There is a line from a famous movie, "Honest Miss Charlotte, I don't know nothing about birthing babies! ". As the little gal frantically blurts out this statement, there is a baby about to be born in the other room. This describes my experience when I first started having children, and I believe it is the case with most women in general.
My husband and I started out like the traditional Christian couple. We had some counseling and one of the sessions included how long we would wait to have children and what kind of birth control we would use. We just went with the flow and decided we would use the pill. My mother had some serious side effects from taking the pill when I was young so I definitely had negative "vibs", but the Doctor said the "mini pill" was different. I went on it before we were married to be ready for the honeymoon. I was so sick I went off of it and went to another form of "manual" birth control. The thought of having children actually scared me. Could I raise children in such a wicked world? Could I even mother children? Maybe I did not even want children!!
We were married and my tune quickly changed. Something happened in me and I soon had THE URGE to have a baby. I was almost 21 when we married and 19 months later I became a mother when our first child, a boy was born. Now, this is where the ignorance of "birthing babies" came in. I knew NOTHING about nutrition, prenatal care, labor and all the other little things that come with having a baby, including nursing the little one. One thing I DID know. I loved Jesus and believed He would work all things out for the good in spite of me. . .not a statement of license, just a desperate pledge of trust in the Lord.
I was working at the church office as a secretary. Seems like a dichotomy now, but the fact remains. I was very ill. In-between typing assignments, I would be lying down or visiting the "great white throne." I packed on the weight, after all I was eating for two. My husband would make a run to Dairy Queen to satisfy my cravings. "Do you want a Peanut Buster Parfait or a Double Fudge Brownie delight?" "Yes, please!", I would reply and home he would come with both, one for me and one for the baby!!
We ate out a lot at this time in our life. One time we went to a local restaurant and they had the BEST spare ribs. I ate and ate and ate. I did not even make it out the door before I profusely threw up all over the place! I was embarrassed, needless to say. Ironically the establishment was called, "The Chuck Wagon"!!
All this is to say, I did not have "healthy habits" and I paid the price in the form of Toxemia. I was put on bed rest and a drug to lower my blood pressure for 5 weeks and then hospitalized and put on IV's with Magnesium Sulfate. After about a week of that I was induced with Pitocin. I bet you do not have to guess what the out come was. After 12 hours of labor an emergency section was done because of "fetal distress". Our baby boy was born at 6#5oz., healthy. A miracle really for someone who knew "nothing about having babies."
My adventure of mothering had begun and the first challenge came with breastfeeding the little tike. I had inverted nipples and I just could not get him to latch on. I am sure that all the drugs poured into my body before his birth did not help his ability to have a strong suck. Thank the Lord there was a woman who kept encouraging me not to give up. I would take a bottle nipple and put in over my nipple so he could latch on. It took time to get the milk flowing, sometimes the bottle nipple would fall off and spill all over me. For a first time mom this was not the best experience. But, we persevered and after about seven weeks, he latched on himself and we continued until we conceived.
Twenty two months after the birth of our son, our little girl was born. I had a repeat cesarean section, because that is just what you do. Hospital policy. We had moved to a different city by this time and I took a train down to where my doctor was for my check ups, because I could not change insurance midstream. During one of trips, three weeks before my due date, I went into labor. When I went into the hospital to prep for surgery, my water broke. The thought came to my mind, "Maybe I could just have this baby naturally", but I was told, "NO", and the surgery was done. Our little girl was a healthy 6#5oz. bundle and we were thankful considering I still didn't "know nothing about having babies." Nursing was easier this time and we continued for about 17 months.
You probably know how the scenario goes. We now had the all American family, a boy and a girl. What were we to do now? We haphazardly used a form of birth control and Natural Family planning. The only problem was, we were more natural than we planned!! Well, we soon conceived our third child. Now this was a challenge. At this time my husband had stepped out of church ministry and was only working part time jobs. We had no insurance. We were really crazy! In the eighties, having a third child with out the security of a job and insurance would be classified as insanity. The Lord was still in control. We kept chanting our mantra; “We Love you Lord and know you will work everything out for our good and Your Glory.“ He certainly did. My husband got a job that included medical benefits, even with the pre-existing condition of pregnancy. Little did we know how valuable this would prove be.
