So, where were we?
Ah, yes. I had just waddled into the ER, disgruntled and unsettled and not at all happy to be there. You’d think I would have been, given how much discomfort I’d been in for the last multiple weeks. But I was in a bad head space that I was desperately trying to overcome with what I like to call “bullet prayers” (“Jesus, please give me strength,” etc.), a plucky attitude (Shaun just snorted, I’m sure), and firm mental pep talks.
One of the things that had me in such a weird mood was a dread of all things hospital. I’m not much of a medical girl, and my limited experiences with hospitals have all been a bit…sterile…which is great in a germ-free sense but not so much in an emotional one. Home births are just that–homey. You get to labor and deliver in the comfort + familiarity of a space which you know and love, surrounded only by the people whom you invite to be there.
I already knew that, because this was a twin delivery, I would have to deliver in an operating room full of bright lights and multiple people I’d never seen in my entire life. And I had no idea what kind of nurses I would get. Plus, there was the added element of Covid weirdness. Thankfully, in Texas (at least at this hospital), they didn’t have any guidelines about not allowing spouses to attend the birth (I had watched in horror as several of the people I followed on social media had delivered without the comfort of their spouses close by). And my doctor was good with labeling my midwife as “necessary medical personnel.” But still. Delivering during pandemic conditions is weird, at least in theory. And I didn’t quite know what to expect.
As it so happened, the front desk lady was EXACTLY what I (think I subconsciously) expected–terse, clinical, slightly impatient.
We were given confusing instructions about where to go and wandered briefly before being intercepted by a kind nurse and taken to our room. Her name was Nicole, and she was quiet and sweet and calm, which is probably exactly what my jittery nerves needed. Turns out, I don’t do well with just waiting around for pain to start (I mean, I was still contracting, but we’re talking REAL pain, people), and it was the strangest relief when she tried to start my IV placement and ended up digging around in my veins for a good two minutes before pulling it out and starting over in my hand. When she left the room, I turned to Shaun and said, “I almost enjoyed that because at least something was happening.” He promptly told me I was weird. I couldn’t argue.
Nicole came back and explained what would happen, and, in the course of talking me through it, mentioned that she was a homeschool mom who did three night shifts a week as a nurse and spent her days teaching her three young children. Suddenly, we had tons to talk about and chatted easily about curriculum and sleep-deprivation and the like. She was precious, and I really feel like the Lord was so gracious to give me such a gentle soul as my first real hospital contact.
Unfortunately, since it was twins, and they wanted to be extra-vigilant about monitoring their vitals, I was going to have to spend most of my time in bed, which sounds fine, since it was already past 11 P.M., but I was less than thrilled about the concept of being hooked up to various nodes all the time.
Worse, as soon as Nicole inserted the cervix-softener with the instructions that I wasn’t to get up for 2 hours, and then left the room, I was hit by the strongest urge to pee. Of course. Now, I’m a rule-follower, and I don’t like to inconvenience people. So, I dutifully sat in the exact same uncomfortable position on that rock hard bed, with both my tailbone and my bladder screaming at me, and watched the hands of the clock inch around its face at what felt like a glacial pace for two hours. I didn’t watch tv or get on Instagram or read anything. Shaun was in the recliner trying to get some sleep, so it was dark and shadowy, and my mind was racing from one freaked out thought to the next. I tried praying a few times, but I kept losing my train of thought. Ultimately, I could acknowledge that all of this was pretty overblown, but all I could think was, “I can’t wait until morning when there’s daylight. That will help.”
After almost exactly 2 hours, Nicole came back in and helped me get out of bed to pee, which was an ordeal because my hips were so sore by this point that I literally couldn’t walk for a good minute or so after I stood up. She was so sweet and tried to do her best to find me a better position in the bed, while still keeping all of the monitors attached, but I still spent another hour staring at the wall, trying to ignore the pain in my tailbone enough that I could fall asleep. It didn’t help that, around 2 A.M., the contractions had ramped up and were coming much more regularly. They still weren’t bad, but I couldn’t sleep through them.
Thankfully, at about 3 A.M., a message came through from one of my good friends on Instagram telling me she was praying for me and that she would check back in when she was up for the morning. I don’t know why that did it for me, since I already knew that many IRL as well as social media friends were praying for me, but something in my heart/brain just shifted. That feeling of despair and hopelessness lifted off of my shoulders, and I could take deep breaths again for the first time in about 8 hours.
