This twin birth story continues from last week, where we learned about Erin's first born's natural birth and her twin pregnancy.
The induction discussion
I was so big at this point (measuring 46 weeks at 37 weeks) that Baby A’s head was in front of my cervix instead of over it and therefore not very effective in causing my cervix to dilate. At 38 weeks, and still not dilated or effaced, we decided to go ahead and induce on Monday, March 16th, 2009. I agonized over this decision – I firmly believe that birth should happen naturally.
I didn’t want to be induced, I didn’t want the drugs, but I realized that this was different. If I had been giving birth to a singleton, I would have made different choices. This was twins, and would therefore have to be handled differently. I felt that if those babies didn’t come out at that point, there might not be much left of me to deliver them or to take care of them once they were born.
I had an appointment that morning and there were still no changes so we headed over to the hospital. I got checked in and was put on Pitocin at around 10 AM. My OB (Dr. C), came to see me and break my water at 11 AM. I was only 1 cm dilated. That really hurt – something I was unprepared for. When my water broke naturally with my son, it was completely painless. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it either – we had discussed breaking my water at 2 cm, but she did it without asking me first and by the time I had the chance to say something, it was already done.
Once I was all set up, one of the nurses came in to inform me of a few things that were pretty upsetting at the time. Firstly, the delivery operating room was under renovation and would not be available. I would have to deliver in a main hospital operating room and the babies would be whisked away immediately after birth because of increased risk of infection and due to the main ORs being very cold. Secondly, because the main OR had its own staff, most likely my support team would not be allowed in with me. I was really upset about this, but knew that there wasn’t much I could do about it and since my water had been broken, there was no turning back now.
I didn’t respond well to the Pitocin. It did start my labor and I did continue to have stronger and stronger contractions, but was only about 2 cm dilated by the evening. Dr. C then decided to take me off the Pitocin for a few hours to let me sleep and eat and let my body re-sensitize to the drugs. The oxytocin that Pitocin mimics is a hormone that you get desensitized to after awhile and they kept upping my dose.
At one point during the day I asked for something to eat and was told only ice chips. As the day wore on, I could tell my blood sugar was getting lower and lower and I finally asked the nurse to check it. It was in the low 50's. They conceded and brought me a popsicle but that was hardly enough for a body working as hard as mine was. That night when they turned off the Pitocin, I was so happy to eat dinner and get a few hours of sleep!
Pitocin stopped and restarted
The Pitocin was re-started at 3 AM Tuesday morning, March 17th. The contractions got stronger and harder, but I was still only 2 cm dilated. I finally asked for the epidural. I had been told that it wasn’t really optional because if I ended up with an emergency c-section and did not have an epidural in place, I would be put under general anesthesia.
After having labored for 24 hours without making any notable progress, I was ready for the pain killers. The epidural did calm me down and make labor more bearable. I am so sensitive to medications that I had a drug trip with it. That was very strange. I saw some unusual things, like my son with a tail.
I did start to make a little progress with the epidural, probably because it allowed my body to relax a bit. By 6 PM Tuesday night, I was 5 cm. I had been put on antibiotics by this point because Baby A’s water had been broken for more than 24 hours and the OB was concerned about infection.
One baby head down, the other transverse
Going into labor, we knew that Baby A was head down, but Baby B was transverse, or lying across my stomach. Normally, a mother carrying twins that were not both head down would not be “allowed” to deliver naturally – a c-section would be expected. At the beginning of my pregnancy, one of the OBs in the practice told me that he “didn't deliver twins vaginally.” (Jerk.)
I promptly told him, “Well, I don't birth my babies surgically and if you're on call when I go into labor, be prepared for a fight.”
I saw Dr. C for the rest of my pregnancy because she understood my strong desire to deliver the babies vaginally, had promised me that she would be willing to “turn” Baby B and that I should be able to deliver them without surgery. She also committed to delivering my babies herself unless something came up and she couldn’t be there.
Well, something came up. Her husband had an accident and she was unable to be at the hospital with me when I was laboring.
The OB on call (Dr. B) was not quite as natural birth-friendly and when she came in at 6 PM Tuesday night to find me only 5 cm, she was “very concerned.” She put on her stern “doctor face” and told me that she was very worried about my uterus being so overextended and me making such slow progress. A big problem with an overextended uterus is that it can bleed very heavily after delivery – regardless of the type of delivery.
The C-Section scare
Pitocin is used to cause the uterus to contract and stop the bleeding but since I had been on the Pitocin for so long, I was not sensitive to it anymore and she was worried that if my labor kept going and going, I would be at risk for bleeding to death. Of course she used scare tactics and mentioned that I might end up with a hysterectomy if we didn’t go ahead and deliver the babies by c-section right then.
This didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me – one would think that cutting into a uterus would cause more bleeding than a normal vaginal delivery, right? I was understandably very upset but my wonderful support team (my husband, my doula and a friend) and I took a few minutes to talk and pray about it and then we spoke with the doctor again. It turns out the risk for a hysterectomy is only 3%!
So at this point, I asked for time. I knew with the delivery of my son that I had gone from 6 to 10 centimeters very rapidly and I expected the same to happen again. She was reluctant, but she agreed to give me to 8 PM to make “significant progress.” We then prayed that God would allow my body to rapidly progress and sure enough, I was talking on the phone with my mom at 7:30 when I started feeling the urge to push.
Ready to push!
When Doctor B returned at 8:00, she began to check my cervix and a very puzzled expression spread across her face. She just kept feeling around like she was trying to find something. Well, I was fully dilated and effaced and she asked if I could begin pushing. I said “yes” and started pushing Baby A.
I got her all the way to crowning, and then Dr. B told me I had to stop so they could prep the operating room. Another twin mom was scheduled to have her c-section at that time and they had to bump her and get the room ready for me to delivery vaginally.
I wasn’t aware that you could pause in the middle of pushing out a baby, but apparently you can. I had to wait while she was crowning for about 30 minutes for them to get that OR ready! It seemed like the longest 30 minutes of my life. I wasn’t exactly comfortable and I imagine little Baby A wasn’t either! Fortunately, the delivery operating room was finished early and I wouldn’t have to deliver upstairs in the main OR.
Doctor was scared to turn Baby B
Around this time, Dr. B brought up the subject of a c-section again. This time it was because she “wasn’t comfortable” with the idea of turning Baby B. Doctor C had turned babies many times but Dr. B hadn’t done it and was very nervous about the idea. I kept asking her to try.
If we tried and failed and I had to have surgery, then so be it. But I wasn’t going to quit without trying. Especially not after working so hard to have a vaginal birth for the last 2 days! At one point she looked at me and with a face full of pure honesty, she said “I’m really scared.”
I looked right at her and said, “You have no idea how many people are praying for me, and for you, at this very moment. I have faith that you can do this. I will help you, my support people will help you and the baby will help you. Please, please just try.” She gave me a look that said she would try but she was still afraid and wasn’t convinced.
Here comes Baby A!
Once in the OR, I was hooked up to all kinds of wires and monitors and then I was finally allowed to push out Baby A. She emerged all covered in vernix and I kept asking if she was ok. She had so much dark hair, too!
Once she was out, Dr. B and one of the nurses immediately put the sonogram wand up to my belly to check Baby B’s position. According to my husband, (I was busy looking at my new daughter!) their jaws hit the floor when they realized that she was head down.
Doctor B didn’t have to do anything to try to turn her – that sweet little baby did it all by herself. Our prayers were answered and once again, God showed that He is in control no matter how much we think we are! I greeted Baby A quickly before she was taken away from me to be examined. They gave her back to me all wrapped up for another 30 seconds before they took her to the nursery. She was 6 lbs, 9 oz. A good size for a twin, but not the 7 lbs they had guesstimated.
Here comes Baby B!
Then it was time to push Baby B. That took a long time – I wasn’t really having contractions (I think my body wanted a rest!) and she was so high up that the doctor said it was like pushing from -15 station! From the moment Baby B turned head down until she was out, I was surrounded by nurses who pressed down on my belly to keep her from turning back around.
They kept looking at me like they didn’t understand why I wasn’t having contractions (even at the max dose of Pitocin) but contractions aren’t something you can force! Baby A was born at 9:32 PM but Baby B didn’t come along until 10:59 PM. She felt so tiny as I was pushing her out. She was 5 lbs 13 oz. Definitely not 7 lbs! Her hair was blonde! My first blonde child. Like her sister, I greeted her for a quick second and she was whisked away to the nursery after being examined.
After a quick stitch-up for a minor tear, I rejoined the babies in the hospital nursery. They had been taken out after being evaluated, but I actually wasn’t that upset about it at first. I was feeling so elated at that point.
After having experienced two VERY different types of labor – one natural and drug & intervention free and the other an induction with an epidural, I can say with complete confidence that I would choose a drug-free birth over one with interventions any day if given the option. With my son, I did experience the pain, but it peaked gradually and once he was born, I felt fine. A little sore, but I was walking around and back to my normal self in mere days.
