My Big, Fat Twin Birth Story
It’s true that considerable time has passed since writing here (months?). Immediately after literally keeping our heads above water during the soggy days of May I was put on modified bed rest due to some pesky early labor. For five weeks I paced the house: no driving, minimal walking, no cooking, no cleaning and certainly no farming-related activities aside from a few quick goat scratches through the fence. For me, it was a certain level of hell I do not wish to soon revisit. Luckily we made it into the safe-for-delivery zone, and it became my number one top priority to get the babies (affectionately called “the parasites” at that point. Have you ever carried twins? If so, you understand) out of my body. Immediately. Unfortunately, none of the standard tricks worked such as spicy foods, bouncy drives down pot-holed roads, jumping up and down the stairs, long walks uphill, sneezing repeatedly, laughing too hard, yelling at my belly, etc, etc. On the first day of my 37th week serving as an apartment complex for tiny humans – I gave up – was resigned to the possibility that this state may, in fact, be eternal. Popped a Seinfeld disc into the computer, curled into bed, fell asleep.
But I did not sleep through the night. At about 3:30am I was woken up by a peculiar and sharp pain in my back. So I waited and when nothing happened, I decided my body was just teasing me with the possibility of baby ejection (as it had many times over the course of six weeks), angrily punched my pillow and tried to sleep again. Suddenly at 4:30, the distinct feeling of tiny elves pinching and tugging at my insides began to rhythmically puncture my dreams. My eyes flew open as I stared at the clock and realized that what I was feeling seemed alarmingly similar to everything we’d read about, discussed, and practiced to get through. I waited 15 more minutes before waking Jer who had already suffered through several false alarms. When the 5th stabbing throb coursed through my lower body I tapped him on the back and dramatically announced, the way we’ve all see in the movies, “It’s time.” which was then promptly followed by my water breaking – as if to punctuate my sentence. Although we decided to get through early labor at home, we were packed and on our way to the hospital less than two hours later since the contractions went from 15 to 5 minutes apart in a short period of time, and the unlikely need to deliver twins on the side of the road with the assistance of firemen became a real and terrifying possibility. By the time we arrived at the hospital I was no longer able to walk. I mean – really. I hobbled halfway to the front entrance at which point I vaguely recall planting my feet in the middle of a high traffic area, understanding I could go no further. Luckily a nurse on her break recognized what must be a common spectacle at the entrance to the maternity ward and she ran inside for a wheel chair that I feel into. The next several hours are – frankly – a blur of pain and semi-consciousness. I have a hazy recollection of being wheeled up to a desk, asked approximately 52 questions for which I groaned answers barely audible through my spit bubbles and drool. I also have a faint memory of a woman dressed in a pretty little summer dress, hair coiffed, lips painted pink, lightly touching her belly and claiming “contractions” – the sight of which caused some primal fury that made me want to punch her in the face. I screamed internally, “YOU ARE NOT IN LABOR, HONEY.” which likely came out only as a guttural moan. My final memory of those dark, dark pre-epidural hours was being sweetly asked by the nurse handling my admissions if I would “like to labor in the dress I wore to the hospital?”, the same one that had – over the course of an hour – acted like a sponge/mop for all of the glorious fluids that accompany labor (Sorry. But this is the true story of birth – it’s way sexier than you’d think!). My response was non-verbal, just something between a hand gesture, furrowed brow, and gritted teeth. They quickly dressed me in a hospital gown.
