Wednesday, October 09, 2013

{Becoming Mother II} - A Twins/Multiples Birth Story

In honor of Baby #3's impending arrival, we are launching another {Becoming Mother} blog series. As my own labor and delivery quickly approaches, I find it encouraging to immerse myself in childbirth stories. I love reminding myself that women birth every day, that they survive and that they rejoice in being a mother when it's all over. 

As always, this is not to promote a particular type of birth. These stories are intended to be more of a picture into "what it was really like" for these mothers in their various birth settings. I hope they inspire you to marvel in awe at God's perfect plan of childbirth.

As always, you can check out  my hospital birth story with Cannonmy birthing center birth story with Cason and my reflections on both deliveries. I will be back at the end of this series with some of my favorite birth stories from fellow bloggers, as well as my thoughts in preparation for childbirth the third time around.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Tara. She and her husband, Seth have trusted me to photograph their sweet family since their girls were nine months old. I've loved watching their girls grow and have enjoyed comparing notes on motherhood, since the twins are mere months older than Cannon. She and I also love talking about running and knitting/crocheting and Montessori education.


As someone who plans professionally, naturally I made plans about how our family would expand.  This is not to say that I never adapted these plans, as I aged and learned about the woman I was, I made adjustments.  The lesson I have learned in the process of expanding our family:  You can plan your life as much as you like; sometimes God has other plans.

I had visions of the woman I would be when I was pregnant.  I planned on being one of those moms that would run through her pregnancy, I would do prenatal yoga and swim weekly.  I also planned on working up until the baby came.  Having family in the medical industry I knew I would birth my baby in the hospital, but it was important to me that it be a natural drug free birth.  The baby and I would take to nursing and I would be one of those unapologetic babywearing, breastfeeding mommas that jogged with her baby and did "baby and me" yoga.  I am pretty sure you get the idea of who I thought I would be.  This is not to say I thought any less of anyone that didn't do all this; this was just the way I knew I wanted things to go.  It was going to be hard work, but I was tough and I could do it :-)


At our first appointment everything started off as expected.  We look at the screen during the ultrasound, Seth holding  my hand in nervous anticipation.  I see the ultrasound tech find the baby, but then they move around to find what I can only assume is another angle of the baby.  It was kind of odd, it seemed like that was a pretty good view, but who am I to judge.  She finds the view she wants.  She measures the baby right around seven weeks and we see the heart beat.  We're elated.

She adjusts her view and starts saying something to the effect that we were going to go check on baby B next.  Wha?  My Jaw drops.  New joy springs up from where I didn't even know existed.  You know that part of the Grinch when his heart visibly grows?  That's how I felt X2.Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
We meet with the doctor and discuss what we could expect regarding the birth.  He had no problems delivering twins vaginally, but suggested that if an epidural was not in place and there were complications with either baby I might not be lucid for their arrival.  This was honestly not something I wanted to risk.  I didn't want to chance not seeing either baby right after they arrived.  The thought of being unconscious was enough for me to be ok with and epidural being in place - bye by drug free delivery.

I was also told I would not be able to run while I was pregnant - bye bye running momma.  At least I could do yoga and swim though.

I'll try to summarize the specifics of the rest of the pregnancy as there are a number of unexpected things that came up and this is supposed to be a birth story, not a pregnancy story.  I want to make sure that this story is an accurate representation of just a few of the things that one can expect to be confronted with when they are having multiples.

Around Thanksgiving I had to go to an emergency clinic for my asthma.  Apparently I was in the 1/3 of women who's asthma gets worse during pregnancy.  Boo.  I am prescribed asthma meds.  All asthma meds at the time were class C, which made me uncomfortable, but since breathing is important I take them.

I am diagnosed with high blood pressure (normally mine was on the low end of normal, so this was kind of a shock).  Another medicine to take.  Double boo, at least it was class B this time.

My cervical length starts to shorten and my activity is restricted.  Bye bye yoga momma

We found out we were having 2 little girls.  We were overjoyed.

I barely passed the second gestational diabetes test and was advised to basically eat like I hadn't passed it.

We did our baby classes and toured the NICU at the hospital, just in case.

My cervical length shortens more and I was told to limit my walking to only that which was absolutely necessary.  This led to my first ride in a motorized cart in Target - I was mortified.

I was swallowing pride left and right, all the signs were there that my body was being taxed beyond what I could expect from it.  Still I was convinced we would make it to 37 weeks.

Thursday June 3rd, we went to the ER for the first time, one day shy of 33 weeks.  Apparently my pains weren’t the babies testing their limits; they weren't Braxton hicks either.  They were real contractions happening at regular intervals.  The doctors questioned whether or not to give me the shot to help the girls lungs develop since I was still in my 32nd week.  Fortunately, they get the contractions to stop and decide not to give the shot.  I head home the next day.

I am put on at home Bed rest - still I was going to make it to 37 weeks since the doctor had said that was full term for twins.

They’re coming - the delivery

At 2:45am on June 8th we were 33.5 weeks when I felt a ping in my belly.  I instantaneously was motivated to high tail it to the restroom as fast as I could.  My water had broke.  We call the hospital and are told to hurry in.  We are admitted, knowing the drill from our trial run just a few days before, and put in a room where I head to the restroom to change.  Still leaking fluid the nurse remarks that there no question about my water breaking.  Bye Bye Twin term

The on call doctor arrives.  My OB was supposed to be on call however his father had been admitted to the ER the same night and he wasn't available.  Dr. Taylor would be our delivering doctor.  We visited briefly with her before I was taken back for my epidural.

