****Disclaimer***** Graphic birth, surgery and placenta photographs to follow******
I knew that we would have twins. The second they showed us those two little embryos, I knew that I would meet my son and daughter.
I was riddled with fear throughout the pregnancy. I used my doppler fairly often and became a pro at finding their heartbeats early on. I loved hearing the galloping of their hearts, so strong. Always strong.
We had the almost perfect pregnancy. I got incredible migraines while I was pregnant, which were sometimes debilitating. Other times I managed with medication and the rest of the time I either was having a great day or just suffering through it. By the end I hadn’t had a good headache day in over two months. On the bright side, every other little thing was just perfect. I gained the appropriate amount of weight, I ate healthier than I had in my entire life and I was very prepared.
As a doula I had experience with many different versions of birth classes and had used hypnofertiliy to help us through 3 IUI’s and the IVF that gave us our babies. I decided on hypnobabies because I could listen to them at night. I listened to “baby stay in” too many times to count! I loved their positive affirmations especially for twins.
I had witnessed many babies come into the world in my short 3 years as a doula. I knew my body could do it. I continually focused on the present and not the future. From the beginning I knew that I couldn’t tell myself that my birth needed to be any certain way. I knew I would be in a hospital and I knew I would have a good team, the rest just needed to unfold however it was supposed to.
I woke up on the last day of January after an incredibly peaceful sleep. The first thing I thought of was my dad. I laid there thinking that something was wrong and feeling very sad. It was cold but not too cold, our house keeper had just arrived and was rushing around me. I went to the bathroom and once I stood up I knew my water had broken. My heart sank. I knew my body wasn’t ready. I hadn’t had a single contraction, I didn’t feel any pressure AT ALL, my body could have stayed pregnant for another month. That was when I made my first mistake. I texted everyone. My friends, my doulas, my doctor, my family. The whole world knew they were coming and suddenly the responses came piling back to me in record time. I suddenly felt so much pressure that I began crying. WHY did I tell everyone?! My doctor called and said we could come in within 10 hours since I was GBS positive.
So in those 10 hours I turned my phone off and began trying to get my body to start working. All the tricks, the whole bag. Nothing. Trust me, we tried it all. All the old wives tales and the ones proven to work too. So I decided to stop and just wait a second. I got in the shower and relaxed. I did my hair and makeup. I took an hour nap. At 7pm with a huge diaper on I went and got a pedicure. Then we loaded up and went to the hospital.
From the moment my water broke to the moment we walked into the hospital, I was happy. I was feeling good and totally at peace. The moment we entered the hospital I knew that things were not going to go well. We were greeted with all of our families. Mistake number 2. I wish I had told them that they could come when the babies were there. I had wanted my mom and Louie’s mom in the room, but because we were going to be in the OR regardless I couldn’t have them with me. I was also feeling very closed in. For the first time in my life I wanted to be alone.
Once we were triaged in by the nurse I was all plugged in. I had 6 cords attached to me. My belly and arms were wrapped and tangled and so I sat there. I tried to visit with everyone but eventually I just wanted to be alone. They all sat in the waiting room and Louie slept next to me. My doctor called and I knew it was because it was time for pitocin. I consented. What else could I do? So it began.
I cried for hours there by myself in the dark. I knew what was going to happen, it was inevitable. I had been down this path in my mind months before. I wanted to acknowledge what could potentially happen, work through it and let it go. I did that, but sadly it was time to face this fate as a reality. I prayed that maybe I just needed a little pit, that my body would kick into gear. If it didn’t though, I wouldn’t labor for days. I just wouldn’t. I would rather have a cesarean. After I made peace, the contractions began. I finally called my doula and for a few hours we worked together, the three of us. It felt like I was making progress. I could swear my body was working.
12 hours from the moment I checked in and 22 hours since my water had been broken. I finally saw my doctor. He checked me. No change. My blood pressure was in the seizure zone. I heard the words magnesium and epidural and I was done. Cue my motherly intuition, read to the very end to find out why this moment was so important…
It wasn’t a conversation. Nothing that anyone said after he told me I had made no progress mattered. I knew what I wanted. I asked for a cesarean and so we progressed with the new plan.
Everything beyond that moment is a blur. None of those details are ones that anyone needs or wants to hear. I was sad and afraid and frustrated. It was foggy and painful and I felt more out of control than I had ever felt in my entire life. I was angry and really disappointed in my body. I felt like I was freaking out, saying weird things, crying and shaking. Begging them to put me out, please for the love of God, PUT ME OUT! “We want you to meet your babies”… I didn’t want to meet them like this.
