Saturday, May 10, 2014

how the brothers were born

The day before the c-section, we spent some nice time at home...just the three of us. Well, and Murph.

last picture taken of me pregnant...note the HUGELY puffy hand

One of the hardest parts of this pregnancy was the fact that for nearly nine months, I couldn't play with Harriet the way I wanted to.

"Sorry, hun, Mom can't fit in that fort."

"I can only dance for a little while because my tummy makes me tired."

"Dad will chase you, but Mama can't."

At one point, Harriet told my parents, "Mom can't do anything with me anymore because of her big tummy." Stuff like this always made me cry. I hated it.

So the evening before the c-section, when Harriet asked if she could run at me from across the room, jump to me and have me lift her in the air, I said, "Sure!" These babies were going to arrive in less than 24 hours so I figured I could handle it. Plus, I knew that I wouldn't be able to do anything like that for quite a while after the c-section. We played her running/jumping/flying game for a while, then Andrew and I swung her in a blanket. A few minutes later, I used the bathroom and found a huge chunk of mucus plug in my underwear. I'd been losing pieces of it all week but this was more than ten times the size of anything else I'd passed so far. I figured the lifting and playing probably dislodged it.

We put Harriet to bed just like any other night, trying not to think about the fact that these were the last minutes we'd be parents to just her. I put my pajamas on, took a Benadryl to help me sleep and brushed my teeth. Andrew came into the bathroom, put his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me - for a good night's sleep, a still mind, a stress-free morning the next day, and a smooth birth.


Gush! My water broke in a flood. It just kept coming and coming and coming. "Well," I said, "I guess we're going to the hospital."

Andrew called my mother-in-law to come stay with Harriet. I called my clinic's after-hours line, specifying that I had breech twins and this was my third pregnancy. I had previously been instructed not to labor at home because my doctors thought these babies could come quick, making for a very dangerous situation. The woman on the other end of the line said that I should stay home and the doctor would call in about twenty minutes. "Nope," I said. "We're on our way."

The doctor called while we were driving to the hospital. She said that they'd examine me when I got there to make sure my bag of waters had actually ruptured. I told her that there was no doubt in my mind that my water had broken. This was not a leak. It was a flood. I had a towel folded in my pants. Andrew drove pretty quickly to the hospital. I had a few contractions on the way, so I just breathed through them. They weren't too bad though. It was nothing like our drive to the hospital before Harriet's birth. That night, I had been in agony the whole way. I remember not being able to think about anything but my breathing and the intensity of the contractions. This time, my eyes stayed open and I could talk through the contractions so I figured I was dilating maybe to one or two centimeters. Still, Andrew and I were both a little bit afraid. We didn't want to get into a situation that necessitated a breech delivery. One in one hundred breech babies die during birth. That number was just way too high for us.

It took forever to check in. The woman at the desk was clearly new and the person training her in was really annoyed with her. They couldn't find our chart because it was in the stack for the next day. I had a couple more contractions while they got organized. I just held onto the desk, dropped my head and breathed. They were uncomfortable but nothing crazy.

They brought us back to the maternal-fetal assessment center where they had me pee in a cup...not easy at this stage in pregnancy. Kind of impossible not to pee on your hand, but whatever. Then they weighed me. I had been hovering around fifty-eight pounds gained over the last few weeks, but that night, the scale showed that I had gained exactly sixty pounds, which was kind of funny because I gained exactly thirty pounds with Harriet. Apparently my body likes the idea of thirty pounds per baby.

The nurses placed the fetal monitors, took labs and gave me an IV. Our doula, Sarah, arrived. Right away, she started to rub my feet. I just remember feeling incredibly cared for in that moment with four nurses devoted to the care of me and these babies. (There were two nurses assigned to me, plus my husband and our doula are both nurses.)

Andrew, suited up and ready for action. 
Dr. M eventually sat down beside my bed and started to explain the procedure so that we knew exactly what to expect. I had about three contractions during that conversation. The intensity was ramping up, but only a little bit. They were still rather mild compared to what labor felt like with Harriet. I just closed my eyes each time and breathed slowly through my mouth. I asked Dr. M how long it was going to be before we met our babies. She said it would be about two or three hours, that they'd be born around midnight. Apparently there was another family in front of us. I asked that she make sure that our babies have the same birthday and she smiled and said that she would.

