Argh, I hate pumping. But here I am once again, pumping milk because… can’t bring the babies to my office.
So, where was I in the birth saga? Oh right, at 35 weeks. Well, after a hospital stay for no reason, I went back to work on Tuesday, and tried to resume Life as Usual. But I kept having contractions and getting even more pregnant, so every day it was even less fun to try to sit at a desk than the day before (except that one day with the full body relentless itching. That day was a special hell.) A few days later, my OB reported that I hadn’t dilated any further, and asked me to consider induction at 37 weeks.
M and I really wrestled with this one. Induction didn’t seem necessary at all. But doctors tend to intervene with twins at 38 weeks anyway, and I was so uncomfortable by then that I could not think straight. I put off answering the doctor for a while. And then I finally conceded. Friday, February 12 we’d induce. Turns out, the doc just sorta threw that suggestion out there for fun, because he in no way expected me to hold out that long.
Also, he had a vacation planned starting February 13, and wanted to pull out the twins before that. Not my favorite reason for getting pitocin. So, M and I were expected to be at the hospital by 5AM on Friday, but the hospital told us not to leave to come in until we got a call.
Waiting For a Room
M and I busied ourselves that morning by driving to get breakfast sandwiches, waiting outside the drive through until it opened. By 7, no call had yet come, so we called them.
Turns out most of the women in Harris County had descended on the hospital Thursday night, and there was no room at the inn. We were put in line to wait for a room along with the other potential inductions. And we waited. All day… we waited. Finally we set up the Scrabble set to try to distract ourselves, and the phone rang. 13 hours after our original appointment it was finally go time.
Alas for me, my OB had finished his shift and was officially on vacation. And my doula had been available that morning, but not overnight. Suddenly there wasn’t really any reason to induce me, but between the nervous anticipation of the 35 weeks’ hospital stay and our Friday wait, we couldn’t psychologically handle the idea of turning around and going home again.
I was started on such a small amount of pitocin that nothing really happened. It turned out that the hospital staff was basically trying to hold back any progress until the morning shift came back on duty. So began the overnight torture with baby monitors– the same problems as the last time. 2 IVs in my hands, one pulse monitor, and two non-wireless baby monitors. Those stupid things pinched and poked and slid around. And every two minutes or less a nurse would come in to fiddle with them in the hopes that they’d stay on. But they didn’t, and I crankily looked through lowered eyelids at the girls who were tugging and pressing and leaving welts all over my abdomen.
When it became clear that this was going to be a slow delivery, M ducked out to go get us some Chipotle. I wasn’t supposed to be eating anything, of course, so we began this ridiculous ritual of pretending my burrito was his every time someone walked in. Except, I would be chewing and dropping beans down my “pretty pushers” gown (I loved that thing because it covered my butt. Just saying.)
M and I tried to continue our Scrabble game, and at first I was kicking his ass, but with every interruption to wrangle my monitors, and every uptake in the pitocin, I got a bit worse at it. I eventually stalled on the longest turn ever, which was me sitting in front of the same letters for an hour, trying to remember English.
L, the doula-in-training arrived.. My actual doula never did show up to any of my birthing scenes. L, M, and I were like: “Here we go again…” Mostly we were hoping not to sit around all night trying to entertain each other. Alas.
This time I was given even less freedom than during the 35-week scare. I was told sternly not to take the monitors off, and therefore could not walk far or get into the tub. I could stand next to my bed rocking back and forth.
I don’t remember if anyone else slept. I know I didn’t. I remember turning the nature channel on the in-room TV. ( It was basically a slow-mo video with new age music playing over it. ) And all the beeping of monitors, and watching the heart rates and unimpressive contractions. I just remembered that I turned on the Republican Debates for a while, because I thought the intellectual pain would distract from my physical ouchies.
Pro tip: Never look at Donald Trump or Ted Cruz while in labor.
The Action Begins
At 6AM some nurses with a slightly better monitor-placement-technique arrived. And then they cranked my pitocin, and the party really got started. I was breathing through the contractions easily for a while, pacing around as I did. But then they told me they wanted to break my water, so I hopped back up on the table (Haha.. hopped. I had around 13 lbs of baby in me, 2 placentas, and two bags of water… I hadn’t hopped in months.)