Our third child, a precious BIG boy, at 9lbs. 7oz., was born by repeat section, but he was not healthy. He checked out O.K. at birth but my heart told me there was something "not right," I kept trying to get a pediatrician to look at him. When he nursed, he seemed to labor so hard and have a difficult time breathing and nursing at the same time. He had a rare birth defect that required his transport to Children's hospital. This is a whole another story itself, but in summary, he was there for seven weeks, suffered a stroke and two surgeries. It was really a medical fiasco, but we finally had our precious little boy home at seven weeks. I had pumped during those seven weeks so I could maintain my milk supply, as I was not allowed to nurse him during his stay in the hospital. This was not easy, as I was encouraged by the staff to just bottle feed him and I would not need to keep up the routine of pumping. As a more experienced mom by now, my heart told me otherwise and the Lord gave me the grace to continue. My little one nursed like a trooper when he got home and continued for over 22 months!! I know that it was the Lord. We loved him and He worked everything out!
Now came the dilemma. We had a boy, a girl, a boy that had a birth defect, shouldn't we stop now? My husband and I talked among ourselves. It puzzled us that even though we had used birth control that we conceived. Why did we even bother using it? This is when we decided to ask God about planning our family. Novel thought!! I began a word search in the Bible. I looked up every reference I could find on womb, child, children, birth, etc. I came up with over 30 scriptures saying that God was the opener and closer of the womb and that children were a blessing. We loved God and wanted to walk in His was. This seemed like a drastic step to take! I mean, actually let God plan our family. We knew no one else that did this, however, I was vaguely familiar with the idea because of my Catholic up bringing. We took the plunge into a birth control free relationship. Things got good!! A few months after this study, a friend gave me a copy of the book, "The Way Home". After reading it, I told my husband that we were not crazy after all, there were others that thought this way.
Our fourth child was born 3 years from the birth of our third. The longest span of time between children so far. The Lord does have a sense of humor. By this time I was beginning to know SOMETHING about having babies but still had a lot more to learn. After reading "The Way Home", I read Mary Pride's next book, "All The Way Home". She talked about homebirth and VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean ). This got my wheels churning. The Lord and I were talking. "Lord, if I am going to leave having children up to You, do you think we could talk about not having any more Cesareans? Would you direct my steps, if this is your will?" He heard my prayer, I mean He always does, but he led me to a Doctor that was willing to give me a "trial of labor". It had never been done in the hospital I would birth in, a VBAC after 3 sections, but he was willing, and I was thankful. I read every book I could get my hands on about VBAC, including, “Silent Knife“, which would prove to give a vital connection in the future. But, more on that later. I went into this birth, excited and confident that we could have a naturally birth. After 17 hours, which included some drugs at the end, 3 hours of pushing and a painful episiotomy, we had our little boy, 7#4oz. I was elated and so thankful that the Lord had once again blessed us! We nursed with some difficulty, as with previous babies. I got blood blisters and kicked holes in the floor when he latched on, but we persevered for over 2 years.
By this time, I was not quite an expert, but I was getting brave when it came to "having babies". When we conceived our next child, I began to research the possibility of a homebirth. I was partially inspired by the fact that my husband had launched into self employment and we had NO insurance. A homebirth with midwife would be something we could pay for. I found a licensed midwife who would do a VBAC at home. She felt like she had some leverage because she was involved in a national study on VBAC. This proved to be important, as the Doctor who delivered my third child in the hospital called my midwife and threatened to "turn her into the authorities" if she did my birth at home. Being involved in the study was our protection, so to speak. I know it was the Lord!!
I continued to study about homebirth, reading books on this topic. Twenty seven months after the birth of our fourth child, our little girl was born at home with only five hours of labor. I tore a little and had do some herbs to stop postpartum bleeding, but this was a piece of cake compare to all the others!! My uterus did prolapsed. The midwife put it back in place and I did Kegels like crazy! My uterus was right were it was suppose to be by the time I conceived my next child. This little one nursed for over 2 years.
