For the last few weeks of my pregnancy I kept wishing that I would just go into labor already. Every woman who's been pregnant has been there, but with twins it starts much earlier and is MUCH worse, and the fact that twins have a tendency to arrive early intensifies it. As does having contractions every day without "being in labor." So one night on my second or third trip to the bathroom I found myself thinking, yet again, I just want to go into labor TONIGHT.
Immediately another thought entered my mind: would I be in such a hurry to go into labor if I knew I or one of the babies might die in childbirth? It actually stopped me dead in my tracks. It was cold and clear like someone outside of me had suggested it. (And maybe that's true.) I tried not to lend it much credence, but in my hormonal state it really disturbed me ... and then the next day was either Sunday or All Saints Day, and all the readings were about death and resurrection. Even as I struggled to dismiss this I kept wondering if God was trying to tell me something. It was bad enough that I confessed my fears to Keith in the car one day, almost in tears, and we prayed together about it.
It probably should have gone quickly. I was already having contractions--as I had been for the past two weeks--and he assured me two hours later when he broke my bag of waters that things would progress quickly. I continued to dilate and efface at a steady rate, but that rate was not exactly "quick."
Still, I have to say that this labor was pretty great. I wanted as med-free a birth as possible, but I'd heard so many horror stories about induced contractions I figured it wasn't possible. But actually, this labor was much easier and less painful than my first! After my water was broken I snuck some food from DH when the nurses weren't looking, because I was starving and I really didn't feel that bad. The nurses kept asking me about my pain scale, whether things were getting more painful, but it just wasn't that bad. During the first half I spent quite a bit of time dozing.
In fact, the worst part of labor was when my OB examined me and realized that A's head had slid forward and blocked the tear in his amniotic sac, so he broke my water AGAIN, sticking his fingers inside and moving them around Dominic's head to make sure most of it got out this time. Oh. My. Gosh. It probably only took about a minute but it was horrible and it felt like forever. (And so, so much fluid. When I think about the sheer amount of STUFF that fit in my womb by the end of this pregnancy, it really boggles my mind.)
Everyone who took care of me commented on how well labor was going and how well I was dealing with the contractions, how the babies were behaving and easy to monitor, etc. (Although Gregory went through a phase where he kept slipping away from the EFM disk and they had to bring in an ultrasound machine to find him.) My OB stayed a few hours past the end of his shift hoping to deliver the babies, but in the end he left about an hour and a half before they were born.
By that time the contractions had gotten pretty intense. I could tell it would be time to push within the next hour, and was debating whether or not to get an epidural. (I already had the line in place.) Since it was a low dose, I caved and let them hook me up. There was a button I could push twice an hour to up the dose, and since the first dose barely did anything for the pain I soon found myself pushing it again. Even at the highest dose I could still feel my contractions and knew I'd be able to work with my body. SO much better than just getting a big dose all at once like I did with Michael!
Less than half an hour later I was ready to push. I pushed for 30-45 minutes in the L&D room. Then I had to stop pushing while they wheeled me into the OR to deliver. That was hard. But once they got set up, a few more pushes and Dominic was born.
Dominic--I saw him briefly as he emerged from my body, I heard him cry. I sent Keith from my side to go with him. He was strong and healthy. I kept trying to see him from across the room.
I shouldn't have. I should have focused on Gregory, and I knew I needed to focus on Gregory, but how can you not try to see your baby? I'm not sure if I would've known more about what was happening if I paid closer attention in those first few moments.
There was a second OB manning the ultrasound machine as they tried to make sure that Gregory was still head down. I became aware that he had gotten into a bad position, that his hand was in the way and the OB was trying to move it; then I heard that his shoulder was engaged (transverse oblique presentation), and at that point I was no longer dilated enough for her to continue to manipulate him into a better position.
The OB looked at me and said, "I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to deliver this baby by c-section. I know it’s not what you wanted, but we need to do it." I knew from her voice that something was up, but I was so disoriented and unfocused up til that point I didn’t know any more than the fact he was trying to come out shoulder first.
They sent Keith out of the room to prep me and told me they’d let him back in once I was ready. I am so, so grateful I already had a full dose of epidural, because they had some trouble getting things to where I was anesthetized enough for surgery, and it turned out that every minute counted. As I was given the line of pricks up my belly several times, the doctors grew more and more anxious, and when I was ready they put the sheet up and cut me open right away. No Keith. I remember one of the doctors answering her pager and telling the person on the line that she was in the middle of an emergency c-section and it would have to wait.
I had no idea what was wrong, only that my baby's life was in danger. The nurses and people around me kept reassuring me--I was doing great, I was going to be okay. And it made me so angry, because of course I was fine, but when I asked about my baby they wouldn't answer me. I asked several people to baptize him if he was going to die--granted, an awkward thing to ask a nurse or anesthesiologist. More than being on my own, it was the biggest reason I wished Keith was in the room at that moment. No one answered me or even acknowledged the fact that my baby might die.
And I remembered all my fears from several weeks before. I knew that a few friends were praying for me right then; the twins' godmother-to-be had two Masses offered for us that day; I prayed to St. Gregory, St. Therese, St. Gerard, our guardian angels. I was not panicked, probably more from the shock of it than anything, but I was so, so very helpless, laying there with my arms strapped out beside me. And I prayed, God, I give you this baby. Please, please let him live.
It was the longest 14 minutes of my life. Gregory didn’t cry when he was born. They let Keith in and he came and sat next to me, but we couldn't see either of our babies, and had no idea how Gregory was doing. In a bit they wheeled him up so we could see him before bringing him down to the NICU because of his oxygen levels, except I couldn't see him from where I lay on the gurney. Later on, we had both cord prolapse and a nuchal cord given to us as reasons for the emergency. After talking to the OB we’re pretty sure it was the latter. Either way, there was a short period of time when he wasn’t receiving oxygen, but he was able to breath on his own when he was born and only needed to spend about ten hours in the NICU.
At that point I was shaking uncontrollably. I always shake during transition when it's time to push, but this was extreme. My shoulders hurt from it for a long time afterwards. I also had a high fever that they never really found the cause for. (And then there were the night shift nurses who didn't believe me when I felt like my bladder was about to explode and pulled out more than THREE times the amount a normal person's bladder is supposed to be able to hold when they got around to catheterizing me an hour later. Worst pain of my life. But that was 24 hours after this. It also wasn't the most TMI part of my complicated recovery ... but I'll stop there.) Eventually I was given medication to stop the shaking, but it was a good two hours before I was even able to hold Dominic--two hours that I was just not with it--and at least two hours later that I got to meet Gregory.
When the OB stopped by my room she was very emotional. She told me she'd gone over the birth in her mind wondering if there was anything she could have done differently, and she didn’t think there was. I was so touched by her honesty and how much it mattered to her; all I said to her was “Thank you for saving our baby.”
Because I am so grateful. When I remember Michael's birth--how he came out crying and they put him on my chest, and when I spoke to him he stopped and just looked at me--even Dominic's birth makes me ache a bit. It's a loss I am still processing. But I have two beautiful, healthy boys ... and for them, it was all worth it.