These two little cuties are more than four months old! wow! Like everyone says, time flies! Especially when you are sleep deprived and just trying to push forward each day… Computer time has been nearly impossible, but I have worked to write down my birth experience as accurately as possible … Enjoy!
THE SHORT VERSION:
After a blood pressure scare on Thursday, July 13th, I woke up at 2:30 am on Sunday morning (July 16th, four weeks before their due date and my twin brothers’ birthday!) to pee and my water broke when I sat up! Travis and I were at NYU Langone Medical Center by 5 am. I was only 4 cm dilated when we arrived, but the contractions were coming fast and steady. I opted for an epidural at the strong suggestion of everyone (due to the risky nature of a twin delivery) and it made the entire birth process pretty easy. Crazy, I know! The time passed extremely quickly — I only found time to listen to a few songs from the Moana soundtrack! — and we were in the operating room to deliver by 10 am. Rett was born at 10:32 am, was crying immediately, and was put on my chest while I continued to birth Evie. She was born 15 minutes later at 10:47. There WAS pain during the birth, but I was a lot less scared than during my birth of Kenneth. I just tried to go with the flow and stay calm. It all happened so fast and I was thrilled once they were both born! The joy was diminished a bit when Evie had to be taken to the NICU for breathing support, but she strengthened quickly and they were both home by Wednesday night.
THE EXTRA-LONG DETAILED VERSION:
The lead up…
The end of my pregnancy got very difficult. By 36 weeks, I was extremely swollen and unable to really move around. Even turning over in bed was getting impossible and I was getting up to pee every hour at night. At my 36 week doctor’s appointment on Thursday, July 13th, I had high blood pressure (140/100!) and was checked into the hospital for the evening to be monitored. Thankfully my BP went down quickly, but I went home instructed to monitor it all weekend. My mom was with me for the whole thing and we couldn’t quite decide if I was going to deliver any minute or if I was destined to go full term like she had with her twins. BUT, it seemed like my body was reaching its limit of how much it could take. In my own head, I was determined to make it to 36 weeks (that Saturday) since it is a general benchmark of health for twins… Perhaps my mind is stronger than I realize!
Labor at home…
On Sunday morning, July 16th, at 2:30 am I woke up for one of my many trips to the bathroom, but when I sat up I felt my water break. I was fairly certain about what had happened, but I still felt a little apprehensive about waking Travis or calling the doctor. But more water continued to gush out randomly, so I decided to call the doctor and jump in the shower. The hospital call service said that the doctor would call me back and I wasn’t having very noticeable contractions at first, so I was unsure of how long I had to dilly dally. Contractions did start, but they were really hard to track… I decided to wake Travis up around 3:30. We gathered a few things for our hospital bag, then went downstairs and had a little breakfast. My mom came down because she heard the commotion. Thank goodness she was in town to stay with Ken! That was one of my biggest worries leading up to the birth, how we would take care of Ken. I’m so thankful I could leave him with my mom!
My doctor hadn’t called back and my contractions were getting painful and way more regular (maybe 3 minutes apart), and my mom was getting worried about us making it to the hospital in time, so I called the hospital back. The nurse (?) who answered told me to come in as quickly as we safely could! Travis and I were in the car by 4:30 and were at the hospital (NYU Langone in Manhattan) just before 5 am. I was feeling excited that today was the day! And thankful that we had bought a car.
Labor at the hospital…
I accepted a wheel chair ride up to the Labor and Delivery floor. My attitude was more “let yourself be taken care of” than “prove how strong you are” this time around. The nurses didn’t even make me go to triage since I was their “twin delivery” so I felt special as I got set up in my own labor room. I went to the bathroom, got settled in my hospital gown, and then nurses started coming in to take my vitals and give me my IV. I felt pretty happy and calm, but also excited that it was going to be the twins’ birthday. My contractions were starting to get more painful and I had to sort of stop and concentrate to get through them, but I was doing fine.
