It started gently enough. The day was done and the sun had gone down, so I wandered outdoors into the warm July air to take a little walk. Andy was working late, my mother-in-law was holding down the fort, and I wanted to see what I could do to get things started.
I was nearly 38 weeks and induction was imminent. The night before I had labored all night, but come morning the contractions disappeared and it was business as usual, save for the fact that I could tell the babies were lower and I was getting close.
I had a feeling that all my body needed was a little nudge.
Mine was what they call a mono-di twin pregnancy (two sacs, one placenta), which can be a bit of a risk. We felt very blessed to have a doctor who was willing to play things out as long as we had- some doctors induce early with mon-di twins, just as a matter of course. We had made it past the full-term mark (37 weeks) and things looked good.
The placenta was aging fast, though, and we needed to get the babies out before they encountered growth restriction or other complications.
I had been induced once before…
And that one time was enough to convince me that I wanted to avoid Pitocin if at all possible. So out I went on that balmy July night, and I trudged up and down our cul-de-sac a few times, stopping only now and again when I needed to catch my breath.
Andy pulled into the driveway and shook his head at me. I had done this before- never successfully. My body holds onto babies until it’s forced to give them up.
I flipped on the bedroom light and snapped a fuzzy, grainy, quick iPod photo of my gargantuan self.
(If, upon seeing that photo, you instinctively groan and grab your lower back… God bless you. I mean, seriously.
That belly was just getting ridiculous.
It would turn out that I had 13+ pounds of baby in there, but I didn’t know that yet!)
Then, to bed. But I couldn’t sleep.
So I laid there and read and thought and read and thought until about midnight when I finally drifted off.
At about 12:45 am I woke up. HEAVE HO. It was an effort to launch my very large self out of bed, as always. I made my way to the bathroom and pop! “That’s it!” I looked at Andy, “My water just broke! It’s time!”
He was skeptical. He is always skeptical when I say I’m in labor, and with good reason. (I have a tendency to think I’m in labor for the entire third trimester.)
I assured him I did NOT just pee my pants- that my water had indeed broken, and that it was go time.
I called the hospital. Could I go back to bed until contractions started? No. I was pregnant for the 5th time, with twins, and I was already dilated to a 2 at my last doctor’s appointment.
I also knew that they would want to make sure it was the first baby’s water that had broken, not the second baby’s. I could take my time, but I needed to get to the hospital.
Let’s do this!
At first I was elated (I had been hoping my water would break before labor, just to have the experience of it. That’s never happened to me before, and apparently I thought I was missing out on something, lol.), but that was quickly overshadowed by anxiety.
That means NOW. Tonight. I have to do the whole labor and pushing and hurting TONIGHT. And what about Posy?! Poor little Posy! She’s going to wake up and Mama won’t be here! She’s going to wake up and her whole world will be changed!
Andy woke his mother, who was staying at our house that week in hopes that I would go into labor; then he loaded our things into the car. I stood over Posy’s crib and cried a little.
She was only 17 months, after all, and I had never left her for more than three hours. My mother-in-law assured me she would be fine.
She told me I would be strong and that I could do this. I tried to believe her.
My contractions began just moments before we left the house. They were steady, serious- different than the kind I’d had for the previous 6 months.
I breathed through them all as we drove through the dark streets. By the time we made it up to labor & delivery around 2am, I was contracting about every 4 minutes and needed to stop and focus through each and every one. I could laugh in between but when those contractions hit I was all business.
The nurse checked me- I was dilated to a four. “Awesome!” I said, “So I can get an epidural, like now?” The nurse laughed and said yes.
Really, I wasn’t in that much pain yet, but I’m not new to childbirth. I had done this before. I’ve had both natural and medicated births and I knew I didn’t need to be anyone’s hero. I wanted a good strong epidural well before transition, thankyouverymuch.
The nurses asked me fifteen-hundred random (and sometimes ridiculous) questions to fully admit me, took two tries to get my IV in place (it’s never just in on the first try, is it?) and I just kept breathing through contractions until the nurse anesthetist arrived.
