Nikki S. shares the beautiful story of birthing her twins at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, New Zealand.
“Shortly after the birth of my second child, a few years before Madeline and Felix were conceived, I dreamed that I fell asleep pregnant and in a bathtub. In my dream I awoke to a gently rumping breech baby and I reached down and felt a chubby wee vulva. I was not frightened; this was the way things were meant to be. It was very vivid and the dream stayed with me.
When we conceived, I so strongly felt the presence of a wee woman in the room; I knew it was my breech girl. As soon as we confirmed the pregnancy she was named Madeline. We knew she was there, yet we felt inclined to choose a wee boy’s name, just in case. The topic of a twin pregnancy was never far from our discussion. I was strongly compelled to seek out a midwife who was not only supportive of home birthing a breech babe, but would also support a twin birth at home. When I met B I felt safe. We talked of many things birthy, including my inclination to stay home if there was a chance we would lose our baby.
In February 2012 I was halfway through my third pregnancy and eagerly gestating what I expected to be a wee woman. I had been sick, oh so sick. I had lost weight whilst my belly began to protrude well beyond the expected 20 week bump… So it was hardly unexpected, but still a shock, to see two white globes flickering on the screen in the sonographer’s office.
Twins. Our only girl and our last wee boy. Oh my, the rainbow of emotions that kept J and I tossing and turning that night. Shock, fear, anxiety, joy, anticipation, excitement!
Two weeks later, our joy was shattered. A follow-up scan announced that our wee man had some serious malformations. No arms. Missing fingers. Poor growth. Difficulty in obtaining adequate views of internal structures. We reeled.
I struggled to connect to the pregnancy. I felt I had been robbed. I had been given a ticket to a special ‘twin mumma club’ and then had it snatched away. I was so confused, stuck in a state of grief. Would our baby live? Would he stay? Would I ‘reject’ him? Was it right to grieve our ‘normal’ limbed child when we might lose him all together?
I was lost in a sea of anxiety, fear and so much sadness. So, so much sadness. The next months of my pregnancy were passed in specialist appointments, discussions on viability, inner battles regarding birthing choices and heroics, questions, anxiety, no answers and more questions. Eventually, I couldn’t cope with the medical world anymore and I called an end to the scans and medical discussions in order to focus on gestating and preparing for a gentle, welcoming home birth.
I was desperate to find a way to respectfully and acceptingly say goodbye if that was where our journey led. Throughout all of this I never lost the sense that our wee girl was going to lead the way into this world and that I needed to somehow create a safe space for her to do so without interference.
During the final weeks of my pregnancy I began to be plagued by focal migraines. I would see swimming lights and lose my vision. I struggled with mobility and had regular tightenings and began to lose faith in my body and its ability to carry my babies. At 35 weeks I went for a scan to ascertain position. It was as I had expected: our wee girl was leading the way, sitting cross-legged in my pelvis. Her brother was sitting curled above her.
We tried many techniques to encourage the babies to turn. Acupuncture was the last straw for me. It felt so wrong. I knew I had to accept and trust that my babies had chosen the right way to be born. A few days later we discovered that my platelet levels were abnormally low and we made the painful decision to let go of our home birth, accepting the path that was laid out for us.
At 36 weeks I packed my suitcase and sent my elder two children away. J and I knew that we wouldn’t be coming home without our babies. We made love in one final attempt to encourage our babies to choose their own birthdays. The next day we met with an obstetrician and made our birthing plan very clear. We weren’t going to consent to an operative delivery without a very compelling, immediately life threatening reason.
My platelets had continued to drop, my blood pressure was rising and I generally felt rubbish, so I was admitted to the maternity ward to await the induction I had insisted upon. If this was an emergency they would make good on their claim and hurry the process along. We waited three days.
During our three days of waiting we encountered a great deal of resistance. With the absolute support of my midwife and my partner by my side I was able to stay strong and continue to trust my intuition. I knew what the best choice was for my babies and me. I knew the risks of a vaginal birth, but I also knew the risks of having a section under general and I felt the stakes were much higher for us. I needed to be present, to be awake to meet my babies, and to say goodbye if need be.
