On the morning of Tuesday, May 16, 2006 I had an ultrasound to check weights. Baby A was vertex, but Baby B was breech and bigger and this usually means an automatic c-section. The last ultrasound found Baby A’s amniotic fluid was so low I was getting sent to the hospital for an emergency c-section. Baby A’s sac had been ruptured for 3 days.
I had multiple bouts of pre-term labor throughout the second half of my pregnancy. I was on limited activity from 21 weeks until I delivered at 36w, 3d. From 32 weeks on, I had contractions… real contractions.. every 15 minutes. I always say there is a special place in heaven for multiple moms. At 36 weeks, I stopped taking terbutaline and felt a huge gush. L&D found nothing wrong, but the ultrasound 3 days later confirmed one of the sacs did rupture.
Once at the hospital, the whole term “emergency” went right out the window. I had eaten at 11AM so they scheduled my c-section for 7PM. In the six hours we were in L&D, my labor was steadily progressing. By the time they wheeled me to the OR, my contractions were 90 seconds apart and lasting a minute. I was ready for my epidural and ready for my babies!
From talking to other moms who had c-sections, I knew the worst part was going to be the pressure I would feel when they took out baby A (Alex). The pressure was UNBELIEVABLE. Let me repeat – UNBELIEVABLE! After they took Alex (6lbs, 1oz) out, I could feel Nate slipping around in all that extra room. I really thought I was going to puke. The only thing keeping me going was knowing my babies were ok. They took Nate (6lb 3oz) out one minute later.
Jon and I agreed he would leave me to be with the babies. I started to feel the epidural creep up and numb my diaphragm, which sent me into a panic. I immediately told the doctors and they talked me through it while they adjusted my medicine. The boys were brought to me swaddled up for a quick kiss then whisked away. Their chests were caving in when they breathed so they needed to go the NICU for monitoring.
When I went to recovery, I sent Jon to the NICU so one of us would be with the boys. I sat all alone in the recovery room with a nurse. Rationally, I knew the boys needed medical attention but it was really hard to be alone at a time most people are celebrating and enjoying their little babies. I thought if I made it to 36+ weeks and they were both over 6 lbs, everything would be fine.
The next week was a blur, which was a blessing. Two years later, it is still hard to think about without crying. There were so many hard moments. One night, we were not allowed into the NICU because another baby was in crisis. As I laid in bed, I felt my organs shifting around, which is common after a c-section. It felt like babies moving around – my babies who I could not see, touch, feel or be near. I cried buckets.
The week at the hospital was an emotional roller coaster. I cried whenever a doctor told us they didn’t know when the boys would leave. I laughed because I thought Alex looked like a smurf in his NICU hat. I cheered when we got Nate to breastfeed. I’d panic wondering what we were going to do with two babies. I’d seethe with anger and hatred when I saw parents sending their babies to the nursery. I cried when a candy striper came to give me a knitted baby hat and I had to tell her I had twins so I needed a second hat but they were in the NICU.
The night I got discharged from the hospital, the boys were not discharged. The doctors had no idea when they would be well enough to come home. I walked through my house crying, seeing everything we had done to prepare for two babies. I was at home, no longer pregnant, yet my babies were not home. It was the worst day of my life. I could not have made it through that night without my husband, my rock.
What made it hard for me was the fear. It was scary that my children were so sick they needed to be monitored by professionals 24 hours a day. It was scary when I unswaddled Alex for 20 minutes to be fed and his body temperature dropped low enough they had to put him in a warmer. It was scary to me that if we did not set an alarm to wake up and feed the kids, they would sleep until they died. Because of my experience, I hate hearing the words “standard weight/feeding issues” when discussing sorta-preemies. I don’t like that these feelings are standard for anyone.
The boys got discharged when they both kept weight on for 24 hours, one week after birth. I had no complications from the c-section with the exception of an incredibly large, ugly scar that is still red and raised. Most days, this experience makes me a better parent. Whenever I’ve had a tough day of double tantrums and no sleep, I think, “At least Nate is breathing on his own and Alex’s skin isn’t hanging off him.” It has helped put this entire twin parenting thing in perspective. But some days, I still mourn never having that “normal” newborn experience.
I never felt ready to write my birth story because I am an eternal optimist. I like to focus on the positive. Sure, there were many positive NICU moments like seeing tiny fingers and toes, but for me, the “real” newborn experience started once we were home and I knew the boys were ok. I had to let go of all my worry and fear to finally enjoy my babies.