If you’re adverse to words like “cervix”, “pee”, and “placenta”, avert your eyes! This is the birth story of the twins, my mighty duo. It’s long and there are no pictures, so if you’re adverse to that too, well, er, sorry.
My eyes flicker open, as I feel a light gush “down there”. The clock on my phone says 3.00 a.m. Instantly, I remember the last time in 2012, I felt something, checked the clock, and it was 3.00 a.m. Three hours later, I gave birth to my second child.
I think, 34 weeks. I’m only 34 weeks. The doctor said bed rest, less than 24 hours ago. He saw a contraction happen during my routine checkup. A shot of something in the butt to “calm the uterus”, and I was good to go. But I felt something different throughout that day. A twinge.
I get up, go to the bathroom, sit down to pee. Okay, it’s just pee. I have two babies sitting on my bladder, that’s to be expected. Flush, lights off, back to bed. Not sleeping, twinge. Two minutes, and it happened again. I can feel it flowing. I get up, waddle to the bathroom, leaving a trail of liquid behind me, like cookie crumbs. Leading to something.
“No, no, no, no, no.” Over and over. I cry. It’s too soon. 34 weeks. No, no no, no, no. Pants off, grab a towel and put it between my legs. I waddle back to the bedroom, wake up husband up. He opens his eyes, and sees me crying. What’s wrong? My water broke. We have to go to the hospital now.
We jump into action. In between, I’m still crying, he tells me it’s okay, baby. He never calls me baby. He must be worried. He gets dressed, calls his mother to come over to watch the boys. I’m brushing my teeth, an almost automatic reaction to waking up. Hastily, I throw a few things into a bag. We’re not ready. In no way are we ready. 34 weeks, it’s too soon.
For some reason, I reach into the babies’ closet, and grab a few things. Did I really think they would need them? That they’d come home with us in a couple of days? I don’t know, but “baby clothes” is on the list of things to pack. So I pack them.
I text my doctor, “My water broke. Heading to the hospital now.” He replies, “OK.” I take that calmness as a good sign. We’re going to be OK. Mother-in-law turns up, we head out. In the car, I can feel contractions. They are strong but not that close together. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
4.00 a.m., I walk in slowly to the emergency room, and hand over an emergency admittance sheet that my doctor gave me a couple of weeks ago. I never thought I’d need it, so confident was I that I could carry these babies to term. 34 weeks. 34 weeks, too soon.
As the wheelchair moves me to the labour ward, I feel that we’re going too slowly, because my body is going at super speed. I tell the nurses there, please, can you give me something to stop these contractions, they say, yes, wait, hold on, let me check your cervix. I look at her, she looks up, concerned.
“What? What’s going on?”
“I just need to give you something, this will help the babies’ lungs,” she says.
“Okay, just do whatever you have to. Where’s my doctor?”
I know where he is. My doctor is in surgery, delivering another set of 34-week old twins via a scheduled C-section. I remember he told me this yesterday, at my checkup, which seems like a million years ago. Those twins for this other couple, were not thriving, one was too small, they had to come. I thought, phew, I’m so glad my babies are okay.
“NURSE! Please, I can feel the baby coming,” panic underlying my false calm.
They wheel me to the operating theatre, to a room right next to the other mother, delivering her too-small twins, while I resist the forces of nature, trying to expel my too-small twins out of my body. I am fighting tooth and nail, to no avail. I can feel a baby’s head. There is no one in the OR, except for me and the nurse from the labour ward who thought to come with me.
“Where’s everyone? Why isn’t there a sense of urgency?” I ask. She tells me that everyone is next door, they’ll be here soon.
“Nurse, I think you need to get someone, he or she is coming NOW,” I sounded far too calm to my own ears. She checks me, suddenly snaps into action. Call someone now, she booms to an orderly.