Finally, at 36+6 we were moved to a delivery suite to have my waters broken. We joked around, there was laughter and joy. Finally we were going to meet our babies. I was not afraid or anxious. I was relived and so very ready.
We attempted to move the furniture and personalise the space a little, which the hospital staff found to be problematic. We sensed the little power struggles, the push to conform. I gave a little concession. I would save my energy for the things that mattered.
A registrar came in to break my waters. For this I was happy to allow foetal monitoring. The theatre next door was kept clear in case of cord prolapse and I jokingly gave my midwife permission to get elbow deep in my puss, if need be. The feeling of having my waters broken was most bizarre. I had never felt it before as both of my previous births had spontaneously ruptured with pushing. There was so much pressure and so much liquid and it just kept on flowing.
Madeline descended nicely down onto my cervix and all went well with the monitoring, so J and I decided to ditch the delivery suite and take the stairs to the hospital café (with the aid of some oh-so-sexy theatre undies and multiple maternity pads). The ache in my cervix was steadily growing as we waddled out into the corridors. I stopped frequently to contract and felt further gushes of amnion. My lovely B and her support midwife went off to find a cuppa and some lunch and would return if we needed them.
After a few flights of stairs it became clear that I needed to return to the birth space. We arrived back to find the delivery midwives gleefully setting about preparing the synto that I would ‘soon need if my contractions didn’t pick up within the next few hours’. I had several strong contractions that required concentration and gentle swaying, but the two midwives failed to bat an eyelid, carrying on with their all-important preparations.
Soon an anaesthetist came in to discuss the ins and outs of a general and what would happen if I needed a section. I struggled to focus on what they were saying. I tried my best to keep my labour under control so that I could get these discussions out of the way, but it was of little use. I didn’t take in most of the information. They hardly noticed me labouring and continued to talk throughout my contractions. Informed consent, indeed!
The delivery midwives soon insisted that I be hooked up for monitoring. I, feeling the rapid progress of my labour, refused to lie down and instead allowed them to place the monitors whilst I knelt beside the bed. It was agony. The midwives took little notice, continuing to take their notes and hook up their lines. I decided to retire to the shower as I was becoming desperately uncomfortable and was gaining little support from the delivery staff.
J, however, was easily tuning in with where I was ‘at’. He saw things ramping up and he held me close, reassuring me that we could do this. He ushered me off to the bathroom and then began his role, keeping the birth space. He pressed his nose against mine, focusing his energy. “Let’s rock and roll, babe, rock and roll.” We would do this together.
Soon B returned and I felt enveloped in love. Between she and J I felt safe and protected. I was able to hide away within myself and focus on my babies and my body. Everything kind of melts away at this point…
I remember wriggling my bum under the hot water.
I remember J and B taking turns to hold me, kiss me, and affirm my strength.
I remember disappearing into the land of the labourer.
No longer being frightened, or even concerned by what was happening outside my birth space.
And I remember J pressing his nose to mine, sharing his strength and trust; connecting to me and to our babies.
Nobody else entered that bathroom. It was private and safe and everything I had hoped that we could achieve within a hospital setting. Soon the contractions began to climb on top of each other and I was completely overwhelmed by the strength of the tightenings. There was so much pressure in my bum. I knew the babies weren’t far away. I began to get frustrated with any noise, touch or movement. Trying to listen in on the babies with the Doppler was shattering to my labour space. I was so relieved when B reassured me that all was fine and left me to my buzz.
Soon I began to wind up and start pushing at the end of my contractions. I attempted to fight the urge and grew louder with each wave. I was told that I had to move out of the bathroom, that it was too cold to birth in there. I didn’t process how close my babies were (apparently B reached down to find a rump) and suddenly felt that I couldn’t continue. I panicked at the strange faces, at the numerous voices I didn’t recognise. The doctor’s warnings rushed to the fore of my mind and I became frightened that it was too soon to push, that my baby’s head would become trapped.