Our next little girl was born 2 1/2 years later by Emergency Cesarean. Oh, the long and winding road of birthing. I had planned on another homebirth, this time with 2 lay midwives. Again, insurance was an issue, but preference was a stronger motivating factor. The pregnancy went great and labor pursued at midnight with mild contractions. I woke at about 5 AM to go to the bathroom and was bleeding some. I called the midwife. She came. We consulted with a Naturopath and a seasoned midwife. We all felt I was safe as long as my bleeding stayed within certain guidelines, the babies heartbeat stayed strong and my blood pressure was stable, that I could continue with the homebirth. I continued to labor until about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. At this time I had dilated to a 6 or 7 but then stalled. I began to have a bulge on the side of my tummy. We thought it might be a distended bladder. We tried to empty with a catheter to no avail. I was really praying.
I had read a certain book about the "spiritual" aspects of childbirth. I really wanted to honor the Lord and trust Him totally with the birth of this baby. I think I was deceived to some degree, thinking that transporting to the hospital would mean a lack of faith, so I hung on, pleading with the Lord to show me a sign as to what to do. The midwives were in the hall praying also. About that time, I heard an internal pop, hard to describe. I began to bleed profusely. I said, "let's go" and we hopped in the van, and headed to the hospital. When we got to the hospital the preparation began for an emergency section. The Doctor on call was the Doctor who had called my midwife and threatened her. I refused to have him do the surgery. I felt he would not be as compassionate with me as possibly another doctor. I did not want a hysterectomy nor to be chastised by him for attempting another homebirth. The nurses then called for another Doctor. It was a female. She came in a said we were probably looking a rupture. She wanted me to sign for a hysterectomy. I refused, but she said it might be the only way that she could save my life. My husband demanded that I sign it, so I did, but I pleaded with the Doctor not to take my uterus.
I had read an article by Nancy Campbell, "Protect Your Womb". I knew how important it was to keep my womb, even if I could not have more children. I also knew that my mom had a hysterectomy at a young age and suffered for it. I was only 34. We rolled into surgery about 40 minutes later, I was put under general anesthesia, not knowing what my "fate" would be, or that of my little one. At this point, I was in so much pain, that my pervading thought was RELIEF!! Here is the exact wording from the post-op report; "The rectus muscles were bluntly and sharply separated and the peritoneum was opened to an obvious hemoperitomeum and to an obvious uterine rupture. The amniotic sac was intact and was bulging into the abdominal incision at the time of entering the abdomen"
When I awoke, I did not see Jesus, so I knew I was alive and I immediately began to call for my husband and ask if my baby was O.K. I was informed that the baby was fine and a wept for joy. She was born with 8/9 apgar score. This was an absolute miracle as the statistics say that if a rupture happens and the baby is not out within minutes, they do not survive. I am so thankful that the Lord has a plan, that He works all things out for our good and His glory. We love Him because He first loved us and His hand of mercy is evident in all we do!! I was discharge from the hospital with strong words from the Doctor that I was not to have anymore children. She was unable to close all layers of my uterus and said that the womb would not with stand another pregnancy. I was risking my life and the life of the child if I were to have another baby. This was so emotional. After all we had trusted the Lord with the conception. What would this mean now?
The recovery went fine, but I am speculating that as a result of the trauma of the birth, I had a difficult time with my let down reflex and nursing. The baby was considered "failure to thrive." We prayed and sought the Lord. I used a supplement nurser filled with goat’s milk and studied to find out why this was happening. I finally discovered that the Pituitary gland is affected with blood loss and trauma. I began herbs to support this gland and within a couple of weeks the baby was thriving and gaining weight as my milk was ample. I nursed her for over two years. I am so thankful that as I knew more about "birthing babies" and the Lord gave sufficient grace that I was able to persevere through this challenging scenario.
My husband and I sought the Lord, cried, prayed and wondered what we should do now. Should we continue to trust the Lord with our family planning? We sought counsel. One quiver.full minded pastor said there was grace for circumstances like this and that if we did something "permanent" it was O.K. We did not feel at peace about this. The thought that kept running through my mind was, "Now is when you decide if you have conviction or preference." If God truly led us through His word and we and developed a conviction, could it be changed due to unforeseen circumstances. ? After about six months, my husband and I came to a peace and left our family planning in the Lords hands. We had entered a season of abstinence up until this time.
