I don’t think I’ve ever fully written out my twins’ birth story. I’ve written bits and pieces hundreds of times, but since I don’t know if I’ve completely processed the events surrounding their birth, it’s always been hard to put it all out there. So I’m forewarning you, this will probably be long, and it may even be a bit disjointed. I’ll try my best to pull it all together, for your sake.
December 7th, 2005, I was 21 weeks along with my first pregnancy. The day we were planning to find out if we were having a boy or a girl had finally arrived. We had bets placed for each gender from both sides of the family, as well as numerous friends, with the hubby and I not caring a wit, only hoping for a healthy baby. Needless to say, we left our ultrasound appointment in complete shock, having been told we were having one of each. A boy and a girl. One for each of us, as the doctor phrased it.
Fast forward a few weeks, to January 6th, 2006, and I am 25 weeks pregnant. Carl was out of town with the wrestling team he was coaching, and I was home alone. I had been slightly uncomfortable all day, having had quite a few Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the day. I figured they would pass, and seeing as how they weren’t painful at all, I continued with my normal activity. By evening, they were becoming more annoying, and slightly regular in occurrence, so I decided to call my doctor. (As a side note, midwives cannot deliver twins in Montana, so I had switched to a doctor that worked with my original midwives. She was a complete nutcase.) My doctor told me to time my contractions and call her back. As I timed them, I realized I was having a lot of contractions. Like, seven-minutes-apart-regular. When I called her back, my doctor told me I should just take a warm bath and relax, lying on my left side and giving the contractions a chance to calm down.
After this conversation, I finally decided to call my husband and let him know what was going on. He was on a bus with 40 or so high school wrestlers, and had no way of making it home any sooner than the bus driver could get him there. He thought the doctor was crazy, and since we lived only a few blocks from our hospital, he said he would take me to labor and delivery as soon as they made it back into town. He was home by about 11 pm, and we were at the hospital shortly after. We called my doctor to let her know we felt better having everything checked out, and she said she would notify labor and delivery that we were on our way.
After being admitted and hooked up to all the different monitors, we quickly discovered I was indeed having very regular, very real, contractions. I wasn’t feeling anything more than an uncomfortable tightening with each one, so I was very surprised to learn that these were more than Braxton Hicks. When my doctor finally arrived, looking annoyed to be called in for something silly like Braxton Hicks contractions and a first-time mom, she checked to see if I was dilating at all. And lo and behold, I was dilated to 5 cm and was about 50% effaced. That changed everything. The doctor who was huffing around acting like we were silly children who knew nothing suddenly turned into a crazed maniac who apparently had never had a patient go into pre-term labor. She literally started making phone calls in a panic, flapping her hands all around while trying to find a NICU who could take very tiny, very early, twin babies.
Once they decided we would be flying to Missoula, which was about 2 hours away, they gave me a shot of betamethasone, which is a steroid to help mature premature infants’ lungs. I was also given terbutaline and magnesium sulfate to try and stop the contractions and prevent labor. After several hours of waiting, we were life-flighted to Missoula so we could be monitored by a NICU that could handle micro-preemies, in the event that the doctors could not stop my labor.
The doctors did end up being able to stop my labor that night. I was miserable from the medications they were filling me with, and I felt like death. I was itchier than I believed possible, and was having a ridiculously difficult time breathing, as a result of the magnesium sulfate. I had to have respiratory treatments multiple times each day I was in the hospital, which did help a little, thank goodness. I was on full bed-rest, foley catheter and all. I wasn’t even allowed to shower, which for my 21-year-old self was a nightmare in itself. After nearly two weeks on hospital bed-rest, my new doctor decided to put in a picc line, since it was assumed I would be there for an extended amount of time. I was finally allowed a shower that day as well, which was the best feeling ever.
That afternoon, January 19, shortly after my shower, I started having contractions again. Not the Braxton Hicks I’d been having for the previous 2 weeks, but contractions that I was really feeling. I was working on crochet and cross-stitch projects, so I tried to focus on those to ignore the mounting pain. By late afternoon, I was unable to make it through a phone call without dropping the phone to breathe deeply with each contraction. I let my nurses know, and they began to monitor me more closely. I called my husband and told him, and he decided to take the next day off and headed straight to Missoula, just in case. I told him to pick up my favorite pizza on the way, because I was sure the contractions would stop this time, just as they had the time before.
