Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Natural Twin Birth, Act 2

Ben, Michelle, the twins, and I moments after Dorothy's birth!
My mom was one of the first family members to come for a visit,

followed shortly by the three older children and the rest of the grandparents.
A proud twin daddy,
and mommy

and two sweet little babies sharing a bassinet.

So I'll pick up right where I left off: I am 38.5 weeks pregnant with twins, it is Christmas morning, and I am feeling exhausted and relieved after a 24 hour painful bout of kidney stones that suddenly seemed to have resolved.  

For just about all of our babies, walking has proved to be a very effective means of bringing on labor.  When I was pregnant with Zosia, we lived in the city and walked everywhere.  She was born after several long walks in and around Boston simply because that's what we did all the time.  When I was pregnant with Lily, I woke up feeling zippy one morning and we walked down to a favorite coffee shop and back (a trip of several miles altogether), hoping it might help naturally bring on labor.  That night I delivered Lily, swiftly and painlessly, on our basement sofa.  The day I went into labor with Hugo I walked a whopping six miles: down to a local elementary school for a used book sale, then down to a favorite burger joint for dinner.  So when, very pregnant with twins, I found myself feeling somewhat desperate to bring on labor, I knew what I needed to do.  

After a leisurely Christmas morning, we called up Ben's parents.  Would they like to have the big kids over for a while so we could go on a walk?  Unlike previous years, where you might find us meandering through the park on Christmas morning with all of the children in tow (of course stopping at the playground and the soccer field for a play break), this year we were on a mission: a long, exhilarating walk that would help start a labor.  Five miles later, all three of us were a bit chilly and totally exhausted.  When I started feeling mild (and gradually stronger) contractions later that evening, back at our house with all of the children tucked into their beds, we were full of hope that the babies were going to be arriving soon.

We arrived at the hospital just before midnight, confident that we were in early labor (after all, we weren't too excited about the prospect of a roadside birth-- with twins).  The nurse was very sweet and supportive as she checked the vitals of the baby and got us settled into our room.  She didn't bat an eye when Ben asked if we could turn out the lights and plug in a single string of Christmas lights.  Our midwife (who happened to be the head midwife of our practice-- a beautiful and skilled woman whose opinion is valued by midwife and ob alike, something that would come in handy later on) came in a little while after midnight to give me an exam, along with our friend Michelle, who kindly agreed to come to the birth as a support to us.

My fingers were crossed that I was at four centimeters, which is necessary in order to be admitted into the hospital.  When our midwife smiled and said I was at eight centimeters, that the baby's head was right there, and that the birth was imminent, I was nothing short of stunned.  Sure enough, my water broke within minutes.  Clara was born at 1:33 with a single push, into a quiet and dimly lit room.  Her wet and newly birthed body was placed on my chest, and I was filled with such a profound gratitude: for her, for new life, for God's incarnation on earth.  It was all intertwined in one powerful emotion.  She was beautiful, strong, and healthy.  Every single prayer had been answered.

And yet we all knew that her birth was only the beginning.  Clara was still on my chest, her umbilical cord pulsing, when our midwife examined me and reported that my cervix was back to being five centimeters dilated.  Now, let me tell you, I didn't exactly realize that this was an option!  I had assumed that once the first baby was born, the second would be born, and we would be all done, just like that.  Here I was, in need of a second labor in order to birth this second baby.  A million questions popped into my mind.  Was Dorothy okay?  Were interventions going to be used in order to speed her delivery?  Would a c-section be required?  I was feeling all of the relief and joy accompanied with the birth of a child, and yet now had to regroup and prepare for a second labor and delivery.

Various medical professionals came through the room.  A pediatrician, an ob, a few more nurses.  And my wonderful midwife, who is so skilled and so calm, was cool as a cucumber.  When Dorothy's heartbeat slowed down a bit, she had me switch positions, and Dorothy's heartbeat picked right back up.   Michelle held onto Clara in her loving arms as Ben stood next to me, encouraging me and tickling my back.  Everyone agreed that Dorothy and my vitals were stable enough that they were comfortable with me continuing a natural labor.

And so we continued.  And I had to take a few deep breaths and regroup.  I was back to the beginning, and needed to have complete mental focus in order to be able to remain relaxed through another labor.  It took all of the concentration and relaxation I could muster, but all I needed to do was to look over at Clara in order to know what I was working for.

