Monday night at dinner, the day before Gabriel's birthday, Gabe announced to me that he REALLY would not mind if the babies were born on his birthday.
I told him to tell the babies, not me. So he leaned in close over my right side, nose about 3 inches from my belly, and whispered... 'you can be born on my birthday'.
They were born on his birthday.
I went to bed early, as I was tired from a day of watching Brendan, who was sick with a cough. Will stayed up to watch Monday Night Football (Eagles vs. Cowboys). He came to bed at around midnight, the Eagles having kicked some serious Cowboy tail. Gabe and Bren were sound asleep, piled together with an assortment of pillows on the other side of the (huge) bed.
At 2:53 AM, I woke to the sensation of a hot leak soaking the bed. I hadn't felt the 'pop' the way I did with Brendan, but there was no mistaking the sensation. My water had broken. Not sure WHOSE water it was, but one of them.
I woke Will. He took a moment to register what I was talking about, because he was coming out of a dream that was somehow related to getting up anyway. But by 3:05 AM, he was in motion and we were discussing the current plan of action - my brother to come over and watch the boys until morning, calling my mom, calling Anne (my doula), calling the OB's office, calling the hospital. By then, I also knew that I did not have a huge ruptured membranes issue - it was a high leak like with Brendan. Which means I periodically dribbled a bit, but mostly did not make a huge mess of fluid everywhere.
This also meant that I didn't have to check for cord prolapse at this point - the bag of waters UNDER the baby was still intact, from the way things were acting. And that meant that we didn't have to panic, and I could take a shower before we left.
My mom showed up, then had to leave again to go wake up my brother in person (the phone didn't wake him). In the meantime, we got the car packed, and I entertained myself by posting a few notes in various places online... hey, might as well, nothing better to do!
I had a few good contractions in this time, as well, but short and fairly far apart. Still, definitely real ones. That was more good news - no need to push labor to start, it was on its way. I made myself a protein shake for the trip up, not knowing how long it would be until I could eat again. Gabe woke up and got all excited - the babies would be born today! He came downstairs to say goodbye before we left, my brother having arrived. My mom followed us to the hospital in her car.
We got to the hospital around 5 AM (my mom's notes say 5:05, Anne's say 4:45 - after that, though, their numbers match up again). Checked in at the ER, they sent us up, and we got settled into our room. Anne (our doula/hypnobirthing instructor) showed up with some McDonald's food for Will shortly after we got settled. My mom proceeded to deliver a bag full of goodies to the nurses, as well.
The nurses got me hooked up to the monitors, and announced that baby A was the one on the right. Low, definitely dropped. That one had been baby B (higher up) the entire time, but I was pretty sure by now that it was that (the rightmost) amnion that had ruptured, so it made sense that they'd swapped identifiers - baby A is the first born, or the one who seems closest to being born first, whenever they look. So, for now, the one who had been baby A was now baby B, and vice-versa.
I don't remember all my contractions. I remember about 8 of them distinctly, the rest were 'just like the others' so not memorable, and I simply did not store them in my experience. Apparently they were pretty close together, though - about 2 to 4 minutes apart. They really didn't feel like much - I preferred to focus on being present (in my body) when one hit, but I could also walk during one, without trouble, and when needed, could talk through them, too.
As we went, various parts of our birth plan got tossed aside, as expected. The monitors didn't bother me a bit, so I shrugged and didn't argue for intermittent monitoring. Both babies were staying nicely in place, and my contractions were picture-perfect. At least that's what the nurses said, and Anne confirmed (I don't monitor-watch, I can feel them myself!). Textbook perfect. The babies were doing well, apparently - they actually accelerated their heart rates with many of the contractions, rather than decelerating.
And I was doing great. I had to close my eyes for some of the contractions, but I didn't need any extra hypnotherapy to get through them. They just were not that intense. I could feel them (as pressure, not painful at all), and feel the impact of them (could feel pressure on my cervix, a bit), but I was just settling in for the long haul. No Pitocin this time, so probably a bit longer labor than with Brendan (his was 4.5 hours). And who knows what the impact of having two would be?
Every half hour, we unplugged the monitor leads, and I trundled off across the room (about 5 steps) to the bathroom. I'd had to pee in a bedpan with Bren, because I'd forgotten to pee the entire time. Annoying. So this time, every 30 minutes, up to the bathroom I went! We'd then plug the monitors back in (the nurse labeled them for us so we would get them hooked back up right), and I'd settle down some more. My mom videotaped me a little, just to catch the early stage of labor, and we chatted and hung out, and Will read a little, waiting for the next stage to hit.
Eventually, the resident OB came in to check me. That was about 6:30 AM. I was still hanging out, not doing much but periodically closing my eyes. I even stopped listening to the HB CD. It wasn't worth the bother, given how mild labor was at this point. So I got checked.
