I can still feel my heart drop. I can still feel how cold my feet went, as if they weren’t even part of my body anymore. I was 20 weeks pregnant. The ultrasound tech was swiping back and forth, from my left to my right, and in almost perfect Pisces form it went head-spine, spine-head. That was the day our family dynamic changed in the most beautiful and chaotic way.
I had been tired when I was pregnant with Z, but this time it felt different. I would lay down with Zandros and read him a book at nap time and fall so deeply asleep that I couldn’t get up if I tried. It felt like I hadn’t slept in days. At 10 weeks I couldn’t button my jeans…”It’s your second pregnancy! That’s what happens! BODY MEMORY!” It didn’t feel like that to me. I felt like I was growing so quickly, the scale told me I was gaining so quickly that I started to second guess what I was eating!
Alex kept telling me “yeah you’re more nauseas because it’s TWINS!” “You’re so tired because it’s TWINS” That was the running joke of those first 20 weeks. When I began cracking eggs with 2 yolks I started freaking out. Over and over, two yolks- I googled it. It said “it means you’re having twins!” “NO TWINS!” I would say. “WHO WOULD WANT TWINS?!? THAT IS INSANE! TWO BABIES? THAT’S SCARY!”
I started to get bad anxiety about getting the ultrasound. We had the most wonderful home birth with Zandros and I planned on welcome our second child into the world in the same way. I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t get an ultrasound at ALL this time. “Maybe we should just wait and see”, “maybe in a few weeks I’ll be ready”. The anxiety was building and I couldn’t pinpoint why.
When we got to the hospital and were walking into the ultrasound room, the head of maternal fetal medicine, who apparently has a gift for guessing birth weights by looking at the mom’s belly, looked at me and said “how far along are you?” “20 weeks” I said. “Feeling a lot of movement? A lot of arms and legs?” she asked. “YES! This baby is INSANE. It literally NEVER sleeps! How is that even possible?” I asked “Sure it’s just one?” She said coyly. I could feel my face go white.
Before we knew it we were being told that we had AT LEAST 2 babies growing inside of me. I started shaking and freaking out. I knew NOTHING about twin pregnancies, twin births. I felt so confident in my ability to grow one child and so comfortable with my home birth plan and in one second I felt like I was in thrust into a whole different galaxy. I looked at Alex and Z. Alex was whiter than a sheet and had leaned up against the wall for support. I’ve never seen him look so scared. Luckily Zandros was watching a movie on my phone and didn’t hear me screaming. I was scared out of my mind. After being reassured that they both looked amazing, my cervix length was ideal, and that it was a good sign that I had carried Z to term, I was told “let’s shoot for 35 weeks.”
I went home, didn’t sleep, just read and read and read until 5am. I feel empowered and relaxed when I have a plan of action and I needed to know how to carry two babies 40 weeks. How can I grow two full term babies? I want normal sized, healthy, full term babies. Ask and you shall receive.
The rest of the pregnancy was uneventful, aside from me tripping over a rocking horse in the dark, catching myself with my FACE, breaking my nose, biting through my lip and, oh right, landing on my belly. We spent that night in the hospital, with a poor nurse holding a monitor on Winter because she wouldn’t stay still for 4 hours. Other than that I grew and grew and grew and ate as much protein as possible. I started craving and eating meat again for the first time in 7 1/2 years because I couldn’t eat as many calories and grams of protein as I was suppose to be without it. My belly stretched beyond the limits of my poor skin, no amount of coconut oil, belly cream, or shea butter could help me. Luckily my doctors and midwives were on board with my birth plan, which was now to have a completely natural and as hands off as possible birth in the hospital, and as long as the babies and I looked healthy, we were good to go.