I was a bit bummed out when she said we had to wait two to three hours. The contractions were becoming more bothersome...although still not painful. It's one thing if you're going to have a vaginal birth - under those circumstances, bring on the contractions! But I was going to have a c-section, so I had very little interest in putting up with a few more hours of these pesky things. I also sort of felt like I had to have a bowel movement. I was a little embarrassed to say it out loud but also realized that now was probably a better time than after the c-section, so I asked Dr. M if I should try to go.

"You saying that makes me think I should check to see whether you're dilating," she said.

She checked and her eyes got really big. "Okay," she said with calm intensity, "things are going to move very quickly."

I didn't know it at the time, but I was dilated to nine centimeters and she could feel Gus's butt. She later told me that she also found out that he was a boy during that cervical check. (-: But the scary part was that his cord was prolapsing. That's what turned our planned, non-laboring c-section into an emergency c-section.

Dr. M told me at my follow-up appointment that watching me go through the contractions, she never would have guessed that I was nearly complete. I was even more shocked than she was! I do have a high pain tolerance, but seriously, these contractions were nothing. Any woman could have handled them without breaking a sweat. I'm still amazed that I dilated from zero to nearly complete in about ten easy contractions. And most of all, I'm so glad that we got to the hospital right away.

About twenty seconds after my cervical check, the anesthesia team was in the room asking about my anesthesia history and I was being wheeled to the operating room. While I'm really grateful that I had a spinal instead of an epidural, I have to say that the actual process of getting the spinal was awful. It felt like he was poking me over and over and over with the needle. This tingly pain shot down my right leg, then again, then my left leg. Each time, I cried out and he asked which side I felt it on. I was apologizing for being so noisy about the dumb spinal, but the nurse anesthetist was really nice and said that it was so painful because they had to hurry.

By the time that Andrew and Sarah got to the OR, Dr. M was already cutting. I felt no pain, but the pressure was intense. It felt like she was pushing the air right out of my lungs.

"What a rush!" Sarah said. And it really was.

He was sooo not grossed out.
Andrew videotaped the whole thing. I didn't watch the video for about a week and a half because I wasn't sure I could handle it. But after watching it, I'll tell you this...c-sections are serious surgery.  The doctor was elbow deep in my abdomen. Her assistant pried open my stomach with a massive, metal tool that looked like one of those chuck-its that you use to throw tennis balls for dogs. They popped Louie's bag of waters like a huge water balloon. She took my uterus out of my body and laid it on top of me while she stitched it up. This was a violent process requiring lots of muscles on the doctor's part and lots of blood on mine. Throughout the procedure, I was grunting and groaning. At times, it was hard to breathe because of all of the pressure. I thought a c-section would be a passive process, but I was wrong. It was actually hard work!

I'll spare you the really gruesome pictures in favor of this mild one.

Only minutes passed before Dr. M reached in and brought the first baby into the world. "It's a boy!" Andrew said.

It's a boy!
Our Gus was here. The Gus we'd been waiting so long for. Ethan would have been a Gus if he would have lived and now Ethan's little brother gets that name...a name we've loved forever.

We both started sobbing. When you ask people what gender(s) they're hoping for, they usually say, "Doesn't matter as long as the baby's healthy." And of course, we felt the same way. But deep down in our hearts, we so wanted a boy. In fact, we wanted two boys. Really, really bad. So just one minute later, when our Louie was born and Andrew announced in joyful disbelief "it's a boy" again, we completely lost it. How could this be? Jesus, Jesus, generous you've been.

Louie, meet the world.
Both boys cried immediately. But Louie screeched. It was the most beautiful, most hilarious cry I've ever heard. The boys went to their warmers and Andrew found himself spinning about the operating room from me to his son to his other son and back to me again. He eventually took both of the babies skin to skin against his chest. They rooted and rooted...that miraculous instinct.

