If you’ve been following along on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll know that the Cub Twins made their appearance in the early morning hours of March 14th. They were born at a gestational age of 36 weeks and 3 days. As I write, they are being cared for by the amazing NICU staff at our local hospital. In all, I was apart from them for five days fighting off a mild (but still dangerous to preemies) cold.
There’s no way I could have written my birth story on day 1 of our separation, but now that I know they’ll be back in my arms sooner rather than later, I have come to think of this as simply an extension of my pregnancy. I was impatiently and uncomfortably carrying them for the past few weeks, and now they’re just finishing cooking outside of my body. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s heartbreaking to be away from them … but I’m just trying to be pragmatic!)
After being admitted twice to Labour & Delivery (L&D) for what turned out to be false alarms, I was somewhat reluctant to make the call to go in this third time when my contractions seemed to be increasing and seemed to be regular. But I also felt like maybe I was leaking amniotic fluid. With my mom staying at our place and the hospital so close by, I eventually decided to head in once the kids were in bed. I knew from my last false alarm that I was at least 4 cm dilated. I was really hoping that the third time checking in to L&D would be the last, and so was Papa Wolf!
We went through the now very familiar routine of hooking me up to monitors to track contractions and both babies’ hearts and movements. Although I had been unable to eat at home, I was finally hungry, so my husband fed me the pizza we’d brought while I clicked the clicker to indicate fetal movement with one hand and held one of the finicky monitors on my belly with the other hand. I talked to the nurse, the resident and finally the on-call OB. I might not believe in love at first sight, but I guess I now believe it is possible to know you’ve met your OB-soulmate within minutes of her entering your examination room. Dr. W was as excited about me going into labour with twins as I was, which is to say, VERY excited. I’m pretty sure her exact words were: “I’d love to deliver your twins tonight.”
I was pretty disappointed to learn that despite the forceful contractions I’d been experiencing all day, I was still only 4 cm dilated. I was almost completely effaced and as with my previous exams, Twin A’s head got a little tickle, so I knew he was nice and low. A bedside ultrasound also showed that Twin B, who spent the entire pregnancy in every possible position except head down, was actually head down too. Dr. W pondered aloud if she ought to just break my water, so I suggested stripping my membranes first to see if that would really get things going. I knew I was going to be induced in the near future anyway and was happy with surpassing 36 weeks with twins, and I was more than ready to deliver my babies!
After the strip it was time to walk the walk. I am very familiar with the hallway outside my hospital’s L&D ward because I also walked it during labour with Miss Cub. I sent Papa Wolf out to pick up second dinner, and then I put on my headphones to listen to the most hilarious podcast you’ll ever hear, “My Dad Wrote a Porno.” I also began a lengthy text conversation with my mommy BFF The Monarch Mommy (Stefanie), until my contractions became so strong that I could no longer maintain the thread (that happened at 10:58 p.m.). (That conversation has proven invaluable for recreating my birth story timeline.) Papa Wolf returned with my 10 Chicken McNuggets meal and the wrong Fruitopia (I wanted strawberry, not orange), and I scarfed it down in between contractions. My OB soulmate popped out of the elevator around 11 p.m., after I’d been walking the hallway, listening to my podcast and discussing Law & Order SVU with Stefanie for an hour. I told her the contractions were much stronger, so she said she’d check again.
I was only 5 cm! But Dr. W felt like it was time to get things moving and break my water. First, she went over everything I could expect with a twin delivery. I was most nervous about the epidural, but she was excited to tell me that the anesthesiologist on duty had administered TWO epidurals to her, and she was the best. We talked about delivering the babies in the OR, which is what I had expected, and she also went over the minute chance of hemorrhaging that would require further intervention if ever I were bleeding too much. They transferred me to a delivery room where I got settled in with Nurse G, who was equally awesome. The plan was to put the babies on monitors, break my waters and then wait for me to make the call for an epidural.
With twins it’s important to have clear, separate heartbeat tracings during labour, so the plan was to monitor Twin B externally as usual and to monitor Twin A internally. This involved inserting a tiny little probe into his scalp, which was super bizarre. So yes, a tiny wire that was attached to his head then came out of my vagina, was threaded through a little guide taped to my upper thigh and then attached to a monitor. It was as weird as it sounds, and I was a bit concerned about having to go pee with a wire attached to my baby’s head dangling out of me.
Then it was time to break my waters. This would’ve been around midnight. I had a lot of waters. It was messy, and it was very, very warm. Nurse G got me cleaned up as best she could, and now it was time to wait. I had called my midwife earlier in the night, and both she and the nurse recommended not calling her to attend until I was much closer to delivering. Nurse G thought I’d likely be able to sleep a bit after getting the epidural, and that it could be another three or four hours before the action got under way. I wasn’t sure if I’d know when to ask for the epidural, having never had one. She suggested I not try to be a hero and wait too long!
