Rosie @ A Blog for my Mom is hosting a link-up for twins’ birth stories. The story of Ben and Marie’s birth is something I’ve wanted to write down for years–about 6 1/2 now! So here goes.
William was 3 years old, and Louis had just turned 1. At the time, I was part of a study group for young mothers called Familia. My friends and I would read various theological works and get together to discuss them in the evenings without kids. One of the documents we read was Pope John Paul II’s pastoral letter Letter to Families. When I read this document, N. and I were kind of on the fence about whether or not to try for another baby. We were very busy with our active little boys. Surely another baby would just add to the chaos that was starting to feel a bit unmanageable. And then I read this:
Families today have too little “human” life. There is a shortage of people with whom to create and share the common good; and yet that good, by its nature, demands to be created and shared with others: bonum est diffusivum sui: “good is diffusive of itself.”
Those words wouldn’t leave me, I shared them with Nathaniel, and we agreed to be open to God sending some more life into our family. Little did we know!
Before we could even take a pregnancy test, I started to feel nauseous. I still can’t stand Brazil nuts, which was what I was eating when the first wave hit. I immediately called up the midwife who had attended Louis’s birth. With William, we had attempted birth at a birth center and ended up transferring to the hospital for a Pitocin induction. It was a difficult birth, and I blamed the hospital. So we found a homebirth midwife the next time around, and we had Louis at home so quickly that the midwife barely made it. I thought things had gone well and was prepared to have another homebirth.
The morning-afternoon-evening-nighttime sickness was intense beyond anything I’d experienced with the older boys. But, I wasn’t incapacitated or losing weight, so we hoped maybe it meant we were having a girl this time.
In my opinion, I was growing faster than I had before, but my midwife assured me my measurements were normal. Then I had a dream that I was having twins. Again, I asked my midwife to re-check my measurements and to listen for two heartbeats, but there was nothing unusual. I had another dream I was having twins, and more questions for my midwife. She assured me everything looked and sounded like I was only having one baby. Still, I wondered!
We scheduled my 20-week ultrasound on my 29th birthday. As we were driving to the hospital, Nathaniel asked me, “Are you worried about anything being wrong?” “No,” I answered, “just that it’s twins!” Ha, ha, we both laughed. And I didn’t really believe my intuitions meant anything.
Well, about two seconds into the ultrasound, the technician said, “I see two heads in there. Looks like you’re having twins!” A boy and a girl, alive and well, with everything intact. All I could say was, “I knew it.”
It was like finding out I was pregnant all over again. Phone calls to everyone and tons of new information to process. My midwife said that my first priority needed to be getting help with the boys, that I was going to need extra rest and now was the time to set it up. I was able to find two babysitters who came over every week. So at least two weekdays I was guaranteed a nap. It was what we could do, and it helped a lot.
Then we began reevaluating our decision to have a homebirth. Our midwife was happy to do it, but there would be some changes. She would have two other midwives attend the birth as well as a nurse, with the additional option of having an ultrasound technician attend with portable u/s equipment. Our midwife had attended 10 twin births, and half of them had required a hospital transport for a Cesarean, usually for the second twin only. In one of those births, in which one of her associate midwives, not her, was the primary attendant, the second twin died en route to the hospital. Unfortunately, that had happened just a few months prior. When I heard that, I knew we were not going to have a homebirth. The crucial moment in a twins birth is what the second twin does right after the first twin is born. If she slides into place, the birth will probably proceed normally. But when she doesn’t, it can become a very complicated situation. A skilled attendant can often manipulate the baby into the proper position, but when they can’t, a Cesarean is probably the only option.
Up until that point, I preferred midwives to OBs because they spend so much more time with their clients, during pregnancy and during labor. Even if they have delivered a fraction of the babies an obstetrician has, they have probably clocked more hours watching women in labor because they don’t leave their patients. For most births, labor is when problems occur, and I’d trust an experienced midwife to see those problems coming. But, we thought, if the crucial moment is delivery, then maybe we need to find a practitioner who has clocked more hours catching babies.
Thus began the search for an OB who would deliver twins naturally. Easier said than done. The OBs we found who would even try to deliver twins naturally referred to it as “a trial of labor” and insisted that the delivery happen in the operating room in case a Cesarean became necessary. It turned out that the doctor whom I had seen for William’s unexpected hospital birth was the only one who said he did not believe it was helpful to treat twins as a “high-risk” situation. He said, “We won’t call it high-risk unless it really is.” He was an older doctor who had delivered about 100 sets of twins. Like my midwife, he had a 50% Cesarean rate. He was comfortable delivering a breech second twin or attempting to manipulate a transverse (sideways) one before doing a Cesarean. The only problem was that I discovered this doctor had at one point years ago lost his license temporarily for marrying one of his patients. Ick. But when I considered my options, I decided that I felt comfortable dealing professionally with him, I felt like he was reliable in the delivery room, and I would just not worry about his private life. So the do-or-die homebirthers signed up for the hospital tour!
I continued to see my midwife for prenatal care and asked if she would attend our birth as a doula. She said she would. I had a very tiring but uneventful pregnancy. My goal was to make it past Louis’s 2nd birthday. I didn’t want his birthday to be eclipsed by newborn babies, and I wanted him to always be 2 years older than them. I remember gathering with a few friends at a playground (with a bathroom!) on Louis’s birthday, October 10. I was 38 weeks, 2 days pregnant. 4 days later, I told Nathaniel I could not take care of the boys any longer. He had to start his paternity leave then no matter what.
