Hello, friends! Long time, no type.
In the interim between my last post and this, many, many momentous things have happened. And no, I’m not talking about Covid.
Nope. THEE MOST exciting thing to happen in our household is definitely the birth of our little “twinbies,” Titus James and Tobias Asher.
They are 2 ½ weeks old now, and I apologize for the delay in sharing their adorableness with y’all. But! We’ve been a little busy over here with this whole 10-kids-including-newbie-twins business. I’m sure you can imagine.
That said, I have a brief window of time in which to bang out some thoughts on the excitingness that was the twinbies’ arrival in between feedings while sitting alone (minus said twinbies, of course) at my favorite Vietnamese banh mi shop, so I’m going to write allll the words. (Note: I wrote this intro and quite a few of the following words while at that restaurant about a week after they were born but am only just now finishing over a week later, if that gives you an idea of how much time I have to type words these days).
First, let me clarify that this post is NOT labeled a birth story for a reason. Because I haven’t written a thing about this pregnancy, and I want to start with a little background. Actually, make that A LOT. Just know that it’s important…to me, at least. Feel free to skip this post and read the birth story later if you want.
So! Where to begin? Julie Andrews would say “at the very beginning” is a “very good place to start,” so who am I to argue?
I found out I was pregnant with Baby #9 (I thought) on Feb. 1st of 2020. I’d been suspecting it for a while, but that was the day I just “knew.”
A few weeks later, my sis-in-law, who was pregnant at the time and uses the same midwife as I do, mentioned to me that my midwife would be closing her practice and wasn’t taking any more patients past June. Hannah (sis-in-law) didn’t yet know I was pregnant, so she wouldn’t have had a point of reference for the slight note of panic in my voice as I tried to extract as many details as I could without sounding TOO interested/suspicious. But, whether she noticed or not, I was stressed. The timing of the pregnancy had taken us by surprise, and now, I wouldn’t even be allowed to have my beloved midwife, who had already attended the births of 5 of my children, there to help bring this new baby into the world.
Looking back, I really feel like this conversation with Hannah was my first little nudge from the Lord to prepare my heart for how different things would be this pregnancy.
After I got over my first jolt of anxiety at having my tidy little birthing world tilted on its axis, I texted my midwife, told her I was pregnant, and asked if she were making any exceptions to her “no more births” policy. She said that her practice wasn’t closing just yet, and she would do her best to work it out for her to attend the birth, depending on when it happened and whether she was on call for her other job as an ER nurse.
It was hardly the rock solid guarantee I would have preferred, but I understood why she couldn’t give it and just felt grateful that she’d given me a lifeline to hold onto.
Fast forward a few more weeks to when we found out that we were having twins at 13 weeks.
That very night, I called my midwife, and said, “Sooo…we had a sonogram today…”
And she said, “Oh NO, you didn’t!”
And I was all: “Uh huh. Twins. Again.”
Now, Melena (my midwife) was there for Evy and Nola’s birth, but she was not the primary care provider (that was my midwife, Thalia, who died of a sudden stroke early during my pregnancy with Theo). And as I told her about this twin pregnancy, I could tell there was a note of hesitancy in her congratulations. I figured out why as she explained that she and the other midwives at her practice had made a joint decision not to accept any more twin pregnancies for home birth or birth center.
Cue another brief moment of panic. Basically, I was thinking, “Lord, what are we doing here–trying to make me rely on you alone, or something uber-spiritual like that? STAHP.”
In the course of the rest of our conversation, I asked her point blank what she would do were she in my shoes. After all, I could track down another midwife who might deliver the twins at home (she even suggested a few, who all ended up being no-go’s). Or I could find a doctor who would hopefully be okay with my semi-crunchy ways and not schedule me for an automatic c-section. But I didn’t even know where to start. (My last hospital birth was over 14 years ago).
Thankfully, Melena did. She suggested that I go the route of co-care between a midwife and a traditional Ob/Gyn. Yes, it would be a hospital birth…but with the added comfort of having a midwife there to doula.
I asked if she would be my co-care midwife. She said she would. I asked her which doctor she would go with. She recommended the woman who had delivered Melena’s 3rd baby VBAC after two previous C-sections. And so, after a good bit of prayer and discussion and checking around on any other options we could find, that’s exactly what we did.
Honestly? I felt a bit relieved. I’m not even sure why. Ever since my first hospital birth, home birth has been by far my preferred modus operandi. Of course, if you remember Shiloh’s birth story, you know that I also had a terrific experience with an unexpected birth center birth. So, my mind was a little more open to something other than home birth (again, God’s nudging me towards flexibility, I believe). But I didn’t expect to feel less stressed by the thought of a hospital birth. And yet, I did.
The Ob/Gyn Melena recommended is the same one with whom she has done co-care in the past and to whom she takes any necessary but non-emergency transfers from midwifery care. The reason? This particular OB is much more amenable to a more natural, mother-led approach to birth, and in Melena’s opinion, had never performed an unnecessary c-section–goes out of her way, in fact, to give a mother more time to birth vaginally if the mother/baby are not in distress and the mother wants to keep trying.
Now, I trust Melena’s judgment explicitly, but I also had an odd sense of peace from the moment she suggested co-care that this was the route that God had planned for us from the very beginning.
I didn’t expect anything to go wrong, but the thought of the medical intervention option sounded right when normally that just makes me want to run in the opposite direction.
I am not generally a “feelings-based” decision maker, but the honest-to-goodness truth is that we chose this route mainly based on the practical doors that were slammed in our faces, so the fact that I felt peace about it was more of a bonus than anything.