I actually kind of thought the water being broken felt good- it was like a warm bowl of water being poured on my legs. But then shit got really real- so much pitocin, and so much #**(*#$w8#$%#% pain. I think I was finally fully dilated? M can perhaps correct me on the sequence of events.
At first I was like: “clearly I can do this, because I am a badass.” But the pain rapidly began ramping up. I tried yoga breathing, and all of the relaxation techniques I hadn’t learned in the childbirthing classes I hadn’t taken.
Pitocin contractions are kind of … something else, and I was miserably covered in monitors and IV lines already. I remember the pain being so intense that after initially thinking I could “mind over matter” anything, I got to a place where I could not handle it. I had been told that I really needed to get an epidural, because the likelihood of C-section delivery is so high with twins, and at that moment I was like “okay, I am more than ready to cave. Bring on the giant spine needle”.
I actually don’t really remember the interval of time between then and when the anesthesiologist arrived. I do remember thinking I was going to black out from the pain, and I do remember he had the same name as one of the twins. Martin had to leave, because apparently husbands have fainted watching this procedure happen, and if anyone startles the anesthesiologist while he inserts the needle, I might not have working legs anymore.
So, a nurse and I sat on the bed and I let them numb my back, then did my best to answer questions about whether I could feel anything (I can’t ##(*(# tell! My whole body feels like it’s being ripped in two right now, sir!) I moaned and whimpered, and slumped over as he worked his magic. And gradually, gradually the pain let up and my cognitive function returned to me.
I actually felt good enough to play Scrabble again.
Time to Push
Alas, I needed to be pushing. M. came back in to cheer me on, and “not my doctor” and a nurse came to hold my legs. Most of you ladies know the drill… breathing and pushing, breathing and pushing. F’s head was poking down, so they got a scalp monitor on him. But unfortunately, I didn’t manage to push out any babies despite my efforts. Narrow pelvis and all. I did feel like I almost caused a vein to burst in my temples though.
The doc said that because C2 was expected to be enormous, that if I did manage to get F out, I’d still probably wind up in a C-section. Worst of both worlds, basically. M and I had everyone leave the room so we could deliberate.
We decided to stop pushing.
Maybe if the babies had been ready to come out on their own and hadn’t been induced, it could have been avoided. Who knows.
There were so many C-sections happening that night (Mmmm hmmm ….) that because we weren’t an emergency, we had to wait. So we did, chatting and watching the television and marveling over the magic of epidurals.
Somewhere in here, M’s brother showed up with some chicken sandwiches and fries. We basically were like “L’s about to go into the operating room. Can’t talk now. Love you!”
It turned out I had to start out in the OR by myself. M couldn’t be there while they got set up, for some reason. As I was wheeled away from him on my bed, I wanted so badly to reach out to him. I wanted his hand in mine. I didn’t want to be taken away all by myself.
The OR was the brightest room I’ve ever been in, but for some reason I was intensely drowsy. What had I been given? I kept closing my eyes, then opening them to strain and try to see M. Another anesthesiologist began working on ensuring that my entire abdomen was numb. And the requisite large curtain was placed just below my chest.
Poke poke. “Can you feel that?” “Okay, tell me when you can feel me touching your torso.” He gave me a shot in my right arm, and then my left. I still don’t know what those things were. It’s possible he explained them while I floated in and out of drowsiness. I listened to the nurses and doctors talk about their Valentines Day date plans (it was late Feb. 13th).
Finally M appeared- from my perspective, seemingly out of nowhere. He was next to me, holding my hand. I squeezed it as hard as I could, so the doctors couldn’t take him away again. Then everything gets a bit blurry. I remember feeling something under my tongue all of a sudden, and being told not to swallow it. Then I swallowed it. M says it was some sort of medication that gives you short term memory loss. (What??) I promptly began throwing up. Then the violent shaking started. I couldn’t keep that under control, and understand that it was a kind of hormonal shock.
Someone showed me one of the babies- F, I guess? Then he was whisked away. Another baby was shown to me… little baby C2. Nurses were huddling all around them, and I was too out of it to know if that was a bad thing. Someone told me they were both in great shape, and then I don’t really recall how I got to the recovery room. And how it was almost midnight.