There were some doozies now- the kind of contractions that require constant focus, because if you lose it for one millisecond the whole world crashes painfully through you and you’re consumed by it, so you’d better just breathe and stare at that hole in the ceiling and ANDY PRESS ON MY LOWER BACK, NO- HARDER, DON’T LET GO, OH MY GOSH, DON’T TAKE A BREAK, JUST PRESS HARDER!
(Andy is a rock star birth partner, by the way. You’d never know how nervous he gets during birth because he is calm and steady and there for whatever I need. He’s just…. wow.)
I was nervous for the epidural, but this time it went in painlessly and in record time.
It was 4am and it instantly took effect- I didn’t feel a single contraction after that needle hit my spine. In fact, I was worried that the contractions had stopped altogether so I asked Andy to watch the monitor.
Nope, they were getting much much bigger but I couldn’t feel a thing. I felt my head clear and my body relax.
My labors always (always always always) speed right up once I get an epidural, and this time was no exception, so I laid back and knew I ought to rest because I’d have babies in my arms soon after daybreak.
By 6am I was complete. I knew this because I could feel the pressure to push and it was coming from way down within me, breaking through the numbing power of my epidural.
My doctor walked in the door, and that in itself was a grace. He doesn’t come for after-hours deliveries anymore unless he’s on call, but he got special permission from his wife to come to just one, and that was mine. He said he would be there no matter what, and he was.
Things get real
I was wheeled into the Operating Room, which is standard procedure for the vaginal delivery of twins. We needed to be right next to an operating table in case an emergency required a surgical delivery.
I had read enough twin birth stories to know this would likely be the case, and I thought it would be no big deal.
That is, I thought so until we got there.
The Operating Room lights were bright. There were a million people there (two doctors, an anesthetist, several nurses- some for the babies, some for me). The Beach Boys were playing in the background.
I realized, suddenly, that this was not going to be the soothing, spiritual, and sentimental birth experience that delivering Posy was, and I began to get a little nervous.
My nerves weren’t helped by my nurse, who kept saying things like, “Put this over there in case we need to open her up,” and “Andy, you don’t need to wear the face mask unless we open her up,” She really needs to come up with a different way of discussing a possible C-Section.
She must have mentioned “opening me up” about five times; I started to panic slightly but choked it down.
I didn’t have time to panic. I needed to focus. I was trying to will my body not to push even though I knew that it was already pushing without my help.
I reminded the doctor that I wanted more juice in my epidural and received a pudendal block. I’ve pushed babies out before, and I knew I wanted a little something to make that part less agonizing.
We didn’t wait for it to kick in.
“Next contraction and you’re going to push,” the doctor announced.
And so I did. Two times and I just knew I was going to be torn to pieces. The doctor told me to hang on, but I am notoriously impatient at this point in labor. I tried to hang on, but this time I groaned that the block was not working yet.
I screamed something about feeling like I was splitting in half.
Episiotomy. Then baby.
(Sidenote: I know that many women have an aversion to episiotomies, but I much prefer to get one rather than risk a tear. I’ve torn before, and it’s no picnic, ladies. I seem to need an episiotomy with all of my births. Probably has something to do with my pushing impatience, but I digress.)
He was 6 lbs, 6oz of sweetness, and like always, I panicked a little when he didn’t come out wailing.
It only took a moment, though, for his lungs to fill with the world and to bellow his frustration at being torn from his cozy home.
I held him on my chest for a few moments, but I knew the hard part was yet to come.
My doctor and I had discussed this portion of delivery before, and I knew that this was where things were going to get difficult. Baby 2 was in a transverse position, and the doctor said in most cases, he should turn the baby during the first 3-5 minutes after the first baby is delivered. He would need to do it before I began contracting again.
Things immediately got difficult, though, because my body didn’t wait.
