See that title up there?
Yup. I gave birth. And now I’m going to write about it, partly because I want to get it down on paper before time and sleeplessness (oh, the sleeplessness) steal it from my memory….
And partly because in those final few weeks of pregnancy I scoured the internet for stories about women giving birth to twins, so I figure I should probably give back to the community, as it were.
I’m pointing this out to you because I want to warn you: it’s kind of hard to talk about giving birth to twins without using words like “cervix” and “uterus” and sentences like “some doctor whose name I don’t remember shoved her whole arm up my vagina and it wasn’t as bad as I feared.”
Anyways, I’ve done my civic duty and now you’ve been warned.
As is obvious, I am no longer pregnant. I gave birth to the twins
6 days ago
last week three weeks ago, five weeks ago, three months ago, four and a half month ago, six months ago, NINE AND A HALF FREAKING MONTHS AGO (Holy crap it’s hard to finish a blog post with twins…. which is why I’m sitting down today and finishing it. Period.) (Err, I meant today.) A year ago. Dude. Ridiculousness.
A YEAR AND A DAY AGO. LOOK FOLKS, I TRIED. IT’S HARD TO WRITE WITH FOUR KIDS. Just ignore some of the outdated words and roll with it, okay?
I anticipate many angsty teenage years as they deal with the unfairness of a February 29th birthday, but for now it’s kind of a fun date.
Having been through this two times before both The Bean and I know how short the “ERMAGEHRD, THEY’RE SO ITTY BITTY!!” stage is so we’re trying to soak it up as long as much as possible to get us through the “DID YOU JUST FINGERPAINT ON THE WALLS WITH YOUR OWN FECES?!” stage, which always comes up faster than you might expect.
Anyways, onto details. Again, I’m talking about birth so if you’re family and don’t want to read this, here’s your last chance to wander away. Seriously. I’m gonna talk about mah priiiivate parts.
Okay, moving on.
The last few weeks of pregnancy had been hard, but not undoable. Provided I didn’t need to move faster than a snail’s pace, and provided there were tons of chairs to collapse on along the way when I got too out of breath from the simple act of walking, twin pregnancy wasn’t all that different from a regular pregnancy.
I think that was the hardest part, honestly: my inability to move around and do stuff on my own. Physically I didn’t feel all that bad – I was just incapable of actually doing stuff. I think the low point was about a week before I gave birth I went to Walmart…. and found myself unable to walk to the back of the store. After stopping three times to lean against a display and huff and puff like a sprinter to catch my breath, I had to shuffle back to the front of the store to get one of those motorized scooters.
I was trying to take it easy until my perinatologist returned – she had been out-of-town and had told me I was absolutely not allowed to give birth until she returned on February the 28th in the evening. I did everything I could to keep the babies inside me – I drank lots of waters, and mostly just laid around on the sofa, trying to breathe my way through the constant mini-contractions that plagued me 24 hours a day, taking bored selfies.
That night I went to bed, rearranging pillows between my legs and under my belly, hefting myself into position so I could sleep the sleep of the dead….
For three or four hours, just like always.
I woke up at about 1 am in the morning, like clockwork, and stared at the ceiling. I didn’t have to pee, I didn’t hurt (more than usual), I was just awake.
Pregnancy insomnia: It’s almost as bad as the pregnancy vomiting.
I hefted my bulk to my back for a few moments, and then realized that it was technically Monday the 29th, and I was now free to go into labor at any time. I had an induction date about a week away, but if I could go into labor on my own, I knew it would be so much better for me.
Of course, if there’s anything I learned from going two weeks overdue with each of my other pregnancies, it’s that if you’re not ready to go into labor, nothing you will do will increase those chances in the least.
The only thing that ever got even the tiniest bit of a result for me was this method. I knew you had to be careful – it could produce contractions that lasted way too long and could be stressful for the fetus.
Still, I wondered if I could still produce a contraction on command, the way I had been able to with the other pregnancies.
I tried it once… and sure enough, my stomach started to tighten, so I quit. It was a relief to know that if I got closer to the induction date I could add that to my repertoire, along with, errr, “folding towels” with the Bean and drinking raspberry tea by the gallon.
The contraction continued to tighten my belly – it was one of the bigger “fake” ones I’d had, and it stole away my breath. I took a deep, cleansing breath and let it out right as the contraction reached its peak…
And with feeling like a soft little “snick!” I lost control of my bladder and kind of peed the bed.
It’s admirable how fast you can roll out of bed when you’re pregnant with twins when you simultaneously realize that not only are you peeing the bed, but you forgot to put on the protective mattress cover.
I made it out of bed before making too much of a mess, and stared at the small mess on the floor.
Had I peed the bed? Or had my water broken?
I shuffled off to the bathroom to clean up and change and try to figure it out. Water broken or peeing pants? Peeing pants or broken water?
I waddled off to the living room to fire up my computer, and found out that the internet is chock-full of women asking the same question…. who never bothered to come back and tell us the answer.
Everyone said that the answer was to smell it and see if it smelled different, which sounded like a fine idea until I realized… how long has it been since I sat around and sniffed my pee? I mean, I get bored on Saturday nights but I don’t get THAT bored.
Eventually I found one bit of advice: If you had peed your pants, then you should stay dry after you cleaned up. If your water broke, then it kind of keeps on leaking out of you. Sitting or laying down for 10 minutes will let the fluid pool, and when you stand up you should feel it kind of gush out again.
I hung out for as long as I could (it felt like 2 hours, but it was probably like 5 minutes.) When I stood up, I thought I felt something leak out? Maybe I was just really gross and somewhat incontinent? While I’m not in the habit of peeing my pants, when you’re unbelievably pregnant, weird stuff happens to you. It would be so embarrassing to get Joe up, tell everyone “IT’S TIME!!!” , drive an hour to Portland, only to have a bunch of highly trained medical personnel tell me that I made peepee in my undies.
On the other hand, we were having twins, it was my third pregnancy, and we were an hour from the hospital. My doctor had asked me to hurry straight in to the hospital if/when my water broke, without delay. The last thing she wanted was for my body to decide to speed through labor and me to give birth to slightly premature twins in the back of a car.
