After months of Braxton Hicks and weeks of true contractions, with one fruitless trip to Labor and Delivery in the middle of the night, it came to pass that no babies were born. I'd been warned from day one that I'd be lucky to make it to 36 weeks and could probably expect labor to start closer to 34 weeks, but I was still lumbering along, with my uterine clown car at 37 weeks. I think no one was more surprised than my doctor that not only did I make it to my induction date, but I was only 3 centimeters dilated when I came in.
We checked into Landstuhl Regional Medical Center around 9 am on Friday, November 2nd. I was still incredibly anxious that I was going to be sent straight home without babies because Charlotte had to be head down in order for us to proceed with induction, and after spending almost the entire pregnancy banging on the door to be let out, the last couple of ultrasounds had shown her transverse. The midwife rolled in an ultrasound machine, spent some time peering at my internal organs, and seemed genuinely disappointed to inform us that Charlotte appeared to have her shoulder presenting rather than her head. I was thinking of all the ways I could stage a sit-in and refuse to leave until they yanked some babies out of me, when she decided, no, she did not trust the machine, she was going on an exploratory expedition of her own.
She pushed up her metaphorical sleeves, and proceeded to jam her arm up my uterus practically to my throat, feeling around for a baby head. Lo and behold, either the machine had lied or Charlotte repositioned herself just in the nick of time, but it was decided that all was well, I was going to have some babies! That was just the first example of how wonderful my experience with my medical team at LRMC was. It truly seemed like they were just as excited for these babies to arrive as I was, and they did everything they could to help me feel comfortable, safe, and taken care of. I could not have asked for a more fantastic group of nurses, midwives, and doctors.
I was started on a low dose drip of pitocin at 10:00 am and things progressed veeeeerrrry slowly throughout the morning and afternoon. I had my first contraction at 10:30 and over the course of the next few hours, the pitocin was upped so that the contractions became more intense and I eventually started dilating more.
Given my circumstances, I went into labor knowing for a certainty that I would get an epidural. There was a very good chance, given that Annabelle was still transverse, that I would need an emergency c-section, and I absolutely did not want to go under general anesthesia if that were the case. But with my experience with contractions up to the point that I got the epidural at 5 centimeters, I do wonder if I could have handled a medication free labor. The contractions were painful, but I never felt crippled by the pain and was able to breathe through them fairly easily. Of course, the pain would have become more intense down the line, it's just something I think about from time to time. Maybe if I ever have to deliver just one baby, I'll give it a try. But I also had a fantastic experience with the epidural, so I don't know. Why put myself through it if I don't have to, you know?
Anyhow, I got the epidural in the early evening, and contrary to what I expected, things sped up after that. It had taken me most of the day to go from 3 to 5 centimeters, and then another couple of hours to get to 6 centimeters, so I figured I'd take a nap since I evidently had plenty of time before the ladies arrived. I was rolled over on my side to help the epidural take better, and slept on and off for about two hours. The next thing I knew, my doctor was in the room to check me and announcing that it was go time.
Because it was twins, I delivered in the OR so that they could move immediately to a c-section if necessary. It was quite a party in there, and that's when I started freaking out a little bit and my body started going into a mild form of shock. Colby had to suit up while they were prepping me for delivery, so for the first few minutes, I was by myself in a room full of almost all strangers. There was my doctor and a girl he was training, two baby teams, the anesthesiologist, a nurse from the NICU, my nurse, and possibly some others--I know there was a total of 14 or 15 people in the room all hustling and bustling as I laid there staring at a giant OR light, shivering like crazy, without any pants.
And that is why I will always love my anesthesiologist. He noticed that I was proceeding quickly into a silent freak out, and after covering my upper chest and arms in a deliciously warm inflatable blanket, he leaned over me and in his soothing anesthesiologist voice introduced himself, talked to me about everything he was doing and what everyone in the room was doing, and basically kept me from the edge of madness until Colby arrived.
Then my nurse came and took my hand and told me it was time to push. Now, this was one of the craziest experiences I've had, because I could feel absolutely nothing below the waist, yet I somehow had to get these babies out of me. So the nurse told me that she would tell me when a contraction was coming and I would need to push while she counted to eight. Fortunately, I remembered a little tidbit we had learned at our birthing class, that I would need to push as though I were trying to have a bowel movement. Gross, yes. But effective? Also yes.
I pushed for 15 minutes with Charlotte, and everyone in the room was my biggest cheerleader. They made me feel like I was the champion of delivering babies. At some point they put me on oxygen, but that was the only slight hiccup, and Charlotte Cecilia came screaming into the world at 12:17 am on November 3rd, 5 lbs 12.9 oz 18.9 inches long. They placed her on my stomach so that I could meet her, and Colby cut the cord, but then there was more work to be done.
The doctor asked my nurse if Annabelle was still breech, but by some miracle, that little baby had flipped herself around and raced for the exit as soon as her sister checked out. So, without further delay, another contraction came on and the nurse started the pushing count down. I don't know how it's possible to not be able to feel something, but also be completely exhausted by it. I am in awe of women who push for hours on end. I'd pushed for 15 minutes, had a break for a couple of minutes, and then minutes later, Annabelle Claire joined the party at 12:22 am, 5 lbs 15 oz 19.1 inches long.
After that, everything is such a blur. The doctor asked us if we wanted to see the placentas, and in adrenaline powered curiosity, I said yes. It was actually really fascinating, and I'm glad I got to look at the organ that kept my girls safe for 37 weeks and 1 day. I had a second degree tear, so once we were done with the science lesson, he stitched me up and I was transfered from the table back to the hospital bed for the ride back to the labor room.
I imagine we probably got back to the room, where my mom was waiting anxiously, around 1 am, and I have no idea where the next four hours went. I know the girls got baths and we had our first breastfeeding session. Both girls latched on pretty well for first timers, and the only worrisome part was that Charlotte had a hard time warming up to the right temperature. They had me do skin to skin with her for a while, and finally she got the all clear and was bundled up next to her sister.
Then, I was under strict instructions to pee or I was going to get a catheter. They'd been pumping fluids into me for hours, and I'd been drinking water like crazy, so my bladder was incredibly full, but evidently one of the side effects of the epidural can be difficulty urinating independently once the catheter is removed. However, by then the epidural was wearing off, and the last thing I wanted was to be re-catheterized, so we turned on the water faucet and I tried very hard to think of waterfalls. When it finally happened, it was like that scene in Austin Powers--I didn't think it would ever stop! Finally, the epidural wore off enough that I was able to take a quick shower, then it was down to the mother and baby ward to try and get some sleep.
What I still can't believe is that when I was wheeled down to my room for the next two days, Charlotte and Annabelle were able to come with us. It's absolutely amazing to me that our little peanuts didn't have to spend any time at all in the NICU. That had been almost a certainty--just like the fact that they were going to come no later than 36 weeks--but my little troopers blew us all away by being perfectly developed and healthy. We had a moment of concern when we were told later that morning that Annabelle had a slight heart murmur that they were monitoring, but by the time we checked out on Monday morning it had resolved itself. I am so proud of my little miracle babies and love them more and more with every day that passes.
(Fabulous birth photography done by my wonderfully talented friend, Jennifer Winfrey of Jennifer Winfrey Photography)