Part I right here.
Where were we?
Right. Bright and early we packed ourselves into our wannabe minivan with all the bags and snacks and baby things we could think to bring. We had an 8am appointment and I was worried about spending an hour + in commuter traffic so we left…maybe 5:30ish? 6? Way too early. We got to Oak Park in record time and had a leisurely breakfast at Panera. On our way out a gentleman stopped us to congratulate us on the babies and tell us he’d pray for us…and then ask us for money for his prayer ministry. I guess praying for randoms in parking lots doesn’t bring in a steady income. Or maybe it does. I don’t know. I remember feeling really jarred by the encounter, so afraid of what our day would be and grateful for the man’s kindness and then that ugly inner conflict feeling when you deny someone pocket change and they turn on you in an instant. He gave us these white papers with bible verses on them – the kind you’d get in a stationary set at a christian bookstore, as though he was taking the higher road after our rude refusal. I don’t know why this stuck with me so much, maybe because it only added to the tight feeling in my stomach about all that I didn’t control about the day ahead.
We bounced through the pot holes down Lake street, up Austin, the route well worn by our own false labors in the weeks before. Drew dropped me at the entrance and I felt sort of silly – finally arriving to deliver babies and showing no signs of labor. He went to park the car and I somewhat sheepishly asked the security guard for a wheelchair, knowing I’d never make it through the maze of hallways up to labor and delivery on my own. Or at least not without starting labor, an idea which seemed absolutely terrifying at the time.
A nurse arrived with a wheelchair and helped us get up to L&D, my giant belly leading the way, Drew struggling with all manner of bags and pillows. We were delivered to our room – it seemed enormous after so many nights stuck in the little box rooms of triage! – and met our nurse who got right to work taking vitals, hooking me up to machines, finding each of the babies on the monitors. It became quickly apparent that I would not be able to enjoy the luxury of movement during my labor, even the slightest shift of my hips on the hospital bed would lose one or both of the babies heart rates, despite how tightly the monitors were strapped to my belly.
Nicole, the midwife on call that night, stopped in as her shift was ending. She said to feel free to call if I needed any support, but that Cynthia would stop in later in the morning to see how things were going, in between her appointments at the office. Another doctor, one who would later help deliver the babies, came by to do a quick ultrasound and confirm positions. We were excited to find that Evelyn had shifted down just a little, enough to shove Rowan up a bit but not enough that his head was out of my pelvis. Bummer.
The nurse came back with breakfast, which made me laugh because I had gorged myself on breakfast thinking I wasn’t allowed food once we checked in – she told me I was going to need it and she wouldn’t tell anyone – and when I finished the little I could eat she started the pitocin. After so many birth documentaries and blogs and books and birth stories, I was bracing for the mother of all contractions to knock me breathless and I was pretty surprised when I didn’t feel anything. After a half hour or so I asked the nurse if it was dispensing yet and she explained that they never know just how high a dose a person will need to help kick start their bodies’ natural contractions, so they start out slow and low. I had assumed my body would take the cue of merely arriving at the hospital as go-time…but no such luck. In fact, I wouldn’t really start to feel the contractions until late afternoon, even though I watched them register all day on the monitors.
But. Let’s switch to a timeline before my recollections get too foggy.
9am – Noon – Drew works on class prep and grading, I try to watch a few shows and Skype with my mom, updating her on all the excitement. Every hour the pitocin ups 1 unit, so by lunch we were only up to maybe 4. I’m bored and exhausted from not sleeping the night before, and starting to get hungry. The kind and thoughtful hospital people remember my husband’s empty stomach and bring him a tray with a steaming philly cheesesteak sandwich and the smell is atrocious. I eat ice chips with a small slosh of fruit juice which I actually love but for the purposes of my martyrdom, we’ll pretend it was the worst and so unjust.
1pm – Cynthia pops in, full of energy and excitement and answers all my questions, sympathizes with me about the chained-to-the-bed situation and offers to check my cervix. Surprise, surprise, we’re still at a 4cm. She gives my shoulder a squeeze, asks if she can do anything for me and, after tracking down a few more pillows, leaves us to our waiting.
2pm – 4pm – The nurse changes my dosing to 2 units per hour. More dozing. Bathroom breaks that require 15 minutes of monitor fidgeting to locate little bodies. And then all the sudden, I’m feeling the contractions. No more naps. No more Netflix. It’s all hands on deck, white knuckling the bed rails as 60 second contractions hit hard.
5pm – Contractions still going strong, the blasted hospital people deliver Drew another tray. To his credit, I don’t remember him eating any of it. The confines of the bed are not helping me cope with the contractions. The pitocin continues, apparently my body isn’t taking these contractions as a sign to start continuing labor on its own and the dosages keep getting higher.
