Thirty-Five Weeks, Five Days ~ October 28, 2004
~ Reality Check!
We spent Monday night in L&D.
I started having contractions around 5:45 PM, just as I was trying to finish up the things I'd promised for work. I really wanted them DONE, done done done. I had a deadline, and had been having contractions on and off all day, so I'd taken more breaks than usual. But more breaks meant that each time I went back to the computer, I had more stress because I'd lost more time! AAAAAH!
Sigh. Stress, not good. Pushing myself, pretty stupid. Result? Labor. BEFORE I wanted to be in labor. Like, a good week early.
So I left my computer running, got some water, and went to the sofa to be horizontal. That didn't stop them. They were frequent, but not regular. Thirty seconds to a minute long, but coming in random intervals, between 4 and 10 minutes apart. Still far too many. I called Will, and told him he'd have to cut his after-work plans short. Called my mom to deliver the boys, rather than me going to pick them up. Called my doula (who was off to her 1-year wedding anniversary dinner... I told her not to cancel, but to leave her cell phone on). Called the OB's after-hours service. Good thing I'd fully charged my cell phone!
The call to the OB's office gave me an 'answer 'I didn't expect. The last time I called with contractions, about a month ago (?), they had the on-call OB call me back, talk to me, and then I was to get on my left side, drink lots of water, wait 1-2 hours to see if they stopped. If they didn't stop, I was to go over to the Triage center at the hospital to get checked out, and hopefully stop them if it was true labor.
Not this time. This time, I was told to call the hospital (and not my preferred hospital, either), and ask them if I should come in. That seemed odd to me. But I called. And the hospital agreed, that was odd - the nurse who takes the call cannot determine if I should come in or not! My OB is supposed to tell me that. So I called back to the office, and reported their answer, and said that I was going to follow the previous advice - rest, drink fluids, see what happens, then go in if they don't stop. They marked it down. They also marked down that I was going to go to the OTHER hospital, not the one specified. My choice, discussed with the OB already, just note it. Noted.
Then I got to wait. Wait for the contractions to pick up, or stop. Wait for my mom to get there with the boys. Wait for Will to get home. Wait for the contractions to stop.
They didn't stop.
Without warning, the reality hit. Hard. Now, I had to deal with a bunch of other things - not the who, what, when, where stuff of getting organized and going in, but the fears that I'd left tucked in corners of my mind. Facing the chance that this was IT, this was real labor, I couldn't dodge them at all. I was pinned to the sofa, and had to deal with them all, all at once. Fear of a c-section. Fear of preterm birth. Fear that labor would be just awful this time, because of it being twins. Fear of all sorts of amorphous things in addition to that, little bits lurking around the edges.
Time to face them down. Contractions still coming, this is reality-check time. So I faced them down. What other choice was there?
C-section? I have a plan in place. I have support, a great OB, and people coming to help me after the birth. I have hypnotherapy to help manage pain. I have pain meds for anything that is beyond my own abilities to manage. I have friends and family who have been there and done that, who know what helps, and who are more than willing to lend a hand. I can manage the issues that a c-section will likely bring up with the babies (I just read a new study that shows that c-section dramatically increases the risk of food allergies for at-risk-of-allergies kids - something about the gut not being 'seeded' properly... but I've dealt before, and I can deal again, if that's what I get). I can do a c-section, if that's what happens. Yes, definitely. I can deal. One fear down.
Preterm birth? Well, we're not THAT preterm, anymore! A few days in NICU at most. Again, I'm prepared, I've planned, it isn't my ideal, but people do it all the time. I have resources, friends, family, the mothers of multiples club, all sorts of tools and support. I don't have to 'do it alone' - I can have help. Fun? No. Happy? No. First choice? No. Terrifying... well, no, not now that I'm looking at it straight on. Scary, but not TOO scary. I can deal. Another fear down.
Difficult labor? Okay, now that one's a no brainer. Hello, had some pretty odd labors so far! Had a long exhausting one. Needed medical help with that, but it was entirely okay to do so. I'm prepared to make the same decisions this time if needed. If I genuinely need medical help, nobody is going to deny my access, and nobody is going to be disappointed with me - heck, I won't be disappointed with myself if I need it, either! I've done it before, and have no regrets. I just didn't want to HAVE to do it again. Thinking about this one, I noticed that I was getting some strong back pain with some of my contractions... so I changed positions. MUCH better. Re-focused on dropping out all pain sensations and receiving only pressure sensations. OOH, that's better, too! Ah, yes, this is more like it. See, I told myself, you prepared, you practiced, you are ready after all - EVEN with nobody else here to help you right now! How much better once they are all here? No need to be afraid of a bad labor - I have support, I have practiced, and if I really need it, I can still use pain meds without it being a huge hairy big deal. I had Pitocin before with no pain, without needing more than just hypnotherapy. I can do twins. I can deal. One more fear down. Poof! Gone.
