go anywhere ~ for three days, she stayed by my side ~ helping me with the baby, praying for me, comforting me and doing all the little duties which the nurses generally took care of such as getting me water or helping me up to the bathroom.
The few times that Judy left my room to eat, make a phone call, etc. ~ the nurses would come in to check on me ~ and they let me know that they believed I had been very irresponsible to have attempted a home birth after 3 cesareans. “What were you thinking?!” they wanted to know. One nurse told me that she’d had two c-sections and it really wasn’t so bad ~ she couldn’t understand why I would risk home birth in order to avoid a repeat c-section.
“How many babies do you plan to have?” I asked her. Oh ~ she was done! Two children was plenty for her. “I want to have lots of babies,” I explained, “but I don’t want to have lots of major abdominal surgery.”
I had a flood of visitors from church during the first couple of days after the delivery. I could tell that the ladies were trying their level best not to distress me with news of the church split ~ but they could hardly help mentioning it because these women ~ who had worshiped together for years ~ had now become two groups ~ those who had stayed with Pastor Shonebarger and those who had left ~ and they had to coordinate their meal deliveries so as not to run into each other at our home. It wasn’t working out very well either ~ as both groups of ladies felt so horrible for me and my family ~ they wanted to help and they wanted to make sure that Warren and the children at home were well cared for in my absence ~ so they couldn’t resist bringing meals over ~ and most days, there were two deliveries ~ we had plenty to eat ~ Mimi was putting a lot of it in the freezer for later.
Most of these women were also careful not to ask a lot of questions about the delivery ~ they didn’t want to make me feel uncomfortable about the failed home birth attempt ~ they didn’t want to be accusatory and come across with an I-told-you-so attitude. A couple of my younger friends were not nearly so tactful. Benetta asked me point blank, “Do you still feel like the Lord was leading you to have a vasectomy reversal? Do you really think that was God?”
Well, yes ~ actually. This miserable ordeal had not shaken my conviction in the least. I was really much too tired to think it all through ~ I didn’t understand what had happened ~ why the Lord had failed to come through for me when I had trusted Him wholeheartedly. BUT ~ I had put my hand to the plow ~ and for me, there was no looking back.
Though He slay me ~ yet will I trust Him.
Of course, I thought of Job ~ and it was tempting to think that this was one of those tests from God ~ just to see if I really trusted Him ~ was I really so committed that I’d lose my life for Him if necessary? But I knew that couldn’t be what was happening in this situation ~ because I was sure that the Lord already knew my heart ~ no testing was necessary ~ I was absolutely committed without a second’s hesitation or doubt. God knew that about me. There was no need for Him to try my fortitude ~ my strength of conviction. He already knew I’d willingly do whatever He asked of me. I loved the Lord ~ and my love was naturally expressed in obedience ~ of course, I would obey ~ whatever the cost.
I was not recovering from the surgery very well ~ usually by three days, it’s time to go home. But so far, the nurses had not detected a single bowel sound. I was instructed not to eat anything and only drink water ~ my digestive system needed to rest. However, Judy felt that some herbal tea would help give me some strength back ~ and she also suggested that I take a supplement which worked as a natural laxative. Warren and Mimi snuck these into my room ~ and, although I wasn’t too sure if it would help ~ I drank the tea and took the pills.
When one of the nurses discovered what I had done (I really was just too tired to cover my tracks) ~ she became very upset ~ she told me that the hospital staff could not help me recover if I didn’t cooperate. She expressed to me how frustrated the nurses were feeling ~ they wanted to do their job and take care of me ~ but there was Judy sitting watch over me ~ and they felt intimidated ~ they felt like she was preventing them from attending to me. Judy had to go. I’m not sure who told her ~ maybe they spoke to Warren and he asked her to leave.
I was taken for x-rays and it was determined that I had developed an ileus ~ a bowel obstruction due to the shut-down of my gastrointestinal system. Early in the morning, a nurse came into my room and explained that in order to clear out the obstruction, they were going to have to insert a tube into my stomach and pump everything out. I asked her how they were going to get the tube in ~ without answering, she pulled out a thick plastic nasogastric tube and shoved it up my nose ~ down my throat ~ into my stomach ~ and then she attached the other end to a clear glass jar sitting on the floor. I was in shock!! I couldn’t believe she’d just done that to me! My nose was burning ~ my throat felt like I would choke on the tube! But she wasn’t finished. Next, she attached a blue bulb syringe (like they use to suction mucous from a baby’s mouth) to the tube right at the tip of my nose and showed me how to use it to pump the contents of my stomach up through the tube, out my nose and into the jar on the floor. She emptied out my water pitcher and told me that I was to have NOTHING by mouth ~ not even sips of water ~ until the nurses could hear some rumblings coming from my bowels.
As the nurse left the room, I just sat there ~ mortified and humiliated. I couldn’t even cry ~ couldn’t muster any response at all. I had a vision in my head of an old nag horse who’d been worked and used to the point of exhaustion ~ and when she’d finally collapsed from all the abuse ~ the cruel owner kicked her side ~ “Get up!” But she could do nothing ~ and even a lash of the master’s whip could not elicit a reaction ~ the poor old horse lay waiting to be put out of her misery. That’s what I wanted ~ just a bit of mercy from someone ~ anyone who would be compassionate enough to put me out of my misery.
But alas ~ death did not come for me.
