Birth & Parenting Series (3): A First-Time Mother of Twins Shares Her Birth Story
As a first-time mother, Anna G. shares about going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery with twins! She provides insight into preparing for the birth of twins, and sheds light on some of the myths and concerns about both caloric intake and birth. Her birth story is powerful, but most powerful is how she handled her particularly difficult immediate recovery. This is one tough mama whose story is both inspirational and moving.
1. Tell me a little bit about your beautiful children.
I have two children, ages 3 and a half months. Yes, that means twins–a girl (Leah) and a boy (Lucas). Leah is older by 2 minutes.
2. When you first started to think about labor & delivery for your babies, how did you envision it going?
Before I really knew anything, I envisioned it like this: A few days before my due date, I would be home late in the evening with my husband and suddenly it would happen–the first contraction. I would know with absolute certainty that the baby was coming. I would look at my husband and tell him, “Honey, it’s time.” Why that phrase? I have no idea–it is just what I think you say when you are in labor. My husband would then frantically call the doctor while simultaneously trying to change out of his pajamas (author’s note: my husband does not wear pajamas), grabbing the pre-packed hospital bag, feeding the cat, locating the keys, and generally running amuck. I would be calmly standing at the door, ruefully smiling at his state of panic. Then we would drive to the hospital where we would find our parents and our doctor waiting our arrival with big smiles on their faces. After giving our parents hugs, we would enter the birthing room and begin to deliver our baby. In the birthing room, I imagined lying on a bed with my husband sitting next to me and my doctor at the foot of the bed. No machines were in sight. Sure, there would be some crying, some screaming, some hand holding–I never believed labor would be easy. My husband would wipe my face and tell me that he loved me and was proud of me. And in no time, our precious little baby would be born, the doctor would announce “It’s a [boy/girl]”, and the baby would be placed straight into my arms, at which time I would instantly fall in love with him or her.
Of course, that is the fantasy of a young girl who apparently watches too many movies.
3. Did the fact you knew you were having twins change your perspective on labor & delivery?
At first, no. I saw no reason why I couldn’t birth two babies just the same as one–it was done in the moves all the time (and most of the time the second was a surprise, so wasn’t I just better prepared?).
Then I started reading books about twin pregnancy, which was probably the worst thing I ever did while pregnant. I entered a state of mortal panic–according to the books, if I didn’t eat 500 grams of protein every day and stop working at 12 weeks I would be dooming my babies to being born 40 weeks premature and spending the first 18 years of their lives in the neo-natal intensive care unit (numbers may be exaggerated here just a bit for dramatic effect). But seriously, the amount of protein and other foods that the mothers of multiple books recommends is next to impossible to consume in one day. And, worst of all, the books also informed me that there was a very high chance that the babies would not be born vaginally.
Of course, I talked to my doctor about all of this. She told me to eat more protein, but to be sensible about it. But she did confirm that many, many twins are born by caesarian so I should begin to prepare myself mentally for that possibility. Yes, if the stars all aligned (or really, if the both babies aligned head first), it was certainly possible to have them vaginally. But if the presenting baby (i.e., the baby on the bottom, called “Baby A”) was breach, I couldn’t even try to deliver vaginally because there is no womb space to be able to try to manipulate twins during delivery. After week 32 of pregnancy, there is generally not room for either baby to flip in the womb anymore. If my 32-week ultrasound showed Baby A was head down but Baby B was breach, we would talk about the options for delivery at that point, but we never got there.
At my 32-week ultrasound, my darling daughter (a/k/a Baby A) was still breach, as she was in every ultrasound from week 5 to week 35 (I had to have weekly ultrasounds through week 20, then pretty much bi-weekly after that). I bravely accepted my fate of delivering by C-section, managing to hold back the tears.
I was then informed that it was safer for the twins if I did not actually go into labor, but rather the big event was scheduled ahead of time. I was adamantly opposed to a scheduled delivery–I wanted to experience the anticipation of not knowing, even if I did not get to experience the whole birthing process. But, my doctor informed me that she wouldn’t schedule it, unless there was a medical need, until week 38, by which time it was likely that I would already have gone into labor anyway. As it turned out, however, I started preterm contractions at week 33. By week 36, I was dilated and contracting to the point that there was, in fact, a medical need to schedule the C-section.
