A week ago today I was in shock at how perfectly Zachary came into the world. The Lord answered my prayer for a smooth home birth but then He gave us above and far beyond what we had dared to pray for.
But backing up to a year ago this month, I eight weeks pregnant and had a sense one day that the pregnancy would end spontaneously. Then came the cramps and some spotting. I sat down to pray and give the baby to the Lord, whatever the outcome. Down deep I was trying to talk myself into accepting what was about to happen. The Lord asked me to sing one of my favorite songs, Blessed be the Name of the Lord. In obedience, but not fully accepting, I sang the song aloud and hoped not to lose my baby. That evening we had our third miscarriage and my heart hurt like someone was crushing it. Still I knew I needed to sing the song, with my heart, and remember that He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, Blessed be Your name.’
Then we were blessed with another pregnancy and this is what we prayed for:
1.For a home birth. I wanted badly to avoid the Hanoi French Hospital where Allison was born. It took me months to recover due to so many interventions. I was certain things could have been simpler.
2.For Zachary to be head down and all to be normal. Bettina, our friend and registered midwife from Germany, wouldn’t attempt a homebirth unless everything is already normal. She has minimal equipment; scale, heart monitor and blade n clips for the cord. We supplied towels and a friend loaned me an exercise ball. That’s it.
3.For us to be willing to accept whatever the outcome and the method of delivery. I know that a healthy baby is far more important than an ideal delivery.
4.We asked the Lord to show us whether or not to include Hannah (6yrs) and Allison (4yrs) in the birth or to have them go to a friend’s house.
Then this is what happened…
Tuesday and Wednesday last week I felt nauseous and energetic. I had frequent minor cramping and the sensation that a bowling ball sitting was low in my pelvis. Sherm was shocked that I actually went out walking to relieve the strain. I never exercise. But this time, walking felt so good. I couldn’t sit still. It felt right even in the Hanoi heat and humidity.
Then Thursday night Sherman and I had the usual conversation, “When will he come? You think he’ll be late? I hope he’s early. I can’t wait to see his face!” AND that night I awoke with a strong abdominal pain. I hit the bed with my fist. Wow. That hurt. A contraction? It was totally different from the persistent minor cramping. I checked my phone; it was 1am. Then another. Strong. I checked my phone, 1:05. A big smile came over me. Could this be it? Five minutes passed, another. They were really strong right from the start. I woke Sherm to say that I needed to get out of bed and walk. He was excited but also decided to pace himself and keep sleeping in case things went on for hours. So at 1:15am I went outside to walk through the village. I was so excited but yet unsure because the contractions might just fade away. But their strength told me otherwise. At 1:30 I called Bettina just to warn her that I might be in labor. She said she would come but I also worried that she would just end up driving 45 minutes to our house only to sit and wait in the middle of the night. I came back inside because Bettina suggested resting between contractions to save energy. Sherm tried to get me to do the relaxation exercises we had practiced from The Bradley Method. But I could not lie in a bed and relax the way we had practiced. These were not ‘building up contractions’. They were strong and purposeful. I sat down and rocked on the exercise ball. It was wonderful. I played music but soon couldn’t hear the music. Bettina arrived and examined me. I was 9cm already. Amazing. I was ecstatic. It’s such an exciting feeling to know you’re so close to meeting your son.
A few minutes later, on the exercise ball I felt a slight need to bear down. I didn’t recognize it as the pushing stage so didn’t tell anyone. But as I was on that ball, Zachary’s head started to push out all on it’s own. With the birth of my other babies, there was a small medical team yelling, “Push! Push harder! Come on, you can do it. You’re not pushing hard enough!” But when you’re lying on a bed with your feet in stirrups it seems you are going against gravity and attempting to push a baby UP out of you rather than down. Also, with the other babies I pushed when told and so the pushing stage lasted a long time and I wore myself out with early pushing. This time, being in upright position, gravity and the contractions moved Zachary out as the natural process intended. I told Bettina, “Something’s coming. Something’s coming out.” I wasn’t sure what was happening. She reassured me and asked me to come off the ball. I squatted on the floor leaning cheek to cheek onto Sherman. He supported my weight as Zachary made his way out. The pain was amazing. I couldn’t see much. And I didn’t fully comprehend when Bettina said, “I see his eye. He’s looking at me.” I asked her if I could push and she agreed and then BLOOP! Out came his head and one hand. A moment later and BLOOP BLOOP! Out came the entire little baby. Bettina was behind me on the floor waiting to catch him.
What? That was it? All pain ceased. I was elated to realize he was out and it was all over. I couldn’t believe it was that quick. Bettina, who was behind me, passed Zachary through my knees and up to Sherman. Sherman held him in astonishment. No doctor, no episiotomy, no forceps (as with Allison), no vacuum (as with Hannah). Here he was. 275 days of pregnancy culminating in a glorious end. August 13, 2010. 2:45am.
With an amazing amount of energy and joy I sat down on my own bed, still connected to my son. Bettina let us get over the shock and then proceeded to clip the cord and let Sherm make the cut. Then we waited for my placenta to detach. I didn’t remember this stage of delivery with the other two but this time everything was so raw and we were such a part of every moment. Meanwhile Bettina wiped Zachary down, gave him a 9, 9, 10 Apgar score, weighed him at 2.9kgs/6.4lbs and roughly measured his length, which I forgot. Then he settled down for some skin contact and began nursing but he wasn’t too interested yet.
After a few more contractions the placenta plopped out and Bettina examined it to make sure all parts were released. Sherm and I stared at it in amazement. Bettina showed us what she was looking for and gave us a mini biology lesson in… placenta parts. Normally I love that sort of thing but I was a bit grossed out since it was MY placenta. Ewww! She lifted a clear-ish pice of material up off the placenta and showed me Zachary’s amniotic sac and also showed us the three tubes in an umbilical cord that are for nutrients, oxygen and waste. There was the beginning of life right before our eyes.
So all our prayer requests had been answered and answered beyond our own expectations. We never had to decide what to do with the girls since they slept through the whole thing right next door in their own beds. I showered and then about 3:30am Sherman and I walked right out of the village with Zachary in our arms. We caught a taxi and headed for the hospital where I received stitches for a small tear, Zachary received his Hep B and Vitamin K shot and Sherm received the necessary paper work for the birth certificate. As foreigners having a home birth in Vietnam we need papers from the hospital in order to receive a birth certificate, and therefore a Birth Abroad Certificate from the US Consulate. When we got back home the girls were still asleep.
Allison awoke first and met me in the hallway telling me her Superman costume had been too hot and that’s why she wasn’t wearing any clothes. What a goof ball! I told her to go look and my bed and see the surprise there. As soon as she saw her brother she walked right back out of the room. I wasn’t sure why she did that but apparently she had gone to his room to retrieve a book. She came back with Pat the Bunny and started reading to him right away. So sweet.
Hannah later woke up and when she saw her brother she broke into tears asking, “Why didn’t you wake me up? I wanted to see him come out.” She was excited, disappointed and confused. She knows his coming means big adjustments in our household. After a cuddle, she was fine and wanted to hold her baby.
Allison on her 3rd book for Zachary. Later she loaded him up with the dog's chew toys and stuck stickers on his arm.
Now a week old.
Because the delivery was so fast and Zachary’s head was so small I fully recovered by the second day. With Allison it took me three months to heal from the extensive episiotomies and complications that followed. We are so grateful, so grateful for our baby boy, for his smooth entry and for how God answered our prayers, each one.