5 cm dilated, and stretchy! How'd that happen? Quick ultrasound check... head A, right inside my pubic bone. Head B, also down, right above and to the front. Woo-Hoo! Vaginal vertex/vertex birth, here we come! Someone call my OB and tell him to HURRY! In the meantime, we made a few calls to the people who would be starting their days and didn't yet know we were in progress.
The next few contractions, I could feel a little descent - head pressure under my pubic bone. Good thing my OB was on his way...
Next thing (7 AM), the IV - we hadn't had the hep lock set yet - we hadn't been there long enough, I'd only just signed all the consent forms (skipping the immunization forms - our family doc does those; and skipping the circumcision consents, since we don't circumcise). The nurse promised to only try once before calling in the IV team. Just as well - the first try did NOT work. OW OW OW. (Blowing a vein was way worse than the contractions.) Beyond that, it made me tense up so much that contractions actually hurt a little while she was trying to get it set. Fortunately, they went back to being 'normal' (for this labor, that is, painless muscle movement, like flexing your arm while holding a weight - effort, not pain) while we waited for the IV nurse to get there. One contraction felt like a touch of back labor starting, and then there was a little wiggling around, and the next didn't feel bad at all. I figured baby A had rotated from posterior (sunny-side up) to anterior (the 'right way'). Much more comfy!
At 7:25, my IV was set, and I was on the lowest flow, just to keep the line open. I figured we were getting close, so the fluids were okay at that point. (They like to keep fluids going near delivery with twins due to the extra blood loss risk with two placenta sites.) And, of course, it was time to get up and pee again.
So I stood up, and one step from the bathroom door, I paused... I was getting a touch of crowning-type burn! I quickly reached down, and found myself holding a bulging bag of waters! I didn't feel a head there, just fluid, like a hot, wet, slippery water balloon. So I peed quick (pushing past a full bladder isn't a great plan, so I might as well pee if I was there anyway), and tried to hobble back to the bed, with my support people now buzzing to very active life. No more hanging out, ACTION time! Anne got the nurses, I got into bed, my mom took notes, Will grabbed the bed wedge (so I could labor reclined, even on a gurney in the OR). By now, the bag was bulging like a grapefruit! It was 7:30 AM.
It took almost no time at all to get my bed unhooked and rolled (bumping into doorways on the way) into the ER. Will, mom, and Anne were left behind to get into scrubs. I was waiting on the bed, as the rest of the medical team assembled... one nurse popped in to say that my OB was 15 minutes away. Feeling the increased bulge on the next contraction, I knew that would not be soon enough! (Contractions still did not hurt - and I have a picture of me grinning on the OR gurney to prove it!)
The neonatologists came in (one for each baby), the OB who got tossed my case came in, and so did Will, Anne, and my mom (having thrown on scrubs in record time). The OB took a close look at the bulging bag of waters, and roundly cursed whoever had done the ultrasound check - she saw not a head, but a foot, followed by a butt! (That wiggle I'd felt wasn't a rotation to anterior, but from vertex to breech!) But it was just too late to c-section for breech first-twin delivery! This baby was coming NOW. She managed not to swear, but instead reached up past the bag of waters (inside me) and manipulated the foot back inside, lining up the legs back with body to get a 'frank' breech position, the ideal for breech birth. (This sounds like it should hurt, but I didn't even know she'd done it!) Then she broke the bag, and grabbed that baby's butt and pretty much wrestled my baby's body out.
It wasn't all that comfortable, and I did say something like 'ow ow ow ow,' but I wasn't screaming or anything. (My mom's comment later: "I've made more noise when I dropped a book on my foot!") It still didn't come close to the pain of breaking my ankle a few years back. Maybe a 7-8 out of 10 on the pain scale. Definitely unpleasant, but hardly scream material. And it was over pretty fast, too. One small push for the head (at the OB's request), and there was a baby on the table where a moment before, there had just been me. The OB clamped and cut the cord and passed the baby to the waiting hands of the neonatologist... it was...
A girl! Time of birth, 7:36 AM - only 6 minutes after I'd left the bathroom!
I remember kind of reviewing for a second what the birth had felt like. Kind of freaky uncomfortable feeling, as nothing is going through the easy way. Not awful by any means, just 'weird' feeling. I could feel elbows and shoulders, and she had to reach around more to get arms and such maneuvered properly. And it was really strange to try to push to get the head out - I could not tell at all if I was pushing 'right', but it only took one try to get her head out, so it must have been fine. But then she was OUT, and she was a she, and they whisked her off to the table behind my head. I heard a soft, squeaky cry, but I was already busy with the next birth.
