Birthing the boys, and being in control…
As readers of the blog will know, I spent a lot of time when I was pregnant working on resetting the fears that remained after my first birth – an experience that felt out of control from the moment it started, and that felt as if decisions were made for me, not with me. I wanted this experience to be different. I wasn’t hellbent on the birth turning out a certain way, but I was determined that whatever happened it would be an experience I could feel happy and peaceful about, and an experience that matched the overwhelming privilege of being able to bring life into this world, rather than a scary catalogue of disasters that I would rather forget.
After a few false starts with a consultant who seemed to change his mind – and medical opinion – from one week to the next, we eventually ended up with a consultant who I hoped would be able to listen to our concerns and hopes and make them real. While twins are often born early, we wanted to know how late we could be left to go, and, in the event that I didn’t go into labour, what would happen, and what the risks were and what method and form of delivery I might be likely to expect, having had a previous c-section and carrying twins.
Our new consultant appointment was on 17 August, and she was exactly what we needed – practical, fair and receptive to our specific questions and uncertainties. We returned home from that meeting, happy with the plans ahead – to let nature take its course and hopefully go into spontaneous labour before 1 September 2017, at which point, the babies would have been 38 weeks. A planned c-section was booked for the morning of 1 September, and I was happy that if I hadn’t gone into labour by then that we would be having our babies that day in a calm, planned and considered manner. I felt so confident in our decisions and choices, and in all the work I’d done through my hypnobirthing classes, through reading about twin pregnancies and learning about what was to come from midwives and doctors. I trusted nature, I trusted the babies, I trusted my body, this would happen when it was right and that was all I was focusing on.
That evening I had a bath, a glass of wine and traced the outlines of stretch marks across my belly, thinking about the days to come, how we would take things gently, getting the final things ready for the babies, all the while knowing that very soon, whatever happened, we would meet our twins.
I had no idea how soon. That night I slept better than I had in months. A deep long sleep, not interrupted by anything, and I woke at 7:30am, feeling that lovely, sleepy rested feeling. I stretched, exhaled and then….something felt different. I stood up instantly. “Ummmm. Oh. Wow. Ok,” I said. “My waters are breaking….”
R – half-awake and still a bit confused – looked at me blankly. “Right. What does that mean?”
“Well. Possibly that I should not be standing on the carpet,” I said, turning and pottering to the bathroom and standing on the bathmat. “Oh my gosh. This is actually happening…” I said. R started to wake up properly, I caught sight of myself in the mirror and found that I was smiling. Never having experienced going into labour naturally before this felt like a gift, an exciting, surprising gift. I felt giddy, giggly, excited – and completely calm.
After that things moved along with a gentle momentum. Phonecalls were made, Munchkin was woken up, my mother arrived, I finished packing for hospital, ate some breakfast, drank a cup of tea, took some Rescue Remedy – all the while, calmly and peacefully feeling the babies wriggling around inside me and a familiar tightness spreading across my belly. This was happening.
I sat down with Munchkin in the kitchen and told her what was going on. “Mummy is going to the hospital with Daddy to get the babies. What would you like us to bring home for you?” She looked at us both, smiled a lot, and thought for ages. Then: “Brothers,” she said, with conviction. (Children really do have a sixth sense for these things). I hugged her goodbye, suddenly feeling incredibly teary and emotional, all our lives were about to change so much, and she was such a darling, trusting, sweetheart. I hoped she would be ok. We waved her and my mum off as they stood in the driveway waving, and as we pulled out of the gate, tears briefly in my eyes, I had such a sense of life turning on an axis, such fundamental change ahead of us. Excited, daunted, expectant.
We headed for hospital in Gloucester and were hooked up to some monitors to check the babies were happy with the start of labour, and discussed options with consultants and midwives. The ‘tightenings’ I’d been experiencing continued to grow, and I was impatient to get things started properly. I kept pacing and breathing, determined not to lose my rhythm. A few hours later we were moved round to the delivery suite and shown our room. It was just as I remembered it from Munchkin’s birth – cold, uninviting, one big bed and one small uncomfortable chair, bright lights, lots of medical equipment, a cold, hard floor – it wasn’t where I’d ever wanted to labour, but I was expecting this and I was prepared for it. I picked a spot in the corner with a surface I could lean on, asked for a birthing ball and plugged my headphones in. The soothing tones of Hollie de Cruz calmed me and I was able to escape for an hour or so into a peaceful world, relaxing and focusing on my breath. I felt good and started to feel that I could really focus through this.
