Our Story : Part 6
A Home Birth & A New Vision
A Chronicle of Our Pilgrimage 1992
by David Crank
IN Part 5 of Our Story, we had learned that it would be possible for us to have more children, even after four cesareans, without great risk. Then God opened all the doors for Lori to have her tubal ligation reversed. This was quite a journey of faith for us! First God convinced us of the safety of having more children (through medical research and testimonies of others), in spite of the doctorís dire warnings. Then there was the issue of whether we really still wanted more children, now that our first four were nearly grown. Lastly there was the decision to fully trust Him for as many children as He would provide, in His timing.
We wished we had both known more and trusted more so that we would never have cut off the possibility of more children. But now, after much prayer and by Godís mercy, Loriís reproductive capabilities had been at least somewhat restored. After Loriís reversal surgery came a difficult period of waiting and wondering whether God would enable her to conceive. With Lori already being 37 years old, we were also concerned about just how many potential childbearing years would be ahead. We truly believed that God's leading was not just for reasons of restoring Lori's body, but also because He desired to bless us with more children. With the way that God had brought us to this point, and with Loriís quick conception with the first four, we had expected conception to come quickly this time as well. But it didnít! There are no guarantees!
There are plenty of testimonies of others with apparently successful reversals who have never conceived. We had to face the possibility that God might have brought us this far, but decided in His perfect wisdom not to grant us more children. As each month went by without conception, Lori struggled with discouragement. A woman who had the same surgery and shared the hospital room with Lori, conceived almost immediately. It was yet another reminder that fertility and God's blessing of children must never be taken for granted. It was about 8 months later, an eternity for Lori, before she conceived. It wasn't until she had finally obtained a peace about leaving it in God's hands, that she conceived.
We were relieved and overjoyed with the conception, but we still faced a huge problem. The same problems that caused us to stop having children in the first place were still before us: 4 previous cesarean sections; doctors insisting on repeat c-sections due to concerns about uterine rupture; concerns over whether Lori's uterus could be sewed up a 5th time (the difficulty the doctor experienced the last time); and the risk of the next cesarean including a hysterectomy. Besides the medical issues, Lori's heart ached to be able to deliver a baby naturally without surgery (and to also have a good birth experience, a quick recovery, no infection or allergic reactions to anesthesia & other drugs, etc.). She, like many, had suffered with the psychological impacts of cesarean sections and being unable to deliver normally.
The doctor who did the reversal had warned us that it would be very difficult to find an OB/GYN who would really allow Lori to deliver naturally. Many would simply refuse, others would promise a "trial" of labor, but one which truly offered little chance of success with a natural delivery. Our best hope for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was with a midwife, even though midwives helping with VBACs risked lawsuits and persecution from the medical authorities.
After Lori had been pregnant for several months, we began praying about finding a midwife. We fortunately had several friends who had used midwives and thus were able to recommend several to us. The first midwife we visited seemed very competent and experienced, but she was really reluctant about a home VBAC. She seemed to be pushing really hard for us to talk with her backup doctor about using him for a hospital VBAC, at least the first time. After prayer, we felt we should look further.
We had heard about a committed Christian midwife and homeschooling mother that lived far on the other side of town from us. Though she lived about an hour and a half away, we went to see her. We were more comfortable with her from the very beginning. She was also concerned about the political problems and legal risks (another midwife was being taken to court by a hospital for assisting with a VBAC). But seeing our determination and trust in the Lord for this, she wanted to help us however she could and did not try to push us towards a doctor/hospital birth. After some investigation, she offered to train me to deliver the baby and to also guide me in providing prenatal exams to Lori. She would also be willing to be present at our birth, as a friend and advisor, rather than as a midwife. I would have to do the delivery. She could, however, step in and help in the event of any emergency.
This required some thought and prayer on our part. But in the end, we felt this was the path God was leading us to and felt comfortable proceeding with this midwife under these terms. So Lori and I would go together to the midwifeís house for prenatal exams. At these times I checked the babyís size, position and heartbeat under the guidance of the midwife. I was also assigned reading and received instruction. There were also tests to take that the midwife had prepared to use with her apprenticing midwives. During this time, I read a lot about managing a labor and delivery and about many of the things that can go wrong and what to do about each. It was very encouraging to learn how easily most problems can be either detected in advance or handled safely without significant medical intervention.
As we approached the delivery date, the midwife offered to now truly handle the delivery. She had continued a dialog with the state midwifery board about the legal risks and now felt she could offer to deliver our baby. I was more than happy to hand over this responsibility and assume a more supportive role (without the pressure to "learn it all"). I'm sure it also helped her confidence to get to know us better and see our determination to do this with or without her - in no instance would we go to a hospital and doctor except in a true emergency. I think she also saw that we were unlikely to blame her if problems occurred. We knew the risks.