Some of you might remember that prior to these boys being born, I was pretty bummed out by the idea of a c-section. I was even bummed out by the idea of birthing vaginally with an epidural. I researched for hours upon hours. I emailed and chatted with probably forty twin moms with a wide variety of birth experiences. I carefully crafted a birth plan (which we forgot at home). I was very, very serious about the requests in my birth plan, but it's funny how it all played out.

eye to eye with sweet Gus
meeting precious Lou
I had requested to not have my arms tied down to the operating table, but after they started the procedure, I wished that my arms were tied down because they kept falling off of the arm rests. For much of the procedure, I just held my arms in the air. I had asked that the babies' warmers be kept in my line of vision but all I wanted to do was close my eyes and go to sleep. I didn't even want to look at them. I remember saying over and over, "I feel like the worst mom ever but I just feel so sick. I have to close my eyes. I just want to hibernate." I asked to have the babies brought to me so we could have a little bit of skin to skin right away in the operating room, but when they brought the babies to me, I nearly threw up on them and asked that Andrew just hold them til I felt better. Despite the changes of heart I was having in the moment, the surgical team was great about following my wishes.

Lou, weighing in at 6 pounds, 13 ounces

Gus, weighing in at 6 pounds, 2 ounces

Gus, enjoying the warmer

Lou, getting his head measured

It took a while for Dr. M to get me stitched and stapled. When she finished, they wheeled me to the post-anesthesia care unit where I got to really see the boys close up for the first time - touch them, kiss them, celebrate them and feed them. When Gus started nursing, I started sobbing. I had been so focused on the birth that I totally forgot about that much I had loved nursing Harriet, how much I grieved that sweet connection when I weaned her and how much I feared never being able to do it again. I asked when I would get a chance to nurse them both at the same time. "Whenever you want," the nurse said. So we went for it. And they did great. Gus stared at me with intense eyes wide open and Louie contentedly dozed...foreshadowing of their least the parts of their personalities we've witnessed so far.

I couldn't believe how much I loved them. Right there, just seconds after meeting them. I loved them like I had loved their sister when she was pulled out of the water and flopped onto my chest like a slimy, purplish dream come true. The love I felt for those boys was so, so big and in that moment, any fears about my heart not being big enough to contain them disappeared.

The brothers' birth looked nothing at all like Harriet's. But it was just as perfect. Just as joy-filled. And those images, those sounds, those smells, those sensations will stay with me forever. I will never forget the night my boys were born...never, ever, ever.


  1. Such a great birth story! I sure hope I dilate to 9 in 10 easy contractions! This whole thing made me teary. Congratulations again Emily! And Happy Mothers Day!!

  2. Congratulations!! I ran across your blog somehow and loved to read this post. It made me tear up too, I'm so excited for you. Births are a crazy adventure, you truly never know what is going to happen so planning is a rare thing that works for some situations. So happy you carried your boys so long and they are so big and healthy! I hope you are recuperating well too. Happy Mother's Day.

  3. What an amazing story! I'm sooooo glad you went to the hospital without being instructed to go!

    People get really bent out of shape about c-sections, but sometimes they're necessary and end up being just perfect. I'm glad yours was perfect for you!

    Well done, Em! And two boys.... Yeah... It's awesome!

  4. Oh, Em... I had been waiting to hear this story -- so good. Wow! And you are just amazing. Congrats again to you, Andrew, and Harriet on the birth of these two beautiful boys. I look forward to meeting them. Happy Mother's Day, friend. :)

  5. Love the last pic of all of you!!! So so so precious - gorgeous family!!! Congrats xoxo

  6. Wow, I'm so glad you ignored the nurse and got yourself to the hospital! The part about your C-section brought back memories of being on the table. And you're absolutely right about every aspect of that experience.

    Love this birth story! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  7. This is perfect. Full of both excitement and peace. Even with a scheduled c-section, your boys chose their own birthday. Your story really brought back memories for me, and brought tears to my eyes. Love it! Happy Mother's Day!

  8. This made me cry! Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm glad Gus gets to have such a meaningful name. This is a beautiful birth story. Although the part about feeling so much pressure from the c-section, that I guess I wasn't expecting. Yikes! I guess you have to experience it to really understand.

