Where did I leave off? Oh right, it was Tuesday, May 22nd and I was all kinds of miserable waiting for my scheduled c-section at 5:30am on Friday, May 25th. I had been to see my OB the day before and, in sharp contrast to my unwavering “every second inside matters” mantra up to that point, I was ready to get the boys out ASAP by whatever means necessary. My OB’s hands were tied by hospital policy so I was left counting down each second of the four days until she could put me out of my misery.
Thursday, May 24th was my mom’s birthday and my brother came into town early that morning. He’d booked his flights far in advance with the idea the boys would be a couple of weeks old when he came. It never crossed my mind they wouldn’t even be born by the time he arrived. In order for me to get as much rest as possible prior to surgery, my mom planned to take E to their condo for a sleepover on Wednesday night, and then she, my dad, and my brother would spend all day with him Thursday before bringing him back to our house in the evening for a take-out birthday dinner.
I “woke up” that morning (not that I was sleeping much at that point) and discovered that I was starting to lose my mucus plug. I didn’t think much of it since it took days from that point to delivery with E, except to feel grateful that my body was starting the ball rolling, so my planned eviction the following morning wasn’t completely out of sync with the natural course of events. I was having contractions, but they were no stronger or more regular than those I’d been having for the past couple of months. My BFF In Loco Parentis came for a visit mid-day. She brought me lunch and marveled at my amazing feat of water retention. Other than that, I pretty much just lounged around and tried to rest as much as I could.
At 5:41pm, my mom sent a text asking if I still felt up to dinner or if they should just keep E and go out without us. I texted back the following: “Have been feeling pretty good all day. Lousy last hour or so, but it may pass. I think dinner would be good. I’d like to see everyone. If still feeling bad when you get here, we can always revise plan.” It turns out that “lousy” feeling was actually early labor. (Side note: How glad am I we texted this convo instead of talking over the phone? I would never have remembered the timing and specifics of all of this, but now I have this great little time capsule to remind me.)
M got home from work at 6pm and I got up to open the door so our dog could run out and greet her. As I crossed the four feet from the couch to the door, I felt a small pop followed by a trickle of warm liquid. Denial is a funny thing. I knew immediately what it was, but almost instantly convinced myself I’d imagined it because I’d resigned myself to The Plan at that point and we were soooo close! M came in and flopped down in a chair, exhausted from a long week of tying up loose ends at work. I told her I thought my water might have broken and she gave me a look that said “you have GOT to be kidding me.” I don’t think either one of us could wrap our heads around the fact we weren’t going to get another night of sleep before we met our babies. We talked for a few minutes about how, even if my water had broken, I still might be able to make it to the c-section. It was only 12 hours away at that point. At 6:18pm I got my first contraction that was unlike any of its predecessors and I started to realize the “wait it out” plan might not work after all.
The timing of this next part is a little fuzzy for me, but at some point (6:30ish?), I called my mom who was on her way over to our house. I told her my water had broken and M and I were still coming up with our plan, but dinner was probably out. I asked her to head on to dinner without us and we’d keep her posted. A few minutes later, as it became painfully clear (literally) that we needed to head for the hospital, M and I realized we hadn’t seen E in 24 hours and weren’t going to get to for awhile longer, so we called my mom back and asked her to bring him to our house for a quick kiss before we left. It took her another 15 minutes or so to get there and we almost didn’t wait because the contractions were ramping up so quickly. According to my contraction timer (for the brief time I was collected enough to time contractions), the intervals were 11-11-9-9-6-5-5. Each contraction was lasting 1.5 to 2.5 minutes and I was already struggling to walk or talk through them. E arrived as we were making our way to the car so we got a chance to give him a squeeze and tell him we were off to get his brothers at the hospital – an event we’d been talking to him about for weeks. We got in the car a little after 7pm, I think, and it took us about 20 minutes to get to the hospital. By the time we arrived, it was taking everything I had to make it through each contraction. I wouldn’t let M drop me off so we parked in the ER lot and she gave me a white-knuckle wheelchair ride alllll the way across our large urban hospital to the pregnancy assessment unit.
Once there, they got me into a room quickly. They hooked up the monitors and did an internal exam – 4 cm. I’ve had my fair share of internals and this one was The Worst Ever. I’m not entirely sure what the problem was, but I was super-sensitive and they couldn’t find my cervix for anything. They did an ultrasound at one point and the babies’ heads were both so low and so close together, she couldn’t be certain it even was both babies and not just one of them. She finally gave up trying when I informed her I was a mandatory section so the babies position didn’t matter all that much. I can only imagine that having two heads jammed down there rearranged my internal organs somehow, but… yeowch. The internal was far worse than any contraction I’d had up to that point. It was clear things were progressing quickly, so it got pretty chaotic for a while as people scrambled to check off all the boxes on their respective checklists. I learned that my beloved OB - the one I made the difficult decision to keep even though it meant not delivering at the hospital I wanted - was not on call and the other OB in her practice would be doing the surgery. I was really disappointed and I thought about asking them to call my OB anyway, but that thought lasted a whole second and a half before another contraction hit and I realized that even if she would come in for me, there was a good chance I couldn’t hold on long enough for her to arrive. The nurse must have relayed the urgency of the situation to the OB because she came back with the message that the OB would be in the OR in 30 minutes and she wanted me there waiting for her. Cue more frenzy as we got ready to roll.