I called Warren at home and told him about the trauma and humiliation I had just endured. I was crying hysterically and I insisted that he not allow anyone to come to the hospital to visit me. “I have a baby snot sucker dangling from the end of my nose,” I told him between sobs. “I don’t want anyone to see me like this ~ not even you ~ and definitely not my mother.”
I did, however, want to see Judy. I asked Warren to please call her and convince her to come back. I needed her help with the baby ~ I needed her to pray for me and comfort me ~ I needed her to protect me from those horrible nurses who were only wanting to punish me for having the audacity to try to escape the evil clutches of a medical system which reduces normal, healthy women to helpless, compliant wretches ~ only half-human from all the technology which has invaded their bodies to deal with this supposedly highly dangerous condition known as “childbirth.”
Judy spent another couple of days with me at the hospital. I wanted to walk ~ because the nurses had told me that would help get my bowels going again. So Judy held me as I walked up and down the halls of the maternity ward. My legs were so heavy they felt like logs and I could only lift them with much effort and determination. I refused to look up ~ I didn’t want to meet the eyes of anyone who might see me walking around with that horrible bulb syringe hanging at the end of my nose. I didn’t want to think about how the nurses must be busting a gut at the sight of me ~ they must have thought, “Serves her right ~ who does she think she is to believe she could have a home birth after 3 c-sections?!”
I pumped and pumped on the bulb syringe ~ and watched with a combination of horror and fascination as all this brown-black crud came through the tube in my nose and filled up the glass jar. Where was it all coming from? Shouldn’t it eventually run out? After all, I wasn’t eating or drinking ~ wasn’t putting anything new into my system ~ surely there had to be an end to it sometime.
Nothing was happening ~ the obstruction was not going away and my bowels were completely dead. Judy explained that the pain medication I was receiving through my IV was probably keeping my system asleep ~ and at her suggestion, I asked the nurses to quit giving me pain meds. I’d just have to tough it out.
After several days, my throat became so dry and sore ~ I couldn’t stop coughing from the irritation ~ but the coughing was so painful that I wished for a tiny drop of some cool liquid to soothe my throat and ease the agony. I convinced my mother to give me just a little drink of her 7-Up. As soon as I took one sip, blood rushed through the tube coming out of my nose ~ I was terrified ~ what had I done?! I called the nurse and confessed that I had sneaked a tiny sip of 7-Up and that I thought I’d caused some internal bleeding. She laughed at me and said the blood was just from the irritation in my throat. She listened to my abdomen ~ and her stethoscope picked up the sound of activity ~ hooray! Later that evening, a nurse removed the NG tube from my stomach ~ again, my throat was hurt and my nose burned as she pulled out the plastic tubing ~ but finally, I was free of the horrible contraption that’d been hanging out of my nose for days.
I was feeling slightly better ~ good enough to let Judy go home. And I told Warren that it would be okay to let the visitors come ~ so many people wanted to see the baby.
In the morning, the first person to arrive was Pastor Jon. Apparently, he had heard how the women who’d left the church were still visiting me and bringing meals to our family. Warren had mentioned to him that we had been invited to attend the new church they were starting ~ Heartland Baptist Church. All day long, the pastor sat like a guard just inside the door to my hospital room. He was mostly silent ~ just sitting there, watching. I wanted him to go away because I was expecting friends ~ and I was sure they wouldn’t come near me if they saw him in my room. Finally, toward evening, I called Warren and quietly whispered into the phone ~ I told him that Pastor Jon had been sitting like a sentinel by my door all day ~ “Please, make him go away,” I begged. By the time he finally left, visiting hours were over ~ not one of my friends had come to see me all day.
The next morning, the doctor stopped by to check on me and let me know I could go home. “What happened to me?” I asked him ~ I desperately wanted to know what went wrong so that I could give some sort of explanation to those who were asking. His answer was very obscure ~ he did say that the baby was posterior ~ and he thought I must have had gestational diabetes ~ but beyond that, he was very vague and didn’t directly answer my questions. I asked him if it was safe to have more babies ~ again, he didn’t really give a clear answer. It was a frustrating conversation as I felt that he was really not being straight with me. “Maybe he’s worried I’ll sue him,” I speculated.
So ~ whatever. At least it was “over” and I could go home. My mother came to pick me up and she waited while the nurse went over discharge orders and had me sign a bunch of paperwork.
After the nurse left the room, I collapsed back onto my pillow and let out a sigh of relief. “That’s it,” I told Mom, “let’s get out of here.”
“Vyckie,” my mother said ~ and I could tell by the hesitancy in her voice that I was in for “a talk.” She told me that I just could not go through any more pregnancies ~ it was too hard on me ~ and it was hard on everyone around me too. What if I died? How could Warren raise all those babies by himself? Who would take care of my family if something happened to me? She was crying tears of frustration and fear as she begged me, “Please! have Warren get another vasectomy ~ Please!”
I was too wiped out to respond. Of course, I hated what I had just been through ~ of course, I wanted to spare us all from future suffering. But what about God? What did He want? His word made it very plain ~ He wanted to bless us and to use our family for His glory. Who was I to say, “No. Sorry, Lord ~ but it’s just too difficult for me”?
It is true that I felt as though I’d been through a “to-the-pain” dual with Satan ~ and he’d left me beaten, defeated and humiliated. But I knew it was the devil ~ not God ~ who was my enemy. HE had done this to me. Yes, the Lord had allowed it ~ but He hadn’t caused it and He must have a very good reason for putting me through all that. What I needed, I told myself ~ was time. In time, I would heal, things would get better ~ and maybe, I would eventually understand.
For now, I just had to trust Him. What else could I do?