With the twins, once they were born and the epidural turned off, the pain hit like a ton of bricks. My body hadn’t had the opportunity to adjust to the pain since I was on medication and it overpowered me. I think the recovery was much harder with the epidural than without and my back hurt for a long time where the epidural went in.
My body reacted to the medications
I watched the girls get their first baths in the nursery and then we all went back to the room I had been in before going to the OR. Almost immediately, I started vomiting because of all the medications that had been pumped into my body. A nurse informed me that they would be putting Stadol into my IV.
I stopped throwing up and everything got warm. My eyes closed. My husband asked if they could bring me some Gatorade but they told him they didn't have any. Since I was in good hands with my doula, he left to get me some. She was packing up our things because I was supposed to be moving to a recovery room. All of a sudden, as I lay there with my eyes closed, I had the strongest urge to imitate the beeping sound of the machines and the crinkle of the plastic bags she was packing.
Part of my brain told me that it would be completely absurd, but the rest of my brain kept telling me to do it. So I started saying “beep beep.” I was having a psychotic reaction to the Stadol, which apparently is very common. I imitated sounds I heard, I couldn't talk without stuttering and my eyes wouldn’t open.
A nurse came in to say that we needed to try to breastfeed the babies but I was totally out of it. I thought they were telling me that if I didn't nurse them, they were going to be taken away to the nursery and given bottles of formula. I totally freaked out then and kept stuttering, “mmmmm-my bbbbbb-babies!” My husband returned to utter chaos.
The babies did need to nurse — it had been hours since Baby A was born and I had still barely touched her. My husband and doula held the babies to my chest so they could breastfeed as I desperately tried to open my eyes. I kept trying, but my eyelids were too heavy. I have hardly any memory of nursing Baby B and none of nursing Baby A.
It took over 12 hours for that awful Stadol to get out of my system. I stuttered for a long time. It was very hard to even put my thoughts into words. I was embarrassed and I felt robbed. I had missed out on my babies' first few hours because of that horrible drug.
In that first 12 hours, we had someone in and out of our room every 15 minutes. We weren't given a moment's rest.
The next morning, the nurses informed me that Baby B was struggling with low blood sugar. She kept shuddering, an indication that her sugars were low. She was burning more calories nursing than she was able to take in. But instead of offering to let me express colostrum and dropper feed her or spoon feed her, I was told I needed to give her a bottle of formula. I was so out of it and tired, I didn't even think of dropper feeding. I didn't want her to have formula but I didn't want her to get sick, either. I will regret this until my dying day.
The day after their birth was a blur. Family and friends came to visit, my husband went home to spend some time with our son and I slept when I could. I was very swollen. They had pumped me so full of IV fluids during my labor that my body couldn't get rid of it fast enough. Nurses came to check my legs periodically to make sure the swelling didn't reach a dangerous level.
That night, my husband and I were so exhausted that we asked the nurse to take the babies to the nursery for a few hours so we could sleep. We were both falling apart. The nurse was very nasty about it and told us that if we wouldn't let them give the babies bottles, there was nothing they could do to comfort them if they cried. They did take the girls for about an hour before they brought them back.
We were all cleared to go home on Friday. I was so thankful to be leaving the hospital and going home.
Looking back and a homebirth next time
Immediately after their birth, I felt overjoyed. I had birthed my babies the way I wanted to. As time went on and I was able to reflect on the events surrounding their birth, I realized that while I had “won the war,” I had lost a lot of battles.
I feel very strongly that women in labor shouldn't be starved, threatened or coerced.
They shouldn't be pumped full of drugs that alter their minds.
Babies shouldn't be whisked away from their mothers right after birth.
Birth can be peaceful and calm.
My girls' birth could have been so much more than it was. I am grateful that things “went well” and emergency surgery wasn't necessary. I am grateful that my girls were strong and healthy and tolerated labor. I am thankful for those things. But what I experienced in that hospital made me vow to never give birth in a medical facility ever again.
Two and a half years later, I birthed their baby brother at home, in my bathtub. The lights were low, I was calm, fearless and at peace. No one told me what to do or how to do it. No one threatened me and I held my baby boy to my chest just seconds after he was born. I am grateful that my journey with my daughters led me that place because I'm sure that if their birth had been less traumatic for me, his birth would have also been in a hospital and I never would have been blessed with the experience of home birth.
I have a lot of regrets but I am also very thankful. Two sweet, darling little girls were born on that St. Patrick's Day and they changed my world forever. Perhaps when they’re a few years older, we might just travel up to Twinsburg, Ohio.
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All images in this post belong to Erin and were used with her permission.