Two or three more “let the liquid pool” tests produced the same leaky results, and after I had two or three several painful contractions, I finally decided to call it.
I crept into the bedroom where The Bean lay sleeping, and lay a hand softly on his shoulder. After 7 years of marriage I knew better than to wake him up roughly. I have no idea why, but no matter how softly I wake him up he always startles awake, as if I dumped a giant bucket of ice water on his head. This time I tried to spare him the adrenaline dump, seeing as how the next 24 hours would probably be stressful enough.
“Bean,” I whispered, rubbing his back gently. “Hey Bean…”
“WHAT! WHAT? HUH? WHAT?!?!?!?!?!” He startled awake as he always did, eyes wide and slightly frantic.
I sighed. Well, at least I tried. “Hey Bean, do you wanna have a baaaby?” I sang to him, which had become our inside joke after I wrote this blog post.
“I think so. I’m pretty sure my water broke? I think? I mean, it could be just that I peed….”
“You can’t tell?”
“Well, I mean, kind of but… but I’m pretty sure it’s my water breaking. I figured if you get up now, it’ll leave you enough time to shower and wake up before we head out?”
“That’d be great.”
So, we got ready to head out – me gathering all the things I thought I might need (backpack with baby and hospital gear, nursing pillow just in case, etc, etc.) I also grabbed a pair of the Depends underpants I had left over from wearing at work. I have to tell you – throwing up while 8 months pregnant of twins is not only really un-fun, but the force of it usually makes you pee your pants.
Well, I mean, it made me pee my pants at least. Pregnancy, man. I hear there are weirdos out there that like it, but those ladies just boggle my mind.
Anyways, the Depends were because I was about 99% by that point that my water had broken. In the movies they always show people gushing explosions of water and then dashing to the hospital and pushing out a baby one short montage later.
In real life, it was much less exciting. I poked around the house and got my bag and stuff together, woke up the roommate to ask her to watch the kids till my mom got there, and basically just waddled around leaking. The thing with amniotic fluid is that you are always making more, so after your water breaks it’s like you’re slowly peeing your pants over the next several hours.
I brought two towels to sit on for the ride to the hospital and after making The Bean snap one last photo to finish up my weekly “this is how a twin pregnancy progresses” photo album, we eventually we headed down the road.
The Bean was silent most of the drive to the hospital – hands gripped on the wheel, knuckles slightly white. Me? I was chattering and happy, trying to get rid of my nerves by laughing and joking as I did my best to get more than a terse, one-word response out of him.
Since it was my third time to the Labor and Delivery unit, we knew the drill by heart. The first time I’d been there because of a labor scare at 33 weeks. The second time I’d been there for a round of monitoring and a second steroid shot. This time I felt very comfortable as I changed into the hospital gown and began hanging out in the monitoring room.
The test the nurses performed to see if my water had broken was pretty simple: They wanted to test the PH of the liquid coming out of me, and then they wanted to do a stain on a slide, to see if it produced the proper “ferning” pattern.
They swabbed my lady bits with a Q-tip and did the first slide – the PH said it was amniotic fluid, but the ferning wasn’t quite right
So they did a second slide, and the ferning wasn’t quiiiite ferny enough.
They left the room to confer with my perinatologist over the phone… and returned back in a frantic rush, convinced one of the twins was in fetal distress.
As it turns out, one of the fetal monitors was picking up my heart rate instead of Baby B’s, so they fiddled with those stupid straps awhile more and relaxed. They took a third slide (yay for Q-tips up the hoo-hah!), and this time ferning was ferny enough. I had definitely had my water break, and even better, my doctor had given me the consent to stay. They had been waffling on whether to send me home or not, since I wasn’t in crazy active labor.
I found out later that Dr. Liu chewed them out for that. Almost sending home a mom of twins with her water broken, 2 kids at home, and she lives an hour away? Bad, healthcare peoplesI. Bad.
I do have to say that one of the frustrating parts of giving birth is that I have prodromal labor – my labor contractions don’t get close together without some kind of pitocin augmentation. They get more powerful, but they always remain a bit scattered – I can go 20 minutes between contractions. Before I found out I was having twins I had been seriously considering using a birthing center instead of an actual hospital labor, and just chilling and sloooowly giving birth there… but, alas, twins were a game changer.
There are many things I am willing to fight the labor and delivery system for, but with twins I just didn’t have the fight in me. Besides, for once I adored my doctor, and I trusted her judgement, even if she wasn’t nearly as granola/crunchy as me.
Anyways, after getting admitted to one of the giant, gorgeous “birthing suites” (not that I would be allowed to give birth there – if you give birth to twins they kind of insist you give birth in an operating room), my labor kind of stalled.
It wasn’t a shock to me – while I’d been having regular contractions the drive up, once I got into the hospital, with its antiseptically clean environment and constant monitoring, I felt a lot less comfortable and it chased my contractions away. I’m pretty sure my body is convinced it can only give birth if I leave the herd and then crawl under someone’s front porch for some complete peace and quiet.
Also, I’m pretty sure I just mixed up animal birthing metaphors there, but eh. I think we all get the picture.
Anyways, even though labor was extremely slow, the nurses came in to put on the fetal monitoring. I was really excited to request the kind that OHSU had promised I could have the wireless kind. I had been so excited about that kind – what a perfect compromise. With wireless fetal monitoring I could not only make the doctors happy and satisfy their WE MUST MONITOR THE BABIES’ HEARTRATES AT ALL TIME LEST THE APOCALYPSE HAPPEN tendencies, and at the same time I wouldn’t be stuck in bed and could use things like the birthing ball, or walk around, and not feel trapped. My goal was to avoid the epidural as long as possible.
And that’s my dirty secret: I enjoy being in labor. Seriously. I hate the whole pregnancy part, but the labor? The labor I find kind of fun, in an academic, all-consuming kind of way. I mean, yes, it hurts…. but it’s a good pain. A cleansing pain. A productive pain.
I know this may not make sense to everyone, but so often my body decides to hurt for no good reason (yay, rheumatoid arthritis), and I’m trapped by a body that is doing nothing but destroying itself. There’s something about labor which feels…. wholesome and productive to me, like stretching a muscle that’s too tight.