I always planned on an epidural because a) EPIDURAL! SCIENCE IS AMAZING! and b) the baby in 2nd position (girl) was breech and would likely have to be extracted by having the doctor insert her arm into my body up to the elbow so she could yank ferociously. It’s the sort of delivery I’ve seen performed on goats, sans medication. It didn’t look pleasant and the epidural would deaden the sensation of being ripped apart internally. I was admitted at 7am, and by 10:30am was floating on a sea of epidural bliss at which point clouds parted, birds sang, and the nagging desire to scratch Jeremy’s eyes out with my nails subsided (Hatred/resentment towards the partner is the unanticipated consequence of pregnancy, labor, and birth. That’s a scientific fact). I spent the day watching back-to-back episodes of Seinfeld while the nurse flipped me from side to side every 20 minutes and fed me ice chips and popsicles, feeling no discomfort for the first time in many, many months. Aside from impending birth, it was basically the highlight of pregnancy – the closest I’ve come to vacation in a long time. By 5:30pm the doctor announced it was time for delivery, and we were moved to the operating room – a standard procedure for the delivery of twins due to the heightened risk. Although they assured me repeatedly it was not necessary, delivering there was a precaution the hospital required. Only 45 minutes after pushing, my little boy was delivered. In fact, I felt so confident and strong that I ignored the obvious sensation that my epidural had begun to wear off, something that actually helped make the delivery faster. It wasn’t until he was on my chest that I remembered exactly WHY I had wanted an epidural in the first place: for the breech delivery of baby #2. Immediately after placing him on my chest (a clever distraction), the doctor proceeded to shove an arm up so far it felt like she was clutching my lungs while another doctor began furiously pumping with both hands down onto my belly. The drugs had not completely worn off – but they were fading – fast. I felt every pull, twisting motion, frantic pushing from the 2nd doctor. Their work was so furious I was pushed backward so my head hung off the table. I remember screaming a little, enough that I worried my son’s first memories would be of his mother shrieking in his ears finally asked the nurse to remove him. The distraction was not strong enough to detract from the fact that something had gone wrong, or was souring quickly. This was not the “quick breech pull” I had discussed with my doctors for months. Despite being the smaller twin, the girl was not coming out. At this time I realized the OR had filled considerably – 15 or 20 people seemed to be crowding, shouting, scrambling and the anesthesiologist who was also required to be present for a twin birth started moving closer, I heard him talking behind me. Felt the panic I had kept at bay for 12 hours suddenly take hold. “What’s happening?” words fumbled out of my mouth through tears, and I lifted my head to see the doctors were not paying attention to me until they started yelling for me to “Push Push Push Push!” so I did – heard one of them curse loudly behind their mask. There’s nothing more unsettling than to hear a doctor shout “dammit” in an OR with one arm inside of you, your second baby still undelivered. I wailed at that point. Jer gripped my arm. He whispered “It will be ok,” but his eyes were wide. Neither of us believed him.
Suddenly my doctor stood up and looked me in the eye “Jenna we’re doing a c section, now.” She pinched my belly, asked if I felt the sensation, and when I said I did she pointed at the anesthesiologist, “I want her OUT. NOW.” Then she pointed at Jeremy and said firmly, “You need to leave right now please.” He managed to kiss me despite the fact that I was sobbing, “no, no, no.” Repatedly. Then an oxygen mask. Then blackness.
My next memory is pain. Pain like I have not experienced before but the sort that’s been described in great novels, the kind I cannot imagine recovering from without medication. Before I was able to speak I was screaming in my head and finally heard the words make their way out of my mouth, only just waking up from anesthesia. I heard myself softly pleading – was aware of many bodies around me, heard carts move, monitors, voices talking, inspecting. What if they didn’t hear me? So I screamed that I was in pain, begged them to help me. I believe I invoked God and other deities. I have no idea what they actually heard, or what I actually said, but Jeremy heard me plead “Help me,” a pathetic memory that makes me tear up to recall. Within an hour they finally had run enough morphine through my veins to silence the fire in my belly. Due to the emergency nature of the surgery it appears they did not have enough time to administer the appropriate amount of pain meds before I woke up. I don’t recommend the experience.
It’s been less than two weeks since the babies arrived with a bang, the course of delivery following our usual trend towards drama, intrigue, failed plans, with a (hopefully) decent story in the end. And, of course, there are the babies – two humans that we are so bewildered are ours, so perfect and tiny, such complete copies and mixtures of us, such blank slates, such tremendous gifts. We are completely sleep deprived, I’m still recovering from two deliveries, but am deliriously happy to be home, to start walking the porches with the babies and to see how their eyes open and faces lift up towards the front pasture and sunshine. It is all theirs and ours and feels exactly like a very small family already.
And so finally, after 18 years together, 9 years of marriage, and many years believing they would never arrive, we are very happy to introduce Cora Lynn and Cormac Alexander. Welcome to the world, little ones.