4. What were the biggest fears you had about labor?
I was petrified of having a caesarian. Plus, a caesarian, particularly a scheduled caesarian, just didn’t feel “natural.” No one close to me had ever had a C-section before, so I had no one to talk to. This fear grew only stronger as I read up on it and, horror of all horrors, watched a video depicting a caesarian birth. I fretted about how they could cut through the uterus without accidently cutting the babies or the umbilical cords. I cried when they told me that I wouldn’t be able to hold the babies until after my “hour-long” recovery time (more on that later). I made my doctor promise that I could at least see the twins before they were whisked out of the surgery room (my birthing class nurse wasn’t sure if I would be able to see them since there would be two babies and they need to take the babies out quickly because the room is cold). I was also very concerned about the spinal tap–I wanted to be able to remember the birth of my children, and not be looped out on drugs! And I was scared, very scared, that I would be left all alone in the recovery room for an “hour” while Daddy and the babies were off in the nursery without me. My doctor did give special permission for my Mom to wait in the recovery room with me so that I didn’t have to be all alone (although that is not exactly what ended up happening).
5. Did people tell you horror stories or share their experiences when you wished they wouldn’t?
Not really. Maybe the felt sorry for me because I was going to have to go through it twice, back-to-back. Maybe they really felt that they couldn’t relate much.
6. What ended up happening during labor? Can you describe it for us?
The C-section itself wasn’t so bad. My husband was with me the whole time, other than when they put in my spinal tap (not so sure why he was not allowed in for that, but it was hospital policy). I didn’t feel any pain during the C-section, just some weird tugging. I didn’t feel drugged up and out of it–I knew what was going on. Although I wasn’t able to see my daughter right when she was born because the you-don’t-want-to-see-all-of-your-internal-organs screen was still up and they had to get to delivering the other baby, I was able to see my son right after he was born. And I got to see both of them and even hold their hands in the delivery room, just a few minutes later. My doctor even let us take pictures (our birthing class instructor had informed us that it was against hospital policy to allow pictures in the surgical room, but my doctor scoffed at that).
The only terrible part was the “hour” of recovery. Why do I keep putting that in quotes you ask? Because that is what it was supposed to be–one hour during which they stowed me away in some secluded space to recover on my own. The babies were not allowed to come in with me, and my husband had to choose to stay with me or go to the babies but could not go back and forth (he, of course, chose the babies with my absolute blessing). As I mentioned, above, my Mom was supposed to be brought in to wait it out with me.
What actually happened was this: I kissed my babies and husband good-bye and was wheeled into a small, cubicle-like space. I was feeling good, no pain, so the nurse was quite lazy about getting me on the morphine drip she was supposed to or even giving the ibuprofen that she was supposed to. I kept asking her to go get my Mom, but she was being a bit lazy about that as well. About 15 minutes into the “hour,” she decided to check my bandages then she was going to hook me up with my drugs and then, finally, go get my mother. However, when she checked my bandages, I could see that something was wrong. She looked at me and said, “Honey, you are bleeding way more than you should be. I am sorry, but this is going to hurt a bit.” Then she proceeded to mash on my stomach and fresh incision. I use the term “mash” because it is the only way I can think to describe it. In between mashings, the nurse called in the resident. I have no concept of how much time elapsed until the resident came because I was in too much pain. Probably seeing the tears streaming down my face, the resident asked the nurse where my morphine drip was. The nurse had to confess that she hadn’t had yet had time to give me even my ibuprofen, much less a morphine drip. Horrified, the resident proceeded to check my bleeding. Luckily, it had slowed down and the resident told the nurse to stop mashing and immediately give me some drugs.
Sometime later, I finally had enough strength and presence of mind to ask where my Mom was. Turns out, the nurse never went to the waiting room to get her. When she came in, I learned that over two and a half hours had passed by then and she had been getting really worried about me. She did not know anything about the bleeding or why it was taking so long until I told her. And then we discovered that my husband was anxiously waiting in the nursery for me, and no one had told him what was going on! When he found out, he was very upset–more so than I was–and forced his way into the recovery room to see me. After about three and a half hours, I was released to the post-partum room and finally got to hold my newborn twins!
7. What surprised you about the process? What was less difficult and what was more difficult than you had imagined?
I didn’t get my dream delivery. Safety of the babies came first. But, as different as it was than I had imagined, it was still perfect (other than the horrible recovery room experience). Why? Because, after all is said and done, it doesn’t matter HOW they babies are born, all that matters is that they are!
8. How did your husband play a supportive role in your labor? Did you have a doula or other support person present?
My husband was with me and was very supportive. He held my hand, kissed me, told me that he loved me and was proud of me. Just like I imagined. Our parents and my sister were at the hospital waiting room, and it was nice to know we had a cheering section even if we couldn’t see them.
9. What, if anything, would you do or want differently with future children’s births?
I am still gunning for a vaginal birth, if possible. Other than that–I plan to just be open and let whatever needs to happen, happen.