every which way

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it was a morning full of our regular friday routine of doctors appointments. first in line was the perinatologist for a non stress test and BPP (biophysical profile). since my blood pressure had been on the high side, i had to go every week for these more advanced tests to monitor the well being of our babes. this morning’s tests were just like the others – the boys were looking great. and my blood pressure was actually on the normal side of borderline. we left with the doctor saying, “maybe we won’t see you next week!” (which he had actually been saying for the past two appointments)

next up was our regular OB. he took a peek at my cervix and i was about 2 cm dilated (normal) and said, while everything looked good, he wanted to do more monitoring just to make sure my blood pressure wasn’t affecting the boys well being. his office is next door to the hospital, so he sent us up to labor and delivery for the tests. both jordan and i felt very strange as they admitted me into the maternity ward, like “what is really happening here?!” they gave me a gown, hooked me up to a blood pressure machine, strapped two monitors to my belly, drew some blood and tested my urine. after two hours, jordan was starting to get impatient and i was starting to wonder why were were still in the maternity ward. everything with the boys had checked out perfect and my blood pressure was, again, looking very good. the one thing were waiting on was the results of the blood test. that’s when dr. love walked in (yes, that’s really the name of our OB).

the blood test showed that my liver was functioning sub-optimally. i asked what that meant and the doctor gave me the grave diagnosis that if we waited it out, my body could stop functioning and he’s had patients slip into a coma in a matter of 12 hours. his next sentence was, “right now you’re healthy, the boys are healthy, so let’s have us some babies!” it was exactly one day and one month before my due date of feb. 27.

up until this point, i had been solely focused on having our boys with as little “interference” as possible. we had taken natural birthing classes and we’d talked to dr. love about my desire for a drug free birth. but now we were faced with a different situation than the one i had created in my mind and, i have to say, i’m pretty darn proud of my ability to quickly change gears (stubborn as i usually am!). both babies were vertex so we were set for an induced vaginal delivery. added to the safety factor, i was miserably uncomfortable at this point and it was almost a relief to know that in just a matter of hours our boys would be snug in our arms instead of cramped in my belly. so after a short discussion, jordan and i looked at each other, smiled, and said “it’s time to meet our boys!” my only nagging doubt was knowing the stress i incurred during the week due to some work emergencies. somehow in the back of my mind i still wonder if this all would have happened if i hadn’t been freaking out over work that week. my advice to all pregnant mamas: try to be as chill as possible, especially if your blood pressure is an issue.

as soon as the decision was made, jordan left the hospital and went into high gear. he had to run home, get our packed bags (thank god we did this two weeks prior!), get matilda (dog) and ally (cat) set at their caregivers, call our doula, etc. i called my parents to tell them what was happening and my mom and dad immediately scheduled their flight to be with us the following morning. and then the real “admittance” began. i signed a bunch of papers (we had done pre-admittance which helped reduce a lot of the paperwork), twice as many because we were having TWO births. i have to say that’s when it started to really sink in. reading and signing all of these papers for baby a and baby b. very soon i was going to meet our TWO babies, and be responsible for them for the rest of my life. i was going to be their mother. wow.

from that point on, things started happening fast. i was moved to our room – a regular labor and delivery room – and hooked up to an IV and administered pitocin. i was still by myself, but feeling pretty calm, and i was even able to call a few family and friends. it was a good time to just center myself and reflect on what was happening. i was so excited and a little bit scared of how this birth was going to go, although i had an overwhelming sense that everything would be just fine. and to my surprise, i had no reservations about how things were progressing and how we were dramatically veering from my “ideal” of birth. this was around 3:00 pm.