They peeled M off at the OR door to change into scrubs and then pushed me through the double doors. I felt like I’d rolled onto a set of a TV hospital drama. People were running everywhere, turning on machines and shouting at each other. Different people popped their faces into mine and asked me for information before darting off to finish their assigned tasks. Every few minutes, they’d stop and do a “check” where the head nurse would read off all my information and everyone in the room had to agree they were in the right place. A nurse took my nose ring and other jewelry and put it in a plastic bag (never to be seen again). The fleet of pediatric residents nominated a leader to come over and introduce himself, explain their strategy once the babies came out, and see if I had any questions. The anesthesiologist took a quick medical history. Various other people asked me to turn this way or that, describe something I was feeling, or recite my name and D.O.B. for the umpteenth time. Most of these questions were asked on top of one another (as well as my contractions) so it was quite the feat to hear and respond to each as it was asked. There must have been a dozen people in the room, maybe more? The OB was there and was trying to hurry things along, but the anesthesiologist decided it was take your intern to work day, and it took forever for her nervous trainee to get my epidural placed. They kept asking me if it felt centered and telling me it was really important that I answer accurately, and I kept thinking “How the hell am I supposed to know?! You think I can feel whether the needle in my back is off-center by a millimeter in the midst of all of this? You’re the ones looking at it!” I just remember sitting on the edge of the table, hugging a pillow, having contraction on top of contraction on top of contraction, thinking they’d never get it in. With each contraction, the OB would yell “K, whatever you do, DO NOT PUSH. Don’t push, K. Don’t push!” At one point I heard a nurse ask wasn’t I just 4cm? The OB replied “No, she went from zero to four in no time at all. She’s way past that now. Just look at her.” I actually don’t think I was fully dilated as I wasn’t feeling an urge to push just yet, but looking back on what she said and how I was feeling at that point, I’m pretty sure I was in transition.
They FINALLY got the epidural in and properly dosed, then M arrived to sit by my head and the surgery started. It can’t have been more than a minute or two before we heard the OB say “I need a catch team for Baby A,” and then we heard the high-pitched squeal we’d come to know as C’s signature cry. A team of doctors and nurses took him to the first warmer and one minute later, we heard G’s deeper, throatier cry as he was brought out into the world. I could hear them in the warmers, their two very distinct cries echoing through the OR, and it hit me: We have TWO babies. They were born at 9:01 and 9:02pm, just three hours after my first hint of labor.
M went to the babies right away and snapped a couple of pictures which she brought back to show me as the OB finished delivering the placentas and began stitching me up. They announced the babies APGARs (8 then 9 for both babies) and most of the doctors and nurses left the room. M said that once they realized how big and healthy the babies were, the mood in the peds’ corner completely shifted. They started laughing, taking bets on how much the babies would weigh, and commenting happily about the babies’ features and actions. The drugs were making me queasy and a little loopy, but I could hear the light tones in their voices and it was such a relief to know all was well. The babies weighed in at 6lbs, 10oz (C) and 6lbs, 11oz (G) – a far cry from the full pound difference they predicted on ultrasound that caused my OB to veto my plans for a VBAC.
Once in recovery, M brought each baby over to me to see and hold. We were both in total shock that they were here. They weren’t supposed to come until the next morning! The nurse came in to check on us and laughed about how crazy everything had been. She said she was working on another part of the floor when someone told her to get to the OR immediately, and she’d run there not knowing who we were or what she was walking into. It still amazes me how quickly they were able to mobilize the delivery team. We weren’t even at the hospital and hour and a half before the boys were on the outside. We called our stunned parents and texted friends. If I were to sum the whole experience up in a single word, it would be SURREAL.
This birth experience has been tremendously healing for me. As most of you know, E’s birth was fairly traumatic and I struggled for a long time to come to terms with it. I longed for the chance to have a VBAC with my second pregnancy in hopes that it would restore some of what my first experience took from me. I didn’t get my VBAC, but in my heart of hearts, I truly believe I could have done it if my OB had let me try. I know that’s easy to say since I didn’t have to prove it, and maybe I’m wrong, but based upon what I DID get to see during my short labor, I know that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to do. My labor was progressing. My cervix was dilating. The boys were exactly where they needed to be. And all of these things were happening quickly and efficiently. That is 180 degrees from how things went with E. And that alone has soothed my scars enormously. I feel really proud of how my body handled pregnancy, and I’m proud of how it was handling birth, until the doctors took the reins. I thought I might be angry that I wasn’t allowed to try for a VBAC, especially after the ultrasound intel turned out to be total crap, but I’m not. I feel grateful to have gone into labor on my own and had the chance to feel it take over my body in such a natural, primal way, even if only for a short time.
Other than my OB not being the one to deliver the boys, it’s hard to imagine a better scenario from a timing standpoint. I wanted them to stay in as long as possible and to come out on their own schedule. When my OB set the 38 week deadline, my hope became that the boys would come on their own before that, but as close to it as possible in order to maximize their time on the inside. Well, they did pretty darn good on that front!! Less than 12 hours pre-surgery? Well played, boys. I initially hoped they’d avoid the swarm of family birthdays in May so that they could have their own special day, seeing as they’d already have to share their birthdays with one other person. In the early evening of the 24th without a labor sign in sight, I thought we’d managed to do just that. But, they ended up zooming into the world on the tail end of my mom’s birthday, and in the weeks since then, I’ve decided that’s actually kind of special.
Before learning I was pregnant with twins, there were three hopes I had for my second pregnancy: A VBAC, a baby that could stay in our room and be discharged from the hospital with us, and a more functional breastfeeding relationship. When I learned we were expecting twins, I knew all three of those things would be more difficult if not impossible to achieve. I’m going to go ahead and say we got 2.5 of those things, and 2.5 out of 3 ain’t bad.