Bryson City Tales — The Home Birth (Part 3)

This is from the twenty-ninth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Tales. I hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week, and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends and family to join us.

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Then a thought occurred to me. When I trained in England, where most of the maternity care and deliveries are done by midwives, we did deliveries in the side-lying position—but not forceps deliveries.

I remembered one of the British midwives teaching me how to deliver OP women in the knee-chest position. She said that this position allowed gravity to pull the baby down, against the abdominal wall, which would allow the head to flex and either allow the baby to rotate or to be delivered more easily.

“Elizabeth,” I queried, “did you try the knee-chest position?”

“Yes, Doctor, but it didn’t seem to help.”

“Well, maybe it will if I also use the forceps.”

“Good idea,” she confirmed.

I quickly explained to Isabella and Donnie what we were going to try, while Elizabeth and Sally arranged the pillows in the middle of the bed. We then helped Isabella roll over into a knee- chest position, with her chest resting on the pillows.

Now I was the one who was completely befuddled. I had used forceps many, many times—but always with the woman being on her back. This position was 180 degrees different.

Now I had to think and act in the exact opposite way from how I usually did. I quickly lubricated and applied the forceps. I could see Donnie’s shocked look. I was hoping his shock was over seeing the stainless steel hardware protruding from his wife’s birth canal and not over my profusely sweating forehead, the look of terror in my eyes, and my lips mouthing a silent prayer, Lord, guide my hands. Guide the head. Protect this baby!

Isabella began to moan as the contraction intensified. I double- checked the position of the forceps.

Elizabeth reported, “Heart rate’s in the twenties and falling.”

It was now or never. I began to pull, but for some reason— maybe instinct, maybe intuition, but most likely God’s leading— thought better of it. Instead I gently pushed the head and it moved, ever so imperceptibly, up the birth canal. This was a good sign, for it meant that the head might be flexing and turning to a better position.

Then I tried gently rotating the forceps, and, to my amazement, the baby’s head quickly and easily turned. Then in an instant the head began to progress down the birth canal.

I quickly removed the forceps. Isabella was straining with all of her might. Elizabeth was massaging her back and shoulders and coaching Isabella’s pushing. Donnie just stared at us all.

Sweat was dripping off my forehead and the tip of my nose, but I couldn’t stop to wipe it off. I was using my hands to maintain the baby’s head in flexion. As I pushed to do this and as Isabella pushed, the head began to show and then in an instant the baby was out of the birth canal.

“A little boy!” I shouted. I could hear, in unison, in the common room, “A little boy!” followed by shouts of “Hallelujah!” and “Praise Jesus!”

I was quickly clamping and cutting the umbilical cord.

“Elizabeth, can you take over?” I asked as I bolted from the bedroom to the paramedics with a floppy, blue, unresponsive baby. I didn’t wait for the answer.

Don and Billy had set up a baby warmer on the kitchen table. They had brought in a couple of battery-powered lanterns and had the resuscitation equipment ready to go. They had also instructed the family that they must stay away from the table as we worked.

“Heart rate’s less than thirty, Doc. No spontaneous respirations!” shouted Don as I vigorously dried and stimulated the baby.

I suctioned out the mouth and pharynx. Still no response.

“Start CPR?” exclaimed Don.

“Wait a second,” I burst out, as I grabbed the baby’s legs around the ankles and then with my other hand slapped the blue bottoms of the feet. The baby instinctively pulled up his legs and let loose with the sweetest shriek I had ever heard.

“Pulse is 120,” cried Billy, whose fingers were feeling the pulse at the base of the umbilical cord.

I quickly examined the baby. He was now beautiful and pinking up just fine. He was perfect!

Elizabeth appeared at my side. “Isabella’s OK, Doc. Placenta delivered without a problem. I’ve given her an injection of Pitocin, and there is no bleeding. How are you?”

“We’re OK, we’re OK!” I exclaimed as my eyes filled with tears. “Isn’t he beautiful, Mrs. Stillwell?”

“He is, he is!”

Elizabeth took over, doing what she did naturally, what she had done hundreds of times before. She swaddled the baby and held him to her chest, singing a lullaby.

We all simply watched. It was all I could do to choke back sobs of relief.

As I watched and dabbed the tears from my eyes, I prayed, Lord, thank you for your grace and for your guidance. Thank you for this beautiful baby. Thank you for protecting me and him!

“I think Isabella and Donnie would like to see their baby. OK?” Elizabeth looked at me.

“You bet,” I nodded.

She turned to the bedroom and then stopped. She slowly turned back to me.

“Doc. Why don’t you?” She held out the baby to me.

Her thoughtfulness and graciousness overwhelmed me. “May I?” I asked with tearful eyes.

“Yes, of course.” Elizabeth smiled. So did I. As she handed the baby to me, she softly said, “Feels to me like about a nine and a half pounder, Doc.”

Isabella was sitting up in bed, looking no worse for the wear. Donnie was sitting on the bed beside her, stroking her hair. When the midwife and I entered, they both turned toward the door. Isabella held her hands out. I placed the baby in her arms and then stepped back to watch this new family bond. After a few moments Donnie stood up and walked around the bed toward us.

“Mrs. Stillwell, thanks for everything.”

“Donnie, I’m so glad everything came out OK.”

He then turned to me and dropped his head. “Doc, I want to apologize for my words when you came here. May have been a bit harsh. But the family hasn’t had very good dealings with doctors—’cept for Dr. Pat. She’s about as good as they come.” He paused, seemingly struggling for words. “But I appreciate you helping Mrs. Stillwell out here.”

He paused for a second. Then he raised his head to look into my eyes. “Thanks for saving my baby’s life.”

My eyes filled with tears that tumbled down my cheeks. He stepped toward me and gave me a big bear hug. I hugged him back. When he stepped away, I was speechless. We both smiled.

I left Donnie and Isabella to enjoy their new baby. The common room was abuzz with conversation and somehow seemed brighter. Maybe another lantern or two was lit. Maybe it was the new life that had just entered the world.

The pastor approached. “I’ve never had a doc ask for prayer. Appreciate it. Appreciate being a part of your work. Mind if we say a prayer now?”

“Nope,” I replied, “that would be mighty fine.”

We all held hands in a big circle. Don on my left, Billy on my right. We were all joined in a circle—the paramedics, a mountain family and pastor, a wise old granny midwife, and a young physician—growing in experience and in spirit.

The pastor thanked the Lord for the new life, for the safe delivery.

Silently I was thanking the Lord for this unexpected privilege of standing in this circle of life, the stinging words of “you’re not wanted here” melting into a chorus of praise.



  1. The Murder (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. The Arrival (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. The Grand Tour (Part 1)(Part 2)
  5. The Interview (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  6. Settling In (Part 1)(Part 2)
  7. First-Day Jitters (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Emergency (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. The Delivery (Part 1)(Part 2)
  10. The “Expert” (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. The Trial (Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Shiitake Sam (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  15. White Lies
  16. The Epiphany (Part 1)(Part 2)
  17. Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1)(Part 2)
  18. Monuments (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. My First Home Victory (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Fisher of Men (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
  22. Something Fishy (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. A Good Day at the Office
  24. An Evening to Remember
  25. Another New Doc Comes to Town
  26. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1)(Part 2)
  27. A Surprising Gift
  28. The New Year (Part 1)(Part 2)
  29. The Home Birth (Part1)(Part 2); (Part 3)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2020. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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