There was no five minute delay, as he was hoping- I started contracting again immediately. This made turning the baby much, much harder.
It is quite common for the first twin to be born vaginally, and the second to be born C-Section. I had been hoping and praying that would not be my experience, but all of the sudden it began to seem more likely.
A nurse took Huck gently from my arms, and I didn’t complain- I knew I needed to focus and focus well.
There were two doctors pulling and pushing and manipulating my uterus from inside and out.
Baby’s hand was in the way. Now it wasn’t.
Baby’s heart was decelerating. Now it wasn’t.
Then it was again.
They inserted an internal monitor to watch his heart decelerations more closely.
If he got too distressed, they would have to… well… “open me up.” They did eventually get Dewy head-down, even though he was posterior (sunny side up) (read: my tailbone paid for that for DAYS after the delivery, OWWWWW).
Push and wait, push and wait.
Every time I pushed, Baby would come down, but then the contraction would end, I would stop pushing, and he’d pop right back up again. A uterus that carries twins is distended and stretched, and there was too much room to keep the baby moving down into the birth canal.
The doctor was careful and patient, but time was ticking and Dewy’s heart was showing that he wasn’t having a good time, so he resorted to a vacuum extractor to help the baby stay low after each push.
I was pushing and pushing and was absolutely sure I was going to be hoisted onto the operating table at any minute. “Whatever it takes,” I thought, “Please God let this baby be okay. Do whatever it takes to get him here whole and healthy.”
I was almost praying for a C-Section just to get him out and into my arms, and yet I kept pushing, pushing, pushing with all of my might.
I could see Baby 1 at the other end of the room, being held by nurses, oohed and aahed over. I wanted desperately to hold him in my arms but felt torn between the baby in the room and the baby in my belly.
I felt weak and tired and completely overwhelmed. I asked Andy if he wanted to go be with Huck, but he saw the panic in my eyes and nothing could have moved him from my side.
The Beach Boys, the bright lights, the million people, the feeling like my body was being run over by a truck- I couldn’t do it any more.
I wanted my babies and my body felt limp.
Forty-three (agonizing) minutes after Baby 1 was born, I screamed out a loud and convincing “I CAN’T DO IT!” and then that was it- I pushed Baby 2 into the world.
So apparently, I could.
I had never seen a vacuum extracted baby before, and my heart broke when I saw his poor sweet head, misshapen from the slog of being born.
He would later develop a significant bruise on the top of his head, a small hematoma, and jaundice- all a result of that blasted vacuum extractor. I would (and still do, honestly) suffer a fair bit of guilt over this.
I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that if I had just told them to give me a C-Section, he wouldn’t have had such a traumatic birth. He wouldn’t have the bruise, the hematoma, or the jaundice. He wouldn’t have been pushed and pulled every which way- he would have been gently lifted from me instead.
I know the risks and recovery of a C-Section are far harder than the risks and recovery from a vacuum extraction, but postpartum women don’t think rationally and clearly, so I felt guilty then and I still do now.
They let me hold him for just a few seconds, and then whisked him away.
Those heart decelerations made everyone nervous and he needed to be checked. He was great- his apgar even better than his brother’s. And he was 6 lbs, 15 oz!
People, that is huge for a twin!
Within a minute or two of his delivery, I delivered the placenta.
It turned out to be two placentas merged into one. It came so quickly after baby, it was likely starting to pull away from the side of my uterus already, so it was a good thing I went into labor.
God’s timing is always perfect.
The doctor started my episiotomy repair and I could feel every stitch. I asked for one of my babies- at least one? And someone brought me Huck. Dewy was still being checked and monitored.
And then it was over. Well, really it was just the beginning- I had two babies in arms.
Andy and the nurse pushed my bed back to my room while I cradled my brand new loves. I stared and stared at them.
Neither one to be whisked away to the NICU or taken from my arms. I nursed them one-by-one and whispered sweet nothings into their tiny ears.
Two healthy boys. All mine. Thanks be to God.
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