Weeks came and went and I fought to stay pregnant. I didn’t want to be induced. I really wanted my babies to decide when they were ready. At my 39 week appointment I was told to get prepared to fight even harder because while the babies still looked great and had plenty of fluid, they don’t like to see twins go much past 40 weeks. My appointment was on Monday, my exact 40 week due date, and I was starting to feel really stressed. At this point my belly was insane. I am not exaggerating at all when I say people gasped and shielded their children’s eyes in the grocery store!
Friday night we were having dinner at my mom’s and she made my favorite meal. I didn’t feel like eating. I was hug, crampy and over it. Alex and my mom kept looking at each other. “Is this it? Are we going to the hospital?” At this point we worried that, because of how short my labor was with Zandros, I might go really quickly and we had a 35 min ride to the hospital. “NO! I’M NEVER GOING INTO LABOR EVER!” I was feeling frustrated and huge and ready to be myself again and not insanely large, and ready to meet these little babies! We went home and crawled into bed. I began to find myself still asleep rocking on my hands and knees. I would slightly wake up, pee for the millionth time, drink another 3 glasses of water because I was so insanely thirsty and crawl back into my huge pile of pillows. Again, I’d wake up rocking back and forth. After a few times I thought woah, I’m contracting (nothing new for me at this point) so I hopped into the shower thinking the shower would calm the contractions and I could go back to sleep. It was about 4 am at this point.
The shower didn’t calm them. Nothing did. I put mascara & jewelry on, thinking if I get ready, earrings and all, there is NO way I’ll go into labor. I continued rocking on my hand and knees, and getting ready until 6am when I woke Alex up. “We gotta go” I told him. Z woke up and asked why we were up so early. I told him the babies were coming! He looked at me completely unimpressed and said “are you kidding me? That’s why you got me up?”. He always knows how to make me laugh. I called my midwife to let her know we were coming in. Called my mom to come stay with Z. Texted everyone I wanted there to let them know things were finally happening.
When I went into labor with Zandros, when labor starting picking up I had the birth tub there, I had my bed, my bathroom, my birth ball all in my house. This time we were in the car and I was contracting every 3 minutes. It was lame. I’ve never wanted to get out of a car so badly in my life. When we finally got there, we were walking in talking about the rooms. I mentioned that I had been promised a birthing tub to labor in and some receptionist chimed in with ” You cant have a water birth room with twins”. Word to the wise: Don’t tell a laboring twin mama she CAN’T have what she wants. I may have not so nicely snapped at her…but I got my water birth room! At this point it was 7am and I was 6cm.
They wanted to do a quick 10 minutes of fetal monitoring to make sure everything looked good. “Quick” 10 minutes is relative when you’re contracting. I told them I’d sign whatever waivers they needed me to sign but I did NOT want to be hooked up to that machine. We could do heart rate checks with the doppler, and the fetal monitoring every once in a while but not the whole time. They filled the tub for me and I climbed in. The contractions were very intense at the peak but there seemed to be a lot of time in between still. Silence. Peace. Tranquility. I was so scared that they would start to pile one on top of another. With Z it felt totally different. Like he was erupting through the birth canal. This felt more serene. I also made a LOT of noise with Z, humming and rocking and moaning, and this time I could barely bring myself to whisper. “I’m so tired.” I kept saying and at one point I looked at Alex and said “I don’t want to do this anymore”. He looked at me with sad eyes and said “I don’t know what to tell you”. He is such a rock for me in labor. He is my words when I can’t form them when I don’t have the strength.