I dozed on and off for the next hour or so, awakened every 5-7 minutes by contractions, but I couldn’t stay asleep, so I got my Bible and started to read. My head felt clear for the first time in hours, and I felt calm, if tired.
At 4, Nicole administered another dose of the softener, and I did another round of uncomfortable bed-sitting. 6 A.M. couldn’t come fast enough! Nicole came back in to release me from all of the wires for another round of wobbling around stiffly so I could hobble to the bathroom and informed me that the shift was changing.
I’ll admit I was disappointed. I mean, I knew that she wouldn’t be my labor nurse. I wouldn’t have wanted that for her sake, since she’d already done a full shift. But still, I’d gotten used to her quiet ways, and who knew what kind of personality I’d get next? (For all of you labor nurses out there, I know the vast majority of you are wonderful; I just don’t like the unknown).
Turns out, I couldn’t have gotten a more different personality in my second nurse, Tammy. Also, turns out, I couldn’t have asked for a better labor nurse! I was already feeling much less gloomy, but if any shreds of mopeyness were hanging around by the time Tammy breezed in, she swept them away with her rapid-fire chatter. Right off the bat, she told Shaun and me about her “tragedy” that morning–that of dropping her coffee on the ground as she was “locking her husband in the house so no one would steal him.” She let us know that she would be visiting the cafeteria for coffee at 7:01 A.M. the minute after it opened, and she’d probably be acting like “a rat on acid” while it go into her system.
I’m telling you: this lady was a HOOT! Stand-up comedienne funny. But also kind and compassionate and so professional when it came to paying attention to the things that mattered.
She bustled around getting me situated for Pitocin, and all the while, I continued to contract and laugh (Shaun too) at her story-telling and other antics. If Nicole had been the perfect nurse for glum Abbie, Tammy was the ideal nurse for “let’s have some babies” Abbie.
Melena made it to the hospital around 9 AM, and Tammy started the Pitocin, low and slow at a 2. Since I was already contracting and had even progressed from a 1 to a 3 with no Pitocin the night before, I was expecting things to kick into gear fairly easily.
I had already decided that I would be getting an epidural–a first for me–for the following reasons:
When else was I going to get the chance to experience the voodoo of a delivery with no pain?
In case of an emergency c-section, I wanted to already have the needle in place so that I could stay awake for the procedure.
My doctor had described her plan for flipping Baby B should he end up in an unfriendly position during delivery, and that alone was enough to convince me that I’d like to be numb for that, should it happen.
I knew I wouldn’t have nearly the freedom to move around that I’d had at home, and the thought of doing transition while strapped to a bed + monitors with Pit in my system and no pain meds did not sound fun at all.
Shaun, Melena, and my best friend, who are all WELL aware of my natural labor histories, were pretty much begging me to get one. 🙂
But as Melena massaged my back with essential oils, and Tammy kept upping the Pit every half hour, I had to acknowledge that this labor was not NEARLY painful enough to get two babies out into the air-breathing world. 3 hours went by, and the Pitocin was at a 10, and my pain levels were maybe at a 5. I know many who have said that Pit contractions are from the Devil himself and several others who say it didn’t make much of a difference for them. Apparently, I fall into the latter camp. Not that 10 is very high on the Pit scale, but Tammy kept looking at me like, “Are you SURE you don’t feel more?” And I just didn’t.
Around noon, after the doctor had come in, checked me, and delivered the disappointing proclamation that I was between a 4 and a 5 with only 60% effacement, Tammy asked me when I planned on getting the epi. I said something like, “I’m not in nearly enough pain,” to which she and Melena both replied that I didn’t have to be in agony to get the dang thing!! They encouraged me to go ahead and get it while the anesthesiologist was in our section of the hospital, and, within 30 minutes, a chatty woman about my age had breezed in and was telling me all about how she was 13 weeks pregnant herself, loved to do CrossFit, and co-homeschooled with her husband who stayed home with the kids while she did two 24 hour shifts at the hospital a week. I’m telling you guys: I was so blown away by the uniquely perfect people that God chose as my medical team during this entire process. We talked so easily that I practically didn’t even notice when she placed the giant needle in my spine.
I asked the anesthesiologist for a low dose bc I wanted to be able to feel to push, and, by 1 P.M., I could no longer feel the contractions, but I could wiggle/feel my toes and lift my legs and even my hips. At this point, I hadn’t slept for more than 5 minutes in 30 hours, so the thought of a pain-free nap while my body progressed sounded lovely. Tammy and Melena maneuvered me into a position delicately titled “the Fire Hydrant,” and I proceeded to… not sleep…for the next 5 hours.