Honestly, the epidural was the part of labour I was most nervous about. My nurse and the anesthesiologist really helped put me at ease. I sat on the edge of the bed and Nurse G held my shoulders, both to comfort me and to stop me from making any brisk movements. The local anesthetic went in, then the epidural, and it was over quickly and not as painful or scary as I’d imagined. The epidural tube was taped up over my shoulder, and they helped me to lie down again in bed. And then the worst part of my labour started. (And you’re going to laugh that this is actually what stands out for me as the worst part.) I started to get ITCHY. First my thighs, then my belly. I started driving my nurse insane as I tried to scratch my belly without disturbing the monitors.
I took a “my epidural is in and now I’m supposed to relax selfie” at 1:24 a.m. Itchiness aside, I also started to feel a bit dizzy and let the nurse know. My blood pressure was dropping so they lowered my bed and helped me roll to my side. I felt better fairly quickly and initiated a game of Tetris on my phone in between contractions.
I could feel contractions as pressure in my pelvis, and the nurse told me to tell her if that pressure moved backwards and felt like, well, poop pressure. Midway through my first round of Tetris I definitely felt a poopy pressure, but I figured it was far too soon to be concerned. Then the next contraction came and the pressure was intense. I buzzed my nurse, she checked me … and I was fully dilated! Holy doodle. Then things picked up … I told my husband to call our midwife but realized it was probably a bit too late already. They were wheeling me to the OR in a hurry and sent my husband to put on his scrubs.
The OR was full of people! There was my OB soulmate, the super cool anesthesiologist, my pal Nurse G and a whole bunch of other people ready to welcome my twins. I anxiously awaited the arrival of my hubby in his scrubs while they got me all set up. He arrived and, according to the timestamp, took my requested “I’m about to deliver twins” portrait at 1:51 a.m. (To give you an idea of how fast things progressed, my first son was born at 1:54 a.m.)
With Dr. W positioned in the splash zone, she told me to push on my next contraction. It was a bit strange to push without complete feeling below my waist, but it also didn’t take much pushing. One push, and out came the head. I felt the shoulders come out but not with any discernible pain. Twin A didn’t make any noise at all, so I admit I was a bit scared. Dr. W left him attached to his cord for one minute before cutting it and handing him over to the first team of nurses. Two pushes later, out came Twin B, and again she delayed the cord clamping for one minute before passing him off. He too was quiet as a mouse, and I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the babes being poked and prodded under bright lights. My husband had snapped a pic of each right after they were born, which he showed me as I lay helpless on the gurney. My placenta was delivered without issue, and Dr. W showed it to me at my request. She showed me the layer that separated the two boys, which I’d seen so many times as a thin line on my many ultrasounds.
In the meantime, the NICU teams were checking my boys, and I was anxiously waiting to hold them. My husband was snapping pics and bringing them over to show me. A NICU doctor came to talk to me and told me both boys were small and would need to go to the NICU. I was disappointed though not surprised. I insisted I wanted to hold them first, and finally I got to!
My goal had been to get them to over 4 lb, and I had been successful! Twin Cub A, always the smaller one, weighed in at 2055 grams (4.5 lb). His bigger but younger bro was 2240 grams (4.9 lb). I held them for a few moments and then they were wheeled away together to the NICU with Papa Wolf, and I was wheeled back to my delivery room.
My midwife was waiting for me outside the OR, visibly disappointed she’d missed the birth. I was so grateful she was there, however, because my nurse wheeled me back into my room, and without my midwife I’d have been waiting there, all alone, somewhat in shock and wondering what would happen next. Having given birth to two term singletons who never left my side once they were born, it was absolutely surreal to suddenly find myself alone: no babies to hold, just a floppy tummy. My midwife encouraged me to start trying to hand express a bit of colostrum (not much came, but it gave me something to do), and eased my mind that my boys would be able to breastfeed.
When my poor nurse finally returned (my boys had arrived so fast she had a lot of charting to catch up on), she helped me into the shower and into my mesh panties and clothes. Then she wheeled me into the NICU to see my boys.
They had already taken bottles while Papa Wolf watched, so it was time for me to get a bit of rest before their next feed. No, I didn’t actually manage to sleep, but I tried!
I sent Papa Wolf home and made the first of many strolls from the postpartum ward to the NICU. The nurses were happy to let me try to latch the boys before giving them bottles of formula. They both latched well!
And thus began my journey as a mom of late-term preemies in the NICU. I am hoping we will get the green light to bring them home soon, but I know that rushing it would be counterproductive.