General fears? Well, let's see. I am noted for building a strong network of support. Who can I call on to help me with ANY issue I have? I have friends who are doulas. I have relatives who will drop whatever they are doing to help out. I have my brother (who came over to stay the night with the boys, so my sister-in-law didn't have to drive down until or unless I was admitted in real labor, not just 'bothersome' latent labor). I have my mom. I have my mother-in-law, my step-mom, my worship group friends, my mothers of multiples club, the name of a great lactation consultant... you name it, I've got it, and I can call it in. What is there to fear, when you have resources like that? General cloud of fears hovering around... poof, gone.
All that was left then was to handle the physical realities. Contractions. Packing the bags (oops, hadn't packed them yet!). How to manage the boys overnight. Getting them to settle down some. Getting my water glass re-filled.
... And waiting for the contractions to stop.
They didn't stop. However, once the fears were handled, they did ease up. I left the 'labor land zone' - my sense of humor returned, I could focus on conversations, and I started feeling hungry between contractions. I am one of those women for whom the whole 'no eating, only ice chips' thing actually works. I don't get hungry when I'm in REAL labor. I just get thirsty. My gut pretty much stops doing its job, so there's no point putting anything in there, it will just come back up or sit there and curdle and make me uncomfortable. So when I started feeling hungry, I went 'ah-HA!' this is NOT going to be the real thing, then. Just a huge warning shot across the bow (as my hypnotherapist/doula thought it would be). Time to stop working, stop stressing, ease up, and get serious about being ready.
Still, the contractions didn't stop - they were further apart, and now mostly only 20-30 seconds long, but they weren't stopping yet. My brother was there, ready to put the boys to bed. Will had the bags ready, and the car packed. My mom was ready to go home and try to sleep, until or unless we called her to come in. It was time to go in and find out what was up. So, off we went, after a quick call to their L&D department to find out how to proceed when we got there. Granted, it was 9:30 PM by now, but we were, finally, ready.
The drive wasn't bad. I hate being in a car during labor, but it wasn't bad at all. One more sign that this wasn't 'real' labor. I drank a few protein drinks on the way in, just in case - I hadn't had dinner at all, and didn't want to be hungry now that I could feel hunger.
Got there, and waited in the ER waiting area for a while. I was clearly not in a crisis state, so they took a little time - I wasn't top on the list of priorities. Boring, and annoying (mostly due to the horrible program on the TV, WAY too loud - Will finally suggested I turn my HypnoBirthing CD back on - I turned it up loud, and that helped a lot!). A long wait, but then the reasons we picked this hospital started to show themselves.
First, the nurse who pushed my wheelchair to the L&D floor was absolutely overcome with joy for me - pregnant, in labor, TWINS, not grossly preterm, maybe there will be BABIES soon (even if not tonight)! She literally radiated her joy for me, her face shining with it. She still was on board with not wanting them to be born too soon, but the joy shone through that concern anyway. Primary in her interaction with me was not fear, but faith and joy and genuine heartfelt best wishes from her very core. That's one reason I like this hospital. They aren't fear-based.
Then, on the L&D floor... calm, quiet, well-worn (but not run-down, just long-loved)... that was the overall feeling. The usual procedures - pee in a cup, hospital gown on (I didn't bother with my own nightgown at this point), monitors on, let's see what's happening. Call my OB. Hmm, my OB's backup OB doesn't have privileges here... but, guess what? My OB doesn't mind if they call him even when he's not on call! Hello? An OB who will come in to do a birth when they are not on call? Hey, I think we picked the right OB. (like we didn't know that already!)
We'd been there for an hour before we got the full plan set in place, but I know hospital time, so that wasn't a shock. My OB wanted a 2-hour monitor strip, with a cervical check before (1-2 cm dilated, but only at the opening of the cervix, not internally), and a cervical check after. If progress is being made, admit me. If no progress, send me home with some Ambien so I can sleep. The calm and mellow manner in which I was treated was yet another reminder of why we prefer this hospital. Enough hustle to handle what needs to be handled, but more connection in the process, more warmth, and again, not the fear-based stress-out we feel every time we walk into the other hospital.
So we sat, Will in the (very hospital-ish) recliner, and me in the bed. I sucked down ice-chips by the cup. Chomp, chomp. Hard to eat them quietly. I got itchy from the bands of the monitors, and Will helped ease the reaction with hypnotherapy prompts. The alarms kept going off when one baby would move off monitor. Will learned to turn off the alarm (the nurses still heard it in their station anyway). I listened to my CD some more. We chatted with the nurses about hypnotherapy. My main nurse was impressed by my level of mobility - she'd never had a twin mommy able to just get out of bed to go to the bathroom like she was... well, like I did. We filled out forms. We signed papers. We sat quietly some more, dozing when we could, while the nurses were busy elsewhere, and then chatted with them again when they came in. Talked about other twin births they had there (one just that morning, vaginal birth, 36+ weeks, nearly 6 lb babies, all healthy). Talked about names. Warm, comfortable, professional-but-connected... just a generally good feeling.
