On February 13th, 2011, at exactly 37 weeks gestation, I fell asleep while lying down with our youngest daughter, Pearl. I slept from about 9p to 12a and then woke up to find hubby still watching television in the living room. I joined him to watch some late night shows. We went to bed together around 2a and I knew there was a chance that I’d have a hard time getting back to sleep for the night. Having experienced pregnancy insomnia a few nights throughout this pregnancy, when I was still awake around 3am I thought I might try taking a Benadryl to help me sleep. I rolled over in bed to get up and experienced a gush of what felt like pee get my shorts and bed all wet.
‘Great, now I am peeing myself,’ I thought. Having never experienced spontaneous rupture of membranes with any three of my previous labors, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect if this was, in fact, my water breaking. I got up to use the bathroom and barely cleared the toilet before I was peeing profusely again. Yep, definitely pee. I changed my underwear and shorts and walked into the kitchen. For reasons I do not remember, my husband Lucas was also awake in the kitchen. I did not mention the peeing episode and began to unwrap the Benadryl tablet when, again, I felt a gush of fluid get my shorts all wet. Uh oh. I mentioned to Lucas that either I was repeatedly urinating on myself or my water had broken, but I couldn’t be sure. It wasn’t a torrential outpour, but just regular warm rushes of fluid. He walked over to me and we both took turns sniffing my shorts (cute, huh?) to see if the liquid was pee or not. It didn’t smell like anything, wasn’t colored in any way so we finally admitted to ourselves that yes, my water had probably broken and our twins were soon on their way. I thought I probably had better avoid the Benadryl since I was sure I’d be in labor straight away.
I began to shake. Tremble. Shudder. I went into the guest bathroom and sat on the toilet while phoning the midwife. It was close to 4am now. I had called her not much more than 12 hours before to inform her that I’d lost a bit of my mucous plug, not really thinking I’d be back in touch this soon. Usually, my pregnancies go at least full term if not later, but this being twins and my 4th and 5th children, my birth team wanted a really detailed play by play in anticipation that this labor and birth would go rather quickly once it got going. Racha, my midwife, sounded rightfully sleepy. She urged me to put on a pad and try to get some rest. The shaking, I soon deduced was from me having a minor anxiety attack at the reality that I was going to soon be in labor with two new babies quite a bit earlier than I’d expected. I said goodbye to Racha with the promise that I’d call her if I started having regular contractions and sent hubs into our son’s room to get some sleep. We’d all just gotten over a really wicked flu and everyone still had a pretty brutal cough, hubs’ being one of the worst.
When I finally settled into bed, Pearl woke up ready to party. So instead of sleeping, Pearl and I had a really cuddly few hours in my bed. She was so sweet and quiet, just laying there with me. I will always remember gazing down at her serene little face in the growing morning light thinking to myself that this was the last morning ever that she would be my smallest child. By 6am, Pearl had fallen to sleep and I was beginning to feel contractions at about 7-8 minutes apart. It being a weekday, I realized that there would be quite a bit of morning traffic and that I should call the midwife again to see what she thought. We spoke a bit about how I was feeling and she said she’d call the rest of the team and have them make their way to my house. I had text messaged the sitter we had on call for Pearl and her older brother, our 3yo Ocean and she agreed to come pick them up in about an hour. I set about packing them a huge bag of clothes, not sure how long they’d be there.
It was around this time that the children began to wake up. Our oldest, Marin (14yo), was getting ready for school. I peeked into her room and excitedly told her that the babies would be coming that day. She hugged me and made me promise her to text her when they did. Ocean and Pearl woke up and we got them ready to go. They were happy to learn they’d be going to the sitter’s that morning as they love spending time with her. I hadn’t been sure until that morning whether or not I wanted the children present at the birth, and when I felt that momentary anxiety after my water breaking, I knew I would feel better if they had someone caring for them full time.
The birth team began to arrive around 8am. For this birth, as special as it was, we had quite the team assembled: A physician/OB, Stuart Fischbein, would be attending alongside a midwife and one or two assistants. Stuart was the first to arrive, and then Racha and two student midwives/assistants, Juli and Heather. They lugged in their gear and began to assess the babies’ heart rates and my blood pressure, etc. Around this time, our lovely sitter Kelly appeared to take the older kids. I thought for sure we were underway to have some babies, though I admit I was feeling pretty nervous and unsure about how things would go. I had a number of worries and fears in my mind. I was surprisingly sad and mourning the loss of the baby/mother relationship between Pearl and myself and found myself in tears about it many times that morning. I was also anxious about the girls’ presentation and giving birth to a breech baby/ies. I had only just recently been researching breech delivery after deciding with my birth team that we’d continue to pursue a home delivery when baby A was still breech at 36 weeks. I knew I needed to process these fears in order to safely birth at home, but I didn’t feel ready.