I conceived our next child and I will have to admit, initially, I was overcome with fear. In fact, after the positive pregnancy test, I planned my funeral! I was fearful of going back to the same Doctor, as I knew I was going to face a lecture. But, I felt she knew my circumstances and would be the most confident to take my case. When I walked in for my first pre-natal visit, she was stunned, but supportive. She does not believe in abortion that was in my favor. She said that a repeat section at least 10 days early was absolutely vital, that I must avoid labor at all cost. The pregnancy went fine and I had a real peace from the Lord during this time. I could have never foreseen what was to happen. I will never doubt again that the Lord's timing is perfect.
Our little girl was scheduled to be born on October 16, her due date being the 26th. On October 12, our 3rd child woke up with a severe headache, losing sight and body functions. I called 911. They came and his blood pressure was beyond measurement. This had to do with his original birth defect but was totally unexpected. He was also, diagnosed with stomach cancer in at the age of 5. . He had surgery to remove the tumor but there was no cure. We came home and used alternative medicine and He was doing really well. So, when this happened we were shocked. He was airlifted to Children's hospital and stabilized. He was talking to us periodically and resting. Later, he was overmedicated and went into a coma. We had to make the decision to remove life support on October 14. We actually prayed that God would raise Him from the dead, but He was raised in glory. Our hearts were broken. We were now facing memorial service and a birth of a child in the same week. I did not think I could do it, so we postponed the cesarean section to October 21. We had the memorial service for our son on October 18. We celebrated his life and our life in Jesus. Oh, we were learning in greater measure the importance of Persevering faith!!
I awoke on October 21 at 4:00 AM in labor. I called the Doctor. The section was not scheduled until 12:00, but since it was vital, as stated earlier that I not labor, I immediately went in and a section was performed by 7:30 AM. A healthy little girl was born. My uterus was in good shape, no sign of rupture whatsoever. Who could have imagined that one could even survive such dyer circumstances. But, this is what walking with Jesus is all about. He is with us, to uphold us with His righteous right hand. I do not know the ends and outs of all His workings. I do not even try any more. My only goal is to know Him more through everything we go through.
To be honest, I did have to deal with fear. I mean, what would happen next? I studied the word. I noted everything I could find about God's character and finally found peace in WHO HE IS and His love for me. The birth of this little girl was a healing balm to our grieving hearts, souls and minds.
God opened the womb again and we gave birth to a healthy little boy 27 months later. We scheduled a repeat Cesarean Section ten days before the due date with the same Doctor. However, I did pursue the possibility of a VBAC but could not find a Doctor that would agree and definitely did not want to try a homebirth. When I walked in for my first visit with my previous Doctor, she was not as surprised but was definitely cautious. The section went fine and I went home the next day. Nursing went just fine and I finally learned the importance of pure Lanolin to heal blood blisters and make nursing less painful. I nursed this little one for over 3 years. This baby was born when I was forty.
By this time, I knew my chances of having more children was becoming less and less. I conceived and miscarried two babies. This was very emotional but I had to trust God and cling to what I knew to be true of Him. He loved me, has a plan for me and works everything for our good and His glory. He is FAITHFUL!! I conceived in December of 2001 at the age of 42! I was thrilled. The circumstances in our life were very unsettled. My husband’s home business took a BIG hit after 9-11, we were forced to move when I was about 10 weeks pregnant. I was tired and dealing with the normal pregnancy stuff, but again, God was in it and was faithful to give all we needed. My mind boggles to see what one can endure when God is with us.
Since we moved to another town, I would be looking for another Doctor to have this baby. I did consider a homebirth and met with a midwife. We both prayed about it. My husband was not at peace with a homebirth, but would pray about it while I sought out options for this birth. I kept having the thought that I could have a VBAC. It just seemed the right way to go, instead of another major surgery. Six sections seemed like enough to me!! Through some referrals I found a Doctor about 1 1/2 hours away that would consider a VBAC if I scheduled a section and then when I went into labor, went to the hospital and refused the section. Somehow, I knew this would not work, as I needed to walk into an environment where I knew I would have people on my team, wanting me to succeed.
