In the words of the red hair, punkrocker nurse a few days after the birth of my boys, “So…what the fuck happened, man? You were just normal pregnant and then shit just hit the fan?”
Ummm, yeah, that’s pretty much how it went down.
My pregancy with my twins was above average. WAY above average. No blood pressure issues, minimal weight gain for me, maximum weight gain for the babies, no diabetes, no hypertension, no headaches, minimal nausea. In fact, for the first 30 weeks I barely felt pregnant, let alone with twins. However, towards the end I felt really really heavy. I had lots of pressure, trouble sleeping, I broke out in a terrible chicken pox-esque rash called PUPPS…my body started to feel like it was giving out. I kept trying to be strong, chalking it up to third trimester suckage. Had I only known…
At 38 weeks with my twins (equivalent to 42 weeks with a single), my doctors advised me to be induced for fear of stillbirth or infant distress. I waited 4 years for these boys, I’m not risking anything..let’s do this.
Monday Feb 15
6:00 pm Cloudy & I head to Chuy’s for dinner together. I’m excited!
7:00 pm We check into the Labor & Delivery Unit at Seton Main. I’m terrified! Suddenly, upon checking in I start to freak out. I don’t want to be in a hospital. I don’t want to be a patient. This is not how this was supposed to happen. I wanted to labor at home and arrive only in time to bring them into the world. No no no! Cloudy, no photos. Don’t post that we’re here. I don’t want anyone to know. I’m so scared I’m trembling and crying.
I refused to wear the paper hospital gown for fear of really giving up my comfort and identity and becoming just another room number. I change into my birthing gown and try to relax as I’m immediately stuck for the IV, surrounded by staff, monitors placed, medical history given.
10:00 pm “Ok, so we’re going to place the cervidil on your cervix to encourage it to soften. You may have some mild cramping overnight so we’ll bring you an ambien to sleep it off. See you in the morning”.
11:30 pm OooooUCH! I start feeling some intense cramping, which I think must be labor starting. I try to relax through it. It gets more intense. I change positions. I go to the bathroom. I ask Cloudy to rub my back. There’s no relief. The pain gets stronger
Tuesday, Feb 16
1:30 am I’m pulling on the sides of the bed screaming in pain, dizzy from the ambien, begging Cloudy to put all his 240 lbs of strength into my back. I wanted to crawl out of my own skin.
The nurse comes in and looks at the monitor, “Oh my God! How are you doing this? Your contractions are the strength of active labor, but they’re 1.5 minutes long and there’s literally no rest between. Do you want relief?”
“Yes!” I’m crying, screaming, arching my back, begging for help. They offered me morphine, but I knew that wasn’t gonna cut it. I didn’t think anything humane would cut this pain. The anesthesiologist comes in to place the epidural (way sooner than I’d planned) and an angel nurse helps me round my back and stay steady for him to administer it. Its all still a blur.
3:30 am I remember looking at the clock then. I must have fallen asleep.
9:00 am I wake up and hear my mom’s voice talking to Cloudy trying to get a sense for what happened overnight and where I am in the process. Unfortunately I was still ground zero.
3:00 pm Cervical exam reveals I’m only 3cm dilated and WHOOSH…I feel amniotic fluid gush. DAMMIT! Baby A’s water broke. If I were more dilated, this would’ve been a positive sign, but I know with so much work still ahead of me that now he’s at risk for infection.
Wednesday, Feb 17 (20hrs later!)
8:00 am I’m only 4cm dilated, slight temperature, contractions are minimal
10:00 am Still 4 cm, now 101.4 temp…The delivery doctor comes in and tells me flat out, “Something is wrong, but we don’t know what. We need to get these boys out now.”
This was NOT my plan! I labored for 36 hours and still wind up having major surgery?! Am I part of the 35% unneccessary c-section? Have I given up? Am I allowing myself to be influenced? How the hell am I supposed to care for twin newborns while recovering from major abdominal surgery. No, I can’t do it! Please don’t make me go.
My mom rubs my forehead, Cloudy is at my side, staff surrounds the bed. Everyone’s face says, “If this girl doesn’t consent, she’s risking the lives of the babies and herself”. Cloudy leans in and says, “Babe, I know it’s not what you wanted, but I’m calling it. You’re going for surgery now. This is what needs to happen.”