Well, it feels like that provided I can move around during the contractions. As soon as I get trapped in bed, that cleansing pain just becomes pointless, unbearable pain.
As soon as I got seated in the labor room and the nurse approached me with the regular “don’t move a single muscle or the wires will get tangled and we’ll immediately decide your baby is dying because we can’t hear the heartbeat” monitor, I spoke up. “Can I get the wireless ones?”
“Oh. Oh, we don’t use those with twin births.”
I stared at her. “But… but they told me I could….” I blinked hard against the hot prickle of tears. “If I don’t get the one where I can move around, I don’t think I can….”
The nurse gave me a sympathetic look. “Maybe they’re doing something different nowadays. Let me check into this for you.”
She left for about ten minutes, but came back with the same news. “There’s no way to monitor two heartbeats with the wireless one. Sorry.” She dangled the monitor pads in her hands, waiting for my consent.
I thought about telling her to take the pads and shove them in a garbage disposal. I still had two circular itchy rashes on my belly from where the weekly monitoring, and I knew by the end of giving birth I’d have two more itchy circle rashes to stare at and hate, and I just… I just didn’t want to be tied down to the bed already.
It all felt so stupid. I was healthy. The babies were absurdly healthy. I had spent 10 hours with those things on my belly during my 33-week labor scare, and the twins heartbeats hadn’t deviated once. I had been spending an hour or two every single week with those things on for the weekly stress tests. Not once had my twins been anything but 100% perfectly healthy.
I know that sad, scary things happen but I just… I was barely starting labor. I wanted to walk. I wanted to sit on the birthing ball. I wanted to move around through the pain.
What I really, really, really really did not want was to be tied in bed with those !*&#@(&@ things strapped around my stomach for the next who-knows-how-many-hours, and nurses coming in every 3 minutes to readjust. I don’t know if you’ve ever used a fetal heart rate monitoring band, but they are infuriating. Maybe it’s just me, but if you move even slightly, they stop picking up the babies’ heart rate, and then you need to readjust them immediately or everyone freaks out.
When you times that by two, it’s headache-inducing. If the nurse does manage to place them so both twins’ heart rates come through nice and strong, then by golly you better not move even an inch.
I know that fetal monitoring has probably saved lives, but I also knew in my bones they just weren’t necessary in my case.
Unfortunately, I also knew from giving birth to the Squid that saying no to them would result in a giant fight. Doctors see too many sad outcomes and come into contact with too many of those depressing “This only happens to 2% of the population” results to ever agree to do away with fetal monitoring, and that was with just one baby inside. With twins?
I stared at the pads, and I stared out the window for a moment, and then I remember thinking “F*** it”, and giving in. I just didn’t have the fight in me.
“Fine,” I said, and lifted up gown.
The nurse, who was an amazing, kind human being who gave me just the space I needed, pretended not to see the angry, disappointed tears welling up in the corner of my eyes, and I pretended to be absorbed in the view out the window as she struggled to make both twins heart rates show up on the monitors.
“Huh, it looks like baby girl pushed her brother out of the way and she’s due to be Twin A.”
“Are you sure? They’ve been in the same position forever. And that heart rate looks like his, not hers.”
“Are you really, really sure? I’m telling you, I think that’s his heart rate. That looks like his heart rate.”
“Nope, that’s hers, not his. She’s Twin A now.”
I think it was about this time they tried to get my IV started, but my veins weren’t complying. I think I must have been a bit dehydrated, because it took six different sticks between two arms before they could find a vein. I developed some really nasty bruises on the arm that ended up having the blood pressure cuff. Did you know they take your blood pressure every 10 minutes or so when you’re on a heavily-monitored labor with twins?
In a completely shocking turn of events (cough, more heavy sarcasm, cough), as soon as I was trapped in bed in a “don’t-move-or-the-fetal-monitor-will-slip-slightly” position, my slow labor stalled even more.
I was probably only getting one contraction every 10 minutes, and after about 45 minutes of staring at the television and trying to zone out and will my body to have the babies faster, I was not shocked at all to have the anesthesiologist come in.
He started off introducing himself, and I was relieved to discover he was one of those instantly likeable people. It can’t be an easy thing, being an anesthesiologist on a ward for laboring mothers, but this guy had his bedside manner down just right – kind, sympathetic, friendly without being disgustingly cheerful, and not a trace of patronization. It was such a relief.
He started in letting me know that he was about to be tied up in surgeries for at least a couple of hours, so if I wanted an epidural it had to be right then, or not for a long time.
At that point I was already feeling pretty fatalistic. After all, I’d already mentally named my twin birth the BLEEP It event. Stuck in bed with fetal monitoring? BLEEEP it. Sure.
Want to give me the epidural early? BLEEEP it, why not. It’s not like I get to give birth normally, since it’s twins. Hey, we might as well toss some Pitocin in that IV line and speed things up, since I’m not going to be able to feel anything, right?
On the outside I was saying yes, but on the inside, I found the whole thing so depressing.
Who wants a first class ticket to C-SectionVille? Alll-abooooaaard! WHOOWHOO.
To his credit, the anesthesiologist’s amazing bedside manner did a lot to make me feel a lot better about the situation.
“Hey, if I have to have an epidural, do you mind making it as light as possible? So I can still feel stuff?”
“You’re my favorite kind of patient,” he exclaimed with a grin. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do. Some people don’t like to feel anything, and that’s really not possible.”
His smile was broad and infectious, and did so, so much to settle my out of control nerves….. and nerves I had in abundance. I’ve had an epidural twice before, so I knew what to expect, but what I didn’t expect was to feel so squicked out by it. When I had it done with DragonMonkey I had been in prodromal labor for 3 days and was overwhelmed with the impending emergency C-section. With Squid I had already done 31 hours of active labor and you could have jabbed a javelin into my spine and I probably wouldn’t have noticed.
With the twins, though? I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t really having any contractions, and I was already feeling defeated. The whole experience made my skin crawl, and I swear I could feel my skin twitching as they touched it, like a horse trying to get rid of a fly.
They raised the bed up and opened the back of my gown and began swabbing it to clean it up.