Remember earlier I told you that I had read “Silent Knife” by Nancy Cohen. I found her website and contacted her via e-mail sharing my testimony and my desire to have a VBAC. She e-mailed me back and gave me her phone number to call her. I finally made contact with her and we talked. She gave me the name and number of another midwife that has done over 3000 births including a home VBACs. She has flown around the U.S. to help women with "difficult" cases. She read my testimony and said she would pray about doing my birth. She would fly in ten days before my due date, start labor and leave after the baby was born. We prayed and waited to hear from the midwife about her decision. Meanwhile, I had gone to a scrap booking party and over heard a gal talking about her Doctor in the same town where I live. She said he was "naturally minded". This caught my attention. I asked her his name and called and made appointment with him. Before the appointment, the midwife e-mailed me and said she very seldom says no, but she just could not do my birth. She wished me the best and asked me to let her know when the baby was born.
My next step was to go to the Doctor in my hometown. I was so very nervosas he reviewed my records. After all, it doesn't look that great!! I have” white coat syndrome" anyway. He spent 3 hours with me. We talked about the politics of medicine and philosophy of birth. He was anti-abortion and proceeded to tell me he would support me in a "trail of labor". This was before I even asked!! The Lord was obviously opening the door for a vaginal birth. I e-mailed the midwife back to let her know what I had found and asked her to share her apprehension with me. She said she was excited for what I had found and that is exactly the situation she would like to have me birth in. In the hospital with the medical support needed in case of an emergency. I now had a total peace and my husband felt really good about this decision. I continued on with my pre-natal visits.
My blood pressure was starting to climb, but did not get out of control. It did become an issue at the end, but not a major problem. I was exercising everyday and watching my diet. I was concerned about gaining too much weight this time, as I started out over-weight. I did the glucose tolerance and it came back high. One of the concessions I had to make going to a medical doctor. The doctor gave me the option of doing the extended test or just doing the "diet". I did the "Zone" and my blood sugars were perfect. As result I only gained 19 pounds. This was an answer to prayer. I read about 30 books, including several Christian books, during the second half of my pregnancy to prepare my heart and mind for the VBAC and to fight the fear that enemy of our souls wants to defeat us with.
The Doctors plan was to break my water 10 days before my due date. He felt that by breaking my water there would be less pressure on my previously ruptured uterus and scar. He also felt better about having more control of the birthing process. At this point, I trusted him and knew I would have to make some concessions in order to have a vaginal birth. My final appointment before the scheduled induction my blood pressure was up and I was instructed to go home and stay down. The doctor would schedule my induction the next night instead of waiting two days. The hospital refused to take me at first, at all, because of my history. They changed their minds, as the head nurse said they could not legally refuse me a trial of labor. However, they would not take me on the weekend due to inadequate staffing. By this point, my blood pressure was stable, but my pulse was very fast, I think just the stress. We went in to do a stress test and the baby was fine.
We went home with instructions to call the hospital on Monday morning at about 4:00 AM to go in about 5:00 AM. Once again, I could not go in as there was not room for me. The hospital said they would call me when they had an opening. The called at 9:00 AM wanting me there about 9:30 AM. We got there about 10:00 AM and began with the routine preparation of a hospital birth.
I had a birth plan and the Doctor had agreed that I could have a heplock with no running IV and liquids a desired. However, the anesthesiologist came in. She sat down and looked me in the eye. She proceeded to tell me that there was a high probability that I and my baby could die, but they had to honor my request for a trail of labor. She then ordered double IV's, one in each arm, no liquids. She also order that I be crossed typed for 4 different types of blood because I have a rare blood type and ordered 4 pints of my blood type that was to be in the hospital before the induction was done. I had blood drawn, which was lost in transit and then a redraw had to done!! Finally, the blood arrived and we could proceed. I was hooked up to the monitor, my blood pressure was O.K., but my heart rate was really fast. Sometimes they did not know if was me or the baby. The baby's was faster than normal also, obviously responding to my adrenaline. The doctor came in optimistic as he held a copy of the latest OB/GYN journal in hand. The feature article was on safety of VBAC, even VBAC after rupture. The Lord had even given the Doctor peace, even though he is not a professing believer.
So, here we are. My husband, my dear friend to act as a doula, my 11 year old daughter, a young supportive nurse, her assistant and the Doctor. The process would begin The doctor broke my water about noon. Labor clicked in about 1:30 P.M., mild and starting to be steady. By 3:00 PM it was intensifying and I was at about a 3cm. and50 percent effaced. By 6:00 PM the contractions were about every minute and I was at 6cm and 70 percent effaced. However, the baby was presenting forehead first and bent off to the side. The body was almost transverse, so she was not descending like she should. The doctor was concerned about the hard labor now and the pressure on the uterus without progress. He worked the cervix to promote dilation, causing some bleeding which he was concerned about. The nurse assured him that it was probably a result of the manipulation he had done. They watched it and it did not increase, so we relaxed regarding the bleeding. The Doctor also tried to get her head to come down in proper position using his fingers as forceps.