Staff starts to prep Cloudy for the OR and anesthesia comes to see me (ironically a former employer of mine whose twins I’d cared for overnight for 6 months). I’m calmer knowing I have a friend on the other side. When they wheel me into the OR I notice the doctor’s face when she sees my foley catheter bag. She can’t hide her fear. She looks at the nurse and demands, “How long as that been like that?” I didn’t know my urine had turned black. Not dark yellow, not brown, but black. This creates an urgency in the room even the most dense person could have sensed.
When they made the first incision I expected to hear my first baby’s cry right away. Instead I feel my body lifted off the table, all my weight being pushed towards my head. There’s no pain, just pressure, fear, and voices. They announce baby A (Cash) but we don’t get to see him longer than a split second. He’s blue. I see the staff smacking him, pulling him, giving him air. Panic hits me. Then, baby B is born (Cannon) and they bring him to us. He’s so big, healthy, beautiful, but the distraction of my perfect baby boy only lasts so long. My attention diverts right back to Cash. I know he’s not okay. No one’s telling me anything.
I feel myself slip into a state of shock. I start vomiting to the left and right over and over and over again. My head gets foggy, my blood pressure drops, the mood in the room shifts. I tell Cloudy I’m not okay begging him to alert the staff I’m not okay. “Cloudy do they know I’m not okay? I’m not okay…tell them I’m not okay. Do they see me? Do they know? Cloudy I’m scared. I’m not okay.”
In my head, I’m dying, but I can’t tell my husband that. I need him to stay strong. With slurred speech and all the energy I can muster I tell him I love him and instruct him to stay with the boys no matter what. He’s gone. My babies are gone. I black out.
When I wake up in recovery, hours have passed. I have no idea what happened, where my babies are, where my family is, but I’m glad to be alive. The nurse moves a blanket off my legs and asks me if I had any swelling during my pregnancy. I look at my legs and am not sure whether to laugh or scream. My legs swole 5x their normal size! There was no space between my toes and my legs looked like tree trunks. This is super scary for everyone. It’s not your usual post-op swelling. This was most definitely not okay.
Over the next 24 hours I would hear doctors say things like, “You’re the sickest patient on this floor”, “You’re an extremely complicated case,” “No need to worry, we’ve got a team of specialists following you right now,” and my personal favorite, “Had you delivered vaginally you would have died”.
My kidneys and liver began to fail during delivery. My spleen was enlarged. Protein, nitrates, red blood cells, and bacteria were found in my urine. An ovarian blood clot was discovered that would have ruptured during birth. My final diagnosis: Atypical HELLP syndrome, a freak show version of HELLP affecting less that 1% of the population.
Somehow, some way, my boys knew it was unsafe for them to be born vaginally. Cash had lodged himself in my pelvis, hence the pressure at the start of the surgery. The doctors had to literally dig him out, which caused distress and he was holding his breath. A week in the NICU and antiobiotics to fight off possible infections from whatever caused me to spike a fever kept him safe.
Cannon had braced himself against my back, refusing to engage as well. This was the reason for the unbearable pain at the start of my labor. My uterus was contracting from my back to the front fighting the boy’s resistance to move. The word you’re searching for is “ouch”.
These are the facts. I didn’t get to hold my babies at birth. I didn’t get to nurse them while gazing lovingly at my husband at the bedside. I didn’t get first photos of their chubby pink arms because my babies were covered in stickers and IV tubes. My pain was so great physically, but the pain of this birth has been tremendously difficult emotionally as well.
A friend who visited me at the hospital said, “Maybe this was your body’s way of saying you weren’t meant to have twins”, but I believe it’s the exact opposite. God knew the desires of my heart. He knew my body couldn’t handle more than one pregnancy so he gave me two beautiful, strong, healthy babies at once. He placed them where he knew theyd be safe and he whispered in their sweet ears, “Boys, stay right where you are. Don’t come out because your mommy’s not safe yet. I’ll send angels in to get you when it’s time.”
Thank you Jesus for my life and thank you for giving me the boys who saved it.