The OB wanted an ultrasound image of where the second twin was, position-wise (and she was rather short with the staff who were not jumping to her orders fast enough, and kept making silly mistakes, like not turning the screen on for the ultrasound machine, and then using the wand that wasn't plugged into the machine). She was NOT interested in doing a second breech delivery, and didn't take kindly to my saying that my OB would do so. She grumped at me that research showed good reasons NOT to do second twin breech (though evidence-based medicine still leans toward not-c-sectioning just for breech for second twins). However, she looked at me, then shook her head in a half-resigned, 'well, we'll see' kind of way as the second baby flipped and flopped inside me, clearly well able to change positions as well. I couldn't tell through her mask, but I'm betting she grimaced at me before she sighed, and then reached up with the amniotomy hook in her hand to see what she could grab of baby B.
Internal version - I honestly didn't find that uncomfortable. Barely anything compared to the shoulders coming out on the first one, more like a normal vaginal exam than anything else. She looked half-way up at the ceiling, felt around, nodded, then pulled, and fished again, and pulled again. She had both feet (she'd grabbed one, popped the sac, then grabbed the other foot, I think). Out they came with her hand, and... well, this one took more work. I really had to breathe through the sensations (with Anne by my head telling me to let the sensations go, just breathe and listen, or something along those lines, plus using her hand on my arm as a deepening prompt, if I recall correctly). I breathed out in huge whooshes, and then gave one more push as asked, and ...
ANOTHER GIRL! Another GIRL? I have two daughters? Whoa.
7:41 AM. Five minutes after the first.
The OB took blood samples from each cord, and I stared over at the baby I could see (the second girl, as they checked her over. She was pink already. Will told me that both APGARS were 8/9! Not bad for twins, not bad for breech, not bad for precipitous birth... not bad for ANY situation.
The placentas separated within minutes. Small gush of blood (though it left a rather large puddle!), and another contraction. One more contraction, and out they came. Two separate placentas, but fused at the edge.
We waited while the nursing staff finished up their paperwork, and the OB's heart rate came down from somewhere north of 200 beats per minute. The poor woman had never seen me before, didn't have time to see my chart, had no clue what my birth history was, and had to fly by the seat of her pants on a totally non-typical twin birth. She did great, though. She said I had a generous pelvis, and that I did great. I just did what I needed to do, but then, I guess she did the same. I'm grateful for her professionalism under severe pressure.
She was also genuinely shocked that all the injury I had was a small bruise. No tears to repair. Not even a skid mark! I wasn't surprised at all, but then, I also hadn't seen how far she'd had to reach inside me... (I saw that in the pictures later, though I did wonder briefly how she got blood all around her arm half-way to her elbow... good thing she is a slim woman!)
I got to hold the first born for a few minutes while they finished taking all their notes (that took a few minutes), and then I got to see them together for the first time. Marvelous.
Two girls. WOW. That was really the last thing we expected.
Instead of feeling like I'd lost out on the third boy I'd always dreamed of (the one I've known from dreams since I was 7 years old), I felt no loss - The second born felt soooo familiar... I think he just decided to be a girl this time. Maybe to keep my surprise girl company, or maybe just for a change. Either way, I feel content, complete. My family is done, and will remain 'done'... of course, if we end up with another somehow, we'll call that complete, too. But I doubt it. This just feels right, my boyos and my girls... this is good, all the way to my soul.
We were back in the L&D room by 8 AM.
It was an adventure, for certain. But one that came out the way it was meant to - all of us healthy, all of us whole, and done, as usual, on a unique path that was chosen as much by my children as by me. I am not a super-woman for being able to fly by the seat of my pants - I work hard for this, and I take it very seriously. But like any general worth their salt, I also know that no plan survives the initial engagement - once it is in process, it is all in the reactions to things as they go. No holding on to what was supposed to happen, just being in what IS happening now. How things occur is not up to me. Only how I react as they occur.
I prepare, I practice, I make myself ready... and then my job is to follow where my children lead, become who they need me to be . . . be ready - or be adaptable - and then just be their mom.
Welcome to the world, Meriel and Rowan. May your lights shine bright and long upon the earth.
6 lbs 10 oz
11/16/2004 at 7:36 AM
7 lbs 6 oz
11/16/2004 at 7:41 AM
P.S. They appear to be fraternal.
P.P.S. People have asked me about their names - Both are 'light images. Meriel means 'sea bright' - I envision the sparkles of light on the ocean on a sunny morning. All the beauty and power of the sea, but in its positive aspects. Freelove is my seven-time-great-grandmother's name. It reflects both love-abundant and love-unbounded. Rowan is for the rowan tree, whose berries are the orange of peat embers (the word for 'ember' and 'rowan berry' is the same in old Scots Gaelic). I envision the warmth and comfort of a night by the fire, and knowing that there will be warmth to come in the morning, too. Alexandra is for my paternal grandmother.