**Please note: If you are squeamish, you may want to skip reading this.**
I suppose that the story begins with the birth of our first child and the realization that the medical model of childbirth is not always best. Nathan's birth in itself is so complex. The over-management of the labor and birth left me feeling traumatized and defeated. From being strapped into bed with monitors and wires to feeling like a zoo display as residents, nurses, and staff stared at my naked body. From pushing for three hours while the nurses discussed their weekend plans to having my son ripped from my arms for "observation". We realized that we couldn't go back into a hospital setting for birthing. Women have been doing this for thousands and thousands of years and I need to be home to feel safe. Recovering from the trauma of Nathan's birth was a long road and I truly don't think that I will ever be the same. But in light of the trauma and sadness, I now know that I had to experience that birth so that our future children could be born into the love-filled environment of our own home.
After discovering that we were pregnant with twins, I knew that I had to do lots of research on the safety and statistics of twin homebirths. I also had to work through my fear and the trauma from Nathan's birth. Therapy really helped me find my center and focus on the joy of expecting twins. And after reviewing all the research I found that twin homebirth was just as safe (if not safer) as hospital births.
Leading up to the birth:
As you can read in past blog entries, I had been ready for weeks to have these babies! Being pregnant with twins is hard on the body and the mind. I pushed through every day and made it to term!
39 weeks 6 days:
On Monday evening, I had a homebirth support group meeting (I am one of the leaders). Before leaving for the meeting, I noticed that I had some swelling in my lower legs (more so than usual). I also just felt different. It is hard to describe, but I felt this peace and calm. I remember telling Brandon "I think that the birth will happen sooner rather than later." Brandon looked over at me and asked "So, does that mean days or hours?!" I said "I wish I knew!" So off I went to my homebirth support group meeting. Everyone was very surprised to see me there and still pregnant! I made many jokes about the fact that I would be pregnant forever and the babies were never coming out! It was nice to see them all and get my mind of off the aches and pains of my body.
Before going to bed, like usual, Brandon and I picked up the house and made sure everything was tidy. Brandon put Nathan to bed and I read some positive affirmations and birth stories from Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Brandon slipped into bed and we drifted off to sleep.
At 12:30am, a very powerful contraction raced through my body, lifting me from a deep sleep. I called out to Brandon and grasped his arm. After the contraction ended, I got out of bed and felt a little trickle down my leg. At first I thought I had wet myself (the hazards of twin pregnancy) so I raced to the bathroom. The excess movement caused a big gush and I knew my bag of waters had broken!! I called out to Brandon "Uh...honey...my water just broke!" He yells back, "Seriously?" I remember rolling my eyes at this point. :)
So I sat down and I noticed that I was shaking uncontrollably. All at once I realized that today is the day and the thought of what is to come made me nervous. I changed my clothes and put in my contacts. I tried to tame my hair, but that didn't really work too well! I asked Brandon to bring me my phone and I realized that he was talking to someone. He was calling his work and it hit me all over again that I would be having babies that day! Around this time, I got my second contraction (it had really only been about 5 minutes since the one I had in bed). This contraction was so intense. It nearly brought me to my knees! I knew that I was already around 6 centimeters dilated (from an exam by my midwife earlier that week) so I knew that the labor would go quickly. So Brandon brings me my phone and asks if he should start filling the pool. I told him to go ahead and get started and off he goes. I called my midwife and told her about my water breaking. She asked me to monitor my contractions and to give her a call back when they were around 5 minutes apart. I was fine with that, so I hung up. I called Gay (my dear friend) and my mom and told them to come to the house. I remember the excitement in both of their voices. It was comforting to me.
So during these phone calls, I had several contractions. I didn't realize how close they were until I finished on the phone and looked at the time. They were coming every 3 minutes and lasting for about a minute. I immediately called the midwife back and asked her to come.
I ventured out to the living room and found Brandon working on filling the tub. I looked at him and told him that I was a little scared. He gave me a big hug and said that everything would be just fine. My contractions were so intense. My belly would get so firm and my legs would shake with each one. I felt like the contractions were coming so close together already! I knew that I really needed to relax and focus, so I got my Hypnobabies CD out and put in my headphones. For the next 30 minutes or so, I was able to relax through each contraction and spent that time using gravity to help me out. I paced our kitchen floor while listening to my CD and watching Brandon fill the tub.
