Finding out I was having twins was probably the only real and true shock I’ve ever had in my life. My husband was 4 hours away at his PhD program in Minneapolis so we were FaceTiming him in while my dear friend came with me to the 20 week scan. We were just planning to find out the sex. I hate getting tests done, especially ones that involve poking me, so Betsy was there for moral support. She, the mother of five, happens to love ultrasounds.
When we saw the two little heads bobbing on the screen immediately after the wand was placed on my belly, it was obvious what we were looking at.
The sonagrapher asked timidly as she confusedly looked at her paperwork and then back at the screen “have you had any appointments yet?”
We had been trying an awkward commute situation from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis so Bryan could work on his PhD and I could keep our great babysitter, and all of my jobs there in Sioux Falls (a Birth Collective turning into a birth center, a small health food store, my yoga students, my coaching clients…) It became obvious those things were going to need to be left behind for a bigger better picture of my future I couldn’t yet envision. And the separation had already been way too hard on all three of us (Bryan, me and our almost 2 year old Fiona).
Skipping over the details of how God managed to get us out of the lease we were in and set us up with campus family housing, we packed up and moved in -4 degree weather to Minneapolis, 33 weeks pregnant with my di/di twins.
My Symphysis Pubis Pain was so bad I could barely separate my legs. Everything was excruciating. Thankfully a wonderful chiropractor helped to relieve most of it and I was able to walk (albeit every time with braxton hicks) much better. By the time we hit 35 weeks I was starting to feel ready.
The full moon brought cluster after cluster of contractions and sleeplessness. Restlessness. It was a Monday before I went into labor, I was 37+3 with my di/di twins. It felt like a storm. Clusters of uncomfortable braxton hicks contractions with a few more serious ones thrown in. Followed by nothing. Kept me up all night. I tried a shower, little clary sage, raspberry nettles infusion. Nothing.
Tuesday I was exhausted in all ways. Everything made me agitated. I felt disappointed and impatient. In ways I never felt waiting for my daughter’s arrival. Thankfully, I have a very patient and wise husband and a great woman named Elsa we had hired to come help me with laundry and dishes and Fiona (not quite 2) who had become a great friend.
37 weeks with the twins!
Wednesday morning came, I woke up still pregnant. I had been so focused on making it to 36 weeks with these lovies that I didn’t consider what to do if I went far past that. But I lost my mucus plug and had some contractions and got really excited in spite of myself. They slowed way down to nothing though, and I could tell it wasn’t going to pick up. I told Bryan to go to class but as soon as he went to leave I burst into tears. So of course he stayed. And I spent the whole day sleeping and eating, sleeping and eating. Mostly apple juice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, like a 6 year old. It was wonderful.
In the afternoon I suddenly wanted to watch Ina May’s Birth Story movie. So we got it on iTunes and Bryan half watched from the kitchen table as he worked. Surprisingly it was him who cried at the breech birth scene. Fiona helped me make lentil soup.
I felt happy all day. Happy and sleepy and satiated. Bryan was convinced this was the “gathering” period and that we would be waking up late at night to go to the hospital. I thought he might be right but I didn’t want to get my hopes up again. Turns out he was right.
2:30 am I wake up with contractions that I think are more serious. I stay in bed. I thinkt about the idea that they could slow down..and I thinkt about the probability that they wouldn’t this time.
3:00 am I wake up Bryan to tell him he was right. I’m hesitant to move too quickly and call all the troops (doula, birth photographer, my mom, Elsa to care for Fiona…) if it isn’t going to stick. Bryan says it’s time to go while I can still put pants on. I listen.
4:00 am ish we leave for the hospital. We’re in Minnesota, it’s cold and I keep all my layers on as we drive the 45 minutes to the hospital we have specifically chosen for these specific babies. I lean on the birth ball. My doula Kara Jo calls to check on me and pray over me. I repeat this mantra I remember from one of the The Farm midwives:
“I am feeling very open, like a flower in the morn. Let my petals open, let my child be born.”
5:00 am ish we arrive. Kara Jo pulls in the parking lot at the same time. This tiny hospital in the dark, quiet and happy. It looks more like a tiny clinic than a hospital. A library maybe, that accidentally left one light on.
They wheel me to the labor room that has already been set up by the charge nurse, former CNM, Stephanie. There’s lavender diffusing and electric candles everywhere. And they immediately get me a birth ball at my request. Straight to the floor I lean on the ball and the contractions slow down. For a second I entertain the thought that maybe this would slow down and stop again. Kara Jo gently reminds me that this usually happens when mamas transition to a different place to give birth and as my body settled down and I felt safe again it would pick up.
She was very right. I get into the large jet tub in the bathroom. Kara Jo brings lavender and my verse that was encouraging me this pregnancy:
“There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out all fear” 1 John 4:18
My birth images and prayer flags from mother blessing with Fiona are hung around the room. A little clary sage to keep things consistent. I feel them increase and increase. They build. Just as I’ve watched happen to women time and time again, the intensity grows. I can hear my raga music mixed with soft hymns and a few sentimental songs like Bob Dylan’s Spanish Boots playing on my my speakers. The rhythm is unbelievably comforting.