“Okay, Mama, I’m going to need you to bend over as much as you can. Round your spine out, and stay completely still. Dad? I want you to sit by her and comfort her.”
Ha. I bet you all forgot about The Bean being in the room, didn’t you? Let me take a moment to explain something about my husband.
The Bean is awesome.
He’s freakishly intelligent, which is totally sexy to me because guys with brains have always been my thing. Also, he’s smart, which is doubly sexy, because let’s all take a moment to agree that intelligence and being smart aren’t always the same thing. He’s incredibly driven, and if you assign him a task, he completes it and never forgets a single step or even one tiny detail. He runs all of our household finances and in the 8 years we’ve been married he’s almost doubled my credit score. He’s super good-looking and dresses well and he’s tidy, and picks up after himself, and he never smells bad. He can sail a boat and had his pilot’s license almost before he could drive a car, he’s got a dry wit which can keep an entire room rolling in laughter, he’s mechanically inclined so he can fix almost anything (cars? computers? TVs? electrical outlets?), and he likes to wash dishes and wipe down the kitchen counters.
He’s nearly a perfect man.
There are, however, a few things he doesn’t do:
- He doesn’t cook. And yes, Bean, I know you made spaghetti for me that one time, but that was actually back in 2007 so it honestly doesn’t count anymore.
- He is, hands down, the world’s crappiest caregiver. Ever. And then some.
I thought he was just bad at it when I gave birth to DragonMonkey because he was nervous and a first-time dad…. but during my 36 hour labor/delivery with the Squid, I realized… noooope. No, he just really sucks at being a nurse.
The Bean’s entire contribution during the labor process of giving birth to Squid was to sit on a chair in the corner of the room and nervously drink coffee, exuding uncomfortableness so strongly that I found myself asking him between contractions if I could get him anything.
Eventually he drank so much coffee he had to go for a walk and find a bathroom to throw up in, and that was the sum total of the comfort he offered me.
When I found out I was pregnant a third time I decided to call a spade a spade, and told The Bean that he didn’t have to be in the room unless he really wanted to. He assured me he did want to be in the room and he’d be fine… and then at 33 weeks I had my labor scare, and I had to spend 8 hours hooked up to fetal monitoring with him sitting on a chair in the corner of my room, exuding that same uncomfortableness and nervously drinking coffee. He refused to make lighthearted conversation, and picked at his hands, and paced the room, and badgered nurses and doctors for definitive answers. Was I in labor? Yes? No? How many minutes until they could give him a straight answer? If I was in labor, exactly how long would it take? Should he cancel his morning meetings? Yes? No? How many minutes before they could give him a definitive answer on whether or not he needed to cancel them?
Eventually I sent him home.
“I’ll call you if they admit me, or if I need a ride home,” I said, and after a little convincing he kissed me on the cheek and staggered off back home to bed.
The second he left the stress level in the room plummeted and my contractions relaxed.
When I saw him later that day, I offered him a choice: “If you really, REALLY want to be in the room when I give birth, that’s fine, but you need to find a way to hide how stressed out you are. Also, if you do a crappy job of hiding how stressed out you are, I reserve the right to kick you out of the room. Also, also, we’re inviting my good friend to be in the labor room with us, because you suck at caregiving and I’m going to need someone.”
So, that’s what we did. We invited my good friend BeckyJ (yes, another Becky) to be a sort-of doula whose only job was to hang out and relax with me, leaving Bean free to come and go as he needed (or for me to have someone with me if I kicked him out of the room.)
The only problem is that by a freak accident BeckyJ’s phone had been turned off and she didn’t get our message that we were in the hospital until 9am. She was on her way by the time we decided on the preemptive epidural, but it still left the Bean in charge of comforting me in the interim.
“Dad? You need to sit by her.” the anesthesiologist repeated, as they prepared to shove the giant needle in my spine.
The Bean stared at him blankly for a moment, and then dutifully pulled a chair over to sit by me.
After waiting a moment for The Bean’s non-existent comforting ability to surface, the anesthesiologist started issuing commands. “Try to distract her,” he said. “Maybe massage her feet, or talk to her, give her something to focus on.”
The Bean dutifully put one immobile hand on my feet. “So,” he said, gamely attempting small talk. “So….. we’re, uh. We’re going to have the babies today.”
I took a few shuddery breaths, leaning forward as far as I could over my giant twin belly, and tried to still my body, so I didn’t mess up the procedure.
The Bean gave distracting chatter another attempt. “It looks like it’s nice weather for it, today. Babies, uh, that is.” His hand was still on my feet, heavy and warm and completely inert.
“It’s okay, Bean,” I sighed. “I’m fine. You don’t have to talk.” I tried, and failed, to ignore the sensation of the needle sliding into my skin, the sweet-cool feel of it pressing against the bones or whatever of my spine, and then the almost sickening feel of the pop as it broke through the dura. I tried to go elsewhere in my mind, to be riding a horse, or conjugating Spanish verbs in my head, or reliving a calming daydream, but I just couldn’t block the niggling, slippery feeling of the needle wiggling around as the anesthesiologist tried to place it in the right area.
A couple dozen of really icky years later, the epidural was in place, and they were finally taping it off. “You did great, Mama,” the anesthesiologist said, as the nurse helped me lean back before the leaving the room.
The Bean, who had retrieved his hand from my foot as soon as I began moving around, looked over at me. “That didn’t seem too bad…. Hey. You’re crying? Why are you crying?”
I dunno… because I just had a giant needle rammed in my spine kind of against my will, and if I try to fight everyone’s just going to say things like, “But you just want a healthy baby, don’t you?” and then I’ll feel guilty for all the other poor women who didn’t have good outcomes, and and and…..
I thought about trying to explain all that to him, and then realized that, once again, I just didn’t have it in me.
“I’m just tired,” I lied, and resumed my vacant, BLEEP It stare out the window as the epidural took effect.
Unfortunately, since I hadn’t been in pain before the epidural there was in place no rich, golden, AH IT FEELS SO GOOD NOT TO HURT sensation like there had been during labor with The Squid. Instead, the epidural just made me feel trapped, and kind of weird, and even more out of breath.
This, of course, made me even more depressed.