I begged for gas as I tumbled onto the mattress placed on the floor beside the centre-stage delivery bed. I briefly noted the candles and the aromatherapy, that nobody could reach me tucked here between the bathroom door, the bed and my midwife. And then I began to ride the next wave. Gas was placed in my hand and I attempted to control the urge to push. I pushed the gas away and regained my orientation to find J’s face next to mine, his hands in mine and then the next wave was upon me.
I panicked; it was all too strong and too overwhelming. I desperately sucked on the gas to try and hide from the process, but it didn’t help. I heard my midwife’s voice cutting through, “We have a bum, a beautiful vulva, and a leg! And another!” I began to come back into myself. “A healthy cord, a chin!” Nobody touched me; there was silent awe in the room. And then I had to push, hard. I felt the burn for the longest moment and then suddenly, relief!
They passed my daughter between my legs and placed her on the bed for me to gaze at. She was tiny and chubby and beautiful. With slick black downy fuzz on her head and a squished-up wee nose. She had my chin and her daddy’s lashes. I tried to pull her to my bosom but her cord was too short, trapped behind her brother. Very quickly the contractions ramped up again and I was desperate to pull her up so that I could move. Her cord was cut and after the briefest of cuddles I bundled her to J so that I could concentrate on my next task.
The obstetrician requested I climb up onto the bed so that she could establish our second twin’s presentation. After some internal mucking around, a quick scan and more gas (breech contractions in lithotomy is possibly the most painful thing I have ever experienced) it was announced that our wee fella had turned cephalic. Easy peasy.
I demanded that the gas be taken away, as this time I wanted to feel everything clearly, and rolled back onto my hands and knees. I started to push half-heartedly. I was tired, and everything was sore. “My vulva hurts!” I complained. The waters had not yet gone and I began to wonder when they would be broken. J brought Madeline over for me to see. I drew in a deep breathe, bathing myself in her sweet new baby smell. The next contraction was strong. I wanted to hide from it. B insisted I smell my baby again. This time the contraction came and I knuckled in.
Goddess it hurt! I felt so much pressure and I was so very overwhelmed by it, but I knew it would not end unless I went with it. And I did. I pushed and pushed, waiting, expecting the burst and gush and sweet, sweet relief. Soon I felt the burn begin – he was coming. With such immense pressure I felt my vulva stretch, very rapidly, as my wee boy came down. I was surprised to find that there was no relief after the crowning, that I had to push very hard and felt a second burn. He too was breech! And then suddenly it was over.
I turned around to collect my wee angel, to finally meet the baby for whom I had been so scared. And after all of the worries, all of the fear, there he was; calling out his birth song: “I am here, I am fine!” He had been born bottom first, and his waters had never broken. We took this as a good omen and unwrapped him like the gift he was. The placentas followed directly behind him.
I fell in love. I held him to me desperately, worried that he would be taken from me. He looked so familiar and yet so different. His button nose, his flat, low set ears, his tiny wee face, the facial haemangioma. And yet it was his daddy’s face! Madeline was handed back to me. I had my sweet twins in my arms!
And then we realised that Felix was struggling, he wasn’t breathing right. My midwife gently coaxed him from my arms and he was taken to NICU for CPAP. J went with him, along with some pre-expressed milk. I soon got a report back to express more; my wee man was doing fine and hungry!
I passed the next three hours with my daughter in my arms, undergoing synto infusion for a slight bleed, eagerly awaiting the return of my men. We were all then reunited and sent to the ward for the rest of the night before going home the next day. Felix was fine, just a little shell shocked and wet from his rapid birth.
Their birth had taken four hours from waters broken to placentas. The pushing took less than five minutes for Madeline, less than one and a half minutes for Felix (this was gauged by the photo timing). There was approximately 20 mins between each baby. Madeline weighed six pounds, twelve ounces. Felix weighed in at five pounds, seven ounces. We spent the next ten days blissfully baby mooning with our two new babies. It was truly blessed and everything I had dreamed of.”