I was so comfy and cozy, swathed in blankets, being fed ice chips + sips of Gatorade whenever my heart desired. It was QUITE the departure from my usual long, drawn out, painful labors. But I couldn’t! stay! asleep!
Every time I would drift off, my mind would jerk me awake again. Plus, I was progressing none too quickly, and I was starting to have a niggling worry that I might drag this thing out long enough to NOT have these babies on Evy and Nola’s birthday.
It was occurring to me that I very well might have already been in labor when I came in the night before, since cervix softeners aren’t really supposed to send you into labor or ramp up contractions like that unless they were already real. (Shaun, who knows my labors as well as I do, is convinced I was already in labor, for the record). But I was also reminding myself that I’m perfectly capable of being in mild labor for DAYS, and this whole epidural + Pitocin business did not seem to be getting the job done in a hurry at all.
In fact, we had had to back off on the Pitocin at a 14 when Baby B starting acting like he wasn’t well-pleased with the contractions it was producing (which I couldn’t feel by that point). They still hadn’t established a regular pattern (which was clearly bemusing poor Tammy), other than 3 peaks in a row with no break and then a good 5 minutes of nothing. Still. Even after she backed the Pit way off (and eventually took a break altogether), my body continued to contract on its own in the same hiccupy pattern (pretty typical for it), and sloooowwwwllly dilate (by 5 PM, I was close to a 6 with 80% effacement…hardly the “rapid progress while I nap” that I had been hoping for…on the progress OR the nap front).
At this point, I was apologizing to everybody for taking so long and for not being in more pain, and most of them were looking at me like I was loony. Melena kept reminding me that my body was making progress, albeit slowly (as it does), and that she wasn’t the least bit worried about how this was going. But still. Knowing that I’d kept 3 people imprisoned in a room for hours while I lay in bed not in horrible pain was making me antsy. PLUS! Shift-change was looming, and my amazing nurse, Tammy, would be going home soon without ever seeing the fruits of her, ahem, my labor.
At 6 P.M., as Tammy was wrapping up her duties, I posted to my Instagram stories that I was “still here, still contracting, and would appreciate some prayers.” I had posted about being in labor 10 hours before, and I was feeling bad that I hadn’t been able to produce babies for all the people out there waiting for the post (seriously; did I mention that I don’t like “inconveniencing” people?). I was almost a 7 at that point and 90% effaced. But at the rate I was going, I wouldn’t be complete until midnight! (This may sound dramatic, but I once stalled at an 8 for over 8 hours. It was for sure possible).
Immediately, my inbox was flooded with messages from readers letting me know they were praying, which was such a needed and reassuring distraction.
Within 10 minutes, I started noticing something different.
Earlier, when I had first been given the epidural, I had attempted to do a kegel or two, just to see how much control of all of my muscles I had “down there.” I could feel a twitch but nothing more. Now, I noticed, I could feel and tighten my entire pelvic floor. Not only that, but I was starting to feel the contractions tightening my belly and even–what was that?–some pretty serious pressure!
Thinking back, this would have been the moment to tell someone that I could feel my cervix, but this was my first epidural, and I didn’t want to be a wimp. (Oy vey, Abbie).
So, I just lay there as the new nurse came in and started inputting data in the computer, feeling the pressure build and feeling less and less numb by the second in the most crucial parts of my anatomy. They had told me I would feel pressure when the pushing urge came, so after several more contractions with the pressure increasing each time, I told Melena that I thought something was happening.
The very next contraction, I felt THE SHIFT–that agonizing moment when your baby’s head engages with the birth canal and everything “clunks” into place. And I can remember very clearly thinking, “Um, that felt EXACTLY like it feels when there are no meds. Huh.” I was vocalizing a bit, which made Melena’s head whip up because I’m not much of a noise-maker during labor. The new nurse was still piddling around calmly, but Melena knew it was go time and said, “I think we need to check her.” The other nurse hesitated and said, “Okay, well, the doctor said she’d need to be wheeled to the OR at an 8. I guess we’ll see how she’s doing.”
She checked me, locked eyes with Melena, and said, “OooooKAY! She’s complete. We need to get her to the OR!”
It had been approximately 45 minutes since I had asked for prayer on Instagram, and I had dilated over 3 centimeters.