Awesome – I’d had a giant needle shoved up my spine for what appeared to be the sole purpose of making me feel really weird and extra uncomfortable for the next 12 or more hours. What a super awesome birthing experience. This was just the best.
Cough, sarcasm, cough.
I shifted about and tried to catch my breath and tried to make myself comfortable. I complained that the room was too hot (it actually wasn’t) and then mentioned that I thought I felt dizzy (I wasn’t), that I was breathless (I was, but that wasn’t the problem.) until I finally figured out that what my body was telling me was that it wanted to throw up.
It sounds weird, but realizing I needed to puke kind of centered me. After hundreds of times of puking over the course of the twin pregnancy I had vomiting down to a science. This, at least, was familiar ground. I swallowed it down, paged the nurse, and asked for something to throw up into.
She came back with one of those tiny little kidney-shaped shallow pink trays that are designed to… I dunno, hold a medium-sized serving of jelly beans? Does anyone actually ever throw up that daintily?
I handed it back to her. “This isn’t going to work. I throw up harder than this.”
The nurse came back with a puke bag which was much more appropriate, and I relaxed my guard and started puking. As I filled up the first bag she noticed my frantically waving hand and brought me a second bag, and I eventually came to a stop.
I rinsed my mouth and started chewing on ice chips, and immediately felt a lot better. At least I knew it wasn’t the epidural that was making me feel weird, but just the nausea. Nausea and I were old friends – I could handle the puking.
About fifteen minutes later, just as the light drip of pitocin started to help my contractions perk up a bit, BeckyJ swept into the room and the whole place just brightened up.
I know it sounds like I had the world’s worst birthing experence, but it actually wasn’t that bad. The staff at OHSU are top-notch, amazing human beings, the facilities were state of the art, and the whole thing couldn’t have gone smoother.
It’s just that without anything to focus on, all I could think about was the negatives. Once BeckyJ got there, I was able to start change my perspective. Instead of focusing on all the stuff that I wasn’t getting (the chance to move around, the chance to really feel the contractions, the chance to have the normal singleton birth I’d dreamed of before I got pregnant and give birth in an environment that didn’t make me feel like a lab rat performing for an experiment), my labor experience began to feel kind of fun, like a nice relaxing chance to hang out with one of my favorite people in the world.
Although she brought a bag of stuff to help me, in the end the only thing she needed or used was her personality.
She chattered with me, she made me laugh, she helped set The Bean at ease, she painted my nails, and most importantly, BeckyJ also helped me figure out how to make the hospital bed sit me up so I felt less helpless, and more in control of the situation. I know that sounds like a small thing, but it was HUGE for me.
I recommend giving birth at OHSU simply based on the way their hospital beds can rearrange themselves into chairs.
The nurse came back a couple of times to bump up the pitocin, and each time she did she commented on how calm our room was. She wasn’t the only one who mentioned it, and I remember people mentioning it with The Squid, too.
It makes me wonder – how do other people give birth? Boomboxes and strobe lights and clown parties?
After an hour or two I noticed that the contractions were definitely getting stronger.
Although I had initially been excited to have what was called a “walking epidural”, I was surprised by how much I could actually feel the contractions. I mean, it was a good thing. I did my best to treat each contraction as if I wasn’t on an epidural – breathing through them appropriately – but I was beginning to be surprised by how much they actually, genuinely hurt.
At some point I remember looking over at BeckyJ and The Bean and kind of announcing “I think I’m going to get serious about the labor thing now. I’m done talking,” and asking them to dim the lights. I retreated into myself and tuned them out at that point, and just kind of rested between contractions.
At one point the nurse came in and took a look at the Bean’s stressed expression and suggested that if he wanted take a walk, or grab a smoke, now would be a good time to do it. I remember him returning and saying he rode the Tram to clear his head, and maybe also that he grabbed a bite to eat?
I do remember thinking that he had done a good job not making me notice his stress level (although the nurse obviously noticed it), but that when he returned he seemed a great deal more relaxed. I took a brief moment to be thankful for how wonderful it was that BeckyJ could be there to give him the freedom to decompress. I know my mom would have loved to have been there, but I also knew that The Bean wouldn’t be able to relax as much around her.
It was at this point that I actually began to enjoy the fact I had an epidural: the pain was fairly intense. It was kind of nice being able to feel the entire the contractions, but not be completely overwhelmed by them.
Eventually, after one long contraction which felt like it was approaching overwhelming, BeckyJ spoke up.
“Are you starting to feel the contractions more?”
“Well, because I heard you.”
She heard me? Was I moaning, and groaning, and grunting, and making all sorts of noise without realizing it? I don’t know why it seemed important not to make a lot of noise, but it did, so I apologized.
She laughed, and assured me I had done was sigh.
“Could you… could you maybe call a nurse and ask them to check the epidural? It doesn’t seem to be working as well as it was in the beginning. Maybe they can turn it up a little bit?”
“Is there something wrong with your pump, do you think?”
I stared at her blankly. “Pump?”
“Yeah, the thing with the button, which you press when you want the medicine?”
I looked over at the button by my head. “Wait… am I supposed to be pressing this button?”
“Yeah, didn’t they explain it?”
“Nope.” I stared at the button in my hand, and for a very serious moment I thought about not pushing the button…..but even though I was sitting up, I still had to be fairly motionless to keep the fetal monitoring bands on, and without the ability to rock back and forth through the contractions…..
In the middle of the next contraction I mashed down hard on the button, and by the time the next contraction came around I was back to feeling in control.
Time got a little hazy there for a bit, but I remember realizing that even though I was completely comfortable, I was going to have to ruin my perfect position by figuring out a way to use the restroom. If it was just pee I would have asked for a bedpan, but alas, the sensation down below left no doubt:
Man, I really had to take a crap.
I sat up to ask BeckyJ to figure out how we could get to the toilet to go poo, and that’s when I remembered…. wait. Wait, was it possible I was just feeling pressure from Twin A? I remembered being plagued by the “urrrrgh I need to crap!” sensation the entire time I was in labor with Squid.
“Can you have a nurse come in and check me? I either need to go to the bathroom, or I’m feeling some pressure.”