Annoyingly, at 5pm, a midwife came in and told me I now had to be continuously monitored – twins are considered high risk – so what followed was a tedious three hour period of getting on and off the bed while monitors were attached and reattached to my bump, heartrates measured, remeasured, lost, found again, measured again and so on. I remembered this experience from Munchkin’s birth and it was as annoying as it had been the last time. I couldn’t focus, my contractions died off at times, at others they were painful and I was unable to breathe into them as I lay prone on a bed, instructed not to move. (*I know that these measures are designed to keep me and the babies safe, and I am grateful for them, but it is about time they found a more effective way of measuring foetal heartrates than ill-fitting monitors that are not designed in any way to fit on a tight, round bump. Even the midwives hate them. Rant over.) The positives at least were that both babies seemed happy and content, dealing with each contraction well and getting excited as my uterus tightened around them. They remained this way throughout labour, happy little troopers, ready to enter the world.
At about 8pm a new consultant, Georgia, came in to meet me, chatted about my options and then agreed that it would be a good idea of I was left alone for four hours, so I could really concentrate on getting things moving and progressing my labour, which was still in the gentle, early stages. We dimmed the lights, met our new lovely midwife Sam, and I stuck my headphones back in and started to really visualise my breathing through every contraction. Things picked up a bit, and even more so when we moved to sit in the bath for a while, R running water from the shower down across my back (bliss), while I crouched on all fours in the bath, the change in position seeming to help. I read and reread a text message from a dear friend who made me believe that I could do this and allowed feelings of warmth and happiness to wash over me as R told me over and over again that I was doing well and could do this.
As it neared midnight it felt that things started to pick up and Sam and R encouraged and supported me, suggesting ways to help me push through each contraction. I started using the gas and air, and after a while felt that I was settling into a good, but hard, rhythm. It was tough going now, and I felt that each contraction was really intense and powerful, my legs were shaking from adrenaline and I was really tired. Sam seemed to feel these were all signs that things were moving along, and I was feeling worn out, but hopeful.
However, when I was examined, Sam revealed I had dilated to just three centimetres. I had been at least 1cm when we’d come in, so it had taken over eight hours to dilate just two centimetres. I was frustrated, but not crushed, the hypnobirthing part of me accepted the course of events as part of our journey, and I merely asked calmly what we thought the next steps were. I was concerned that something I had found pretty hard thus far, had done such little in terms of effect, but Sam reassured me first, saying that I wasn’t to feel despondent – that she too, based on my behaviour, especially in the past hour, had expected more. We chatted with the consultant next – talking about our options, considering the various outcomes of trying for a natural birth of twin 1, but also considering what would happen with twin 2. The problem with twin births is not so much the birth of twin 1 but the birth of twin 2 which often is where complications can occur – a baby can be breech, or can spin round in the uterus and often have a little trouble finding its way down. We knew that even if I managed to give birth to baby 1 naturally, the outcome of baby 2 was a whole other conversation.
We also considered my ‘failure to progress’ at Munchkin’s birth, and talked about what the coming hours might bring. At every point the conversations felt open and honest, facts were shared and discussed, I felt informed and involved in my care. When we were left alone to consider our options our conversations were measured and easy, we felt no pressure, no drama, just an acceptance of the course of events and a determination to continue to feel in control and positive about what was happening.
Easily and happily, we arrived at our decision to have a Cesarean, as soon as they could arrange one, and from then, things progressed with a happy but gentle rhythm – so different from the emergency, speed down the corridor to the operating room we’d had with Munchkin. We met our anaesthetist, talked to the consultant and the paediatricians about wanting to hold our babies as soon as possible after they were born and slowly made our way to the operating theatre. The atmosphere was calm, friendly and warm – we felt supported and encouraged by everyone we met, and before long Georgia, the consultant, was saying: “I am about to deliver Twin 1.” And then, there he was, Felix, yelling loudly and resting on my chest, all healthy and warm and well. He was checked over and given straight to his Daddy, before Monty followed, just three minutes later. Two baby boys – alive and well and kicking with life. They needed no special help, no interventions, their happy little souls coming easily into the world, just as we had wanted.
The same euphoria I remembered from Munchkin’s birth washed over me, and I couldn’t wait to hold my boys in my arms and inhale the sweet smell of their skin, feel their warmth on my chest, hold their tiny selves against me and kiss them. They were here, the waiting was over, and we had no regrets.