jordan got back to the hospital around 4pm and our wonderful doula, lanell, showed up shortly after. around 5:30pm dr. love came in to break my water. the nurse had tried about an hour earlier but had no success. it was a weird feeling having this gush of water come out, but to feel no pain sensation. and up until that point, despite getting pitocin, i hadn’t really felt any contractions. the doc said that would change soon. and it did. in a very. serious. way. i went from feeling no pain to having very intense contractions almost immediately. and mind you i didn’t want an epidural and was committed to going as far as i could without this assistance. by 7pm i was in the throws of labor and it was the most painful, intense thing i have ever experienced. i was a competitive gymnast my whole life and suffered countless injuries, body traumas, broken bones, 5 surgeries. you name it! nothing compared to the pain of labor. i think the fact that it was induced and didn’t naturally progress was a big factor. it was zero to sixty and i was totally overwhelmed. all i can say is thank god for our doula. she massaged my back, said inspiring, guiding words, and kept me going. i was having contraction after contraction, with sometimes less than 30 seconds between them. it was crazy. i was moaning, i was screaming, i was smashing my face into the pillow and drooling like mad, i was squeezing jordan’s hand so tight he honestly thought i was going to break some bones. and then they checked my cervix and it is was only dialted 5 cm. i was ready to give in.

i talked to jordan and my doula about getting an epidural and lanell gave me extra strength and assurance to keep going. after about three more hours of mind and time-bending labor, i felt an urge to push and lanell thought this was an excellent sign and asked the nurse to check me. we all thought for sure i was just about there. no deal – i had progressed, but was at 8 cm. ugh! i knew i didn’t have 2 more cm. in me without some serious help. without hesitation, i screamed “i’m done! get me an epidural! NOW!” it couldn’t come fast enough (after i made that decision, it was like the longest 10 minutes of my life waiting for it!), and as soon as it was in, it was instant relief. actually, it was more like sweet, sweet relief! all of the crazy pain i had experienced for the past 5 some odd hours vanished. i took a nap. i meditated. we listened to great music. i laughed. i imagined the birth. around midnight i started feeling a lot of pressure and asked the nurse to check. i was very close, but still not dilated to 10. an hour and more pressure later, she checked again and it was go time. time to push. so exciting!

i got to push on my side for a while, on my other side, and while it felt good, i wasn’t making as much progress as the nurse wanted. so she asked me to go on my back, which i was not thrilled about, but said i’d give it a try. it wasn’t as bad as i thought it would be. and i was getting much better at the “mechanics” of pushing, which basically consists of pushing through your butt, like you’re taking a monster poo.

finally, after about 70 minutes of pushing, abel’s head had crowned. it was beyond exciting and i could really feel it. part of me wishes i could have seen what was happening, but just seeing the excitement on jordan’s, lanell’s and the nurses faces, i knew something very powerful and amazing was happening. the nurse called in the doctor and EVERYTHING changed. we were lucky to stay in the L and D room the whole time, which i am so grateful for. no OR for the delivery, which is unusual. but within a matter of seconds, this wonderful, private, intimate birth sanctum that we had created for the past 10 hours totally changed. with the arrival of the doctor came about 7 others. the lights got bright, they wheeled in a two stations for the babies, it became cramped and chaotic. this was at 3am. it took another 30 minutes of crazy pushing with the doctor and his entourage before abel was born. dr. love had gone home and so a doctor we had never met was “at the helm.” he was a serious guy and it was clear that birthing our babies was serious business to him. “one big push and his head is out!” and i felt such amazing relief. two more pushes and our sweet abel was born at 3:38 am! as soon as he was out, the nurse tried to grab him to take him to the “examining” station. our doctor said no, this baby is going to his mother, and he put abie on my belly so i could hold him. i will never forget this, my first time seeing my first born. total magic. so overwhelming and beautiful. it was beyond what my mind could comprehend and i felt totally out-of-body. i was all heart.