I didn’t think I was that far along in labor. I remembered from The Squid that if I was in transition I would be shaking violently, so I was pretty sure I just needed to go to the bathroom… but it didn’t hurt to ask.
“I’m pretty sure I’m about a 5… maybe a 6,” I told the nurse as she slipped a hand under the sheets to check. I hadn’t been in active labor very long, and I knew we were in for a bit of a long haul. My labors always took forever.
“Actually,” she said, staring up at the ceiling as she did her thing, “You’re about an 8… maybe 8.5. I’m going to call them and ask them to get the operating room ready.
I sat up on my elbows and stared at her incredulously. “Wait. What? Are you kidding me? Are you serious?”
She smiled, and tossed her glove in the trash. “Yup.”
“I’m at an 8. I’m in transition, right now. Are you kidding me?”
Where was the violent shaking? Where was the overwhelming urge to puke? Where were the hours and hours upon hours of labor? I always stalled at 6 centimeters of dilation for hours (or, in DragonMonkey’s case, days.) Once I hit transition (8-10 centimeters) I would be fully dilated within 15 minutes tor so. That would mean full dilation in, what…. about 6 hours since I got the epidural? I was almost done?
“Yup!” she smiled at me, and I grinned back at her…. and that’s when it hit me. I was about to give birth. To twins.
Since I was so close to getting wheeled into the operating room we decided to just keep the bed flat, and I ended up laying on my side through the next contractions.
About 15 minutes later (I think? ) they came back in and checked… and yup. I was fully dilated.
At that point, I remember thinking, “This is happening too fast. I’m… I’m not ready. My hair’s not even brushed. Crap. I can’t give birth with my hair all around my face. I need it in a braid, or something. Where’s a brush?”
I remember them snapping up the rails on the bed and The Bean putting away his laptop and all of us getting ready to head over to the operating room.
I remember wheeling past the admitting table, and seeing one of DragonMonkey’s classmate’s moms checking in.
“Oh my gosh, hi! What are you doing here?”
“Uh, I’m about to go have my twins. What are you doing here?”
“I’m about to get induced!”
The whole thing felt so surreal – small talk and pleasantries and waving at people as they wheeled me down the hallway to push a litter of babies out my vagina.
The Bean and BeckyJ stayed outside the operating room as they set it up.
All the research I’d done had prepared me for the sheer volume of people who were going to be present, but it still felt… well, surreal.
The operating room is absurdly bright, and there were about 10-15 people were wandering around, setting up instrument trays and baby beds with warmers, and talking to each other, and I almost felt out of place, like I had opened the door to someone else’s business meeting when all I wanted to do was find a quiet place to eat my lunch.
They wheeled my bed up to the too-skinny metal “bed” that would serve as an operating table in case of a crash C-section, and dropped the rails on my comfy laboring bed. This part I was familiar with, from The DragonMonkey’s birth. It was up to me to make the lateral transition, but right as I was about to scoot over a wallop of a contraction came on.
“Can I…. Can I just…. Can I please finish this contraction before I move?” I panted.
“Oh, of course,” the surgical staff said graciously.
All of them were amazing and friendly and polite, but still… I remember thinking how silly the whole thing was – the messy, primal business of birth so regulated that I felt I needed to politely request to finish my contractions before complying with orders in this too-clean atmosphere.
After I hefted my bulk onto the table they had to begin the whole process of attaching those stupid fetal monitoring buttons again…. or maybe they screwed in an internal monitoring thing? I can’t quite remember. A couple of the nurses made soft clicking noises with their tongues when they saw the rash the pads had left behind, which somehow made me feel better about the whole thing. Seeee? I’m not being a wimp when I complain they’re itchy.
They had me rest my feet in the stirrups, and that’s when I realized that several of the personnel in there were there not necessarily because they were essential, but because they were there to learn. I realized this because the young doctor (or nurse?) who helped install the leg stirrups put it on backwards, and didn’t seem to realize it until I told him so. It took one of the nurses coming over and assisting him before could figure out how to put it on right.
At this point things kind of stalled – I was laying flat on my back with my legs up in the air in those stupid stirrups, which as got to be the world’s stupidest position for giving birth.
It basically looked like this, only more spread-eagle, the babies were more inside me, and I was considerably less photogenic:
They had my crotch pointed at the entry way door, and as I lay there all I could think about was that The Bean and BeckyJ were going to walk through there at any moment and get a very, very head-on view of my private parts.
In fact, with the way they had me positioned, that’s all anyone would be able to see: Not my face (which was hidden behind the bulk of my belly), not my side – just my two spread legs and a gross hairy thing saying hello.
I mean, I knew everyone was about to see it anyways, but I was kind of hoping that moment would be less “Hi, Becky’s vagina!” and more “Oh, look, here comes a couple of people out Becky’s vagina.”
“Uh…. can you cover me up before my husband comes in?”
The nurse immediately tossed a sterile pad over it. “Oh! Oh, of course. Of course. We’re just trying to get everything set up. Nobody is coming through those doors until everything’s ready, but let’s just cover you up to make you more comfortable.”
Eventually everything was set up just so, and someone asked me, “How long did it take you to push out your other son with your VBAC?”
“Uh… I don’t know. The doctor wasn’t in the room so they wouldn’t let me push till he got there, but I think it only took 2 or 3 times. I don’t think I should push until we’re completely ready.”
“… Hmm. Well, let’s just give it a couple of tries here, just to make sure. On your next contraction, go ahead and bear down.”
Well, it wasn’t like there weren’t enough doctors in the room to catch a twin, so when the next contraction built up I did what I remembered from The Squid: I pushed like I was taking a giant crap.
I remember from the last time that when I had tried to isolate the feeling of pushing so that I didn’t give myself hemorrhoids, but that when I did it that way I made no progress. Maybe it’s different for others, but for me, all I can say is that pushing out a baby feels exactly like trying to poop. A big, giant, poop that’s covered in flaming spikes.
Childbirth: It’s sexy, y’all.
Two or three seconds into the pushing the doctor (nurse?) said, “Oh, okay, you’re good… we’ve got it… stop. STOP STOP!”
I couldn’t help but feel a bit smug. I told you I was good at pushing, lady.