The anesthesia medical student (so young and cute!) came in to talk to me about getting an epidural. I think I could have talked them out of it and demanded to do the birth pain-med-free… but my doctors had talked to me so much about how they wanted me to have the epidural to make it easier to transition to surgery if necessary, that I figured I should go with it. Plus, no pain! I felt like it was my opportunity to try an epidural birth, since I’d already done one without. It took a bit of time before the anesthesia doctor came in to help the resident do the procedure. I had been nervous about insertion pain and side effects with an epidural, but all I really felt was some unpleasant pressure down my spine when they put it in. It really wasn’t a big deal. Even staying still during my now very painful contractions was not as bad as I had anticipated.
Overall, the epidural was a fabulous experience. It took a very short time for it to kick in and it really reduced any pain I was feeling. I could still feel the contractions, but there was very little pain. There was some discomfort and I could tell when I was having a particularly strong contraction, but it really made the laboring go extremely smoothly. The nurses remarked at how steady and strong my contractions were and double checked that I was NOT on any pitocin. I guess my body was just ready to get it done! I was in the labor room for about five hours, but it felt like no time at all! I had wanted to listen to the Moana soundtrack (don’t judge!) but only fit in a few songs. We also Facetimed with Ken and my mom, Travis got dressed in scrubs, and then a little before 10am it was time to head to the operating room for delivery.
The nurses and doctors all thought I was totally ready to start pushing, but I had to take their word for it. With the epidural, I was experiencing contractions, but nothing urgent. I didn’t really feel a need to push, so I was worried I wouldn’t do a “good job” getting the babies out. But I stayed calm and just went with what everyone was telling me.
This quote was my mantra for this birth: “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘you cannot withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.'”
The operating room was intense. Lots of lights and equipment. They had a neonatal station and a full team of nurses set up for each of the twins, plus the labor team, my doctor, a resident, and an attending doctor to observe. (The team was ALL WOMEN, which I thought was pretty awesome.) There was also a huge photo mural of the city skyline and Brooklyn Bridge on one wall, which was kind of fun and also a little disorienting. This might be weird, but the worst part of the whole birth might have been the stirrups that they put my legs in. They were massive (sort of like the boots you wear when you break an ankle) and I did not like being strapped in so securely. It sort of felt like being a prisoner in a very vulnerable torture position, but maybe I am being dramatic. Another peek into Rachel’s brain: The huge overhead lights have cylindrical handles that protrude vertically for the doctors to grab to reposition the lights… well, at one point they put a condom type thing on the handle and I *knew* it wasn’t going to be put inside me, but I also just had to ask to make sure. Ha. It was just there to keep the light clean. It is just hard for me to relinquish all control over my body to a team of strangers, but I tried hard to be a good patient.
I believe they turned off the epidural once I was in the delivery room, so I did experience some pain during the birth, but it wasn’t too bad. I basically just pushed when the doctors and nurses told me to. They wanted me to hold my breath for the pushes and count to ten, and I think Travis was helping to support my back, but it is all a bit hard to remember. At the beginning I said something like, “I hope I remember how to do this,” and my doctor said “we are going to be here a while!” She is young and I really think that this was her first ever vaginal twin birth, but some of her remarks were less than encouraging. And she was wrong. Rett was pushed out at 10:32, after just about 20 minutes of pushing! I was actually surprised! Travis said, “Oh wow!” I think we were all surprised it happened so fast. My doctor cut the umbilical cord quickly, which surprised me, but they were being quick and efficient since it was a twin brith. (Side note: I had been curious about whether I would deliver each placenta directly after delivering each baby, or whether they would both come out at the end. We got told both things by different doctors before the birth and I still don’t know exactly what happened.)