Some potential problems showed up during the prenatal exams. The greatest of these was Lori's blood pressure. At first we attributed her high blood pressure mostly to her nervousness. But it continued to slowly rise as the labor progressed. She had once before been observed to have borderline high blood pressure - at the time of her reversal surgery, never before.High blood pressure brought further concerns. Rising blood pressure during a pregnancy is a key symptom of toxemia - a potentially very dangerous condition in pregnancy. If it truly was toxemia, we could be facing some big problems and risks. If, on the other hand, it was the onset of regular hypertension, there were other concerns about risks to Lori and the baby. Loriís mother had died in her early forties from strokes resulting from uncontrollable high blood pressure.
With these concerns, I researched this issue at a local medical library. Though some doctors think toxemia is merely a name associated with high blood pressure during pregnancy, more recent, and to me, more convincing research argued for a distinct difference between essential hypertension and toxemia related hypertension. Lacking the ďtell-taleĒ additional symptom of toxemia and with Loriís good diet, toxemia did not appear to be a possibility. The research also argued for there being little true pregnancy risk from essential hypertension (within limits, of course). I shared what I had found with the midwife and it helped reassure us all, though not entirely. We continued to monitor Lori's blood pressure closely and to have some concerns, though not nearly to the extent of earlier.
About midway through the pregnancy Lori began showing some sugar in her urine and began feeling as if she was having a mild reaction. So she cut out all sugar from her diet for a while and this problem seemed to go away. Later on she was able to have a little ice cream from time to time without a recurrence of problems.
LABOR & BIRTH
On Monday, September 21st, Lori began what we thought was real labor. Though the contractions were regular, fairly hard and close together, they continued for just 12 hours then slowed down again. Such off and on again false labor continued throughout that week. On the following Monday, the 28th, arising to find Lori having some difficulty managing her contractions, I called for the midwife. She was able to come and help Lori to relax more, even enabling us to lay down together and rest for a time. Since things were progressing slowly and Lori was now doing much better, the midwife went back to her home for a while.
In the late afternoon, the contractions became harder and more frequent. Lori was again having more difficulty managing them. After several hours of this, I found she was 2-3 cm. dilated and reported the progress to the midwife. A while later both the midwife and her assistant arrived, but things were still progressing very slowly. Each centimeter seemed to require several hours. The midwife again assisted with ideas for different laboring positions, providing a needed change and some opportunity for Lori to rest a little. Things continued this way throughout the night. During the evening, on several occasions the baby's heart rate was high, causing some concern. But after praying and checking the rate again a little later, it was back in the normal range again and there were no further signs of trouble.
The next morning, Lori appeared to enter the transition phase, dilated 7-8 cm. with closer and harder contractions. This continued for several hours and then they seemed to slow somewhat and Lori was having the urge to push. But the midwife found she still had about Ĺ cm to go to be fully dilated. After a time, she decided that the small lip of cervix remaining could be manipulated so that Lori could begin pushing the baby out. With the first attempts at pushing, the baby's heart rate decreased significantly, causing some concern. So Lori stopped pushing for a bit and was given oxygen while we prayed. The baby's heart rate quickly returned to normal and Lori was taken off the oxygen. We thought the problem resulted from Lori holding her breath too long while pushing. Lori was now instructed to roll onto her left side for pushing and to grab regular breaths while maintaining the pushing pressure (part of the reason for pushing in this position was to also avoid further elevating her blood pressure). Now the baby seemed to be doing fine with the pushing.
About 30-45 minutes later, Lori pushed the baby out and our older daughter, Heidi (15 years old), was allowed to catch baby Sarah as she was born. In bringing the baby up to Lori we discovered that the umbilical cord was exceptionally short - only about 12 inches long. Upon seeing little Sarah there were tears of joy all around! She shortly began breathing and after clamping, I cut her umbilical chord. The birthing of the placenta was not a problem. Lori was not feeling any contractions but with a slight push the placenta came out easily. With the very short umbilical chord, it seemed that the placenta was nearly separated with the birth.
REFLECTION ON SARAH's BIRTH
During the labor, there were many factors that might tend to make us fear. Lori's blood pressure became further elevated, the babyís heart rate at times was high, the labor was so long and slow progressing (36 hours), the cervical lip problem towards the end and then the slowing of the baby's heart rate while pushing. Yet in each and every case, after prayer and turning to the Lord for a solution, the problems were either resolved or produced no harm. Perhaps some of this was to test our resolve not to be again frightened into a cesarean.