I recognize the lady who walks in, despite the mask on her face, and her bloody gown. She’s an obstetrician who practices out of the same clinic as my doctor. I greet her by name, she seems surprised. My OB walks in next, gets briefed. For the first time, I hear the nurse who was with me from the start say that I’m fully dilated.
I see a clock on the wall, which reads, “15:40”, and it doesn’t strike me as strange, though I know it’s early morning. I focus on the clock, its numbers, trying to ignore the flurry of action around me. My OB tells me things – we don’t have any ventilators, they’re all being utilised, we might have to transfer you to another hospital, and so on. I focus on what’s happening to my body, I’ve done this before. My babies are coming, whether I’m ready or not. 34 weeks or not. Too soon or not. They’re coming.
There is more conversation, and I’m told to lie back, open my legs, and to push. There is no time for transfers and such. Inside I fear. No ventilators. They expect my babies to have respiratory issues. Of course, 34 weeks is too soon, lungs are not fully developed.
Suddenly, I feel a great pressure inside of me. I focus on the OB’s voice. She says push. I do. I briefly wonder where my OB is, realize he’s to my left. Why isn’t he delivering my babies? Doesn’t matter. I push again, and feel that intense burning sensation, then relief. I hear my baby’s loud cry. Huh, I guess his/ her lungs are okay? I ask, is that the girl? The OB says, I don’t know, I didn’t see. She’d handed him/ her off to a team. I can see them working on my baby from the corner of my eye.
“Alison, you have to do this again. We have to get your other baby out now. Wait for a contraction, then push.”
Again, I look at the clock, it says “15.50”. I still don’t find it strange. For some reason, my brain is registering the time as 5.50 a.m. That much time passed?
No time to think. Time to work. I push. And push again. Twin two flies out, along with other bodily fluids. I hear someone say, look at the urine! I ask, did I piss myself? Someone laughs lightly, and says, that’s okay, totally normal. Someone else says, it’s a boy. I don’t remember hearing a cry. Did he cry? I hope he cried.
I feel spent. I push again, and out pops the placenta. As someone lifts it up to a tray, I realize it’s the first time I’ve seen one in person. My previous deliveries were so blurry, I don’t remember pushing it out, let alone seeing it. The female OB who caught both babies tell me I need one stitch, and she’s going to do it without painkillers. I say, okay, sure. That needle hurt more than two babies being pushed out.
“Where’s my husband?” I ask more than once, of various people, as I get wheeled to recovery. No one seems to know. How strange, I think to myself. Where did he go? Ah yes, to park the car which he’d left in the emergency area. I hope he gets to see the babies.
The female OB comes to check on me, I have no idea how much time has passed. I ask about the babies, she tells me that they’ve been admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. For the first time, fear flinches in my heart.
“Are they okay?”
“Yes! But, you need to talk to the neonatalogist, he’ll come by to see you later.”
I ask about my husband. She kindly offers to call him on her cellphone, and does. She briefs him, hands the phone to me, and I tell him to go to NICU. Check on the babies. I’ll see you later.
As she fills out paperwork, I overhear that my first baby was born at 4.47 a.m., and her brother, at 4.59 a.m. I think about that clock in the OR, why was it wrong? Why did I not think it was at the time? I wonder why I’m fixated with the clock. I need to know how my babies are.
“Let them be okay. Let them be okay. Let them be okay.”
Baby girl who was born first, was measuring at only 3 pounds 9 ounces, and had mild respiratory issues which required her to be on oxygen for two days. Her younger twin brother, measuring at 4 pounds 6 ounces, had less developed lungs, and had to be on a ventilator for two days, then on oxygen for six days. Their weight dropped, as they do, in the first week, and at her lightest, my daughter weighed only 3 pounds 5 ounces, and had to be in an incubator for 12 days. My son dropped to 4 pounds, and moved from an open cot to an incubator, for 8 days. Throughout their stay, they had to be on phototherapy off and on, for jaundice for the better part of the first week. He was discharged from the NICU at 12 days old, and she came home at two weeks old. They are okay. Better than okay.