On November 10, we went to the hospital in the middle of the night for some monitoring. Everything was completely fine, and they sent me home at about 1 AM. Still, I was incredibly nauseous the entire time we were there (the room was hot, I had already taken pills that made me incredibly exhausted, and I was nervous that this was it). It made me realize that I actually was a little nervous about the labor and delivery part of the pregnancy. So, I started talking to Tim about my ideal birth experience. You can read about it here.
I never thought that our actual experience would be so close to my dream.
On Monday, November 18, we went to our perinatal specialist (high risk doctor) for our weekly appointment and 36-week measurement. Baby Girl A measured at 6 lb 10 oz and Baby Boy B measured at 5 lb 7 oz. Their heartbeats and fluid looked perfect. We went in to my OB on Friday, November 22 at 3:10 PM for my scheduled weekly appointment. Here, they usually just looked at me (leaving the looking at the babies for the perinatal specialist). My stomach measured at 43 weeks pregnant (if I only had 1 baby in me). No swelling. My blood pressure was a little high. I also had been having slight bleeding during the day, leading up to the appointment. All week, I had been having some real contractions, but they were only 4 in an hour, and then we would have a few hours with nothing. So, they looked at my cervix, and I was 70% effaced and 4 cm dilated (only 1 cm change since the week before, and no change in effacement).
With my blood pressure elevated, our doctor wanted me to go to the hospital to get monitored, to see if we could lower it, and also to keep an eye on the babies. They didn’t have a double monitor for twins at their office, so off to the hospital we went (just through the hallway from the office to the labor/delivery floor). We were expecting to be there for a couple of hours until our doctor finished her office visits. We figured she would then come and check on us, and we would be good to go home.
The nurse had me change into a hospital gown and go to the bathroom before I got hooked up to the monitors. I had planned on wearing a birthing skirt for the actual birth, but we left the labor bag in the car, so I just put on what they had for me at this point. The nurse was able to find the heartbeats relatively quickly, and we were very happy when she referred to them as “good babies” because they were so agreeable and easy to find. She also got me hooked up to the contraction monitor, so I had lots of things on my belly at this point. No bathroom trips for me for a while, unless we wanted to unhook all of the monitors!
At this point, I had Tim run down to the car to move it from the valet (so we could get into it after the valet closed at 5) and get the labor bag… just in case. The nurse asked me quite a few questions, but thankfully we had most of the answers already saved from the last visit, so we just had to confirm the answers. She also took the chance when Tim was out of the room to ask about history of abuse, at which point I could brag about my husband quite a bit, saying that he was “absolutely perfect,” and he did so much to take care of me. I also got chatty with her and told her that we were high school sweethearts, and a little bit about our relationship. At this point, I realized I was feeling great! I was in a great mood, and that was the kind of feeling I wanted to have on the day that my babies were born (totally the opposite of the visit to the hospital a week earlier when I felt so sick and hot). Of course, we still were convinced that “today would not be the day,” but I knew that THAT was the feeling I wanted on The Day.
While Tim was gone, he called our moms to update them that I was getting monitored for slightly elevated blood pressure, but it was probably just for a couple of hours and then we would go home. No need to hop in the car just yet.
We spent the next couple of hours being monitored and waiting. We talked to the nurse, I ate some ginger snaps and apple slices, and we kept an eye on my blood pressure. It didn’t seem to go down, but it wasn’t at a high enough point to be overly worried, either. I just stayed as calm as possible, and it was nice to just sit and relax with my husband and the nurse. Plus, both babies were doing great and not affected at all by my blood pressure, so there were no added concerns there. We turned on the Andrew Johnson Deep Sleep track to help me try to relax further and lower my blood pressure. We actually only got a few minutes into it, because we had so many people in and out of the room.