As the nurse left the room to call the doctor, Melena leaned over and whispered, “I already texted her, but we won’t tell her that.”
The next several minutes were a blur as multiple people appeared from nowhere and began wheeling me toward the operating room, all while Shaun and Melena gowned up. Meanwhile, I was very much in my own head, analyzing each contraction that came, trying to see if the epidural was mitigating the pain even a little bit but still not bothering to tell anybody that I could feel everything.
Within minutes, they had me situated under harsh, glaring lights, and the room was buzzing with staff, who were mostly staying out of my field of vision, since I had asked my OB for only the most necessary personnel to be visible/in the room. It was all a bit disorienting–so much so that, when a “random” gowned/masked person squeezed my leg and said something to me, I must have responded with a total lack of recognition because the “random person” said, “Abbie! It’s me!” And I remember thinking, “Me, who?”
Turns out, it was Melena!–who told me later that she slightly panicked, thinking that somehow I didn’t want her there. Nope. Just couldn’t get my brain straight about what was going on.
By this point, my body was pushing involuntarily, and I was still making little moaning noises to try to control the pain. Melena knew this, but I don’t think anybody else knew how close we were to having a baby until one nurse leaned in after they got my feet in the stirrups and said, “Honey, can you push?” I gave it a little trial push and discovered that, yep! I definitely could.
After that contraction waned, and the next wave came, I bore down and felt Baby A–Titus– emerging bit by bit. Having done this so many times before, I find it fascinating how much more present and aware of details I have been the last two times. As I felt his water break and his head emerge, I was literally gauging how much more I would have to push to get him out in this one push, and, despite the pain, decided I didn’t want to wait for the next one. I kept the pressure there, and sure enough! Out he came in one big, long push. They all exclaimed about how quick it had been, and within moments, had him snuggled on my chest.
Now, Evy and Nola were only 8 minutes apart, and I had been praying fervently that these little boys would also be close together (after being regaled with multiple stories of moms who’d had to wait an hour–or a WEEK!–or more for Baby B).
My doctor wasn’t waiting for anything, though, and immediately began investigatng, which is a polite term for “digging around in my uterus” while I lay there with zero effective pain meds in my system.
I remember lifting my head up and saying, “What are we doing??”
The OB was too busy to answer, but Melena squeezed my leg again and said, “She’s figuring out where Baby B is.”
As I was squirming from the pain and making all kinds of attractive faces/noises, the anesthesiologist, who was hovering near my left ear, said, “You can feel all of this, can’t you?” I nodded, and she said, “I’m going to bump your meds.”
Meanwhile, the digging and “rearranging” in my nether regions continued, but with more urgency still.
Titus was lying on my chest doing all the things a newborn baby is supposed to do, but I was having trouble concentrating on his cuteness with everything that was going on south of the border.
Sweet little Titus hanging out on my chest.
Before any pain meds could take effect, my doctor commanded the nurses to begin pushing on my belly in an attempt to turn Baby B–Tobias–while she continued to manually manipulate whatever she could reach inside my uterus. After only a minute or so, she decided that she would need to break Tobias’s water bag and inserted a hook to do just that.
By this point, even though I didn’t really know what was going on, I had figured out that Baby B was coming out quickly. I had been fighting pushing urges this whole time, assuming (correctly) that the OB didn’t need me bearing down while she tried to turn him around.
The tugging and, ahem, rearranging ramped up even further after she broke the bag of waters because she had managed to maneuver him into a feet first position and was having to physically deliver his little body one piece at a time.
I could hear her talking it through, even though I couldn’t see anything and could only guess–by varying degrees of pain–what was happening exactly.
“I’ve got one leg,” she declared at one point. “I just need to turn him enough to get…the…other…one.”
After his legs were delivered, she got both of his arms out and began tugging to free his head while requesting that I, “Push, push, push!!”
I complied with every bit of force that I could, trying not to freak out at the pulling sensation as I delivered my baby’s head last, not first.
Finally, he was free, but I only caught a fleeting glimpse of his limp, gray, unresponsive little body in the doctor’s hands before they were rushing him away from me to a cart across the room so they could give him oxygen.
I kept asking why he wasn’t making noise, and Melena told me it was because he was so stunned from his traumatic delivery.
After several long minutes of oxygen support while I craned my neck to see him and the OB delivered the placenta, they brought him back to me and placed him on my chest.