Honestly the epidural was the scariest thing for me, primarily because I had back surgery on my low back 3 years prior.  The thought of it still gives me the heebie jeebies.  I hugged my pillow tightly as they placed it and fortunately all was well. 

We headed back to the OR shortly after since multiple deliveries are always in the OR at the hospital we chose.  No one but the father is allowed in the OR, since it gets really crowded.  Each bay has a team of doctors and nurses just for them and then there are the doctors and nurses for momma.

We ended up having a cesarean section since baby A's bottom was blocking the birth canal.  She arrived at 5:51 am.  Baby B arrived 1 minute later.  The doctors brought baby B over to us as soon as they had swaddled her up.  They needed to take her to the NICU since she was having some breathing issues.  We looked at her and gave her one of the names Seth and I had decided on - Evelyn.  She was without a doubt our little Evie.  Baby A was doing slightly better but would soon be following her sister.  The moment we saw her we knew she was our Minerva.
Seth gave me a hug and kiss and then follows the girls to the NICU like we had discussed earlier.

I am left alone with my doctors to finish the delivery and get sewn up.  Honestly this was one of the loneliest feelings I have ever had.  To have experienced such joy and then it being swept away.  I knew it was normal for premature babies to have some breathing issues.  I was left to wonder if it was really just minor or if they were sugar coating it for me.

I am taken back to my recovery room to wait.  It’s a bit of a haze, but it felt like forever till Seth came back.  Once they had the girls all set up in their isolettes and stabilized, he came back to take me to see them again.  He walked with me (I was pushed in a wheelchair) back to see them for the second time.


We scrubbed up before we entered the room where the girls were.  I saw the girls for the second time.  They were so little.  Mina - 4 lbs 2 oz; Evie - 3 lbs 15 oz.  They were each in their own isolette, connected to so many tubes.  Fortunately I was able to reach into the isolettes to touch their sweet little arms and legs.  They seemed so tiny, so fragile.  Still I knew they were strong.
Again, I’ll try to be brief as there is a lot of things that are a part of a typical NICU stay.

Feeling helpless, I knew my main job was to feed my babies the best possible thing that I could, so I started pumping right after my first NICU visit.  Things come very very slowly.  Every drop was liquid gold that helped them grow and gain immunities.

Seth and I regularly attend our touch times.  Each touch time included checking each girls temperature, changing their diaper and feeding them.  The girls were initially gravity fed, but we had to go to a pump to slow the speed of food so that their tummies could digest everything a little easier.  After each feeding the nurses used a syringe to determine how much residual food was left in their tummies.  This was used to gauge how much their stomachs were able to digest in one feeding.   We tracking everything.

The girls started off requiring breathing support initially, but were off in a few days.

We were able to start kangaroo care with the girls as soon as they were off breathing support.  If you're not familiar with the term, this is when the baby is laid against the parents body with as much skin to skin contact as possible. This does a lot of great things for the baby including regulating their body temperature and comforting them with the familiar sound of your heart and scent. For Seth and I as new parents, this was is truly one of the most amazing things ever :-)

We were able to start short nursing sessions with the girls one at a time and then finishing the feeding with bottles. 
At four days old, the girls were removed from their isolettes and joined each other in a single crib.  This was also the day I was released from the hospital. 

Leaving the hospital without the girls was not something I had wrapped my head around.  I wasn’t ready for it.  My heart ached when they weren’t there.  I constantly questioned all the things that I had done before they were born, trying to figure out what I could have done to have avoided all of this.  I really think that I was close to preeclampsia, with the way my body recovered.  There was really not much I could have done.  My body needed relief and the girls were ok.  The fact of the matter was that they came when they were supposed to.
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The girls had a checklist of things they had to do before they left the hospital.  Some items were easy to accomplish, others were going to take time. We became accustomed to hearing and understanding all the alarms.  There were really just two things that were measured for the girls.  Their breathing and their heart rate. If they stopped breathing for a bit and their heart rate dropped at the same time, they had a certain time to self recover.  If they didn’t it was noted as a bradycardia (Brady) - it’s essentially sleep apnea and common in babies born before 35 weeks. The primary items that were going to determine their discharge were having five consecutive days without a Brady and completing 5 consecutive feedings.

It’s common for multiples not to go home on the same day, so we braced ourselves for that.  In the meantime we worked hard on nursing and feeding.  I was up there every morning till lunch and then would return with Seth when he returned from work until 9 or 10 at night. 

I pumped religiously, sleeping and eating when I could.  I met with lactation consultants to work through many kinks in nursing.  The thought of trying to feed them together was crazy (we finally did manage around the 2 month mark).

During our time there we saw other babies go home and others struggle.  We were thankful for their health and the kindness of all the doctors, nurses and therapists we saw - every single one of them was amazing.  The girls improved on a daily basis.  They gained weight every day and got closer and closer to completing bottles.
Back Camera
It took 1 month and one day for the girls to check off their list.  Nothing went according to my plan.  I was not the mom I thought I would be, but I had made it through something that I would have never thought I could have.
Three years later the girls are healthy, strong willed and happy individuals.  We stopped needing to supplement feedings to help them ‘get on the charts’ ages ago.  Looking at them now you would never have thought that they were preemies.
During this experience I saw people fighting things that made our family’s trial seem like a walk in the park.  Lessons were learned, perspective gained.  I learned that my plans would have limited my experiences to only what I was comfortable with and would not have help me grow to be the mom that the girls needed.  I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters and a new path laid out before our family.  Not a path that I drafted, but one built on trust and acceptance of whatever He knows will help us grow to serve Him.

See I told ya, these girls are tough!

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