Kara Jo suggests I might even say the word “open” as I moan lowly through contractions. So I do “Oooooooopen. Ooooooooopen. Ooooooooopen.” Followed by softly “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”
I don’t notice my doctor had arrived who has taken off his shoes before entering so as not to disturb me. Stephanie asks if we could put an IV port in and I agree as we’ve talked about ahead of time. I barely notice the belly band with fetal monitors I was sure would bother me. Stephanie ducks her head in to tell me the babies are “loving this” and doing great.
I knew they were. As the surges move towards having no break in the waves, I start to doubt. Tears come down my face. I tell Kara Jo and Bryan who have been holding my hands that isn’t the benefit of doing this in a hospital this time that I can have drugs? Let’s have the drugs now! I insist. Even as I say it, and I do mean it, I know they’re smiling knowingly next to me that this means Elliott will soon arrive.
With Fiona I pushed for awhile to get her down and out, so when I started to feel the energy shift from drawing upward and collecting uterine tissue at the top of my fundus to pushing downward I thinkt I had awhile. I know that water births aren’t officially on the menu at this hospital yet and that getting next to the tub was going to be the plan, but the “throwing down” sensation of pushing sneaks up quickly on me and as I stood up to the requests of people around me. I suddenly yell “he’s coming!” and I hear my doctor say “sit back down” so that I’m not half in and half out of the water.
6:51 am And out comes Elliott. My doctor hands him to me through my legs and up to my chest he went. “Ohmigod ohmigod I did it!” I repeat, elated. The feeling of relief when a person emerges from you is indescribable and unbeatable. We wait just about 5 minutes and cut the cord, headed over to the bed. Elliott settled on me to search for the boob and Dr. H asks permission to see if Junia was still head down. Indeed she is. My first and only cervical check the entire pregnancy.
In my head I had decided there wouldn’t be much time between their births. Contractions continue, though slower and less intense. I try the birth stool, the ball. Stephanie the nurse asks if we could do a little clary sage to keep things moving, I say yes. I begin to feel very very tired; my uterus, my brain, my legs, my emotions. Bryan holds Elliott and sings to him gently. I ask to get the tub refilled, Dr. H assures me he had already asked the nurses to do just that.
I get back into the tub and “labor down” awhile. Just me, Kara Jo, Bryan and Elliott. I am able to calm down in the dark, private space, as so many laboring women need: privacy and protection. Dr. H and the nurses sit quietly outside the door listening as I search for my rhythm again. I can feel the surges get a bit stronger, but they are still spaced apart. Dr. H pops in his head to ask if I’ve thought about maybe rupturing her water so I don’t get too tired and neither does she. I have realized at this point that soon after Elliott’s water had broken he had arrived. He tells Kara Jo, Bryan and I to discuss it.
I’m hesitant, being a really hands off person for labor, even though my doctor assured me he would check first to make sure her head was still presenting and wouldn’t risk a cord prolapse. I can tell Bryan feels it’s the right decision. I also feel very tempted by the possibility of being done. But you can’t un-break a bag of water and I know the intensity of surges increases dramatically when the water goes. I am honestly afraid of pushing out another person, knowing that pushing is the least enjoyable part for me. I have to use all of my focus not to resist it. We agree to do it. Something tells me just deciding to do it would cause it to rupture.
They help me out of the tub, I walked to the birth stool. Standing in front of it her water breaks. Relief. And then sudden dread at the immense wave of contraction I know is on its way.
9:31 am And here it is. I muster my determination not to resist and I push into it. I look down, I expect to see her. Not yet. Dr. H says ” do you see that image of yours on the wall? You can do that! Reach down and catch your baby!” Another push. Please tell me that was it. Her head. One more, and the rest of her came tumbling out, sunny-side up, with a gush of blood. I truly cannot believe I have done it this time. And. It. Is. Over.
I hold Junia Moon to my chest, I quickly push out the placentas (that have fused somehow) which brings another large gush of blood and I suddenly feel all the circulation drain from my head to my feet and I lean to my left to find someone there to support me. Dr. Hartung says he would like a bag of pitocin, I ask “whyy?” He points out the blood on the floor and the paleness of my skin, and I agree. Stephanie the nurse tells someone they need to get me to the bed, and I nod in agreement.
The feeling of almost passing out is a bit unnerving and I was glad to rest in the bed. With both of my babies. Their APGAR sores were 9 and 10 and both were a happy neon pink. 6 lbs 5oz and 6 lbs 3oz.
And the feeling that I can conquer anything takes over. The feeling I wish for every mama as she holds her baby or babies for the first time. Elation. Success. Pride. Competence.
Jennifer Liv Photographer & Birth Made Beautiful Doula Services Pregnancy Photos: Fresh Love Birth Photography