Tim and I talked as it got closer to 5:00 and my doctor would soon come in. We wondered what she would say. Would she give us the choice to induce today or not? What would we want to do? We had an induction scheduled for a week afterwards. Would we wait and keep that date, or would we just go for it since we were already there and feeling well. What would happen? We decided that, if given the choice, we would let the babies twincubate a little while longer. I was hesitant to come to this decision, as I was really uncomfortable all the time at this point in my pregnancy (although I worked really hard to hide it and not complain about it). I also was feeling really positive that day and not at all scared of being in the hospital (a great feat for me who used to be terrified of all things medical)… and that was just the situation I wanted to be in on the day I gave birth.
I started sending Facebook messages to my younger brother and mom, letting them know that we were probably going to get discharged in just a couple of minutes and head home. False alarm! No babies today! I think I got through the conversation to my brother, and then was starting to talk to my mom.
At some point, the nurse collected 3 vials of blood to check for certain issues. I can’t remember if this was before the 5:30 time or afterwards.
Our doctor entered the room, as she has finished her office visits for the day. She has already looked at my chart and the results so far. She asked how I was doing and then quickly said, “I think we’re going to have these babies today.”
Tim and I were shocked. Probably as shocked as when we found out it was twins all those months ago. We had just finished telling our families that we were probably going to be going home. We looked at each other. I think I said, “Oh s*%^. We’re having them today!!!!” The nurse and our doctor laughed at my reaction. We decided we needed to call our parents. Then I realized we needed to figure out how this would happen.
The Plan: They were going to start me on Pitocin through an IV. I was already 70% effaced and 4 cm dilated when we went in to the hospital, so they predicted that I would have the babies that day (11/22… a great twin birthday in my opinion). She thought things would move pretty fast once we got started. After starting me on the Pitocin, she would break my water for Baby Girl A. I asked about the epidural, because I knew I wanted that sooner rather than later. She said that she would call the anesthesiologist, but there was one on call only for the labor/delivery floor, so I didn’t have to worry about it being too long before getting it. I also wondered if I should get the epidural first so it would have time to work before we started on the Pitocin. Our doctor assured me that, because of my low weight and high health, the epidural would work really fast, so I had nothing to worry about.
The nurse got started right away on my IV. Looking back, this was probably the most painful experience of the day for me (maybe that statement will foreshadow what a great experience I had). She started to try to put it in my left arm, but although I had a great vein, she couldn’t get it set right. All of the digging really really hurt! She moved on to my right arm and was able to get it in easily. My left arm was in a lot of pain, but I tried to push it away and not think of it (and not move it either, in order to minimize the pain).
With the IV set and fluids starting, I had Tim get out my Frogg Togg Chilly Pad (like a wet washcloth that always stays cool). This was to keep me cool if I should start to feel overheated because I now had something stuck in my arm. He also got out my travel fan and attached it to the bed for a constant bit of white noise and moving air in our really dry room. I realized that I was starting to get a headache (only my 2nd during the entire pregnancy), and we thought it was probably because of the excitement that we had just gone through. We knew that the fluids would help me, but I asked for some Tylenol anyway, as that and a cool cloth on my forehead usually knocks out headaches.
We called my mom and gave her the update. She was obviously so excited and we warned her that it would take a while, so she didn’t have to rush over right that minute. We also let her know that it would probably be a very late night for all of us. She and I agreed… we didn’t care!
My doctor came in to break my water as I hung up, and I got into position. Tim started to dial his mom and she picked up, just as my doctor pulled out the hook to break my water. I said something short to him along the lines of: “Get your butt over here because they are about to break my water and you need to be here now because this is such a big deal and you can tell your mom later.” He actually didn’t realize that they were so close to doing that, or he never would have dialed the phone in the first place. Tim obviously hung up, telling his mom he’d call her in a few minutes (I really hope we didn’t worry her too much in that time).
They put the hook in (which I didn’t feel at all) and I then felt a gush of warm water. Ah, so this is what it felt like for my water to break! It simply felt like I had peed myself, but without the feeling of the bladder having relief. The nurse let it come out a bit longer and then she changed the pad under me.