My mom arrived and gave me a hug. I felt comforted to have someone else there. Mom helped Brandon fill up the pool while I continued to pace the kitchen. During a contraction, I didn't want to stop moving. I just kept walking back and forth. I remember asking a lot "Can I do this?" I asked out loud, I'm sure, but I was really asking my inner self at this point.
I kept asking Brandon if the pool was ready and he kept telling me "Not yet." I remember being a tad ticked off (like it was his fault the water was running slow or something). Finally, the pool had enough water to get in, but it was still a little cool. Brandon worked on boiling some pots of water to add to the pool and that really helped heat it up quickly.
My contractions just kept coming. They were coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting, what felt like forever. I kept asking for a break. I have no idea who I was asking, but it felt good to put in my request. I was leaning over the side of the tub while on my hands and knees. This position felt right. I think my body was telling me to be in this position so that Baby A would turn around into a more anterior position. During the contraction, I would really try to breathe really deeply, but I kept making this really low, throaty moans. Gay, my friend, arrived right around this time. It was so comforting to see her. She was wearing a shirt that had a baby on it. In my head, I thought "That's a really cute shirt. I want one." :) The things that you think of during labor.
I looked at Gay and the first words I said were "Gay, I don't know if I can do this!!" She was very comforting and reassuring. It felt good to express my self-doubt out loud so that it wouldn't eat me up inside. I am sure that I said "I can't do this" a million times that day.
My contractions were so intense. I wish that I could describe the sheer power of them. It felt like my whole body, every single muscle and nerve was working.
I continued to labor this way for quite some time. In the tub, on my hands and knees. I felt such pressure. My back was aching, so during the contractions people would take turns pressing on my lower back. During this time, my midwife, the back-up midwife, and their assistant arrived and began setting up their supplies.
Around 4am or so (just 3 and a half hours after my water broke) I asked my midwife to check my cervix to see if I was making progress. She checked in between contractions and said I was complete! I was shocked and not shocked all at the same time. By this point, I had begun yelling during the contractions. Really low, loud yells that I am sure could be heard throughout the whole house. Nathan actually woke up a couple of times and thankfully my mom was able to get him back to sleep.
Hearing that I was completely dilated caused me to want to try pushing with the next few contractions. However, pushing just didn't feel right to me. I tried pushing in the tub on my hands and knees. I also tried squatting in the tub with Brandon behind me for support. But nothing felt right. My midwife encouraged me to not push if didn't feel right, but she also told me that with two babies and such a large uterus, pushing may never feel right.
At this point, the contractions were extremely painful. I was pretty much screaming throughout each one. I decided to try getting out of the tub and walked to the bathroom. I had several contractions on the way there that weren't nearly as painful as the ones in the tub. For some reason, my body liked standing up.
When I returned from the bathroom, the midwives had two areas set up. One was in front of our recliner so that I could squat in front of it. The other area was on the blow-up mattress right next to the birth pool. They asked me where I would rather push out my babies and I froze. I wasn't ready! A million things entered my mind at that moment. I can't even type what I thought about really. I voiced a couple of fears out loud, but that wasn't helping me like it was before.
I told everyone that I wasn't ready to do this. I started to cry because I was scared. Scared of the pain, scared of having two babies, scared of tearing, scared of having someone take the babies away (like they did to Nathan at the hospital). All these fears caused a mental block. My midwife told me that I didn't have to push right now if I didn't want to. I could wait until I felt ready. That really calmed my fears. So for the next 45 minutes to an hour, I stood in my kitchen clad in nothing but a nursing bra and a birthing necklace. I swayed back and forth with the contractions and let my mind just wander. Gay and Brandon took turns putting a warm rice sock on my lower back. I remember looking at Gay and saying something like "I just can't do it." And she said "But you are doing it! You are standing in your kitchen fully dilated!" That struck me as funny because I let out a giggle. I also remember saying to everyone that they should just go ahead and send me to the hospital because this is about the time that drugs would come in handy. My midwife calmly looked at me and said "Mandie, you are fully dilated, there really is no time for that. Besides, do you want to get in the car?" I decided maybe the hospital wasn't such a good idea after all. ;) This time in my labor was so funny to me (looking back on it now). Here I was with a giant pregnant belly, swaying back and forth in my kitchen, while my entire birth team hung out on the couch waiting for me to decide to get on with it and start pushing.