The next morning, I woke up at 4:30am and knew it was going to be the day. Contractions were coming slowly but surely, but I didn’t need to wake anyone up yet. I just paced around the house in the dark, so glad I wasn’t going to be pregnant much longer! I had been so miserable the last month that I hadn’t even taken a moment to worry about the birth. C-section or not, I would no longer be pregnant!!
When the sun came up, everybody got up and some friends came to take the boys. Our midwife came over at about 10am. I told her I didn’t think I was too far along yet because the contractions weren’t very bad. I was 7cm dilated. Considering that I had gone from nothing to delivery in 2 hours with Louis, it was time to call the doctor and get in the car!
The hospital was about 30 minutes away, and it was an uncomfortable ride. But I wasn’t worried. When we walked into L & D to sign in at the nurse’s station, my OB waved to us as he walked past. “Be sure to tell them the interesting part!” he called out.
My midwife had a good friend and fellow homebirth midwife who also worked as an L & D nurse at that hospital. She was on duty and we quickly requested her! I was already thinking, why didn’t I like this hospital last time? I had to spend 10 minutes on the monitors, which was awful, but that was it. They promised me intermittent Doppler monitoring for the rest of the birth unless anything went wrong.
When that was finished, I wanted to be alone. Nathaniel had brought our big birth ball, and I just sat on it and rocked back and forth while he and the midwives sat outside the room. I could hear them chatting, and I wished I could be in total silence. I felt peaceful, and I had a nice little way of leaning on the birth ball during a contraction that almost took the pain away. Finally, my midwife came in and watched me for a few contractions. Then she said, “You’ve got to get rid of that birth ball. You’re not letting the babies come down.”
I was mad, but I knew she was right. “If you want to meet those babies, you need to get up and start moving around!” So I did. But while the contractions got stronger, they never got closer together than about 2 minutes. At 9 cm, the staff came in and told me I needed to move into another room, and I didn’t think anything of it. I just hopped up and walked off to wherever they told us to go. Having had a Pitocin birth and a 0-10cm-in-2-hours birth before, this slow-going kind of labor felt strangely gentle. My midwife guessed it was either because my uterus was so huge it couldn’t contract quickly, or it was because my water hadn’t broken yet (which it had in the other two births). There were a few moments of intensity right at the end because Benedict (Baby A) had his fist scrunched up against his head. But with two midwives moving me into all different positions, he was fine before they could even call the doctor, who walked in ready to catch a baby. My water broke just as Benedict was born. He came out screaming, poor guy, and my first thought was that he looked exactly like William (who also came out screaming!). I got to hold Ben for a few minutes until suddenly I felt an enormous contraction coming on. I quickly passed Ben to Nathaniel, and with one giant push, Marie came flying out!
Marie looked blue to me, and I kept asking someone to make sure she was okay, even though the nurses and all the people who had appeared in the room without my even knowing it assured me she was perfectly fine. Then we were holding the babies and trying to get them to nurse, and I remembered the placenta still had to come. The two placentas had fused into one big one, which, at 10 pounds, was quite a bit larger than either baby. Thankfully it didn’t have any bones!
Benedict and Marie were born 7 minutes apart, just before 5pm, which made them a few hours shy of 39 weeks. They were 6 lb 12 oz and 6 lb 10 oz.
Afterwards, my doctor congratulated us and said, “I wish they could all be like this one.” I had to agree; it had definitely been my easiest delivery. When I was pregnant with Teddy four years later, I kept wishing and hoping, “If I could just have the twins’ birth over again!” I sure didn’t, but that’s another birth story!
Proud Papa with the birth ball that had to go
The hospital staff treated us like celebrities, and I had the chance to let memories from my first hospital birth heal. I did find trying to nurse the twins overwhelming, and being a small out-of-the-way hospital, they didn’t have great breastfeeding support. I also wanted to get home to the boys and we went home in 24 hours.
I didn’t have much time to think about the birth because I could tell breastfeeding was going to be a challenge. The twins were small and sleepy, and I was exhausted. A friend who was training to be a La Leche League leader came over a few times and then recommended a lactation consultant. She was wonderful and recommended some herbal help with milk production. This stuff worked overnight.
If I could do it over again, I would not have tried to nurse both babies at the same time in the beginning. It would have been easier if I’d given them both time to learn separately. But anyway, we survived, and they nursed for 20 months.
Doesn’t Louis look just like Teddy?
Today Ben and Marie are happy and healthy almost 6 1/2 year olds. They have very different personalities and interests, but they always watch out for each other. This afternoon Marie came down with the flu (what have we done to anger the sick fates?) and as soon as Ben heard Nathaniel ask me to get the thermometer, he ran to get her a drink of water, with a straw, because of course she’d be drinking it lying down. Later in the day she was lying on the couch, and Teddy walked by and bopped her on the face with a board book, right on her stitches! Benedict then stationed himself on the opposite couch to protect her.
Our twins sure did add to the chaos, but they also multiplied the love and life in our family immeasurably.
There are many more twin birth stories at Rosie’s!
And this is Post 6 of 7 posts in 7 days!