About an hour and a half later, I had dilated only slightly more.  It really is a departure from standard hospital protocol to be so patient in waiting for the second twin, and I imagine both my nurse and midwife were aware of the likelihood of a surgical birth.  Truth be told, I knew this was a possibility myself.  Many hospitals have a "20 minute" policy that is strictly enforced with twins, and here we were in our second hour of waiting.  There was an unspoken fear in the room, and I realize now I must have been a little tense.  And anyone who has been in labor before knows that tension is not helpful.  After all, here I was, now lying down on a hospital bed, staring at the monitor through every contraction to ensure that Dorothy was well.  It was stressful!

"Why don't we just relax and take a break?"  my midwife suggested.  I could get up and use the restroom, get off of the continuous monitoring, and regroup.  It was a welcome (and wise) suggestion that I accepted.  I walked around the room, continued with my calm breathing, swaying back and forth through each contraction.

Clara was hungry and eager to nurse.  Would I like to place her on the breast?  Of course, she needed food.  So there I was, in the advanced stages of Dorothy's labor, nursing Clara through my contractions. Breathing, swaying, nursing.  One baby in my arms, the other on the cusp of emerging into the world.

Within moments, I felt that familiar shift in my labor.  Dorothy would be born any moment.  "Okay, Adele, this baby needs to come now," my midwife encouraged.  And she was coming, whether I wanted it or not.  I barely had the time and energy to lie down on the hospital bed when I felt that undeniable urge to bear down. One push later, just as Ben was coming back into the room from fetching some ice, Dorothy was born.  Birthed through the umbilical cord that had been around her neck, possibly the cause of that long second labor. Healthy and vibrant, just like her sister.   Quietly, uneventfully, and on her own time.

As they placed two babies in my arms, I breathed such a huge sigh of relief.  A gentle and natural birth, two beautiful and healthy babies (both seven pounds plus, where the average twin weighs only five and a half!).  I was incredulous, really.  Through my difficult final days of pregnancy, through my uncertainties and fears about the birth, God was so faithful.  We left the hospital after about 30 hours, back to our family, which is really where we wanted to be.  And here's where the real twin story actually begins.

And I should add, if you yourself are pregnant with twins and would like to chat with my about my experience, please don't hesitate to contact me!  There were many points in my labor that felt a bit like a choose your own adventure book, and each one of our decisions proved to be important.  I would be happy to share my experiences with you.


Anonymous said...

It was such a beautiful experience to be present in the room too and to witness Adele's calm focus and notice both her and Ben's respectful way of expressing their needs. You are an inspirational couple!


Adele said...

It was such a gift to have you there! I honestly can't imagine the birth without your presence.

Rosie said...

I never did remember to comment on this when I meant to - I'm so amazed! I figured you must have had a really awesome midwife for nobody to pressure you into interventions but I had no idea you could "undilate" that much!!! It would have been kind of awesome if one of them had managed to be born before midnight and the other after, though ;) Identical twins with different birth dates? Too funny!

Abbey D said...

Adele, this is beautiful, and it gives me hope. My own hospital twin birth didn't go quite as naturally as I wanted it to, and reading your story was healing for me. I'm so grateful for your midwife and for the peaceful, quiet way your girls entered the world. Blessings to you and your family!

Julie said...

Thanks so much for writing this... I'm 26 weeks pregnant with twin boys, and also have 3 small kids already. Trusting God for another complex-free natural birth, and your story (tho not entirely textbook) has been a huge encouragement :)

Liz R said...

I am 28 weeks with twin boys, and the way your birth went is pretty much how I'd love things to go.... but both of mine are breech right now, and I was told that the hospital doesn't allow first-time moms like me to try to deliver two breech babies without a C-section. Trying to manage my expectations.. maybe they'll turn!

Holly said...

Thand for sharing your story! I recently found out I'm pregnant with twins, and after some reading I have been nervous that a natural unmedicated birth like my first could be out of reach. Stories sucheck as yours give me hope!

Holly said...

Thand for sharing your story! I recently found out I'm pregnant with twins, and after some reading I have been nervous that a natural unmedicated birth like my first could be out of reach. Stories sucheck as yours give me hope!