Around 5:30am or so, the contractions just got too unbearable. I decided it was time to get these kids out! I laid down on the mattress and I remember saying "This really sucks." Brandon was on one side next to my head, my mom was next to one foot, and Gay was taking pictures near the end of the bed. I began pushing with each contraction and yelling in between. It was really hard to focus so that I could push effectively. Pushing with that giant belly just felt wrong for some reason. I began to worry that I would be pushing forever, when everyone started to get excited because some of Baby A's head was showing! That gave me some motivation, although still, after each contraction, I said "I just can't do this!" Everyone would reply, "Yes you can!" Finally, after what seemed like hours, Baby A's head crowned. I reached down to feel it although it kinda scared me a little bit. I felt lots of stinging and burning and remember saying that I was sure that I was tearing. My midwife assured me that I wasn't and she applied more oil to my perineum to help me stretch. Then I felt a POP as Baby A's head came out! I looked around and said "Is his head really out?!" Brandon said "Yep, I can see his ears!" After a short break and another contraction, Gavin Quinn slid out into this world and up to his mama's chest. He started crying right away! I just held on to him so tightly. I remember saying over and over "No one is taking him away from me! He is staying right here! I did it!" That was an amazing feeling.
Although right about that time, I realized that I was going to have to do that all over again soon. I tried not to think about that as I looked down at my screaming, slippery baby boy. He was beautiful. He looked just like Nathan.
I offered the breast and he latched on and started nursing. We waited for his cord to stop pulsing and then Brandon cut it.
During this time (around 20 minutes or so) I didn't have any contractions and it was heavenly. However, Gavin's nursing caused them to pick right back up where they left off! It was weird to go from nothing to transition contractions in a matter of seconds. Because of the contractions, I had to hand Gavin off to Brandon so that I could focus on getting Baby B out. Poor Gavin didn't want to let mama go though, so he was just wailing! It was so hard to concentrate on the contractions when all I wanted to do was hold sweet Gavin. It was so surreal to look over at Brandon holding Gavin and still feeling Baby B moving around in my belly.
The contractions for Baby B felt even more strange. I had no desire to push although my midwife said that Baby B's head was right there! I started to push for Baby B and the midwife exclaimed that his bag of waters was still intact. Everyone remarked at how cool it was to see. Baby B crowned quickly and with a couple more pushes his head popped out! Still in the bag of waters! Kai Nicholas was born at 7:04am in the caul (inside his bag of waters).
We think that poor Baby B wasn't ready to be born yet, because he struggled a little at birth. He needed lots of encouragement to breathe and needed some extra help with a bag and mask. I was a little scared and a little out of it at this point, but I knew he would be ok. Several minutes later, he was just fine. Thankfully he was still getting all the oxygen he needed from his cord. In the hospital they would have cut it right away and who knows what would have happened.
We waited for the cord to stop pulsing and then Brandon cut Kai's cord. Our babies were now on their own!
We didn't have to wait long for the placentas. I gave a couple of pushes after the midwife said that the placentas were ready to come out. They had fused together in the womb so it was like giving birth to a third baby! Together they weighed about 6-7lbs!
Twin moms tend to lose more blood than a singleton mom, and I was no different. After a quick exam by the midwife, (no tearing!) it was time to stand up and I felt a little woozy. I made it over to the recliner, got into a nightgown, and sat down to nurse my babies. I wanted to nurse tem one at a time so I nursed Gavin first.
During this time Kai got weighed and got his newborn exam.
Then I switched and tried to nurse Kai. He wasn't interested yet, so we just cuddled while Gavin got his exam.
I decided to get up and try to go to the bathroom, so Daddy got some time with the babies. Brandon and my mom introduced them to Nathan!
I was still woozy at this point so I had to crawl to the bathroom (that was interesting!). I made it there and spent some time alone digesting what happened. I just had two babies! At home!
I crawled into bed and had Brandon bring me our babies. We snuggled in bed, had bacon and eggs, and enjoyed our new sons.