Radish is plantedThe story of Radish and Broccoli (later to be known as Josie and Ozzie) begins with round ligament pain. "Funny," I said to myself as I rolled out of bed and felt those familiar twinges, "That only happens when... Oh shi-." The cabinet had a pregnancy test. I took said pregnancy test and confirmed my suspicions; I was with child. I woke my husband up and we alternated giggles with swear words and kisses.
Getting pregnant was not in our plans at the time, and it took me a little while to get used to the idea of welcoming a third baby into our family. One of the immediate repercussions of pregnancy was that I weaned Ike; he was two years old and, having nursed Nora through my pregnancy with her brother, I was not about to go through that again. Since he was basically only nursing down to sleep, and not daily, at that, this transition was easy.
I was tired through the first trimester, as I normally am, and started feeling movement pretty early - around 11 weeks. Through our early prenatal appointments, with the same midwife who attended Ike's birth, it was noted that I was measuring a bit ahead and the baby seemed posterior, but that was not unlike my last pregnancy. The "t" word - "twins" - came up in the appointment we had before our scheduled ultrasound, and we talked about what would happen if I did have two babies dwelling in my uterus, but my midwife wasn't making any predictions.
After much consideration of in-utero names, we decided upon "Radish," for no other reason than it amused Matthew and I. At one point we took a prophetic photo at the Minnesota Children's Museum of my belly in front of radishes planted in Mr. McGregor's garden: TWO radishes, not just one.
RadishesWe ended up not having an ultrasound when I was pregnant with Ike mostly because there was nowhere to make that happen if we were outside of "the system." This time, though, we were able to go to an independent imaging outfit, and insurance even covered it in whole. We were at about the 25-week mark when we hauled our family in for a look at the baby. Almost immediately upon placing the wand on my belly, the tech said, "Are you aware that you're having twins?" I laughed like a crazy person off and on for the rest of the appointment, and hit a stunned-looking Matthew every once in awhile. The big kids didn't quite get the significance of the discovery, but the adults in the room were pretty excited (and the parents were a bit terrified).
I'm grateful that we live in a state where we don't have to circumvent the law to have a midwife attend a twin birth at home, though we needed to change our plans slightly and hire multiple midwives. My midwife pulled in her mentor (Jeanne), along with one of her apprentices (Amber), and we had a big team assembled for the twins' birth. We continued to have as many prenatal appointments as usual, but some of them took place at the second midwife's home office.
Funnily enough, this pregnancy was quite comfortable for me. My exhaustion, heartburn, hemorrhoids (what, didn't you hear that pregnancy is really, really sexy?), etc. were all not as bad as with my singletons. My blood pressure was awesome throughout the pregnancy, and I admired my lovely, non-swollen feet up until the last few days. The only point of anxiety was how Broccoli (named by Nora) was not as active as Radish and rather shy when we'd try to find his heartbeat, but both things could be explained by his position (breech and posterior) and demeanor (he's a laid-back dude).
"Harvest" nearsEven though my job is not physically taxing, the last few weeks were hard. I ended up working remotely rather than dragging my increasing girth to work on the bus and, by week 34, I took short-term disability leave. I nervously counted down the days until February 22, the "good to go" date for having a homebirth, then rejoiced when week 37 hit. At that point, my body decided to do a little preparation. Little bits of mucous plug (remember: sexy) started making their way out. I'd have regular contractions that weren't too intense but were definitely doing some sort of work, happening 7 to 8 minutes apart for an hour almost every night. All of this early labor kind of stunk, even if I knew it was laying the groundwork for a nice birth. I soldiered on. By which I mean I complained on Facebook a lot, made my husband get me ice cream, and sat with my feet up because moving around required my enormous belly to overcome the pull of gravity and gave me the sensation that babies were going to fall right out of my pelvis.
And when I say "enormous belly," I do mean enormous. My fundal height was "full term" at 28 weeks. I hit 60 cm at my last prenatal appointment, two days before my water broke at 39 weeks gestation.
I still haven't gotten my hamburgerThe scene: A ridiculously warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in March. The big kids had just been whisked away to their grandparents' and my husband was pulling down Christmas lights in a timely manner. After spending the morning on the couch, nursing a bad cold, I stood outside in my bare feet, sunning my belly and talking to the babies. Matthew and I decided to get a hamburger, and I was wrestling with whether or not we should do an enormous grocery run and try to cook some food for our freezer. I had this urge! But I was in such pain I doubted I could get groceries! But we were not ready until we had food prepared! I was going to reassess after our late lunch.
Halfway to Culver's, at around 3 p.m., I felt a big "twang" in my belly. We hypothesized that a baby was pulling its umbilical cord tight and strumming it, which cheered Matthew, as we need a bass player for our family band. I said that I wouldn't be surprised if that was my water breaking, but wasn't going to shift around to find out, and we should continue on to our hamburger. A minute later I felt a contraction, which huuuuuurt, and I begged Matthew to turn around the car and head home. We were bad citizens of the road and Matthew called Vanessa and Laura (a friend of mine who was going to observe and take pictures). I sent some texts in between contractions. And I talked about how I still wanted a hamburger (emotional signpost: If you can talk about hamburgers longingly while you are having contractions, it's still early in your labor yet).