After confirming that I was not yet in active labor and that the babies were doing well, the team took off to have breakfast while I took a nap. I slept for an hour, during which I had about four contractions, all noticeable but I was able to stay lying down and fall right back to sleep after each one. Just before this nap that I called a close friend, Noel, and had her give me a pep talk. The anxiety I was feeling was growing. I felt caught off guard and unsure of how the birth would go. My dear friend advised me to get talking to my babies and let them know that I needed them to work with me and make sure we all did our parts to get them born safely. It felt good to hear and I thanked her and got some sleep.
The team returned and I came out into our living room to join them. We sat around and chatted a bit, I had a few more contractions, but nothing very regular. Every so often, one would be intense enough that I had to breathe through it, but I was keeping conversation all the while. At times, I would retreat into my room and try to get things going while Lucas stayed with the team. Changing positions, like going from sitting to standing, etc. would get some action and there was a lot of pressure down low so I would pee/leak fluid through every contraction. I was also having a lot of clear stretchy discharge. By this time I was wearing a sundress without underwear and standing over a towel or sitting on the toilet for each one. Still, they would only come about 3-4 an hour. I started to feel frustrated and also a lot like a watched pot. Sometime later, I decided to try to take another nap and, after setting up the birth tub in our den, the Dr., Racha and Heather left to take care of some other responsibilities while Juli. Lucas left to get lunch and when I woke up, Juli and I had a good discussion about the fears I was feeling. She also had a wonderful story about a dream she’d had the night before. She dreamed that Baby A was born head first, had red hair and was very alert and attentive. It was touching to even think that she would dream about my birth, though we both knew that miss A was still very much head down. A bit later, because there was not much else left to do, I took a shower. Sometime over the next few hours, I felt my anxiety begin to fade and eagerness to meet my little girls start to grow. I realized that it was my responsibility to get these babies born and that it had better start soon. Of course, I also thought myself crazy a few times for being so gung ho about birthing breech twins at home and why didn’t I just check myself into a damned hospital and let them take care of it, too. But hey, I was home and home is where my babies are born.
The afternoon wore on and still nothing. Around 7p, we had the talk about how long my water had been broken and what we were facing if labor didn’t begin soon. I still had some time, and in the absence of fever, I could wait longer than the usual 24 hours, but eventually we’d be facing transport should nothing actually start. Of course, we all thought I would go into labor, but I guess they had to inform me of the possibilities. By this time, it became clear to me that I needed everyone to leave. Lucas and I were really separated while talking to the group and I felt myself just want to hole up in my room and focus on having the babies. I called Lucas back to me and told him that I felt like I needed him to be with me and that we needed some time alone. I reached up to hug him and at that moment, had a HUGE contraction. I was right. At the same time I had decided to ask everyone to leave for a bit, they all decided the same thing. They checked the babies one more time and left.
Since it was Valentine’s Day, Lucas went to get sushi take out to share with Marin. Right about that time, I started to have some fairly regular contractions. They started out about 7-8 minutes apart and were pretty strong. Throughout my pregnancy, both babies had stayed pretty much stuffed into my right rib cage. Baby A was sitting on my cervix in a complete breech, with her knees bent up around her tummy and baby B was sort of resting transverse breech with her head beside baby A’s. This meant that I felt every contraction along my right hip and into my pubic bone. I also felt some back labor, but not much. I definitely wanted to get into the tub.
