I was hesitant about writing this – and even more so about sharing it. There is so much made of having a positive birth, of the ‘Golden Hour’, of colostrum and birth plans, pain-free/pain-less births, transformative births… that the idea of sharing something less than perfect is really quite intimidating. However, I’ve always found that writing down things like this can be quite cathartic so, I have.
And I think, at nearly four months postpartum, I’m finally ready to share it and, hopefully, open a discussion about less than perfect birth stories.
My twins were due on July 16, but we always knew they would come earlier than that. We were told early on that since they were “the good type of twins” (they meant DCDA or dichorionic diamniotic) and that I would be induced between 37-38 weeks. DCDA meant each baby had their own separate placenta with its own separate inner membrane and outer membrane. By “good type” they meant “low risk” – all multiple pregnancies are, by nature, high risk, but I was carrying the lowest risk type of multiples.
But, by 29 weeks we had our first “reduced fetal movement” episode, which ended up with an overnight stay in hospital on the delivery suite when they were convinced I might go into early labour. I was having contractions and didn’t realise it – constantly. So much for Braxton Hicks. I ended up being given two rounds of steroids to boost their lungs and when I clearly wasn’t going into labour, sent home.
After that, I had several more bouts of reduced fetal movements – I had two anterior placentas, so I tended to wait closer to 8 hours before worrying, and was constantly told off – however, I knew what ‘normal’ was for my babies, and I stuck to it, otherwise, we’d have been in and out every other day!
The next five weeks were… insane. To give you a brief overview:
- We moved house.
- We cleaned our previous rental inside out.
- We weeded our previous rental.
- We built (seemly) endless amounts of flat pack furniture.
- Because we moved, my commuting time went up – as did the walking distance, and it now included over a mile worth of walking and quite a long bus journey.
- We went to London for a weekend
- We had guests over to stay.
I was exhausted by the end of each and every day, but I also had pregnancy-induced insomnia, and the constant need to pee caused by T1 really liking to use my bladder as a pillow, or punching bag (I was never quite sure which). My legs and feet were swollen from the middle of my shin down – I had to buy some cheap shoes 3-4 sizes bigger than those I normally wore! My bump was so big that even maternity clothes were getting tight around the middle
During this time I had more visits for reduced movement, and many, many more hospital appointments: I had to re-book into a new hospital after moving quite far from my previous hospital, and T2s growth, which had never been great, was finally deemed to be reaching a cutoff. I tended to have one or two appointments per week by the end (and thankfully, a very understanding boss).
Because of T2s growth, at 34 weeks, I was told I’d actually be induced at 37 because they just had no idea why she was growing so slowly.
Cue: fear. Despite always knowing I was likely to be induced I’d always assumed that I wouldn’t? I know, that doesn’t make sense. My OH was similarly confused by my shock. I’d always assumed that I’d somehow go into spontaneous labour at around 38 weeks because that’s what I wanted to do!
My brain became a mushy cycle of wanting T2 to arrive safe and sound, but not wanting to be induced.
I Googled induced labour far more than I should have done and got myself into a right state, but, I had my date (25th June), and I had my hospital bag packed.
The best-laid plans: 9th June
Having been on maternity leave for a grand total of two days, which I spent getting our house sorted, we planned to spend our Saturday (and my third day of leave):
- Finishing the nursery
- Deciding on baby names
- Going on a date to see Deadpool 2 and grab some dinner
Spoiler alert: we’ve only just seen Deadpool 2 – nearly four months later.
T1 had other ideas, apparently. At 34 weeks and 5 days, my waters broke. And you know how they say that it hardly ever happens like in the movies and on TV? When they just break and they’re like “OMG”…
Yeah, that was me. I’d eaten a bowl of porridge, stood up and WHAM. Lots of something warm and wet down my PJs.
To be brutally honest, I assumed I’d wet myself. And that it was just the latest indignity I had to suffer as a heavily pregnant woman! However, there was a niggling doubt, and I decided to have a lie down to see if anything else happened. A half hour later, and I was probably 75% sure that it was my waters. However, everything I’d read said that first labours take absolutely ages – my contractions hadn’t started, so I saw no rush. I gave the local triage unit a call, and they agreed with my assessment. No massive rush, but to come in soon and they’d check to see if it was water or wee.
I took my time. My husband finished his breakfast and took a shower. I took a shower, made sure my hospital bag was ready. An hour after my waters broke, my contractions showed themselves in the form of a backache and I decided we should probably get on our way.
By the time we arrived at the local triage unit, I was in quite a bit of pain. Parking was, of course, scarce, so my husband dropped me off at the doors and I made myself walk to the reception with minimal fuss – I really didn’t want to cause a ruckus if it was just wee! The niggling doubt in myself remained.
I checked in and was told to wait. So I did. The pain ratcheted up a notch. My husband joined me from wherever he’d parked the car – I didn’t ask since, at this point, I didn’t care. We were sat in the waiting room and I remember thinking, I don’t want to be here. The lights were bright, there were (obviously) a lot of strangers around, and I was starting to get a bit frightened.
We had our first assessment, which I don’t really remember, but I do know that we were sent back out into the waiting room to wait some more.
The pain was getting worse and I sort of wanted to cry… So, I went and hid in the toilet. Naturally.
It sounds odd, I’m sure – but I just wanted to be on my own. I know I’m not a nice person when I’m in pain, and I wanted to hide away. I was frightened. And I didn’t want to take that fear out on my husband. I felt like I was in there somewhere between 10 minutes and 10 hours – but I was reliably told afterwards it was about 45 minutes. By this point, standing, walking, hell everything, was getting just a bit much. I didn’t know how to get rid of the pain – but found that getting my husband to rub my lower back helped so I demanded quite forcefully that he not. Bloody. Stop.