They took Rett and cleaned him up a bit and then they put him on my chest while I was still working on pushing out Evie. I really loved seeing him — so little and alert! — and he was a good distraction from the increasing pain. (The nurses helped hold him on my chest, don’t worry.) During this time there was a bit of confusion about Evie. My doctor said she was at a “minus seven” position, which is pretty high up in there, I guess. Maybe my doctor was exaggerating? But she also repeated that we were probably going to be there for a while. And then she made the decision to break Evie’s water… and did it without consulting me or, apparently, the attending physician. They actually argued a bit about it and the attending said that she shouldn’t have done it. I wasn’t totally paying attention, but I remember thinking that their conversation probably should not have been in front of the patient. Thankfully, Evie was born within fifteen minutes at 10:47 am. Unfortunately, they said she swallowed (and maybe inhaled?) a lot of blood and amniotic fluid. She was really messy when she came out. But they cleaned her off (and probably did some suctioning?) and I got to hold her quickly. I was so thrilled that the twins were both here!! Best feeling ever.
The resident physician had been paying close attention to my perineum during the birth (too much info?) and helped support it so that I didn’t have any tearing or trauma. Amazing! That was one of the things I was most dreading about another vaginal birth — recovering from any trauma and stitches after the fact — but since the babies were pretty small it was not an issue. I was really thankful for that. The nurses did have to massage my uterus to deliver the placenta(s?), which was uncomfortable, but really, the time immediately after the births is just a happy blur.
I got to hold both babies, nurse them a bit, take some photos, and just basically be a happy, goofy mama for a few minutes before I was wheeled into a recovery room. I was so amazed that everything had gone so quickly and seemingly perfectly. I know it is the hormones, but the time after birth is just so blissful and magical. I wish I could live in those moments for just a while longer…
Unfortunately, in the recovery room I sort of nonchalantly noticed that Evie’s legs looked a little blue. The nurses quickly came to look at her and took her to examine her. She was working hard to breath (retracting?) and they were concerned. A neo-natal doctor was brought in and she decided that Evie should go to the NICU for breathing support. I was still in my post-birth happy brain bubble and I truly believed that Evie was strong and would be fine, so I felt defiant about her going to the NICU. I was even more concerned when the doctor said that they would have to put her on antibiotics and then that would mean that she would have to stay in the NICU for the full course which would be at least 48 hours. My brain already started calculating about how it would delay her going home and what were we going to do if one baby was home and one was at the hospital?? But, again, I tried to be a good patient and a good mom. I texted my pediatrician brother and he reassured me that it was all protocol. I knew that this is why we birthed our babies at a hospital, so that there were experts there to provide care if anything went wrong, but it is still hard to relinquish all control.
So they took her away.
I was still sort of confused and out of it, plus holding Rett and thinking about him, but I did know that I was very upset about them taking her. Even if it was for the best. She had nursed a little bit right after birth, but all of the lactation consultant stuff about babies never learning to breast feed if they are separated from their mother ran through my head. I already had anxiety about being a good mother to a girl, and I felt like us being separated at the beginning made things even harder. Of course, I was probably being irrational, and I tried to keep my feelings in check, but I don’t think it is ever easy to have your baby taken to intensive care. I think I was pretty calm under the circumstances. Maybe too calm?
Prior to the birth I had told myself to really enjoy my hospital stay and let the nurses take care of me. My time at the hospital with Ken had felt so magical and I had hoped for that experience again. Sadly, it was different since Evie was away from me in the NICU, but I still tried to go with my original plan and try to rest and relax. We declined the $500/night private room option, but I did get the bed by the window. Overall, my hospital stay was lovely and the nurses were all excellent… it was just very difficult to split time between two babies with Evie being away from us.
I had a bad attitude about Evie being in the NICU. Travis had talked to the doctors there and even though I got to pump milk for her and go see her, I felt really out of the loop. I also felt like she was actually fine, and that being separated from me and her twin brother was more detrimental to her health than the initial breathing issues (which I had a feeling were caused by her water being broken too early during her delivery). Not to mention the cPap unit and IVs she was attached to.
