It’s hard to get a straight answer, but as far as I know midwifery is not legal in Kentucky. When we moved here, our midwife D’Ette Nicholson, who had delivered both Jerry and Benjamin at home, offered her services if we ever needed them here. Being a five hour drive away, we thought that was a very generous offer. And when Debbie became pregnant again we decided to take her up on it. Every other month during the pregnancy Debbie would take one or both of the girls and drive to Elizabethton to see D’Ette for a checkup; they were always uneventful.
The original plan was for D’Ette to come out here around Debbie’s due date and induce labor by breaking her water, as she did the last two times. In the final few weeks we began to wonder if it was prudent to do that while being forty-five minutes from a good hospital, in a state where D’Ette wasn’t welcome to practice. D’Ette had always offered her own home as an alternative, only five minutes from a hospital. On Wednesday Debbie drove out for her final appointment, D’Ette pronounced her good and ready, and we decided to come back out on Friday for the birth.
Probably the most difficult part was deciding what to do with the kids, who we had never left on their own. Finally we decided that if an eighteen year old boy and a sixteen year old girl weren’t capable of watching the rest and running the household for forty-eight hours, we had gone seriously wrong in our child rearing. So we set them up for two days on their own, laughingly reminding one another of the episode where Ma and Pa Wilder leave Almanzo and the rest to watch the farm for a week. We packed and loaded Thursday night, planning to be on the road about 6:30am the next day.
Around midnight Debbie woke me up and said it was time to go; early labor had set in. We finished loading the car, called D’Ette to alert her, scribbled a hasty note for the kids, and were on the road by 12:30am. By 1:30am she was having strong 90-second contractions maybe three to five minutes apart. Meanwhile I was running through my mind the three possible routes to Elizabethton. The all-freeway route through Knoxville, which the mapping services often recommended? It was definitely longest by mileage, but possibly fastest at freeway speeds. Through the Cumberland Gap to US 58? That was our usual route, but for exactly the wrong reasons—long sections of road that were peaceful and uninhabited. Through the Cumberland Gap, but stay on US 25 to I-81? Possibly the shortest, but one I’d never taken. I decided on the last.
Past the Cumberland Gap tunnel I spent a lot of time wondering if I had made a mistake. The evening was humid and foggy, the first fifteen or so miles of road were narrow and twisty (a new highway is half-completed), and it began to rain. Still we made good time, especially after I got to the interstate. About 30 minutes out we called D’Ette so she could prepare. All the while Debbie was enduring her contractions quietly, so quietly that I wasn’t especially worried about arriving in time. Just as we were pulling into the subdivision Debbie’s water broke, and she said “This isn’t good.” We pulled into the driveway at 4:48am, got Debbie into the house, and eight minutes later at 4:56am she delivered Peter, 6lb 12oz, 20″ long.
During the drive out I had a lot of time to think, and repeatedly I returned to one question: Why? I mean, what was the point? The pregnancy was uneventful, we had done our best to be prudent, in another eight hours we would have been there anyway. I’d experienced God’s chastisement often enough to wonder if we were being shown that in some way we’d been leaning on our own strength rather than His providence. It wasn’t a good question for the drive, though, because at that point I didn’t have enough information. After everything was squared away and we were all settling in for naps, it occured to me that, looking backwards, it had been a fairly straightforward matter, five hours of labor followed by an easy delivery. The only worrisome thing was the timing, i.e. would we arrive in time or not? We made it in just over four hours, a record; either of the other routes I was considering would have been more than eight minutes longer, though I didn’t know it at the time. There were plenty of opportunities along the way for delays, but there weren’t any. As always, God’s timing was perfect.
Around noon we were rested up and wanting to be home, so we said our goodbyes and headed out, taking our time and arriving home around 6pm.