At about 6 pm that evening, I was starting to think that maybe my labor wasn’t going to stop this time. I had been given more terbutaline, my dose of magnesium sulfate had been raised, and still the contractions persisted. My favorite nurse was on duty that day, and she was sticking around to see if I needed her. She decided to check me to see if the contractions were doing anything, and at 7:30 I was told I was nearly complete. Almost 10 cm and 100% effaced, and only 27 weeks gestation. I instantly burst into tears when she told me this, and for the first time, I realized I was having my babies way. too. early. It didn’t matter what my attitude was as I lay in that wretched hospital bed, or how still I kept my pelvis. For once, I was facing a situation that was completely out of my control. My body was ready to have my babies before I had purchased one single baby item. Literally, the only thing we owned for our babies were a couple of onesies my mom had purchased at Baby Gap while I was in the hospital. And they were size 0-3 months, which our babies wouldn’t wear until nearly 6 months of age, so basically we were completely unprepared.
Carl arrived (with my pesto/sun-dried-tomat0/pinenut/artichoke pizza) just as they were wheeling me into a delivery room. My doctor arrived and insisted I needed an epidural, because the birth needed to be quick, and if I wanted to avoid a caesarean I needed to cooperate. So I tried to lay as still as possible, while the anesthesiologist tried multiple times to insert a gargantuan needle into my back, while tears streamed down my face. Nothing was going as I had planned, and I don’t think it really hit me until that moment. The next hour or so flew by. After the epidural, I was left to wait for it to take effect. By the time my doctor was back and I was sufficiently numb, they set me up to have my babies. My doctor broke the first bag of waters, whereupon we discovered a prolapsed cord. They told me that normally I would have been sent for an immediate c-section, but since they baby was so tiny, I was allowed to try to push. I pushed twice before my perfect, tiny, beautiful baby A, Avery Grace, entered the world. She weighed just 1 lb 15 oz and was only 12 inches long. The neonatologists whisked her away to an incubator before I could even hold her, which is one of the absolute hardest memories of the entire pregnancy/labor/delivery of my sweet babies. I caught a quick glimpse of her before they were telling me to get ready for the next baby, and I heard her sweet cry, which was the most amazing sound I had ever heard. My doctor broke the second bag of waters, and again with just a few pushes, baby B was born. Caden Carl, or Cade, weighed 2 lb. 8 oz. and was 13 inches long. After he was born, the doctor gently placed him on my chest, and I stared in awe. I could not believe he was mine, that he had just been pushed from MY body. That feeling, as all the other mothers out there know, cannot be put into words. After just a few short moments, they whisked my Cade away as well, to an incubator where he was quickly intubated due to his low oxygen levels.
When I look back at that night, I can’t believe how naive my husband and I both were about the seriousness of our babies’ birth. We were ridiculously scared, mostly in complete shock, and worried to death about our tiny lovelies. But overshadowing all of that was an overwhelming sense of peace. We were so thankful for them, from the very start. I don’t think there were two prouder parents that cold night in January, despite the fact that our babies were fighting for their very lives just a few rooms away. We were parents. And there is no greater feeling, no matter how your babies enter the world.
**I’d like to add a few notes to this. Fist of all, this birth was nothing like the birth I dreamed of having. Other than being able to have the twins vaginally, nothing at all happened the way I wished for it to happen. I have no idea if it was really necessary for me to have had an epidural, and I don’t even know if everything I was told the night of the twins’ birth was factual, or if it was just a way for the hospital to push me into doing what they believed was right. Either way, the birth of my twins turned out to be one of the most amazing, empowering, moments of my life. It is a perfect example of how things can go oh-so-wrong and yet still be so perfectly right. And beyond that, their birth was the catalyst for me searching out better ways to birth. I would never have pursued a home-birth for my sweet fourth baby Adele had I not experienced the trauma of my first birth experience.