6-8pm – Cynthia checks in periodically, encouraging, suggesting it won’t be long now and we’ll check my progress soon. Nurses change shifts and I get another wonderful, sweet woman who does everything she can to help me through things. Multiple people talk about babies born before midnight. I spend a lot of time staring at the huge light above the bed, built with an extending arm to pull down as a woman delivers. I try to imagine what the OR will be like, or how I will know how to push in the midst of such intensity. Our doulas arrive and get right to work massaging, positioning, encouraging and helping me breathe. I believe the pit was up to 16 or 18 now – as high as it would go for the rest of the night.
8:30 – Time for another check. I’m trying not to be optimistic but I can’t help it. Maybe this is finally happening? My body, finally working as it should to get these crazy kids out! But no. I’ve progressed to a 5. One lousy centimeter for all that work. I am so demoralized, ready to do whatever it takes for this all to be over. It’s not so much the physical pain that has done me in, more the emotional exhaustion. I’ve been laboring for weeks, willing my body to do it’s ‘natural’ thing and eject these babies and still, even with a huge help from the drugs…nothing! I announce that I’d like to do a c-section. Now, please. As far as I can see it, there’s no point is continuing down this miserable path, hoping for something that won’t happen, only to do the c-section in the morning. I just want it to be over. To have babies in my arms. To their credit, nobody makes me feel ashamed or like a bad mom or a failure. But, they do remind me that a c-section is major surgery and risky and, as the twins are still holding up great even with the stress of contractions, the safest place for now is still inside me.
I knew we would have to place the epidural at some point, so I’d be prepped for a possible emergency c-section if needed, and we decide to go ahead and do it then with the hopes that it will help me relax and sleep and move Evelyn down and Rowan up. Other than the potential for a c-section, the epidural was the part of the birth process I was most dreading. Cynthia helped me move my huge body into the right, somehow bent-forward position and let me grip her hands while the goofiest, most talented, worst bedside-mannered anesthesiologist got to work. And it was over before I thought he had started, all I thought I was feeling were his creepy grandpaish long fingernails, somehow he snuck the giant needle in and got it all squared away before I had a clue. And, before I could even shift back into a reclined position, my legs were too heavy to lift. There’s the slightly humiliating bit of inserting the catheter, but I’m too tired to care and then my sweet birth team cocoons me with pillows and leaves me to sleep. Drew curls up on a too-short couch at the other end of the room and I’m out, only briefly surfacing when I notice my kind nurse in the room, checking monitors.
1am – My nurse and doulas return and Cynthia comes in to check me. Impossibly, I’m still at a 5 and now more posterior than before, but finally 100% effaced. They decide it’s probably time to break my waters and see if that will help get things moving. I’m too out of it to be freaked out by the giant hook. It takes her several minutes to break through what she described as one of the strongest bags she’s ever seen (my doula Liz cheers and high fives me. I guess that’s why I was eating obscene amounts of protein, so someone could claw through me with a crochet hook.) and Drew wakes up in the midst of it. He describes the scene as completely creepy, only the soft glow of monitors illuminating four women crouched down, focused intently on, well, you get the picture. He joins us just as the bag breaks and oh my word. So much fluid. How could a child not come out in that flood? Dilation be darned. There’s a freaking river flowing out of my body. I expect to see Evelyn dog-paddling out any moment.
After they get me all cleaned up and tucked back into bed, we all go back to sleep, a task not difficult with numb limbs and drug-droopy eyes.
5am – I wake up dry heaving. I’ve never handled nausea well, but this is worse than I’ve ever experienced. I call for the nurse and ask if there’s anything she can do. It’s a side effect of the epidural, but she gets cool cloths and one of my doulas, Christine, drops lemon essential oil onto a few of them, hoping they’ll help my sour stomach. I can’t turn my head without feeling like I’ll black out and the terror sets in. How can I labor like this? I can’t even move! Cynthia comes to check me, I’ve progressed another centimeter and Evelyn has moved down quite a bit, but in the process has flung an arm over her head. I trust Cynthia when she says it’s time for a c-section, although now I don’t want it. Or, I do. I want to hold my babies. But everything is happening too quickly for my already spinning head and I’m just so scared. Drew is sent out of the room to get scrubs and suddenly my OB arrives and they’re moving me to a smaller bed, one that will take me to the OR. I’m still fighting wicked nausea when she tells me to swallow a cup-full of some kind of antacid. It does me in and everything comes back up. So. Miserable. I’m heaving all the way to the OR, half awake in the epidural haze when suddenly I’m being shifted to the narrow OR table, oxygen tubes shoved in my nose, a giant blue drape covering my face. I felt such panic, claustrophobic and alone, even surrounded by so many people. My babies didn’t feel like my own anymore as a half dozen hands pushed and shifted my body, attaching wires and taping down draping.
