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Double The Joy: A Twin Birth Story

Twins Striped Hats

By Sara Rogers, guest contributor

What is it like to give birth to twins? For most parents of multiples, it encompasses a whole spectrum of emotions. “Terrifying” and “exciting” are words that come to mind, but really, when it comes down to it, it brings joy in its purest sense…and that joy gets doubled.

We found out very early in our pregnancy that we were expecting identical twins. I had an early ultrasound with every pregnancy due to earlier miscarriages, so at 7.5 weeks, the technician was asking, “Do you see what I see?” While I was still desperately looking for signs of a heartbeat, my husband said, “Um… there are… two?!” I simultaneously started laughing and crying. The following weeks were quite a blur; we were excited, but terrified, and mostly just in shock that we would soon have four kids under the age of four.

With a history of early labor, we knew this pregnancy might be even more difficult than my previous ones…and we weren’t wrong. Starting at 12 (yes, 12) weeks, I had noticeable contractions off and on. At 16 weeks we found out that we would be having identical boys, which brought great excitement to a family full of girls and girl cousins. Specialists monitored the boys weekly and often twice-weekly. My cervix was effaced and beginning to dilate, and so at 21 weeks, I had a cerclage placed, which is where they stitch your cervix shut to keep it from continuing to dilate. I also ended up in the hospital for two weeks for preterm labor, and totaled thirteen weeks on bed rest, trying to keep the babies healthy and safe inside me as long as we could. All the while, some anxiety about labor and delivery kept creeping in to my thoughts. It can be like a cloud over pregnancy, not knowing what that experience will be like each time around, and this time, I was worried about pushing out two babies instead of just one.

By the time I went into labor at 33 weeks and 3 days gestation, I had been ready for a long time!  That night, I woke up around 1 am to use the bathroom (hello, pregnancy!). My water broke when I went back to bed, and I remember feeling a surprising amount of peace when I realized what had happened. I was ready to meet them, and I knew it. I just wanted to hold them each in my arms—and to have labor be over.

I woke up my husband, and while he got ready, we called family members to come stay with our girls. We kissed them goodbye and headed to the hospital. My contractions weren’t intense but were getting more so as time went by.

By about 3 AM my contractions were strong and regular, and I started to get “the shakes,” as I call them (also knows as tremors or shivers, which I had experienced in my previous unmedicated labor with my second daughter, as well as when I had my cerclage placed). At this point I was still only dilated to around five centimeters. I had decided beforehand that I could handle either the shakes or the pain, and didn’t want to deal with managing both, as I had found it incredibly hard to calm my body and mind when my body was shaking uncontrollably. I asked for an epidural, and its placement went smoothly, with the exception of my shaking throughout; it’s hard to hold still when your body is involuntarily bouncing all over the place! But it worked, and although the shaking continued, the pain was diminished, and I was ready for the next step.

When you’re delivering multiples, most doctors recommend that you give birth in an operating room (OR), because the chances of an emergency C-section are higher than that of a singleton birth. They wheeled me to our OR and removed my cerclage, which, unfortunately, was the worst part of my labor. They had a really difficult time getting it out, and a typically five-minute outpatient procedure took them over half an hour. I learned later that apparently my epidurals do not work to numb my vagina or cervical area, which is why it was so painful. But at least I didn’t have to feel the contraction pain.

After that was done, I laid there for the next hour or two, listening to my calming labor playlist and trying to rest. The nurses were great, because they turned the lights down in the room and it stayed so peaceful and quiet. Then suddenly, shortly after 7 AM, the nurses began their shift change, and I felt like I needed to push.

The nurse had checked only about five minutes before this and I had been dilated to a seven, but I was sure I was ready now. So she checked me again and sure enough, I was dilated all the way. There were suddenly a lot more people in the room. There were two NICU teams, a lot of nurses, and a doctor. My husband said there were 17 people in that room, not including the babies.

Baby A (the first baby likely to be birthed) had been head down since I had been 16 weeks along, so we weren’t too worried about delivering him. The only question I had for the doctor was whether or not he would try to deliver Baby B breech if he changed positions. He said he would, which was what I was hoping for; no one wants to recover from both a vaginal birth and a c-section if they can help it.

The doctor then checked to see how the epidural was working. He asked if I could feel him touching my leg and my lower abdomen, and I said no (at least not more than the pressure). But when he asked about the vaginal opening, he was surprised to hear me say “Yes!” I could definitely feel that. He tried another spot and again was surprised the epidural wasn’t affecting that area, so he asked if I’d like some anesthetic there, and I said, “Yes, please!” A few minutes later I couldn’t feel nearly as much.

I was completely oblivious to everything else going on in the OR, with the exception of my husband, our main two nurses, and the doctor all standing immediately around me. I was ready, and after only one contraction and just a bit of pushing, at 7:35 AM, our first son was born. I was elated! He came out so easily and I remember seeing his sweet hands and little head pop up as they placed him on my lower abdomen for a moment. They then quickly took him over to the warmer to make sure he was healthy and breathing ok.

Leading up to this, I had been anxious to push out two babies. I had always expected to think, “Oh no; now I have to push again!” But it was the complete opposite. All of my endorphins and adrenaline had me running on high, and I had just met one perfect baby boy and couldn’t wait to meet the other. I vividly remember thinking, “I get to do this again!” It was beyond words to describe how wonderful that felt, knowing another baby was coming soon.

As soon as the first delivery was complete, the nurse began to push on my stomach to get our second son to move head down. He moved pretty easily, and they started monitoring his heart rate again right away, as it had dropped a few times earlier. I had asked that it be turned down during labor, but with all the people around, it was hard for anyone to look at it closely during the deliveries, so they had turned it back up a bit. Now, though, the doctor asked to have the monitor turned up even more; he had noticed (as had I) that our baby’s heart rate was still dropping repeatedly, with no relation to contractions, as I hadn’t had one since pushing out our first baby. And then we started to lose his heartbeat altogether. We would hear it slow down and stop for a few seconds, then speed back up a few seconds later. The first time it did this, the doctor asked if I was having a contraction yet, and I said I wasn’t. Then he told me he would need me to push as soon as I felt a contraction coming on. The next 30 seconds or so I remember being very still and quiet as we all listened to the slow heartbeat and waited. I am thankful, looking back, that I still had the endorphins from our first baby’s birth, or I think this would have been a lot scarier at the time. It felt like forever (but was really so short—a lot can happen in five minutes!), but the doctor finally decided we had to move, and asked me to push regardless of a contraction. Thankfully, at 7:40 am, with only one push, our second son was born. Once again, elation and pure joy washed over me.

I didn’t see him right away, but I remember listening for his sweet cries. The doctor had to unwrap the cord from around his neck, but then they held him up to me and he stretched his skinny arm out and held my finger. He was quite bluish/purplish compared to his brother, but he recovered quickly.

I felt so much gratitude that both boys were here, safe and sound. They were healthy at 4.5 pounds, which was better than we were expecting. Some oxygen and feeding tubes were needed, but I was able to kiss their sweet heads as they went to the NICU with my husband while I got cleaned up. Later I was able to go be with them and hold them as long as I wanted. Our girls and family members were all able to meet them over the next few weeks, and when they were ready, we took them home and began our life as a family of six.

If you are expecting twins (or more!), please know that although it can be a scary and overwhelming time, the blessings and joys simply outweigh the all the hardships: yes, even during labor and delivery! Be confident in the joy that children’s births bring, regardless of how they arrive.

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