after about a minute of me holding abel (or maybe it was 30 seconds), they whisked him away and it was back to business. push! push! push! all of a sudden i realized i had another baby to birth – it was oskar’s turn. i had no break between births. in retrospect, the one thing i wished was to have about a 10 minute break after abie was born. pushing one baby out is crazy, intense work and deserves some recuperation before going for it again. but for some reason it was very important to get oskar out as fast as possible. well, that just wasn’t ozzy’s style. he started out high in my uterus and after an hour of pushing, sometimes double and triple “rounds” of pushing without a break, plus the doctor being elbow deep (literally) trying to grab a leg to pull him out (oz was head down so it was to no avail), we were all spent. oz’s heart rate had a couple decelerations and the doc declared that he had only descended to the top of my pelvis. not a ton of progress for an hour of pushing. then the hot spot reared its ugly head. the epidural had worn off in one localized area, causing intense pain on the left side of my pelvis. i thought i had a cramp and was trying to stretch it mid pushes. hysterical now that i look back, but not fun while it was happening. the doc probably thought i was a nut ball. i remember pushing the epidural button like 50 times. the doc looked at us and said, “i think we need to call this.” i looked at everyone and said, “i’m done. get oskar out.” it was as simple as that, and then the energy changed once again as i was wheeled into the OR and prepped for a c-section.

meanwhile while i was pushing ozzy, abel started retracting, meaning his breaths weren’t getting easier with time, but was struggling to breath like it was his first breath. so they rushed him off to the NICU and i told jordan to stay with him. so jordan had no idea what was going on with oskar’s birth until he came down at the tail end to find me being wheeled out of L and D to the OR. jordan reassured me that abel was going to be just fine and was with me as i was prepped for surgery. i was surprisingly calm through all of this. it was just what needed to be done. until the doctor pinched my stomach to make sure i was totally numb and i said “you just pinched me. of course i felt that!” the doc told the anesthesiologist that he needed to get me ready for general since i wasn’t numb enough and they needed to get oz out. i looked at him and i must have had such fear, desperation and disappointment in my eyes that he said back to the doc, “it will take me 5 minutes.” the doc, in a less than cordial voice said, “we don’t have 5 minutes, do it now!” our anesthesiologist gave me a knowing look and said, “give me one minute,” and soon i felt my whole body go numb, up to my chest, and he said back to the doctor, “check her again.” i felt nothing, and a second later i heard, “cutting!” our oskar was born at 4:48 am. i got to see his beautiful face after he was all cleaned up and bundled up, but he was off to the NICU too, as he was retracting just like his brother. jordan left to be with our newborns and our angel doula stayed with me through the tormenting post-op period.

i hadn’t even considered a c-section while i was educating myself and preparing for the birth of our boys, so i was completely ignorant to what was going on the whole time. as they started to put me back together, my whole body started shaking, trembling like i have never experienced. i felt like i could barely breath. i couldn’t even control my teeth from chattering. it was misery. and i wish i would have known what to expect or had talked to the doc about getting some meds to take this edge off. thank god the shaking only lasted for about 30 minutes, but it seemed like forever. lanell stroked my hair and face and rubbed my arms and hands, talking me through it. she was a god-send. i started to feel better and was wheeled into recovery. jordan joined me shortly after and said the boys were fine. we both crashed. jordan was in a deep sleep for about two hours and i kept going in and out of consciousness, reliving some of the past events, wanting to see my babies, but so exhausted at the same time. i remember just wanting the nurse to come in so i could find out when i could leave recovery and see our babies, and it seeming like forever.

by 7am or so, we were finally taken to our regular post-partum room and i was feeling really good. i had so much energy, i wasn’t tired a bit, and i was ready to hold my babies. i made a few phone calls to family and friends to tell them about the birth of our boys (they were all STUNNED that i was talking at this point!). jordan went to see the boys and took some forbidden video to show me. by 8:30am i got a phone call from the NICU that the boys had been taken off oxygen and were ready to start nursing. our nurse at that point had said because of the c-section, i couldn’t get out of bed for a few more hours. but our doc came in shortly after and said i was cleared to go visit our babies. so off we went! it was a miracle to really hold them for the first time, to touch their skin, to kiss their cheeks and their hands. to have them breastfeed, which they both did pretty good that first time, considering being born at 36 weeks. jordan and i were instantly beyond in love, beyond happy. our beautiful boys were finally with us on the outside. we could see what they looked like. after 9 months of imagining, dreaming and talking about what they would be like, here they finally were, right before us. amazing is all i can say.