Tim then called his mom back and let her know our exciting news. She was up in New Jersey with Tim’s dad and grandfather, and they would be coming back to Virginia the following day. We promised we’d keep them updated and send pictures just as soon as we could! Still, we were excited that the babies had lasted long enough for them to finish their visit.
With the Pitocin going and the water broken, I asked when I could get my epidural. They assured me that, just as soon as I could get down one IV bag of fluid, I would get some relief. Come on, veins, flow!
The anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural. If you read my post about what I expected to be my big worry moments, they were when I got the IV and when I got the epidural. I survived the first one just fine, and so I expected this to be fine as well.
Leading up to this moment, the Pitocin had definitely kicked in, and I had felt 3 or 4 really strong contractions. For those who haven’t experienced it, it feels like your worst menstrual cramp, just amped up. The pressure, pain, and discomfort simply radiates throughout your body, although the majority is in your uterus and along your lower back. It really does freeze you in your tracks, even if you are already lying down on a hospital bed.
So, when the anesthesiologist came in, I told him that he was already my favorite person. True, I hadn’t experience labor pains like some women, but I experienced strong ones because of the Pitocin, and that was enough. Plus, with the constant and extreme discomfort and pain in my last 2 weeks of pregnancy, I was ready for a break from it. I probably should have said a little goodbye to feeling my peanuts moving on the inside, but I was so excited for the relief, I was ready to get on with it.
He put a sheet on my back and administered some local anesthetic. He warned that I needed to stay really still, but there was still a tiny back cramp because of this medicine and I think I arched my back in a reflex. He got me to stay still again and checked to be sure I couldn’t feel anything. Then, I guess he started the procedure.
We had been warned from our birthing instructor that the epidural would take 15 minutes to administer and 30 minutes (at least) to kick in. Boy, was she wrong. Less than 5 minutes later, the “procedure” was done. 5 minutes after that, and I had complete relief. It was amazing!
I didn’t feel the contractions anymore, but I did feel a pressure in my lungs (I likened it to being difficult to breathe, but not a scary difficulty) whenever a contraction was about to start. This was actually a good signal for me to still be aware of my lower body. I could feel tingly sensations when someone touched my lower half, but I couldn’t feel temperatures or have control over anything down there. It was actually quite a neat feeling to be so out of control of my body. Not at all frightening as I had been warned. I also started getting a little relief with my body temperature, as I didn’t feel as hot, and my headache started to alleviate.
With relief from the pain, the nurse had me lay on one side and the turn sides every 30 minutes to help the epidural administer effectively. I loved that I could lay on my hips and not be in tears over the pain anymore. Because I couldn’t eat, I asked for apple juice and popsicles (a treat I hadn’t had since my nausea ended in the first trimester). I had as much of these as I could manage.
Then, we just waited.
Because it was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, we turned the TV on to a history program. Only Tim and I would spend the last few minutes of being a family of 2 watching a historical program. We are such nerds!
Around 7:30, my doctor came in to check on us and see how I had progressed. I was at 100% effaced and fully dilated. That was fast- just 2 hours after the start of the Pitocin!
Now, we were just going to wait for a little while until things got a little more settled. Although both babies were head down (“vertex”), we needed to wait for the real pushes until Baby Girl A was low enough. So, we did what they call “laboring down.”
“Laboring down” is a very passive form of labor for those of us that have had an epidural. We are more relaxed because we aren’t feeling the pain of contractions, but we also don’t want to start pushing until the right time, because then we could be pushing for hours and hours. If we “labor down,” we basically let the uterine contractions help push the baby into position, and then we can just actively push at the very end.
The nurse got me a peanut ball, which looked like two large exercise balls fused together, and she put it between my legs to help keep them separated to assist with laboring down. More time to relax and let my body do its thing.
From time to time, I would ask Tim if I was having a contraction, because I could feel the loss of breath in my chest. He would comment about some being really big contractions, but thanks to the epidural, I didn’t feel any of it. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing!
