(It's been 10 months since the birth of our twins, so my rendition of the experience might be a little different than it would've been right after the fact.)
It was 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 26, 15 days before my due date, when I went for a routine checkup at my Ob/Gyn. My husband decided to come with me for moral support. The exam revealed that I was dilated to 2 cm. and was 60% effaced, and that Baby A's position was -1. This really wasn't any different from my situation the week before. Considering I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions since 23 weeks of pregnancy, I was surprised things weren't further along. I was starting to think I'd be carrying these babies the full 40 weeks!
At the end of the usual exam, the doctor decided to strip my membranes by massaging (more like scraping) the cervix with her fingers, something she had done the week before with no real results. My husband let me squeeze his hand while she did this (good thing, or I would've punched the doctor for inflicting such pain on me!). Just when I was thinking I couldn't go on for one more second, it was announced that I was leaking amniotic fluid (or, as I like to describe it, the doctor popped me). Although it was only a tiny trickle, it was enough of an excuse for the doctor to send us to the hospital. Could this really be it? We were so relieved!
We went home first to prepare. We arranged for my mother to care for our 3 year old and called Julie, our doula*. We also took some before pictures with black and white film, so I could look back someday with amazement on how huge I was. Once Julie arrived and we were all packed & ready, we took off for the hospital, which is about 20 minutes away from our home.
We arrived there at around 6:00. I was assigned an LDR room and examined shortly thereafter. I had not progressed any, and my contractions were still just sporadic with no increase in intensity. The doctor wanted to just go ahead and induce with pitocin right away. As I was a bit leery of this idea (I had pitocin with my first delivery), we made a compromise. She broke my water and agreed to wait an hour to see whether I couldn't progress on my own.
After an hour of walking around, nothing had changed, so we all agreed it was time to get things moving. They strapped on the fetal monitor (which really dug into my overstretched belly) and started the pitocin I.V. Julie massaged my legs with a minty-smelling stress relief lotion. Jon warmed up the Bed Buddy in the microwave and I held it under my tummy. Next to me was my daughter's portable Fisher-Price tape recorder playing my homemade tape of carefully selected songs. There were not only relaxing songs but also some that had special meaning, such as the upbeat Frank Sinatra song that we played at our wedding. I would highly recommend doing this for any mother's delivery. This music gave me something to concentrate on while I did some deep breathing and held my husband's or my doula's hand. I was able to take myself to another place, away from the pain.
After I experienced a few very intense contractions, my husband remembered, Hey - didn't you want to get an epidural? Believe it or not, I had actually forgotten, since I didn't have one with my first delivery. However, we had decided ahead of time that it would be best if, regardless of how well things might seem to be going, I did get an epidural. Complications are common with multiple births, so we wanted to be prepared. We informed the nurse of my desire for drugs, but had to wait a whole hour before I finally received them. By then, I was already feeling the increased pressure that signals it is time to push. They did one last ultrasound, which revealed that the babies were still both in the head-down position, as they had been for the past 5 months. Everyone helped get me into the pushing position.
I'm really not sure how long I pushed. It didn't seem too bad - probably about an hour total. I found that the epidural really helped me focus on pushing, rather than on the pain. I still felt intense pressure and stretching, but no true pain. I was even able to laugh in the middle of it all! When Baby A crowned, they brought out a mirror and encouraged me to feel her head (something I wasn't too enthused about doing at the time). A couple more pushes and she was out. Claire Mackenzie, born at 2:57 a.m., was 6 pounds 7 ounces and 19.75 inches long.
The doctor immediately did another ultrasound to see Baby B's position. As we had anticipated, she turned all the way around as soon as her sister got out of the way. The doctor tried to reposition her, but to no avail. Audrey would have to come out feet first! Surprisingly, I was not overly worried about this, since my doctor had discussed this possibility with me ahead of time, assuring me that she had delivered breech babies successfully many times before. Things went very smoothly and she was out almost as quickly as Claire. I admit there was one moment, when the doctor reached her whole hand inside me and grabbed the baby, that I gasped at the feeling that my bones were surely being stretched beyond their normal range! But it was quick, and Audrey came into the world only 16 minutes after her sister, at 3:13 a.m. She didn't cry right away, but a few suctions of fluid from her mouth cleared the way for plenty of healthy whaling. She was 6 pounds, 9 ounces and also 19.75 inches long. I had been in real labor for about 7 hours. They were finally out!
While I was finishing up and being mended, my husband was getting some great video and still pictures of the girls. While they were being cleaned up and poked at in separate basinets, they would take turns crying while the other listened. Their heads were turned toward each other, even though they couldn't really see.
Once the nurses were done with them, they put them together in one bassinet. The girls continued to complain back and forth to each other, and at one point they even held hands. It was so special!
Finally, I was able to hold them both in my arms. As both of them scrunched up their beautiful little faces and cried their little hearts out at me, I experienced the emotions that I will probably feel for many years to come. I was overwhelmed at the work ahead of me (guess we'd better get used to listening to them cry `in stereo'!) yet I was also overwhelmed with double the joy and love. Double the work, double the blessings!
I was extremely swollen and had a numb leg for many hours after the delivery. I could hardly walk due to the pain in my pelvic bones & muscles. I hardly got any rest because I was trying to breastfeed the babies. But, by the time I went home on Friday, I was in pretty good shape, all things considered! The babies did much better at home than in the hospital, and we quickly began to settle in.
I must say the delivery itself was a very neat experience, one that I enjoyed much more than when I delivered my singleton. We were prepared for the worst, but things went much better than we could've expected. It truly was a miracle, and I was privileged to be a part of it!