At 11:00AM my OB came and checked me and I was still 6cm. (I stalled at 6 with Z too) Not wanting to stay at 6 all day, we decided to break my water, as we had with Zandros. Things moved quickly. I didn’t feel like getting back in the tub and all that seemed to help was standing and pulling things. I was ripping the mattress off the bed. Alex gave me his arms but I swear I almost ripped his hands off. I started getting really frustrated and wanted to be alone. I do best in a quiet space, by myself, where I can go completely inwards and direct my breath into the pain. If I could I’d like to give birth in a field, completely alone. The thing about transition is you never know when it’s happening, but everyone around you does! I slammed the bathroom door and grabbed onto the sink. I turned the cool water on, grabbed the faucet knobs and pulled through the next few contractions. I have never experienced such an incredible moment in my life. Here I was in this cold, hard, porcelain sink but it didn’t feel that way at all. In my mind it was this beautiful tree woman. (I know how this sounds…. but seriously, it was insane) She was embracing me and I could feel her soft belly and bosom. I could feel her pulling me into her, letting me find comfort in her chest. Then I felt Solla’s head drop. It wasn’t painful at all like with Z, it felt familiar. My body began pushing and I swung the bathroom door open. “I’m pushing!” We had to move to another room since I wasn’t going to deliver in the tub. Everyone was very concerned with me walking through the hallway with just a bathing suit top on. Let me tell you, I could not have cared less. I shuffled out with everyone shielding me and trying not to drop down and give birth in the reception area.
Another contraction in the bathroom with my tree mama sink helping me out and I was ready. Alex had told them to make a bed on the floor for me (I am someone who needs to feel grounded when pushing. The thought of being up on a bed freaked me out beyond belief. I need to be on the ground.) Just in time I dropped to my hands and knees and Solla’s head popped out. No sharp tearing like with Z. Her head felt so tiny! I was seriously concerned she was going to be 3 lbs. The contractions calmed a bit and my body took a break, with Solla’s head hanging out just looking around at everyone. Another contraction came and my body squeezed her out. She was born at 11:53am weighing 6lb 13oz. I swung around to grab her and tried to bring her to my breast to nurse but her cord was too short. So I just cradled her on my lap saying “OMG WHY IS SHE SO LITTLE! SHE’S LIKE 3 LBS!” Everyone assured me I was insane and she was at least 6 lbs. She had this gorgeous head of hair and squishy little face. Then I started to feel another contraction coming. Terrified I would crush her with the pain, I asked them to cut her cord as it had just stopped pulsing and take her. Alex took his shirt off and snuggled her naked body on his chest while I delivered Winter.
I flipped back to my hands and knees and felt Winter slip out in one contraction, still in the caul. “STOP, wait! She’s in the caul! take a picture Courtney!” they were saying…my body wasn’t listening and she slipped all the way out at 11:59 weighing 6lb 12oz. They say that babies born in the caul are different, special. She really is. She KNOWS. She has been here before. Always watching. She had the most insanely dark almond shaped eyes and round little face. I flipped back to sit down and inspect her. The placentas came out easily with one push, and just like that we had our little girls.
I started hemorrhaging a bit, typical with twin births as my uterus was so stretched out. I nursed the babies in bed, snuggled them, sat in shock as my arms were filled with two new little beings, one who wore my face and one who wore Alex’s. Zandros came and met his sisters, slightly timid at the sight of two little babies nursing on HIS mookahs (what he called my breasts). Visitors came and went and I was still bleeding quite a bit. When I would sit up or move at all I would feel gushes of blood hit my feet. They gave me a shot of Pitocin in my leg, and some other pills to help stop the bleeding but nothing was working. I had some dinner plate size clots that were slightly concerning. My midwife came in and said “Listen, you willed all of this to happen. You wanted this perfect labor and birth, you got it. You wanted full term twins who looked nothing alike, you got it. WILL YOURSELF TO STOP BLEEDING.” so I did. AND I DID.
A few days later, very tired and weak and ready for my big bed so I could have a place to comfortably nurse the babies together and sleep together, we went home.
I have never felt as empowered as I have after I have given birth. To meet that dark place, that place of such physical agony, where you know you can’t escape the pain, you can’t escape your body and to persevere…to make it through that, to me, really illuminated my strength as a woman, as a mother. I needed to know going into motherhood how strong I really am.
Our family grew by two and it has changed us in immeasurable ways. This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least. It was terrifying and empowering and hysterical and lovely and amazingly enough, everyone was right- I don’t remember a thing!