Also in this time, I pumped my body full of popsicles, water, and ice chips. I was trying to trick my brain into not being hungry.
The doctor came in to check on the position of Baby Girl A. While I had my legs open (and facing the door), we had a knock on the door and it started to open a crack. My parents and Tim’s sister had arrived with all of our hospital bags and some other gear that we left at home since we didn’t think that today would be The Day. Tim quickly ran to the door and told them that they would have to go to the waiting room, because we weren’t ready for people to come in (especially in the position I was currently in). They dropped our things in the hall for Tim to get later, and they went just down the hall to waiting room.
A little while later, we were able to call them back in, where we had a nice short visit. They saw that I wasn’t in any pain. I think my exact words when I saw my mom were: “I’m feeling so great! I love epidurals!” She laughed, but I’m sure she was also glad to see how much I was loving my pain-free existence.
After a short visit, it was time for us to start getting to work, so we had to say goodbye and we’ll-see-you-once-we-are-parents.
I think it was at this point (after our family left) that the nurse came to empty my bladder. She inserted a catheter (I couldn’t feel a thing) and got out all of the urine that she could. This is not a very glamorous part of pregnancy or labor, but extremely practical.
While we were still in the comforts of the beautiful and large labor/delivery room, my doctor wanted me to practice pushing. Because I couldn’t feel a lot of sensation (only pressure) in the lower half of my body due to the epidural, it was important that I understood how to appropriately push. She also wanted me to have most of my pushing done in a quiet and calm environment, instead of the cold, bright, harsh environment of the operating room.
We waited until I had a contraction starting (we could see it through the monitors, and I could still feel the tightening in my lungs). Tim held one foot and our nurse held the other. The doctor was in her position as well. When it was time to push, I doubled over (as best I could) and rounded my back, holding onto the back of my legs. I pushed for 10 seconds (the doctor counted), I would stop/relax/take another deep breath, push for another 10 seconds, stop/relax/take another deep breath, and push for a final 10 seconds. So each “push” was really about 30-35 seconds long and consisted of three smaller pushes.
As I mentioned, the point of this practice was to have me understand and visualize where I needed to push. It also served another purpose: we needed to get Baby Girl A engaged and further into position. With every contraction during laboring down, she was moving further south, but she would also slide up a little bit when the contraction was over. This was totally normal. Instead, we needed her to be engaged and to stay there.
We did these practice pushes for about 30-40 minutes, until she was in position and staying there. At this point, I could feel more pressure where her head was located, but it wasn’t painful at all. The doctor and nurse left to get ready for the OR, and they brought Tim some sterile scrubs to put on for the OR as well. While they were gone, I had a few contractions where I had the urge to push. I did everything in my power to relax past this urge, since we didn’t have any of our medical team with us.
After what felt like forever of waiting in our labor/delivery room, the nurse came back to get us to bring us to the OR. This was strictly a formality, as they wanted me to deliver there, just in case something went wrong and they needed to do an emergency c-section, which isn’t unheard of for twins. They wheeled me down to the OR with Tim there by my side (carrying my water, Frogg Togg towel, fan, ice chips, phones -his for pictures, mine for music-, and our big camera). Once we got in the room, they moved me onto the new stretcher/table (much less comfortable, but I didn’t care because I was so excited to meet my babies), and they set up my feet in the full-leg stirrups. These were actually really comfortable, if you ignored the fact that you were spread wide open. It’s amazing how all modesty goes totally out the window when giving birth!
I started pushing in my 3-at-a-time pattern whenever a contraction started. We must have done this 7-8 times when my doctor said that she thought it was only a few pushes left. Just 2 more and Baby Girl A would be out (so if you are keeping score, that is actually 6 pushes, but I’m counting the 3-at-a-time as one push)! I was getting exhausted, and so someone mentioned that I may want to see her head via a mirror to see my progress. In our birthing class, I knew this was an option, and I had told Tim then that I didn’t want to do this at all. Yet, in the excitement of labor, I really wanted to see her head! They brought in the mirror, I got a quick glance, and then I told them to put the mirror away or cover it up. I had also asked about hair color, and our doctor told me that it looked like she was going to be blonde (like Tim and I were when we were born).