And then I heard him. His perfect most distinct cry, a noise I’ll never forget. Louie tried to show me him, but I couldn’t see him. All my senses were taken from me, all I could feel was the elephant on my chest, I could only listen when my mind wasn’t screaming. Then, relief.
I “woke up” who knows how long after, I apparently held my babies and saw my family. I don’t remember any of it. A testament to the importance of birth photography. This is me, meeting my babies.
A day later I really woke up. I felt broken and beyond sad, a place I had never been before. I held my babies and tried to nurse them, it was not working. Lactation consultant after lactation consultant and we tried everything. Supplemental nursing systems and tubes and syringes. More wires and cords and tubes and everything unnatural, all the things I dreaded. We couldn’t just have it easy, could we? So I started pumping. I wanted to get out of there more than anything, so I pumped. I pumped and pumped and got record amounts of colostrum and fed it to them. Threats of the NICU be damned, we were leaving within the recommended 3 days. My head throbbed, no one listened. My insides felt like they were going to come out. No pain meds could touch it. So I sad, FUCK IT, lets just get HOME. So we did. I praised God that my boobs were performing under pressure. We left that Monday, all of us together.
That next week was what I believe Hell is like. I cried more tears than I had in my entire life combined. Everything hurt, they wouldn’t nurse. We had many LC’s visit our home, and every time we thought we had made progress we were back to square one in moments. So I pumped.
Finally I had enough. I asked my mom to take me to the hospital. I was readmitted for a day for postpartum preeclampsia. I finally got relief from my headache, and I pumped. I sent all the milk home, they never had any formula… and I pumped.
I got home that day, knowing that I was DONE with the tubes and syringes and nipple shields. I couldn’t take any more. I sat in the shower and refused to give them a bottle I made my mom and Louie feed them. I sat there and cried. I spent 30 minutes mourning the loss of my breastfeeding relationship that I had always wanted, dreamed of and pushed for. And then, I was over it.
The next feeding I held my son in my arms and fed him a bottle. It was the first feeding we had ever had that neither of us cried. I looked into his little grey eyes and felt so grateful that I could provide for him, even if it wasn’t in the way I thought I would. From that moment on I was an exclusive pumper.
Somedays I go over my birth ten times, wondering if I could have done something differently. The mistakes I made. How different it could have been. I imagine laboring freely and pushing them out, grabbing them myself and holding them in my arms the first time, fully aware, present in the moment. It’s impossible to say what would have happened if I had done anything differently. I made my choices, educated and empowered. I made my own decisions for my own reasons, they were right for me in the moment.
My entire pregnancy I listened to reason and avoided my intuition. I felt too vulnerable, like all my decisions were based on emotions that I had no control over. My dad had passed away one month to the day that these two were conceived and I was raw. My whole pregnancy was spent in this weird protective bubble. The outside world was nothing to me. Every person I thought I knew or I thought I cared about didn’t matter anymore. I was in self-preservation mode. When my internal voice would come to me and tell me to do something, or walk one way, choose this path or let something go, I would instead reason my way through things. I had run through the possibilities of birth in my head a thousand times before it actually happened. The one situation that I could never come to a solid conclusion on was “what happens if my water breaks and my labor doesn’t start” would I consent to pitocin and end up with an epidural and a 3 day birth? Would I call it day and say, no thank you! Give me a cesarean. I couldn’t ever really decide. What was more important to me? What did I want my birth to feel like, to look like, to be? I moved on, hoping that wasn’t my fate.
Like I said before, the moment he said “no change” I knew it was time. My body was telling me something. I could have kept going, I could have pressed on. I could have tried harder.
Louie’s water broke first. He was head down, he was my baby A. When they were finally born it became crystal clear to me why my babies needed to be born the way they were. Louie was two whole pounds smaller than Melody, a very large weight discrepancy for fraternal twins and most importantly, her umbilical cord had a velamentous insertion. Theres a chance that had we continued on and prolonged their labor, we could have lost our little girl. Of course my doctor and the neonatologist said that babies are born healthy with this condition undiagnosed all the time… but sometimes they aren’t.
So, there you have it. My birth story. I still don’t know how I feel about things. I’m sure some therapy wouldn’t hurt at this point. But, as I sit here and pump while my two little babes sleep next to me, I have to say that I am grateful for all of it. The whirlwind tornado disaster that ensued to bring these two to me brought with it a new appreciation for life and for birth.