When we got home I gingerly got up from the seat of our new van, in hopes of preserving its upholstery and dignity. I succeeded, and the gush hit the ground (and my legs and sandals). I hobbled into the house, stripped off my clothes, asked for water and the necklace put together at my blessingway, and got into the waiting birth tub. Vanessa arrived minutes later, as she was very nearby when we'd called. I asked her if the amniotic fluid was a good color (it was) and told her the hamburger story as I weathered some contractions, which were much gentler in the water.
The other two midwives arrived not much later, but things were already pretty serious. I was hanging on the edge of the tub, in my own birthing world. I ended up finding a break where I could be pleasant and greeted them, and then it was back to work. Laura arrived at some point, but I didn't notice her until she had settled in. I was surrounded by people, but, thankfully, I didn't care, because I also wouldn't have had the wits to put together a coherent request for them to get the heck out. Vanessa occasionally asked if she could listen to the babies with a doppler, and asked if she could pour water on my back. I consented, and didn't actually like the sensation of water being poured on my back, but, at the same time, it seemed to draw contractions out of my body, and since I was already eager to be finished, I was happy to have the help.
I won't lie, being in labor hurts (for most women). It certainly hurts me, and my mental monologue included wishes that I had taken a Hypnobabies course from a friend of mine (Lindsay at Elleos Birth), but since I'm hearing impaired I'm not sure it would have even worked. I thought of her peacefully birthing moms with a bit of envy, though. I wasn't peaceful, but I am happy to report that I swore a lot less this time than I did when Ike was born. I am growing as a person. There was a lot of "This hurts!" "I don't want to do this anymore!" "Why does it have to hurt so much?!" and "OH GOD."
But it is still a beautiful thing to give birth, especially the sort of hands-off birth my midwives gave me. I have no idea what my dilation was at any point, because I wasn't checked. My body plunged into active labor and followed its own blueprint. At some point, I started pushing, though it wasn't really me consciously pushing. At 4:33 p.m., Josie was born into her daddy's hands, possibly with her hand by her face, which would account for how damn much it hurt to get her out of my body. I flipped over so I could sit up, held her as close to me as her short cord would allow, and marveled at how much vernix covered her body and how very fat she was.
It wasn't long after she was born that I felt more contractions, and lamented having to do it all again. Josie was handed off to her father to be cooed over while Vanessa gave me encouragement and shined a flashlight into the pool to keep an eye on things. I was repeating to myself that the second twin is easier, and at some point, I felt the urge to push again. I was a lot calmer while Ozzie made his way out, both feet first, 29 minutes after his sister. And, it was true, the second twin was easier. Ozzie was a bit floppy and not willing to make noise, so the midwives worked on him while he was on my chest and I sat there looking a bit scared. It became evident at some point that he was a-okay and just unwilling to make a squawk (he still takes his time getting mad and does not have the vocal projection that his sister does).
But then, it was placentas time. I dislike pushing out placentas. I disliked this part even more than pushing out babies, and that might have shown in how long it took me - 1 1/2 hours after the birth of each baby for the associated placenta. The contractions were uncomfortable and weird; it felt like my entire torso, with this floppy, awkward uterus, was involved. I was scared to push still more out of me. Eventually, Josie's arrived, and Vanessa suggested I get up out of the tub. She and Jeanne supported me as I gradually made my way out; my legs were very weak. Once out, they held onto me and directed me to the plastic-and-chux-pad-covered futon nearby. I fainted on-route, which was pretty cool, and after getting settled and being fed a spoonful of honey followed by shepherd's purse tea and finally getting little Josie on the breast (she took it eagerly and expertly), I felt crampy and Ozzie's placenta slipped out after a few gentle pushes.
I didn't cough once while in labor, but it picked back up afterward. Coughing with no abdominal muscles while holding onto two just-born babies is not fun.
13 days laterI am typing this covered in babies. Thanks to a giant My Brest Friend Twins Plus pillow, I can plop two babies on my chest, prop up a netbook and my elbows, and type away.
Recovering from having twins was harder than I expected, though why I expected it to be easy I cannot tell you. It took several days before I could walk around without feeling as if my lungs were being crushed by my ribs, which were moving back into place. My pelvis is just now beginning to feel intact and somewhat more stable (i.e., I can move my legs apart without it seeming like my pelvis is splitting in half). My legs are getting stronger; apparently hauling around a huge stomach does not keep your muscles in shape like proper exercise might do. My nipples feel lovely, thankyouverymuch, after about a week of toe-curling soreness from so much use by two babies who are learning to nurse (and their mom who is learning to juggle them).
Awesomer babies could not have been asked for. They usually sleep and nurse at the same time (so far). They eat well, and are growing fat. Their older siblings love them, with Ike delivering kisses on a regular basis along with dangerous levels of toddler enthusiasm ("Do not crush the babies" is said often). I have not gone bonkers caring for two babies yet, but credit for that goes to my husband and the wonderful helpers we have had, who have fed us, cleaned up accumulating messes, held babies at times, and entertained the big kids.
Let this story be put out there as another voice of hope for twin moms out there who don't wish to be treated as high-risk simply because of the number of babies they're carrying and who may desire to give birth in a way different from what doctors have decided is best. Here's one more story about twins being carried to term, choosing their own birthday, being born vaginally even with one twin breech (and at home, even!), without a hospital stay away from their parents, and successfully breastfeeding.