At this point, her head was lodged in (“crowning”), but it still wasn’t painful. It was just a big pressure down there. Someone had explained it to me as when you have a poop that is right there and won’t come out. This is a similar feeling, but just in a different opening. *Sorry for the graphic mental images.*
I pushed a total of 4 more times (just two more than my doctor’s estimate), and I felt this immediate release of pressure down there as we heard Audrey Olivia’s strong and beautiful cry. She was born at 10:59 PM. I surprised myself by not bursting into tears but just being so excited that she was here. They put her on my chest immediately, even before they cleaned her off. It was amazing! Tim and I looked at each other, kissed, stared at her, and time seemed to stop.
Time really didn’t stop, though, because everything was still moving very fast.
They took Audrey away to do some required testing, and because my job wasn’t totally done. Tim went with her, as I wanted him to, but when he realized that his son was going to be born any minute, he rushed back to me.
My doctor put her hand on my stomach, right where Baby Boy B was situated. He had been head down (and very low), and with all of the room that he now had, we didn’t want my little acrobat to flip or get out of position. My doctor told me that I would have to push right away to get him out before my cervix had time to close up. I pushed once and he was almost out! They asked if I wanted to see the mirror again. Tim warned me that there was more blood for this one, which was good so that I wasn’t too taken aback when I saw. I took a quick look (enough to see his head), and asked that they take the mirror away again.
One more push, and I felt that same pressure and release as David Alan was born at 11:07 PM. 8 minutes apart. That is almost unheard of for a vaginal twin birth. They are usually much further apart, so I’ve been told. It took him probably about 3 seconds to cry, but those 3 seconds felt like an eternity as I waited to hear the first sounds of my little boy. Once he did, I think I put my head back on the table in relief. They brought him right to me as well, and I was amazed at how much smaller he was than his sister, but he was just as aware and healthy. I had two perfect little babies, and soon I had both of them lying on my chest, one in each arm. They didn’t take David away to clean him- they just did that as I held him.
I stayed on the table for a while longer, as I had some slight tearing that needed stitches. Again, no pain! I was in a euphoric state, drunk in the immediate and magnetic love for my babies.
At some point they made me push to get the placentas out. I don’t remember it, but I’m sure they took my babies away for that time so I could effectively go back to work for a mere moment. At another point, they did some APGAR testing, and we found out that they were both 8 (1 minute) and 9 (5 minutes)… great scores for preemie newborn twins (it is out of 10)! We let the babies explore with skin-to-skin contact, and they loved that closeness, although neither was interested in rooting or feeding as we had previously thought they would.
After the work in the OR was done, we were wheeled back to our labor/delivery room. I thought they let me keep the babies on me as they wheeled us down the hall, but Tim later corrected me that they were wheeled in their bassinets.
We must have spent another hour or sowith our babies in the l/d room before we texted my parents to let them know that the whole family was welcome to come. We also asked if they wanted Jimmy Johns, as they delivered directly to our floor. I had waited 9 months for a Jimmy Johns sandwich, and I was happy to make that my first post-pregnancy meal.
My parents arrived and we gave them their sandwiches. My brother had ordered a pizza to split with Tim’s sister, so everyone had food. They then took one baby at a time to get weighed, measured, get ointment in their eyes, and do further standard testing.
At some point, they were ready to move us to the Mother/Infant Unit, where we would stay for the next couple of days. Each baby got their own bassinet, and I got in a wheelchair. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, and Tim all grabbed our many bags, boxes, food containers, etc. and we all made the trip to our new home for the next few days.
After a few more minutes, we said goodnight (good morning?) to our family and we were left as a family of 4. We did a practice nursing session with the help of our new nurse, and then they took the babies to the nursery for a few more tests and so we could get a few minutes of sleep before our Life with Twins started…