I don’t have good memories of the following hour and I really don’t know how to process it all. It was just too much. I felt like I was drowning, I tried yelling that I was still so nauseous and could we slow down and that I could feel the cold prep fluid being wiped across my belly. Drew is right by my head, squeezing my hands and reassuring me that it will all be over soon. Then that awful sound of the shaver starts and I’m panicking, saying I can feel it and I’m not ready for them to cut me open. Of course, I have no idea what I was really feeling because clearly she’d already made the cut as I feel awful tugging and painful pushing that seems to last for hours and it’s all I can do to fight the drugs and stay awake without puking again. But something in the fear keeps me alert enough to hear their cries, first Evelyn and then Rowan. I catch a glimpse of Evelyn on the warming table…meaning we got no skin to skin or delayed cord clamping, a fact I still don’t understand given that it wasn’t a true emergency c-section…and then I’m fading, closed up into the darkness of the drugs.
I wake up as they’re shifting me back to the transport bed and I ask if I’m stitched up yet. My OB laughs and tells me I have beautiful babies and she just saw them off to be weighed and assessed in the nursery (another thing we specifically asked not to happen right away) and that I’ll see them when I get to the recovery room. That, at least, is true and just as soon as I’m wheeled in, my sweet babies arrive and I’m completely in awe. My doulas are waiting for us and help me sit up enough to hold each of them in my arms. What bliss. Even though I still couldn’t turn my head without setting off another round of heaves, I could feel their warm little bodies against mine and I was lost in love. Unreal. Finally here. Also, I was almost asleep again, fighting the drugs, but we did get my sweet girl to latch on for a few minutes before she passed out too and all three of us were wheeled up to my new room.
After my new nurses did some assessments and explained my pain meds, they left the four of us and I got a crash course in nursing. Both babies had a bit of trouble learning to latch properly but we kept at it and, over the next few days and with the help of a great lactation consultant, started to figure things out. There was lots of screaming (from all parties) and many amazing nurses who coached and cheered us on, even soothing babies at 4am when we were too bleary-eyed to help. Drew’s Grandma and Grandpa Hoskins visited, then his Uncle Kent and our friends Lauren and Bruce and then Rob and Bonnie arrived, ready to take us home. It was Friday, we were finally cleared to go home and just packing up the car when I started to feel so dizzy and lightheaded. We ended up adding one last crazy night to our stay so I could get a blood transfusion and spent the night laughing at the chaos, raiding vending machines for sustenance and snuggling our sweet babies, still full of disbelief that they were actually ours!
When we finally got discharged at 4am we high tailed it out of there. Gone were any plans of baby-book worthy going home photos – the cute outfits were used to remedy poop disasters hours (days?) before – and we were just ready to get our exhausted little family home. It felt like we were breaking out of the hospital, as if someone might have stopped and laughed us back into the room when they saw our sorry state. Ready to take care of twins? You must be joking.
But then we’re in the lobby and Drew is adjusting car seats to fit these enormous babies and all the sudden we’re homeward-bound! I make him stop a mile down the road so we can check on them, they’re just too quiet and I’m worried we’ve done something wrong or what if we get in an accident. But we make it home and hand off the wailing babies to the grandparents and crash into our bed for the first real rest we’ve had in a week.
And then I wake up and realize it wasn’t all a dream and these sweet crazy little people are really here to stay forever and I can just snuggle them and breathe in their new-person smell and it is just so perfect. So deliciously wonderfully perfect and all the horrific c-section and sleep deprivation and cracked, bleeding nipples and the blood transfusion – all of it, so worth it. I mean, obviously. But coming through the trauma is hard and sometimes I just need to remind myself of what is plain – I gave my whole self over to these kids and it changed me. For good. And for my good.
I wish parts of this story were different, but I must confess I have no idea how we could have changed a thing. I don’t doubt the wisdom of my birth team, although I still don’t believe it had to go down the way it all did. I don’t know what this means for the possibility of future Woodland kiddos – right now, the thought still fills me with dread and terror, having to experience birth again. But perhaps there will be a different kind of redemptive birth ahead for me, for all of us. And for now, for now I’ve got two sweet little babies to cover with kisses and snuggle with as much as my heart desires and it’s really the best kind therapy. And I’m so thankful.