During the long labor we sometimes wondered why God was allowing this labor to be so difficult. Of course we knew He wanted to build our faith, endurance and perseverance. But later another possibility also came to mind. Doctors are so worried that the uterus will rupture during labor following a cesarean section. Lori's former doctor had made a particular point of telling us of the thin window in the uterus he found such that he could see the baby through the thin uterine wall. Many doctors will claim to give a "trial" of labor to women desiring VBACs. But the way it often works is, if your labor is really quick and easy (unlikely after a cesarean), and you practically deliver the baby before they can get you into the operating room, then you get to deliver vaginally. Obviously, Lori's labor was anything but that! Yet in spite of a week of vigorous false labor and 36 hours of fairly hard labor, she had a successful delivery with no sign of uterine rupture, even though she had had four cesareans and more than one uterine infection accompanying. The uterus is stronger and heals better than many doctors seem to realize. We also saw that God will sometimes provide periods of rest in the midst of a long and hard labor. This is not ďfailure to progressĒ but Godís provision!
Of course the real glory for this successful VBAC home birth goes to God. He was the One who gave us hope when we had none. He was the One who took away our fear when we had much. He gave us confidence in place of much doubt. It was He who provided us with wisdom and wise counsel to deal with the problems that arose. He provided the way, opening doors we could not even see, bringing people and books into our lives at just the time they were needed. He also gave the endurance and strength in our hour(s) of need.
The following are some of the Scriptures God brought to mind shortly afterwards when reflecting on Sarahís birth:
"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward." Ps 127:3
"Is anything too difficult for the LORD? Ö " Gen 18:14
"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?" Jer 32:27
"Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." The LORD has done great things for us; We are glad." Ps 126:2-3
(All quoted from NAS version.)
A NEW VISION
As Lori's pregnancy progressed, so also did our vision for the future of our family. Having a new baby and hopefully more babies in coming years, was going to be a big change! Our other four were all teenagers with the oldest about to begin college (while still living at home). What a change to focus again on babies and young children after so long! It was almost like having a second family and a second chance to do better as parents than we had done with the first four. Naturally, we didn't know how many more babies we would have. We hoped for maybe 5 or 6 or maybe even 8 more! I suppose we were overly optimistic. Certainly God was able, but so many was not very likely. We didn't know then about how much fertility normally declines well before complete menopause.
We were sure glad we had the older children to assist with the babies. This would be great experience for them and would further teach them the love of little ones. But we greatly regretted the 13 year gap in between, a gap in which God might have provided quite a few more children. If not for that gap, we would have children closer in age to our younger ones. We would also have had continuous help from older children rather than the gap we were going to experience as the older ones left home and became busy with their own lives while the younger children were all still small.
As we envisioned more children we strongly desired to raise them in a different place than we were living. We had experienced the problems of the suburban neighborhood. Our house was on a very small plot of land with little outdoor play room. We had a swimming pool that, due to its location, would be very hard to fence in for safety. As many more people had moved to this area, it was becoming very built up and much more congested with traffic. We desired a safer place, a healthier place, a quieter and more peaceful place, a place with lots of things for children to do outdoors and where they could play freely without us having to worry about some of the neighbor children's bad influences or bullying. We could also use a less stressful environment. We had always dreamed of building a home, one that was designed especially for us. How wonderful it would be to move out to the country somewhere and build a house just for us!
During the summer of Lori's pregnancy, we were in Knoxville, Tennessee for a week for an ATI gathering and were visiting several areas in route and in the vicinity. In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, we drove past a log home manufacturer's model home. We decided to go in and have a look and even bought one of their sample plans books. We really hadn't seen much of modern log homes before. This one was gorgeous. We loved all the wood and the style of the home. Before, we had never agreed on an ideal housing style. Some of the things I liked, Lori didn't and vice versa. I had heard before how designing a house can be hard on a marriage, I supposed because of differences in likes and dislikes and monetary limitations on what you can afford. Now for the first time, we had found a style that we both really liked and would prefer over any other style we had seen. Was God moving in this?
We began to pray earnestly about somehow moving to the country and building a log home (and even to do so without mortgage debt). With log homes we found that quite a few owners do much of the construction themselves. The thought of truly building your home yourself seemed incredible to me! That's the sort of thing my great grandparents and earlier ancestors did. In recent years I had actually met a few men who had done this - I was awed! I would love to do the same, including the whole family in the process, but I was not exactly prepared for such a task. I had absolutely zero experience with carpentry, plumbing, electrical, or any other building trades. I had only recently learned how to build fences and do basic home maintenance. With no money, no skill or know how, and a number of other obstacles, building my own home in the country seemed a very tall order!
But yet we prayed and dared to hope, that somehow we could. How could it be done in our situation?
Volume 2 Issue 2: March /April 2001, © Unless The Lord ... Magazine