He still wasn’t a normal color, and he still wasn’t very responsive. In fact, instead of wailing like a healthy newborn, his breathing/cries were coming in distressed little grunts. Melena noticed immediately that his ribcage was “retracting”–caving in each time he drew a breath.
And so, they whisked him away again, this time for over an hour, to get his vital signs stable.
In the meantime, I was lying there on the delivery table fighting the urge to fall asleep and/or throw up. My head was spinning, and I was having trouble keeping my eyes open or focused–something I’ve never experienced after labor before.
Before long, they wheeled me back to the labor room, sat me up in bed with Titus, and had him latch to nurse–which is when I realized that I was completely numb up to my chest. I couldn’t feel my breasts at all or even tell whether Titus was latched other than looking down to see that he was. Whenever I spoke, I had to concentrate hard to get my words out without slurring, but I managed to inform the doctor that I felt extremely loopy and strange.
She said it was because of how much medicine they had pushed to my epidural at the very end. Shaun told me later that he had watched her inject it, and it had looked like a lot to him. (I know she was just trying to get me numb asap). So, it makes total sense now why I felt so strange. At one point, I was moments away from upchucking some serious Gatorade + ice chips. But I managed to reign it in.
Strangely enough, through all of this, I was able to wiggle my toes/feel my legs, so I’m assuming that somehow the catheter had gotten pointed more toward my torso than my legs, which might explain why my cervix stopped being numb? Who knows?
After a bit (it was an hour, but there was so much going on that it didn’t seem too long), they brought Tobias (whom we call Toby) back, pink and happy and much more responsive than the last time I’d seen him.
And just like that, all was right with the world again. Both my precious twinbies were OUT (the thing that I hadn’t been able to wrap my mind around the night before) and doing great.
(Best midwife! She’s attended 7 of my births!)
And I WASN’T PREGNANT ANYMORE!
You know what’s really crazy?
In an average pregnancy for me (I had gone to 42 weeks five out of seven births before this one), I would STILL have almost two weeks of pregnancy to go as of today! And yet, here I sit, typing this with three-week-old baby boys sleeping beside me. #mindblown
By the way, I didn’t learn this until the next day, but the reason for Toby’s frantic delivery was that, when the OB checked his position in my womb, she discovered that he was transverse, lying sidewise across my uterus but presenting with his arm + cord down. If his waters bag had broken before she turned him, the cord would been delivered first, and they would have had to flop me over on the table that was waiting 2 feet away for just such an emergency and do a c-section.
A couple of takeaways from this whole twin-birth-in-a-hospital experience:
- PRAYER is amazing! I literally felt all of the y’alls prayers as my body progressed more in one hour than it had all day long. One reader even messaged me after she saw when Titus was born to say that she had prayed for me at the exact time that he was coming out. So stinkin’ cool!
- Titus (baby A) was small, weighing in at only 5 lbs, 9 oz. (although, arguably, this is a great size for a 37 week baby). He was/is perfectly happy and healthy and exquisitely just right. But he was significantly smaller than Toby who was 6 lbs., 15 oz. at birth. The sonogram never gave any indication that there was this big of a size gap between them. And I’m honestly really glad that it didn’t. Very likely, if they’d known about the size difference, with their being identical twins, they would have wanted to stage some sort of medical intervention or to have taken them earlier, which would have increased our chances of a NICU stay unnecessarily (since Titus was flawless; just small).
As it is, we got to go home with two perfect boys at the 24 hour mark–which was about all my tailbone could handle of that hospital bed (even with the egg crate mattress).
3. Even though it didn’t work at the end, I’m glad I got the epidural. I spent so many hours lying in that bed hooked up to monitors, and I’m sure my contractions were quite strong at the very end. I’m grateful that I got to have a relaxed/pain-free active labor + transition experience, since I couldn’t get out of bed to labor and walk like I normally would have.
4. Remember how I felt an unexplained peace (even relief) about having these boys in the hospital? I told Melena not long after they were born that, after the way Toby came out, I now understood why God had closed all of the other doors. She responded that, if we had had them at home, she would have done the same thing my OB did–turn him/manually deliver him, give him oxygen, etc., but that, when he started retracting, we would have ended up with an ambulance ride to the hospital. She felt confident he would have been fine, but it would have been a much scarier, more traumatic experience.
Don’t get me wrong: I still love home birth. I would choose it over a hospital birth any day. But I just knew this birth was supposed to be different, and the Lord definitely confirmed that. I’m so grateful for his provision and care in the smallest details of this entire pregnancy + birth. He is so good!