|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.|
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.|
|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!|
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, Jesus...how generous you've been.
|Louie, meet the world.|
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|
|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 part...how 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 personalities...at 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.