Doubly blessed: The birth of Ella and Oliver
I knew I would never make it to 40 weeks because I was pregnant with twins. I made 38 weeks my goal, knowing it would probably happen sooner—but hopefully not much. Yet, at my 35-week appointment, when the doctor said let’s go ahead and take the babies next week, my eyes started filling with tears. Babies in one week! Two babies. Even if you have the full nine months to prepare, the thought of giving birth to two babies and then caring for two newborns is as terrifying as it is exciting.
She handed me a Kleenex. “We don’t have to induce you yet if you really want to wait another week. But we can’t get an accurate measurement on the baby girl. We do think she’s quite a bit smaller, and the size difference between her and baby boy is getting greater. In my opinion, to be safe, we should get them out of there.”
I nodded but the tears kept falling. My mind was a blur of questions and worry. Would they be big enough? Why is the girl smaller? Is there something she’s not telling me? And the biggest question, am I ready to deliver two babies?!
I hoped for a vaginal birth, yet you don’t have much of a choice with twins. If baby A, the first baby that comes out, is head down, you can try a vaginal birth. If A is breech, or A and B are both breech, it’s a C-section no matter what. At this point, both babies were head down. She assured me they were developed enough to be born. We told the doctor we agreed it was best to be on the safe side, so we started planning to be induced in one week.
Knowing the exact moment you will be checking into the hospital to have a baby is weird. Every day I would think, I have five (or four … or three) more days until the babies come, the last few days before I’m officially a mom. What should I do? But really I was so uncomfortable and desperately trying to tie things up at work, I mostly worked, fretted about what to bring to the hospital, or tried to relax (while fretting about whether the babies would be OK). I was more and more thankful they were coming soon because I was going to drive myself crazy.
On the big day, we checked into the hospital shortly after 7 a.m. and settled into the room. The first disturbing bit of information was that my nurse was brand-new to the labor and delivery floor. But don’t worry, they said. Another nurse was available if she had questions. I did worry, of course. That’s what I am great at. And, I had been assured by so many friends that this hospital had amazing, experienced nurses. Why did I have to get a new one? I thought about asking for a different one, but that felt rude—and my mom and husband assured me it was fine.
It took a couple hours for me to start feeling contractions after my newbie nurse started the Pitocin. OK, I guess all was fine. So far. My husband and mom were camped out in the room with me, full of nervous excitement. I mostly remember having to pee every 20 minutes, which was very annoying because I was hooked up to an IV, a blood pressure cuff and two heart monitors for the babies. Untangling myself from the cords each time was a debacle.
My dad, stepmom, and two brothers also joined us in the hospital room eventually. Things were uneventful and moving slowly. When I thought the contractions were finally getting closer and progressing quite nicely, my doctor was not impressed and kept upping the Pitocin.
I was eager to try out the birthing positions and techniques I learned in prenatal yoga, and although I was glad my family was there, it was strange doing that with an audience. Also, they basically insist you have an epidural with twins, so we needed to decide when to do that. I was not looking forward to that process or being bed-ridden, so I held out as long as I could. They encouraged me not to wait too long because you have to hold perfectly still while the needle is being inserted, which becomes more difficult as contractions get more frequent. Um, OK! I then started worrying about flinching during the epidural insertion and being paralyzed forever. So. Much. To. Worry. About.
At about 3 p.m. I had the epidural, and it all went fine. It was heaven. I kicked back while my mom rubbed lavender oil on my feet and my husband played some favorite music on my iPhone. I visited with my cousin who now joined the party. Soon after, several of my in-laws arrived, and then later, my best friend. We had quite a crowd in the waiting room. Lots of people were anxious to meet these baby twins! So was I.
Then the shaking started. It felt like I was shivering, but I was really hot. The nurse assured me this was normal. The body still responds to the pain of delivery even if you don’t feel it.
The hours went by. I was thankful not to feel the pain of the contractions, but the uncontrollable shaking of my whole body was getting really, really difficult to deal with. My shoulders were really sore from being so tense. At one point, I remember my mom and husband on either side of me trying to hold my arms and shoulders still to give me a break from the trembling. After nearly 12 hours of labor, I was starting to wonder why I was so opposed to a C-section. Or why people do this more than once!
At nearly 8 p.m., the doctor said I was getting closer. I was dilated to an 8. She was running some errands and would then be back to check on me. Her family was camping, and she was meeting them when we were finished here. “Sounds good,” I said. “See you in a bit.”