the boys were in the NICU for the next three days for monitoring. it was tough to have our healthy boys stuck in this place, attached to all these monitors, and having our interactions with them controlled by, what we coined, the “neo-nazi-NICU-nurses.” at the same time, we were able to get full nights of sleep while the nurses fed them every 3 hours, and recover from what was probably the most stressful, traumatic, amazing and profound event of lives. this was a very good thing. during the day we were on a 3 hour schedule of going to the NICU, nursing each boy for 20 minutes (and no more!), feeding them a formula supplement, changing their diapers, cuddling, and putting them down to sleep. we probably got about one hour in between these periods to go back to our room, eat, take a nap, and do anything else we needed to do. jordan was amazing during these first few days. he was born to be a dad and to care for these boys. he was my constant companion and supporter, such a rock. and i wouldn’t dream of this journey without him.

as far as post-op pain, i won’t lie and say it was a piece of cake. my insides felt like they had been turned inside out because, well, they had! it hurt to move, period. i can only recommend to stay on top of the pain with meds. i took ibuprofen and something a little stronger to help manage it all. i was super lucky and didn’t tear at all during the vaginal birth, so i really only had to contend with the pain from the c-section. i took all the anti-gas, stool softener stuff, too. this may be gross, but i remember desperately wanting to take a poo after the second day. the nurse brought me some hot apple juice and it magically did the trick. we had great nurses and another one taught me the best way to get up and out of bed. from your back, bend your one leg and push yourself to your side. then push with your arms to a sitting position while sliding your legs down the bed to get your feet to the floor. it’s a lot easier to use the automatic bed to help you get up while you’re in the hospital. but after your surgery, make sure and ask your nurse to teach you the best way to get up. it makes a HUGE difference!

we felt incredibly blessed because after three days the boys were discharged from the NICU and got to spend our last night in the hospital with us in the room. it was weird! for the first time, it was just the four of us as a family. we had to set the alarm to wake up to feed them throughout the night. they were such sound sleepers! we were unsure parents, having had the nurses looking over us, helping us along while they were in the NICU. but we were so unbelievably happy that were were all together, able to finally get to know each other on our own terms. we probably got out of bed every hour to stare over the boys sleeping together in their crib. the next day we were all discharged home. my parents had flown in from chicago the morning the boys were born and had been at the hospital every day supporting us during our stay. they brought us food, love and encouragement, and they had the house all ready for our arrival. what an incredible feeling to walk into our home for the first time carrying our boys. matilda fell in love with them immediately. no growling, no barking, just sniffs and licks and calm.

and so it began…the boys’ entry into this world. i dreamed of two births that would be simple, intervention-free and beautiful. i got two births that were complicated, full of medical intervention and beautiful in their own right. most people hear my story with a horrified expression and say something like, “you poor thing, you had to go through it all!” i honestly don’t feel that way. at all. i wouldn’t trade this experience in for the world. i feel honored to have experienced the utter glory and bliss of a vaginal birth. i also feel blessed that we knew what we needed to do with oskar to get him out safely. and as momentous as birth is, and as much preparing as we do for it, 16 months later it honestly feels like a blip on our family time line. it is the beginning of so much. so much fun, love, smiles, growing, laughter, tears, questions, pain, craziness and utter wonder. utter wonder.

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7 thoughts on “every which way”

  1. Tracey – I am so proud of you! I wanted a vaginal birth but when it came down to it (as you’ll read tomorrow), I whimped out for fear of having one vaginal and one c-section. I am envious of your courage to just GO FOR IT and stick as closely to your original birth plan as circumstances would allow. Good for you!

  2. awesome story for both your attitude towards all that happened and the knowing that it brought your beautiful boys here safely. i really love reading here as it brings me so much closer to the family of MOMs and makes some of the things i have experienced this year a little less isolating.

  3. That family photo provides such a lovely illustration to your story! (Love how your hubby’s not only cradling a baby, but you!) Thank you for sharing your story so beautifully.

  4. Even though I’ve read your birth story before (on the ol’ blog), I still can’t finish it without tearing up. Not only because it’s so beautifully written, but because I know it took such amazing strength to go through the experience you had.

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