And after 2 hours, my cervix was just the same. We got to go home... I was still contracting, but they were very mild by now, and getting milder. And I was getting VERY hungry. Thank heavens for 24-hour McDonald's! A hamburger and a large orange juice was exactly what my body wanted. 2:45 AM, we were home. My brother got to go home, and we went to bed.
I decided to try to sleep without the Ambien. Why use it if I don't need it? Worth a try on my own, I figured. But my mind was racing, and my heart started racing after it, adrenaline reaction to my mental review of the evening. I finally groaned to myself and thought, 'okay, okay, I'll take the stupid sleeping pills!' That's the last thing I remember until morning, when I woke because I had to pee, the Ambien still in its blister-pack on the shelf above the bed. For some reason, I find that very funny.
My mom came over to help get the boys off to school, and Will left for work. No contractions anymore. All calm. I went back to bed. Called in for a meeting about my documents, and warned them that I might be off work now. (I'd called my project manager when we got home to give them the heads-up... I'm sure he was surprised to get a message from me, tagged 2:45 AM!) Then I picked up Will and we went off to my OB's office for my already-scheduled appointment...
Where I found out that over the night and the morning, I'd progressed from 1-2 cm but closed at the uterine end, to 'a good 3 cm' and able to try to identify parts through the amnion to see what position Baby A was in. (Breech, so far - but still time to turn, and PLENTY of fluid to make that possible.) So, things are on the move. Slowly. But that's okay, I prefer to start labor half-way through, instead of from zero.
I still really feel I have the right OB. He wasn't bothered by being called the night before. He isn't bothered by being called to handle my birth at the hospital I prefer (he prefers the other one, but he understands why I prefer the one I do). He was happy to see me, and at this point, is content with whenever I go into labor. Just call in and let him know... He even explained how to properly support a prolapsed cord IF that should happen (in the slim-to-none odds that my water breaks while Baby A is trying to turn around). Of course, if my water breaks, I'm to go in immediately anyway - but that's fine. What I like is that his one and only serious concern for me, instead of just scaring me with it, he explained how to keep it from being a serious problem, and trusts me to keep my head and handle it! How great is that?
Oh, and he did pull me from work. YAY!
Since Monday, I've been contracting either not at all for a few hours, or 1 to 6 or 7 times an hour (but only for about an hour at a span, so just on the verge of going in to the hospital again before they stop, and the hours with many contractions have all been in a pattern where the contractions hit all at once, then pretty much stop for the second half of the hour, making it clear that there's not a lot of reason to call in). They seem to get worst around 1-2 PM, and then again around 7-9 PM. I'll have to keep an eye on my hydration, rest, and food intake before those points - I'm betting there's a pattern there for a reason! And they get worst when I'm stressed - like when the boys came home on Monday night, and were racing around screaming with excitement. ARGH! Immediately kicked the contractions to the closest they'd been all evening. Yeah, stress-reactive, definitely.
We also did the breech-turn script yesterday, which typically gets babies to turn within 12 hours. I've used it before (with Brendan), and it did exactly that. This time, though, I got the sense that as soon as a head is on my cervix, that will be IT - rock-and-roll time. So I have a feeling that they won't QUITE line up properly until the 11th hour (and they have moved to different positions, but are not both vertex yet, as of this morning). But that's okay. I can wait for when it is time for them to be born.
The breech turn script also brought up a lot of interesting stuff about the babies - what I 'read' as their issues, mostly on a spiritual level. Given that I've met souls of my children, and dreamed my sons when I was young, this doesn't shock me. I won't get into their issues, here, because I sense that they are private to them, and to our family. In general, though, there are reasons for their placement just now, that need to be worked through, and that will echo in their lives for a while to come... but those issues are also the reason they chose us to be their parents, because we are well-suited to helping, resolving, guiding, and supporting them in their growth beyond those starting points, into the shining lights we know they will become. We chose each other for a purpose, and that purpose is already manifesting.
The script also brought up the reminder that as nice as it is to be fear-free regarding how the babies are born, there is still value to the fact that I AM THE MOMMY. And that as the mommy, I am responsible for making choices for their wellbeing. I choose to prefer a vaginal birth with little or no interventions, a gentle, welcoming, peaceful birth. A healing and loving entry into the world. That is what I believe best, and what I will fight for, for these two souls that inhabit these two bodies, inside my own.
Reality time, babies. We'll deal with whatever happens, but reality is that what I want for your birth is a good thing. Time to accept that, and prepare to place yourselves optimally for your birth. I cannot and will not force you to any one path, but I will speak as your mother to say that some choices have consequences for all of us, you, and me, and everyone in this network of loving support that holds our world together. You have my heart, and my love, and my trust. Time to trust my judgment as well as your own. Be ready to take your places, it is reality time.
And whatever happens, that's reality. We'll take it from there.