When she checked me about 45 minutes later, I was at about a 9. Then she laid it on me: She wasn’t going to be able to stay. She promised her husband she’d leave by 9, no matter what, and he was going to be upset if she didn’t leave now to meet them. But don’t worry, she told me, the doctor on call is great—you’re going to love her.
WHAAATTTT? I’m hours away from delivering TWO babies, and for the last eight months, you’ve coached me and have been by my side assuring me you’d be there for the delivery, even if you aren’t on call. And you’re leaving? Now?
That is what I should’ve said. Instead, I just stared at her trying really, really hard not to cry while she kept saying, “Please don’t be upset. I feel bad enough already. I promised my husband.” I nodded, she left the room, and I burst into tears. Here I am going through the most terrifying day of my life, and the person who is supposed to guide me through is leaving me with a nurse who is new. Well, actually, the shift change happened, so I got another nurse. One with lots of experience, and after I got over the shock of having someone else completely new, I realized she was amazing.
It turned out the on-call doctor was great, too. She was a young female like my doctor and very calm. She came in about 9:30 p.m. to check me and said I had a little to dilate still but let’s try to push through it. I was really anxious to get this show on the road. I was starting to wonder if my babies were going to be born on today’s date or tomorrow’s.
I started pushing and 45 minutes later. (It seemed much longer!) She said I was ready to go to the operating room. With twins you have to deliver in the operating room with NICU staff present even for a vaginal birth—just in case. No one is allowed back in the OR but your spouse. So, we left my poor nervous family in the waiting room. My mom was devastated—she didn’t know they were taking me back when they stepped out so I could be checked, and she didn’t get to say goodbye. I’m sure she—and my whole family—had the same worries. Would they be big enough to breathe on their own? Would I be OK? Would I have to have a C-section after all this?
I was just praying and praying they would be healthy. We chose not to do any prenatal testing, so we were relying on the ultrasounds that all was well.
I got back to the very bright operating room at about 10:15 p.m. They put my legs up in stir-ups so that my exposed bum was facing the door where more and more people were piling into the room. Eventually there were about 15 medical personnel in there. “What a way to meet people,” I commented.
I pushed and pushed, and the doctor said all was well. Baby A was coming out millimeters at a time. I was really feeling pooped, my body was so tired from shaking for nearly seven hours, my neck was killing me, and it took all the strength I had to push every time. How long was this going to take at millimeters a push?
Finally, they said they could see her hair. As delighted as I was to hear that, I also thought, Just hair? After an hour and a half of pushing? There is still the full length of the head and body to push out! I was really questioning whether I could do this.
“We just have to get the head out,” the doctor said as if she could read my mind. “Then the rest will just follow.”
I’m NOT having a C-section after all this, I thought. I can do this. And I pushed with all my might. It helped that the epidural was wearing off a bit; I could feel what I was doing a little more. And finally the head came, and with a few more pushes, her body at 11:13 p.m. I sobbed and sobbed, so relieved and excited this was really happening. They showed her to me and then the team took her to check her out. She looked like a gooey mess, with long, dark hair and beautiful lips.
One down, one to go. Oh please God, let the baby boy be head down, I kept thinking. It would really be horrible to have to have a C-section after a vaginal birth. They did an ultrasound immediately and confirmed all was well.
“He’s coming right down where he needs to be,” the doctor assured me with a smile. “This one will be much faster.”
Meanwhile, the NICU team announced the weight of my baby girl was 4 pounds, 14 ounces. “Is everything OK?” Yes, all was well. “Thank God, thank God,” I kept saying, but we weren’t done yet. I pushed several more times, and there was my screaming baby boy, a mere nine minutes after baby girl.
I was so relieved it was over but also in shock and numb with exhaustion. Baby boy weighed 4 pounds, 13 ounces. One ounce LESS than baby girl! Laughter and exclamations of surprise echoed around the room. Baby girl supposedly being smaller than baby boy was the whole reason for the induction.
Neither baby needed to be taken to the NICU; they weighed just an ounce over the requirement, so they placed them both on my chest. My husband was all smiles, eyes teary. I didn’t know which beautiful, brand-new, perfect face to look at first. There were four slits of black eyes peeping up at me, 20 itty-bitty fingers, 20 teeny toes. It was all too much to take in. I knew how lucky I was considering all that could go wrong with twins. I was so, so thankful. A feeling I know will last a lifetime.
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By Sara Cox