  9. i am so intensely happy for you :)
    i wish isaiah would have video'd our c-section! i am totally in to that sort of stuff but he just took quick glances when i said "LOOK!" ha ha. so go andrew!
    i am so glad to hear that all of your fears on loving another like harriet went away. i have those fears often and I'm not even pregnant!
    the boys are beautiful. so so so truly beautiful.
    i can't wait to meet them.
    you did awesome mama!!!

  10. OH I am so happy you posted this. I've been longing and anticipating!! Oh my goodness, what an answer to prayer: going into birth spontaneously, and then dilating SO fast and without much pain or discomfort! Oh I was just crying tears of joy and laughing while I was reading this. I am OH SO HAPPY for you and thankful we serve a good, loving God who hears our every prayer and knows EVERY SINGLE SECOND of every single day and what it looks like. He is so good.

  11. I love this. Thank you for sharing their birth story. That last picture is just spectacular.

  12. This is so incredibly beautiful! Happy Mother's Day!

  13. What a beautiful birth story, Em! I have tears in my eyes. Your boys are just gorgeous, absolutely perfect! I cried at the part about you finding out that they were both boys. What a wonderful, joyous day :)

  14. What a beautiful story, Emily! Your body ... cut open and with so much blood ... all for the life of Gus and Louie. It was a beautiful site! I say that because it's a site I normally would shy away from looking at, but I wanted to see your boys being born. So much love to you and Andrew. XO Berni

  15. Em- I have not been doing well with keeping up with the blogs right now, but I was so glad to read that your boys are here safe and sound, and so healthy. Well done you for cooking them as long as you did! I'm glad everything turned out well in the end with the birth, and doubly glad you went straight to the hospital.

    I hope everyone continues to do well as you settle into your new life as a family of five (plus Murph).

  16. They are just perfect!! Thanks so much for sharing your story, you are beaming in that last picture! :)

  17. Loved reading this. What a night! We are so incredibly happy for your family!

  18. Congratulations! They are beautiful blessings!

  19. Loved hearing your story! You have such a gift for writing. Every time I read a birth story, I cry, and this one was no exception. Congratulations!
    Oh and your water breaking part made me laugh...the flood was what I experienced with my breech baby too and was not really expecting it to happen like that with Grayson, who was head down. I was wrong...flood again! Apparently, that is my body's way of starting labor. :)

  20. This makes me so very, very happy for you! Those boys look so HEALTHY and you look absolutely beautiful. Congratulations again and thanks for sharing your story, I am obsessed with birth stories at the moment :)

  21. I have read this story over and over on my phone the last few days and I'm finally getting a chance to comment. What an AWESOME story. Part of me thinks GAH, how cool if they'd have been head down, because DANG girl, you rocked those contractions! But obviously things happened how they did for a reason, and I'm glad things went so smoothly overall. Great sized babies and healthy to boot. I love it. :) Congrats again on your little men - what a blessing!!

  22. Congratulations!! They (and you and your husband) are beautiful. What an awesome home for those boys to grow up in. Enjoy every minute mama :)

  23. Congratulations on your beautiful boys! This is such a lovely post and I couldn't be happier to see the smile on your face. Sending you so much love and hopefully everyone is home and thriving fantastically!! xoxo

  24. I am full on ugly crying over this beautiful post! What a beautiful story of God's faithfulness ... congratulations on your two little BOYS! Love this story and the pictures so much!!!!

  25. Wow! What an amazing story! Makes me think of my c-section. My husband didn't watch like yours did. He truly probably would have fainted. lol Seriously though. We did have a nurse that took a lot of pictures for us. It truly is a very serious operation. One resulting in the best prize! Congrats again on your beautiful boys. I am so in awe of the amazing job you did growing them and bringing them into this world.

  26. Every birth story is so amazing. God's got each one of them figured out, even if they don't go the way we think they should or would. I can't believe how beautiful (and big and healthy!) your twins are. Our little girl was born at only 5lb15oz - to imagine fitting two babies - both a bit bigger than her - inside of me ... wow. Go you! Super mom!
    Blessings :)


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