About that time they brought in The Bean and BeckyJ, and had them sit kind of out of the way, near my head.
I think it as at that point that someone offered me the chance to plug-in a playlist, and I remember thinking… dude. I could have made a playlist? Man, I wish I’d known that. What would I have put on it? Probably LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy And I Know It”, and maybe “Gangam Style” and maybe “I’m Bringing Sexy Back” and other silly things like that.
“No, I don’t… I don’t have anything.”
“Do you have a specific station you’d like us to turn on? We could turn on Pandora for you? Would you like us to dim the lights?” They were so very conscientious about the whole thing, like good waiters trying to make a strange dinner party seem less weird than it actually was.
I glanced around the room filled with strangers and then squinted at the ridiculously bright lights over head. “Maybe… maybe dim the lights?”
“Of course,” they said, immediately dimming the lights.
Dimming the lights had a huge impact on the feel of the operating room.
Instead of super bright room filled with wall-to-wall with people in masks, and electronics and wires, and surgical steel, and me flat on my back like a flipped-over cockroach….
It was now a somewhat less-bright room filled wall-to-wall with people in masks, and electronics, and wires, and…
And you get the point.
“You know what, it’s okay. Just… just turn the lights back on.” It came out kind of annoyed sounding, so I tried to soften it with a laugh. “I’m sorry, but dim lights and music doesn’t change the fact it’s an operating room. Let’s just deliver these babies and be done with it.”
I think if I could go back in time and stood strong on one point it was how they were very specific about where The Bean and BeckyJ were allowed to sit, and how they were NOT allowed to budge from that spot. I remember thinking, “Well, that’s stupid. Every single person in this room gets to see the baby come out except them,” but at that point the doctor gave me the go-ahead to push with the next contraction, and I had other things on my mind.
It felt so very, very disjointed and weird at that moment – over a dozen people all crammed into the too-bright room, all staring at me, all waiting for me to push, the Beatles playing quietly in the background, and me thinking, thinking, thinking, unable to shut off my brain.
What a stupid position to give birth in. If I was allowed to squat, I wouldn’t have to hold onto my thighs to curl up and bear down. Man, my thighs are fat and hard to hold on to.
“Okay, take a breath,” the doctor said. “Aaaand go again.”
I grabbed the back of my head to try to curl up and bear down harder. Ugh, I can feel my face getting all red and tight. I bet my face is really red right now.
“Is she coming out?”
“Her head is right there. Lots of hair!”
“Can I touch her?”
“Sure, just go ahead and put your hand down there.”
I reached down with my hand and felt the firm cap of her skull, slimy and warm…. but the experience wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought it would be, so I decided to get back to business at hand.
PUUUUUSH…. Dude, I wish someone would push on the small of my back – it’s hard to hold this crunch….Why would they expect you to hold a sit-up position on your own when you’re 9 months pregnant with twins? This is stupid—-Ow. OW. PUSH. Ow owowowowowow, my crotch, ow ow ow, hot damn that burns, owowowow….
I began muttering it out loud. “Ow. Owowowowowow.”
“This always hurts, you’re doing great, okay, just little pushes…. little pushes….”
“What does that even mean?!”
The process of birthing is so intense it shuts down my thinking, verbal side of the brain. The doctors never seem to want to get out of my way and just let me do my thing on my own, but at the same time, they never seem to give enough direction as to what the heck they mean. Why was I giving little pushes? How little?
I realize now that the little pushes was because they were taking a moment to suction the baby’s nose, but at the time I couldn’t think that far ahead. I needed feedback as to whether I was interpreting “little pushes” correctly or not, because that’s not what my body was telling me to do. I remember thinking irritably, “Either leave me alone to give birth, or quit beating around the bush and tell me what the heck you want in short, easy to understand words..”
“Just little pushes…”
“Like this? Does this work?”
“Breathe in little tiny pants. Like this – heee-heee-hee-hee-hee… goood.”
Owowowowow…. my crotch…
“Okay, big push… good!”
“It’s the boy! He came out first after all!”
I couldn’t believe it was that easy. I’m telling you, pushing out a 5 pound baby is a heck of a lot easier than pushing out a 7 pound baby. I craned my neck from my sitting position to look at him, this wet, warm, brand-new human being.
To be honest, I could probably have a hundred kids, just for the joy of that “I finally get to meet you” moment. I hate pregnancy, I don’t have it in me to parent any more than the four I already have, but man, I love that moment of being the first person to see this tiny, 100% complete individual who will have hopes and dreams and sorrows and joys, and whose favorite color might be blue or green or pink or who knows, and… and hello, my son. I got you. I got you. Shhhh. It’s okay.
I looked at his face and although the shape of the chin was different, and the curve of the mouth, he looked almost EXACTLY like the DragonMonkey did at birth.
They left him on my chest a moment longer, and I marveled at his face, the force of his screams, the fact that he was real, that he was mine, that he was there….
But about that point the fetal monitor began to have trouble picking up Twin B’s heart rate.
This wasn’t unexpected – I had researched that it’s hard to find Twin B’s heart rate immediately following the birth of the first twin, because Twin B will shift with all the extra room, sometimes even flipping around to become transverse, or breech, or whatever….
But I was so confused, and out of it. Too many people. Too many lights. Too much noise and movement. Too much science in a moment that nature intended to be 100% unthinking.
All I know is that they took my baby boy off my chest and then I heard, “Yeah, we are having a little trouble finding the heartbeat,” and me thinking, “Is she okay? Is she okay? Does that mean they can’t find it, or does that mean there ISN’T a heart beat? Does that mean I need a C-section too? I don’t want surgery. Is she okay?”
I remember turning to look at the medical personnel by my side who was messing with the doppler. “Is she okay? What does that mean?”
I remember the doctor sitting at the business end of things saying, “Okay, Becky, I need you to focus and push,” and two people leaning down with their arms flat on the top of my belly to push Magpie down and help her engage.
A bolt of panic shot through me. Was she okay? Were they about to open me up if they couldn’t find her heartbeat? Oh God, please God, let this be a stupid science thing, and let there be a heartbeat.