By this time labor was very intense and the manipulations were not working. The doctor suggested an epidural so he could get up inside and really maneuver the baby manually. He did not want me to keep laboring with this intensity without progress due to the previous rupture. He said they would wait 20 minutes, change my position and then we would have to talk epidural and possible repeat section. He left the room and my husband did too. My husband was just walking the floors of the hospital and praying. The Doctor came back, checked the baby's position, no change. He called for the anesthesiologist. It was a different one than when I had originally came in, thank the Lord. He was considered one of the best. He did the epidural. By the time I laid down I was dilated to 9 cm and about 90 percent effaced with a lip around the cervix that would not go away. This is when I am thankful for my doctor’s patience and desire to help me have a VBAC. He reached up and held back the cervix while I pushed. He was able to get the cervix up over the babies a head enough to be able to manipulated her position. He was finally able to get her head down and turned, again, using his fingers as forceps. She had scratches and then scabs all over her head from this procedure. The Doctor felt this was safer than forceps. After her head finally stayed in position he found that her shoulder was hung up on my pelvis or hip bone. He ended up having to twist her 180 degrees and then 360 degrees to unstick her. At this point, she slid down into the birth canal. I realized at this point that my husband was still out praying. I had my daughter go get him. When he came in I was pushing!! He was so surprise and thankful to the Lord for hearing his cry for a safe delivery. I began to push, I ended up with an episiotomy so she would be born quicker, again to alleviate additional pressure on the scar. As it was I pushed 14 contractions, 3 times each contraction. Without the episiotomy, it would have been twice as much. My Doctor also said he was a "technician" not an artist, thus he could repair a cut much better than a tear. I agreed to the cut. The baby came almost right away. A healthy 7#10oz. baby girl at 10:06 PM We were all elated. It was not the natural birth I had hoped for but it was so much better that a section and recovery so much quicker. I have no pain, anywhere. I was able to go home the next day!!
I am so blessed with this precious little girl. Nursing has taken an extra effort, as my milk supply is low. I think I felt so good that I did too much too fast. I needed to just focus on this little one and one nurturing her. I did learn a new trick. I put lanolin on my nipples BEFORE I started to nurse. This time I got NO blood blisters and had minimal pain. Always growing and learning, that is the life of a mother. The rest of the family was so happy with our new blessing. She is definitely smothered with loves!!
I would like to add a few things here. First of all, I had a transverse (across) incision for all my sections. After the rupture, I did herbs to and oils to help heal. If you are interested in what I did you can contact me. (See the information at the end of this article.
Second, I am not trying to convince anyone to have a VBAC. I am only encouraging all believers to seek the Lord regarding birthing, children, birth control and trust the Lord to orchestrate your steps for your good and His glory. It is not my intent to "judge" some one who chooses to have repeat sections. It was just a desire of my heart to have another vaginal birth. Being almost 43, thinking this might be my last, I wanted that experience. As I have said, I believe the Lord uses everything for His purposes. If my experience encourages even one person to seek the Lord for their circumstances then I praise God. Finally, persevere in the faith. Do not let fear be the light unto your feet, but allow the one you put your faith in - Jesus himself, the one who is faithful ,direct your steps. Do not be too quick to act on impulse, but always take the time to seek God first. Most of us know nothing about having babies", when we start out. But when we KNOW the Savior and persevere even in difficult circumstances, I believe He is faithful and He will make our paths straight. Love Him, seek to know Him more and all these
"things" will be added unto you!
As of Spring 2006:
Sharon Hockenbury is the wife of Doug for 25 years and the mother of;
Toby 24, Tori, 22 (married to Luke), Treyton (4-11-86 to 10-14-96), Tasby 17,
Taryn, 14, Tevis 12, Tenille almost 9, Trajen 7, Taylyn 3
13825 409th Ave. SE
North Bend, Washington 98045