M passed out on the cot next to me, completely exhausted. But now I was awake because I couldn’t control the shaking, and I was the thirstiest I’d ever been in my life. Maybe due to blood loss? But I didn’t know then what I know now- that I’d been hemorrhaging in the OR. And the docs had to take my uterus out of my body, dump me sideways to get all the fluid inside me out, and then patch up the ol’ uterus.
Oh, and stitch me up.
I wasn’t allowed to have anything to drink, because I could do serious damage to myself if I coughed, sneezed, choked, or threw up. But after pleading with the nurse for an hour, she finally let me have some ice chips. I sat there for hours on my cot, sucking on one ice cube after another and wondering how I could get the fountain drink in M’s bag over to me to drink from. If I could have reached it, I’d have downed the whole thing. I was desperate and obsessed. The nurse would poke her head in and ask if I needed anything. I repeated the same refrain:
“Can I have water?”
“Can I have ice?”
I was sure the babies were just being examined, and that they’d be out of the doctors’ clutches and in my arms in no time.
We were waiting for a hospital room, the room I’d be camped out in for the next four days while I recovered. But the hospital was so crowded full of women popping out babies (or having them surgically removed), that we waited in recovery for hours, until a room could be found. The benefit of the overcrowding was that I landed the extra-pricey recovery suite that the hospital shows off on tours. And I didn’t have to pay extra! There was a whole sitting area with a sofa and television– ideal for those times when visitors wanted to pop by, but I was sleeping.
I was completely beside myself with exhaustion now, but still too thirsty and twitchy to sleep. I actually don’t remember anything before getting to have that first cup of water, so urgent was my desire to drink. It was then that I learned that the twins were in the NICU, but not with any major problems. F was 6 lbs 1 oz, and C2 was 6 lbs 13 oz (not the behemoth he was expected to be). C2 was just having issues with reflux and losing oxygen saturation in his blood when he tried to eat. F was having blood sugar issues.
I still hadn’t really seen them. But after downing cup after cup of water, I was determined to go. Except I finally passed out- fell asleep would be understating it.
I woke up in a lot of pain, with a nurse feeding me pills. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t roll over. A lactation consultant was there, encouraging me to try out the breast pump and get some colostrum for the twins. We hooked it up… and… I felt like the world’s best mama, because that stuff started coming out in full force (by colostrum standards, that is). Everyone praised me, as though I had done it on purpose. I think that was the last time I was a gold star milk cow. At least during that early period I was still able to maintain my fantasy that I’d feed the babies solely by tandem breast feeding them- and love it. (Snort.)
M went down to the NICU to visit the twins a couple of times before I made it down there. I was so excited, but it was a production to get me out of that bed. Rolling out of it didn’t really work, and trying to pull me up was excruciating. I couldn’t walk, so we needed to somehow pour me into a wheelchair. Every move I made seemed to engage my ab muscles, and caused me to grit my teeth in pain- and that was with plenty of Vicodin (I know so little about drugs that it wasn’t until about a month later that I realized Hydrocodone was the generic name for Vicodin. But I digress.)
The twins actually had their own room, which was lovely (I mean, for a NICU situation). I can still hear the sounds of the monitors in my ears if I think about it, and the feeling of standing by their isolette watching their little chests rise and fall. I remember nursing Freddie for the first time, and honestly, I’ve been lucky with the twins because they both generally latch on effortlessly and well. I’ve been unlucky that their birth coincided with a stressful life period (maybe more about that later, if I can figure out how to talk about it) and that it affected my milk supply.
I got pretty engorged during that time in the hospital because of my inability to make it down to nurse as much as I wanted… the lactation consultants were very proactive at Texas Children’s though… although I could have done without one of them hand-milking me for an hour that one time. I haven’t hand expressed milk but one time since then- with twins there’s usually not an oversupply, so the one time was when I’d had a bunch of “I’m stressed out” wine and forgot to bring the infernal pump home from work.
Anyway, this is getting long and rambly now so I’ll end it. Twins came home after 6 (F) and 7 (C2) days in the NICU, and we’ve been home living our chaotic and constipated lives since then. Oh, yeah, and I forgot how to pee after the C-section, but that’s another story.