I remembered deciding I would NOT have a C-section, and reaching deep inside me with the goal of pushing hard enough that I could somehow suck her from the top of my belly and all the way out of me in one push, one push, puuuuush, puuuuush, I’m not gonna stop pushing until she’s safe and out, and and and
quick pant quickpant
PUSH PUSH PUSH PUUUUUSSSSHH
“Little pushes! Little pushes!” someone cried out, and again I thought irritably, why? What does that even mean? I wish they’d make up their damn minds. Do they want me to push or not?
“Tell me what you want,” I think I managed to pant. “Tell me what to do.”
“Okay, little pushes.”
“How long? How long do I ‘little push’? You have to tell me if I’m doing it right.” I was just so irritated with the whole process. You can’t numb me up and lay me on a medal table and then expect me to do what comes naturally. There is no “naturally” about stopping mid push, in the middle of a contraction, while giving birth in front of 15 strangers. Little pushes means nothing to me. Speak English, people.
“Okay, little pushes, just like that… keep it like that…. and one good push! Good.”
OW, that burned. “Is her head engaged yet?” I hadn’t heard them say anything. Could they find her on the heart monitor? Was she okay?
Out? I’d already pushed her out? And then I heard it, that sweet sound of a baby’s cry, and I realized… success.
I was done. She was safe. They were both out, and I wasn’t pregnant anymore, and I was a twin mom, and everyone was fine, and we’d avoided a C-section.
Magpie was crying, and both babies were both healthy, and breathing and here she was at last, my daughter, they were laying my daughter on my chest, and hoooooly crap, she looked just like my mom, and I was just so filled with joy.
Finn was 5 pounds, 6 ounces. Magpie was 5 pounds, 9 ounces. They had Apgars of 9. Everything was picture perfect, and they were born six minutes apart.
Of course, right about the time things started to settle down we entered the third stage of labor – retrieving the placentas. I’m not going to lie, as they started to go spelunking inside me, I was really relieved to have an epidural. I know I sound really against all the over-the-top medicine but I am really glad I got my epidural for my twins, simply based on the “cave diving” that went on after I gave birth. Apparently a tiny bit of membrane was still up in there, and I’m pretty sure at least one doctor went elbow deep to get it out.
Practically elbow deep, guys. Let’s all say YAAAY for epidurals.
They also had their buddies help them out by pressing and massaging and leaning with their elbows on my stomach and all sorts of other fun. It definitely didn’t feel very good, but yay for epidurals? I’m not gonna lie – it was pretty uncomfortable (in the uterus, surprisingly not in the, err, more sensitive areas), but I was pleasantly distracted by Magpie so I managed to tune out all but the worst of it.
I do think it’s interesting that the only pains that really stand out in my mind are what happened after the birth, and the feeling of receiving my epidural. The rest just kind of felt “natural” so my brain absorbed them and erased it.
I remember someone saying, “That was the easiest twin birth I’ve ever been to.”
I also remember somebody else standing near the empty emergency “baby isn’t doing well” station kind of laughing and saying, “Well, we’re useless here.”
I remember another person in the room saying, “You were made to give birth to twins!” as if they were announcing I had found my calling in life, and me thinking, “Dude, are you high? Do you think I’m doing this again?”
I remember them wheeling me back to my room, and me with a baby in each arm, and thinking, “I usually like to stare at my newborn’s face, but it’s hard trying to look at both of them. I wonder if I’m spending enough time with each of them, or focusing too much on one rather than the other? I’m so out of it. Well, I guess this is the beginning of the Twin Mom guilt. I might as well get used to it.”
I noticed when they brought me back to the room that the whole process of “wheeling out of the room-setting up-giving birth-spelunking for membranes-wheeling back” had taken place in a little over half an hour, which just seemed so fast, too fast.
I remember I couldn’t stop shaking. Violently. At one point I handed off the baby because I worried about being able to hold on to her.
“Are you cold? Do you want a warm blanket?”
“I…I…I… Don’t…. Know….”
“Why is she shaking like that?” The Bean asked.
“It’s a lot of adrenaline all at once,” the nurse explained, draping a comforting and wonderfully hot blanket over my shoulders. “The body is just processing all the adrenaline.”
“Ah,” he said. “So it’s completely normal.”
“Well, it’s normal enough. It happens. She’ll be okay. She’s just processing the adrenaline.”
I couldn’t stop the shaking, and I couldn’t find my center, to calm myself. It was almost like being in shock, and the constantly swirling people didn’t help. They said they wheeled me back to give me some quiet time with the babies, but there were two babies, and two baby carts, and twice the measurements, and how do I nurse them both? They’re so little. Can they latch on? Where’s Finn? With the Bean. Who has Magpie? Here, give her to me. More people. More activity.
At one point my perinatologist (she specialized in moms with autoimmune disorders like me) who I loved and who had been with me throughout the entire pregnancy showed up. She had been out-of-town all day and had sped down the freeway to try to make it, but missed the birth by 20 minutes. She was bummed, and I was bummed, but at that point I was too overwhelmed to feel much about it. She stopped by to congratulate me, and while I thought it was thoughtful of her, I couldn’t help but think, “I don’t want to visit. I want it to be quiet, so I can regroup. Would everyone just go away?”
I remember one of the nurses showing up with a steroid shot to put in my IV bag, and my doctor politely snapping at her a bit. “I gave orders for that to go in before she gave birth to protect her immune system from the adrenaline dump. It’s not much good now.”
I remember trying to nurse the babies and getting them both to latch on, a little.
I remember Magpie wouldn’t quite screaming, and I couldn’t get her calmed down, but her little voice was so tiny she just ended up sounding like a disgruntled, tiny duck. I remember thinking it was cute, and then musing that I probably wouldn’t think it was cute for very long.
I remember wishing they would give the twins a bath to clean them up, and even requesting it, but the nurses were so genuinely excited about the healing properties of the vernix being absorbed by the skin and about letting me have skin-to-skin time that I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.
I remember settling in to the upstairs room and wishing the stupid epidural would wear off, so I could take a shower… except it wouldn’t. In fact, I didn’t get full sensation back in my right leg until about noon the next day.
I remember being overwhelmed…. but also overjoyed.
We went home less than 48 hours later.
Can you believe it’s already been a year?