Dividing my time between Rett on the Mother & Baby unit and Evie in the NICU was hard. I was never in the NICU at the same time as the doctors, even though I tried to be, which was frustrating because the nurses weren’t allowed to give us all the details. I felt like we got conflicting info about when she might be strong enough to go home. And even though I did get to breastfeed her once while she was there, they didn’t count it as an official feeding since they couldn’t measure it. I pumped some milk for her, but they also wanted to give her formula. I was fine with that (even though the lactation consultants weren’t) as long as it helped her get home faster, but they couldn’t even tell me whether or not they actually gave her any. It was all confusing and overwhelming. I cried hard at the hospital on Tuesday night when I went to see her at 9:30 to feed her, but they said I couldn’t until 10 because that was her schedule. I was so tired and sleep deprived and I just couldn’t believe that I couldn’t be in charge of when she ate. Especially since it was only a half hour difference! I really started to get upset. If it was up to me, I think I would have refused care and demanded that we take her home at that point, but thankfully Travis was there to be the rational one.
I know that the NICU provides amazing care and I am so thankful that Evie’s issues were extremely small compared to many of the babies in the unit. I am just not very good at not being in control. Plus, it was MY BABY! I just felt like I knew she was strong enough and that she should be with her family. But, in the end, it was just three short days…
Rett and I spent Sunday and Monday night in the hospital. Travis, Ken, and my mom came to visit both days and brought me donuts and cute teddy bears for the babies. Rett passed all his tests and we got discharged on Tuesday. We actually drove from the hospital to pick up Aunt Chelsea at the airport. She had planned her trip to help me with the end of my pregnancy, but got to come see the babies instead!
We had some dinner with everyone that night, but then headed back to the hospital to be with Evie. I was not in good shape. I was so tired and stressed. And this was the night that the NICU nurse told me I couldn’t breastfeed Evie and I just lost it. I cried and cried and we decided we would just go home and leave Evie in the care of the nurses. I felt like everything was totally out of my control, especially since they couldn’t really tell us when she might get to go home.
BUT when we called the NICU on Wednesday morning, they told us she had been moved back to the Mother & Baby unit! She just had to pass a few more tests (hearing and car seat) and then we could take her home. We took Rett back to the hospital with us (since I had to feed him) and basically took the day getting Evie discharged. One thing that I am glad we did at the hospital was have the Bella Baby photographers do a photoshoot. They are the only professional photos I have of my kids. We were tired, but thrilled, when we got to leave with both babies.
Life with twins…
Oof. Life with twins is hard. We had lots of family in town to help for the first two months, which made a huge difference in how much time we were able to spend with Kenneth one-on-one. Travis has been able to take a good amount of time off work, which is vital. Three car seats DO fit in the back seat of a Subaru Outback. And I am just tying to soldier on and go with the flow. But I haven’t had a full night of sleep since early in my pregnancy. I am breastfeeding exclusively and I can’t even tell you if it is a good idea. I am just stubborn and I did it for Ken, so I feel like I need to do it for the twins, too.
Evie and Rett are very fun and pretty easy babies, but I am tired. I need to get them on a more consistent nap and feeding schedule. After the holidays we are going to start sleep training and introducing some solid food, so that should help. I am trying not to wish these early days away, but even when I try to enjoy them I have a feeling my tired brain isn’t going to remember them anyway. I am glad that I am taking a lot of photos!
Other than the extreme fatigue, we have been in pretty good spirits. But I have been emotional about two things:
1) I don’t want Kenneth’s life to be “ruined” by having to split attention with the twins. I am sad to say that my relationship with him has suffered a bit and he is now closer to his dad. But I also know that he will love having siblings in the long run and it will be fun to have a big family.
2) Carrying and birthing these sweet twins is probably the coolest thing I will ever do in my life. I do NOT wish to be pregnant again, but I do get emotional when I think that this epic, cool event is over and done. And my body is wrecked. But I just need to refocus… raising these three kids will be the coolest thing I’ll ever do! We send our love into the future with them. It is a magical type of time travel.