I was finally assessed properly. Unfortunately, that meant laying on my back, which at this point was unbearable, They tried to wait until ‘the pain stopped’ but the pain was repetitive, and there wasn’t much of a break in-between. Yup: contractions.
My cervix was checked (lovely experience when you’re in a lot of pain… not)…. and I was told that I wasn’t dilated at all. Zero centimetres.
I was crushed. And terrified. If the pain was this bad and it was all for nought, how on earth would I birth two babies? I wanted to cry, but everything hurt too much to be honest, so I didn’t. I just focussed on getting through the next wave and not screaming at anyone for existing.
We were left then, I think probably for no more than half an hour. The doctor returned with someone else and I had to go through another cervix check on my back. This time the answer was completely different: I was fully dilated, and she was touching the babies head. A bit of a WTF moment all around, and then I was finally offered gas and air. I love gas and air. There, I said it. There was a lot of commotion, and I was shifted onto a new bed and quickly wheeled to delivery.
I distinctly remember asking if I had to walk there, and was pretty relieved when they said no! The midwife I asked laughed when I asked. Once we were in a delivery room, things moved even faster. There were lots of people – including multiple doctors, multiple midwives, a neonatal team, baby incubators… Yeah. Lots of activity. I was just happy with my gas and air, being able to see where Adam was, and a midwife telling me I was doing grand. After not that long I felt the need to push, so I told the team and they told me to go right ahead, but that they were going to use a ventouse on T1 because they couldn’t find his heartbeat consistently – he was so low at that point – but he’d “probably been there a while” and were worried he’d be in distress.
For the record, ventouse hurts! The doctor sort of wiggled it ‘in’ and ‘on’ and well didn’t I know about it! But its nothing to panic about, because hello gas and air and then you’re pushing a baby’s head out of your vagina which hurts much more. I remember saying “It really hurts!” but other than that, didn’t scream, shout or curse anyone out of the room. I was quite shocked at myself.
Within minutes I was holding a well-bundled little boy with big, dark eyes looking calmly up at me like “Whut? Why all the fuss?”
No skin to skin for me.
We got to hold Boy Twin (as he was known for a while) for nearly 10 minutes, a little bit in awe. I was asked if he had a hat and sort of bemusedly responded yes, but it was in the car along with all my other labour stuff – I’d just bought in my handbag since I assumed it’d be hours before anything happened.
Then it was time for T2 to make an entrance. There was a midwife holding my belly through all this, to keep T2 from shifting again – she’d gone from transverse to breach during T1’s delivery and they were happy with that. The doctor showed me T2’s feet – that was bizarre. I touched her tiny toes! Before she was born! And then… time to push again. She was smaller, and I’d literally just given birth so I felt it didn’t hurt as much, but it could have been the shock starting to set in. So, eleven minutes after Boy Twin entered the world, Girl Twin followed suit and there she was, on my chest too, completely wrapped up in a giant blanket. Part of my brain, at this point, is going what about skin to skin and what about this golden hour? But it wasn’t really an option: they needed to be checked by the neonatal team and taken away, so we got 10 minutes together, a few photos, and they were gone. I felt all empty and yet baby-less, which was a very odd feeling.
After that, stuff went downhill and I didn’t get to really think about much. I got myself a fever that peaked at over 40 degrees Centigrade, lost nearly 2.5 litres of blood, and my body shook like you would not believe. They couldn’t even take my blood pressure because I couldn’t hold still. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, with many, many drips; oxygen through a mask, then a nose thing; and being asked questions by various doctors when I could barely remember my own name.
My OH had gone home for some much-needed rest, having been back and forth between the NICU and my room since the twins had been born. I was starting to string sentences together again.
I was told my babies needed food and couldn’t wait for me to recover any longer: it was a bit gutting, really. At 34 weeks, I hadn’t been allowed to start expressing colostrum yet since it can induce early labour. Due to being “very sick” as the midwives called it, I hadn’t been able to express any after the labour either – at about midnight, nearly 12 hours after giving birth, I managed to eat half a 9bar and to be helped to a chair next to the bed and tried my best to express something, anything and managed 1ml in about an hour. It wasn’t enough.
So: my babies were given formula. Shock, horror. I let the midwife pick since I hadn’t researched it at all, having planned to breastfeed. She said Aptamil, but since they were all the same, it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that they were fed.
I finally fell asleep at about 2 am, but at 4 am was woken up and moved from the High Dependency Unit to a ward – hurrah for no longer being classed as a high dependency patient!
And that’s that.
Four days after being admitted, I was discharged. Eight days later, we took T2 home and eleven days after he was born, T1 came home too. We had no ‘golden hour’, no first breastfeed straight after the birth, no skin to skin for nearly a week, they were on formula for three days, they were on bottles for over five weeks… At one point, because they wanted to transfer the babies to a nearer hospital, I had two babies in two different hospitals for nearly 24 hours.
So, overall pretty far from the ‘perfect’ picture that many people paint of births and the early days as possible.
But, nearly four months later, the babies are thriving. They’re breastfed and have a bottle a day with daddy too. They laugh and smile like other babies. T1 loves being naked, T2 loves to have a little howling sing-song when she’s happy. My iron levels are back up to a normal number after a tidy plummet along with my blood count (hah).
What I’m trying to say
I think, what I’m getting at, is that you don’t need to have a “perfect” birth for things to turn out alright. My experience was by no means the worst that anyone has gone through, by any means – but it’s what I went through. And I felt that I needed to share it because even with a relatively traumatic post-birth scenario, time in the NICU and a struggle to teach them to latch… my twins are happy, healthy, screamy little charmers that smile when they wake up and coo when they’re happy. They scream when they want something and poop as they please.