If you missed it, get Levon’s birth story (also known as Twins Birth Story PT 1) over here.
So, just a quick recap. I just gave birth to Levon, baby A. It was one, solid big push with really dull labor and fairly easy delivery.
At this point, I regretted declining the epidural. I asked twice and my doctor mentioned that in an hour, I’d have Lyla in my arms. Then she complimented to the room about how she’s “never seen a woman labor so peacefully before”, probably trying to boost my confidence. I let it go, even though I felt like it was the right time to get the epidural. Then, I felt some pressure from the contractions. Surely, a baby is coming?
My doctor checked the ultrasound. No, it’s not time. Lyla wasn’t even close.
I winced through another two contractions, Michael held me and I tried to block out the OR room. I winced through another big contraction and felt something pass, not slowly but quickly, like another baby shooting out. I half expected a cry and a congratulations then to find it was half of Levon’s placenta, in pieces.
They did another ultrasound quickly. My bladder was full from all the IV fluids so they couldn’t see much. They quickly put a catheter in (Ouch, I just had an unmedicated vaginal birth) and then pulled it out. The tone quickly shifted from compliments and casual chatter to more action and less communication.
Then things got kind of ugly. My doctor manually looked for the placenta, with her hand. I yelled “ow” over and over and she didn’t stop. I felt like things were getting complicated, but I still didn’t feel like anything was unusual or dangerous. Then she said the words that changed everything:
“Well, looks like the rest of that placenta detached itself. And I felt a foot.”
A foot. That’s cute.
“We’re going to deliver now.”
I was overly optimistic. Well, doesn’t that sounds like it will happen quickly. Maybe breech babies come extra fast!
“You need to move to the operating table. We’re doing surgery. ”
Wait, what?! Oh no.
My doctor thought that since Lyla was not in distress, there was time for an epidural. That made me feel just a little better… but not much.
The anesthesiologist came in abruptly. She assured everyone in the room that there was no time for an epidural. Michael knew that he would have to leave the room for this situation. He waited until the very last moment, kissed me goodbye and left. He looked scared and tired. This was really unplanned. I can’t imagine what my face said.
In between the chaotic (to me) shift of natural birthing to surgery, each person in the room shared a moment with me where they promised me that I wouldn’t die, which made me feel two things. 1. That despite my best efforts, my face was not chill and 2. there was a possibility that I was going to die.
I didn’t ask many questions after the epi was not happening. I felt in over my head. Besides encouragement, communication was scarce during the shift. We didn’t talk much about the placenta, but I know from being a pregnant woman that certain placenta issues can cause hemorrhaging. It’s crucial to get all of that placenta out. Later, I’d notice all of the dried blood on my legs and feet. I was beginning to hemorrhage. And although Lyla was cooperating somewhat, my body wasn’t.
This is the common moment of feeling defeat during birth, which is irrational for all of us women to feel this way.
They strapped my arms down, explaining that some people try to get up after they go under. I must have done so because my right collar bone and shoulder were really sore for days post surgery.
The anesthesiologist counted down, with a stethoscope on my neck. I made it for about 2 numbers on the countdown and then I felt like the world stopped. I wish I remembered having a cool dream or any dreams during that time. It went by fairly quickly, like a forced nap. When I woke up, I was very very sleepy and I heard people talking to me.
I was still cold from the OR. I shivered, the familiar shivers from early rowing practices on the Occoquan in March that uncontrollably tighten the whole body. There’s nothing to do but breathe and wait for your body temperature to control itself. I told my nurse that I could not relax my body. She tucked in two hot pads over my incision and pulled blankets up to my neck, tucking in my arms. Slowly my body relaxed and I started asking questions about Lyla.
Did you get to see her? What does she look like? Is she in the NICU?
More than fine, she was perfect. Five pounds, five ounces. Michael said she looked just like Lucy. Exactly like Lucy. His voice sounded delighted. She was in the NICU to be evaluated, with no signs or plans to keep her there for longer than a few hours. She was in our arms by lunch.
She was, and is, total Lyla Joy. She has the cutest newborn demeanor. A total princess.
We made it. Two healthy babies, no NICU time. That was all I needed to hear.
Now on to recovery, which is it’s own story.
The aftermath of anesthesia with a side of being up all night left me with micro naps, where I’d fall into a deep sleep for a matter of seconds, multiple times within the same few minutes. That took about two days to wear off. When Katie and Mary Beth brought the girls back, I still had blood on my legs and feet. I could tell by Katie’s face that I didn’t look great. She went from excited, looking at the babies, to worried each time her eyes crossed my bed. My sister came by with my dad and told me in her honesty that I looked like I lost a lot of blood.
And I did! With twin pregnancies, you will lose twice the blood volume that you lose with a singleton pregnancy. Twin moms are more likely to look pale and feel weak, throw in a placenta issue and you’ll feel half dead. In my case, I was completely pale-yellow and puffy from all of the fluid I was given with the pitocin. I remember the day when the color in my hands came back. I was so grateful to see something that reflected healthy.
I made myself get up to go the bathroom and rinse my swollen hands with cold water, every few hours. That hurt. It all hurt. But I knew it had to be done. It would help healing. Next, it was showering, which was equally as a difficult but I think it was all helpful and worth it.
I also sent the twins to the nursery each night. Neither Lucy or Lilly left my side once they were born, so the nursery was a big adjustment. I nursed them during the day. I supplemented with formula when I felt too weak to nurse. I asked for iron supplements for myself. I declined all narcotics, because I really wasn’t in that kind of pain. I had a lot of visitors, most of which worked at the hospital and had become my friends during my two week stay. It was fun, little welcome party.
Then, it was the night before discharge.
It was much harder to leave the hospital than I expected. On the last night, I sat upright in my bed, sobbing and pressing a pillow into my lap to ease the pain on my incision from crying. I was irrationally scared to leave the hospital and begin this new life, in this kind of shape.
What if I couldn’t walk for weeks? What if the girls didn’t love the babies? What if they cried and screamed and I physically couldn’t get to them? What if I couldn’t rock them to sleep? What if we didn’t sleep at all? How long would this last? What if this was the beginning of PPD? How would we treat PPD? How would we diagnose it? Who is going to take care of me? And most importantly, will I ever be able to take care of my family again?
I am not enough.
I was never enough.
I made a decision. An old trick my high school coach would use to keep us focused during the spring rowing reason. He would say, every action I made throughout the day, every decision, would either make my boat faster or slower.
I took that and decided that every action I make throughout the day, every decision, would either make me better or worse. I wanted to be better, physically and mentally. I wanted to be better for all 5 them.
I let my phone rest that night. Even the well wishes were acknowledging that I had encountered trauma of the weak and that I needed something in return. Whether it be prayers or healing, it was acknowledging my pain. I knew I needed healing, in a lot of ways, but I didn’t need the world, strangers, telling me the same.
The next week was heaven at home. And I’m still happy to be home, in my own bed, typing these words.
With each birth, I felt less and less competent of love. Being a parent isn’t a romantic kind of love, but more of a sacrificial love. This is the first time I’ve looked at my life as a parent and I’ve felt love for the vocation. I truly love these babies, and the girls and how I get to be with them. I don’t feel like I’m wasting a degree away or missing out on life. I’m experiencing it with them, with Michael.
I’m healing well. Twins and “four under four” brings a lot of new things, some chaos, a lot of exhaustion, but there’s a ton of grace.
I love them so, so much. They are more than I will ever be.