My peace-o-meter rating only continued to climb after I’d finally met the OB at 17 weeks pregnant. She was funny and no-nonsense, which are totally my jam. She was also hilariously inappropriately foul-mouthed, which is not usually my jam but just made me laugh in her case. At that first meeting, she was fine with my going to 40 weeks, considering my body’s history of keeping babies in for a looooong time (as a refresher, Evy and Nola stayed nice and cozy until 39 weeks and 4 days).
As the co-care situation progressed (some visits were with her at her office about an hour away from our house, and the rest were at Melena’s practice), the OB did amend her recommendation for their eviction date to 38 weeks after reviewing the literature about mono-di twins (identical twins who share one placenta and two separate sacs). She did this based on the research that says that, the longer this particular type of pregnancy progresses, the higher the chance of a stillborn situation. My midwife concurred, and I honestly wasn’t entirely sure, based on how I was feeling, that my body was going to make it past 38 weeks on its own anyway, so both Shaun and I were okay with it too. Not only that, but I was grateful for a doctor who was willing to let me go that far without pressure, since her MFM had advised her not to let a mono-di pregnancy go past 36 weeks.
I don’t know if this pregnancy was harder because of my “advanced maternal age” (37 at the time, 38 now) or because they were my 9th and 10th babies and a multiples pregnancy to boot or because of the babies’ positions or a combination of all of these factors and others, but it was definitely the most I’ve ever FELT a pregnancy. I usually teach both BODYCOMBAT (mixed martial arts cardio) and BODYPUMP all the way to very end (including with Evy and Nola), but this time, I just couldn’t do high impact without significant discomfort, so when my gym shut down for quarantine, I stopped teaching BODYCOMBAT and never returned to teaching it during the pregnancy (I did manage to teach BODYPUMP until week 36 after we opened back up, though).
Even with weekly chiropractic care and weekly prenatal massages for the last month, I was experiencing significant hip pain, fairly constant round ligament pain and some pretty gnarly SPD (google that ;)) symptoms. I could push through it all once I got my hips moving after I stood up (wow, I sound like an octogenarian grandma), but that last month of pregnancy was…long.
ANYHOO, my point is not to whine but simply to set the stage for my willingness to even consider an earlier-than-38-weeks induction. WHICH! We began doing at about 32 weeks. I had a sono with my OB, and the twinbies were looking great–both head down, great sizes, with a normal size differential (one thing you have to watch with identical twins is something called “twin to twin transfusion syndrome” where one twin “steals all the groceries” and ends up growing much more quickly than the other, who is essentially malnourished).
For weeks, Evy and Nola had been praying that their twin brothers would arrive on THEIR birthday, September 24. The very fact that this was even a possibility is kind of mind-boggling, considering the 8 year gap. But, not only was it possible, but their birthday fell on the 37 weeks, 2 days mark, which was only 5 days short of my OB’s deadline. So, after that favorable 32 week appointment, we started talking/praying about tentatively scheduling the induction on the twinsies’ (twin sisters) birthday. Once again, my midwife was on board, so we made the appointment, with the stipulation that, if I made it that far, we would have one more sono at 36 weeks to assess practice breathing, size, placental health, etc.
I started having my usual rounds of “practice contractions” around week 34 (I’d been having Braxton Hicks for months, but these started feeling more real). And I even had a brief moment of, “STOP IT!” as the contractions tried to really kick in one night about a week before the girls’ birthday and our scheduled induction. I really wanted to get another good house-cleaning in (hard, because I was spending more and more time sitting than cleaning by that point) and to celebrate Evy and Nola’s birthday a day early since I would be in labor on their actual birthday. But I knew I would have to hold those plans loosely because babies come when they come in my experience (which is why this whole induction thing felt so surreal to me).
The 36 week sono showed that they were still growing, and Baby A was still head down (although, Baby B had flipped into breech position). Both boys passed their fetal stress test. The induction was a go!
Thankfully, we managed to fit in a birthday celebration for the twinsies one day early, and then my mom came over in the afternoon, and Shaun and I headed out for dinner + a couple of errands before we drove to the hospital that evening. My OB wanted me there at 10 PM so they could insert a cervix softener, since I had only been dilated to a 1 and 50% effaced at my 36 week appointment.
I had felt such peace the entire pregnancy about this unconventional (for me) way of doing things, but the closer we got to the actual appointment at the hospital, the more anxious I felt. It just felt so clinical and weird and not natural. And I found myself mourning the natural birth experience that I had been able to have for the last 6 births. I even started sniffling during our pizza date, telling Shaun that I literally couldn’t picture actually pushing these boys out of my body. HOW was I going to do this? Of course, he assured me that I could do it, but he was also really understanding about my bummed out state–probably because, for the last several months of pregnancy, I cried once every two weeks whether I had anything to cry about or not, and I was “due” for a good hormone cleanse that night anyway. Not only that, but I kept wincing at contractions that were coming more regularly than they had in days but which I was ignoring steadfastly because, why pay attention unless you’re in agony, right?
Shaun did everything he could to distract me from my morose state, including roving the aisles of Walmart looking for the “right” after-birth candy. But I wasn’t exactly feeling cheery as we hauled our hospital bags + egg crate mattress (oh, yes, I did) + pillows (yup, those too and don’t regret it a bit…except that we accidentally forgot one at the hospital) through the ER sliding doors and signed in for our induction…
I did warn you that I’d give you a fair bit of background, but this was MORE than a fair bit, and I really need to go feed some twinbies (again!), flip the laundry, and do the dishes before my kids get back from homeschool co-op. So! I’m afraid I’m going to leave you hanging for the actual birth story until tomorrow.
SOON, though. Pinky promise!