Once Lucas returned with dinner, they sat down to eat. This was also when my contractions started to truly get intense. I began to bark orders for the tub to be filled (he hooked up the hose and started the slow process of filling the tub in our den through a hose hooked to a pump in our kitchen sink). I also became ultra bitchy about Lucas’ meal choice and why did he have to get the one food that took so damned long to eat. It was at this time that I realized, judging by my attitude, that things were moving pretty quickly and I had better call the midwives. They were still on the road as it had been less than an hour since they left. I must have sounded pretty put together since Racha suggested that I wait and hour and see how things go. I agreed with her thinking how I’d be pretty bummed if they showed back up and everything stalled out. Once I got off the phone and worked through two more contractions fairly close in range, I thought to myself, “I’m going to have these babies by myself”. I had Lucas call her back a few contractions later and tell her that she’d better get here. I was vocalizing in the background and I guess she realized it was go time. She told Lucas they would all be on their way. She and Heather weren’t able to return due to travel plans the following day so there was a switch off and another midwife, Aleks would be returning along with Dr. Fischbein and Juli.
Lucas finally got the hint and started eating his sushi in the kitchent while he was working the pump to get water into the tub faster. We also started boiling water in large stock pots. I watched as the water level rose inch by inch. I wanted in that tub so flipping badly. Each contraction was so powerful and intense; I would call Lucas over to hold on to so I could work through it. At the peak of each one, one of the babies would either kick or punch or bounce their butt on top of my cervix so that I felt a rebounding wave of motion through my entire pelvis. It was so WEIRD and pretty painful, to be honest. At one point I yelled, “WHAT IS SHE DOING IN THERE?” I had never felt anything like it.
Stuart arrived at about 9:35 as my labor chugged along. He began to dash about setting his equipment up. I could sense that he was a little frantic; perhaps thinking he would be there all alone when the babies came. At one point he asked me, politely, how I was doing…I yelled, “SHUT UP, isn’t it obvious how I’m doing?!”(Yeah. I’m that polite during transition.) Poor guy continued with his set up. I heard the oxygen tank start to hiss loudly behind me as he wrestled hoses onto it, and I remember thinking I should help him get it put together, but since I was busy otherwise, let him figure it out. Once he got set up, he took heart tones and the babies sounded wonderful. Then, he checked my cervix and proclaimed that I was 8-9cm with a lip of cervix and the baby’s butt was ‘right there’.
Ah yes. Let’s get this show on the road.
I got into the tub once the water was about 6 inches deep. It felt incredible and Lucas continued to add hot water. Behind me, I heard Aleks and Juli enter the room. They discussed the babies’ stats while I had two more really big contractions in the tub. I had my arms and shoulders draped over the back of the tub facing our fireplace and mantle with my back to the commotion of the room. Lucas was in front of me lighting the tea lights I had placed around the room earlier that day and during a particularly intense contraction, I scolded him to forget the candles and come over to me. During that contraction, I felt my body give a push.
In three previous labors and births, I have never felt a distinct urge to push. The concept has always fascinated me and I’ve vowed after my last two home births that next time I would wait for that urge instead of being declared complete and just starting to push on my own. With this breech delivery, I was instructed to wait for that urge and then resist it to let the baby out slowly, so that it has the opportunity to rotate effectively and be born safely. Well, during the next contraction that seemed to happen almost instantly, I got a very STRONG urge to push, had enough time to yell, “PUSHING”
before my body took completely over and started to bear down. AWESOME. From the back of the room, I heard Stuart tell me not to push, Juli tell me that I “didn’t have to push” to which all I could reply was “can’t help it!” This all took place in about 30 seconds before I felt a body shoot out of my vagina and into the birthing tub.
“SHE’S OUT”, I yelled. This was met with a resounding, “She’s out??” from the room as they all rushed over to see. She wasn’t all the way out, but with the next short contraction, at 10:05pm on Valentine’s Day, her head was born. I heard a beautiful cry and then someone was asking me to lift my leg over her cord and turn around to sit so the tiniest baby I’d ever birthed could be placed on my chest. Lucas started to cry and said something encouraging that escapes me now then immediately began text messaging to share the news of our first twin’s arrival.
Baby A was covered in vernix, was wide eyed and alert and had what appeared to be spiky red hair. She was tiny too. (Juli was overwhelmed with excitement that she looked exactly like her little dream baby.) I covered her in a towel and held her close to me while baby B’s heart tones were assessed and we waited for A’s cord to stop pulsating. I took off the sports bra I was wearing and let her lie close to my skin. Shortly after, she began to root and I watched in awe as she actually scooted across my chest to find my breast. The breast crawl! How amazing! Marin came in to meet her new baby sister and when I began feeling contractions again thirty minutes later, Lucas cut A’s cord and I handed her off to big sister to hold her close inside her tee shirt for some skin to skin.
Along with feeling a bit bummed that instead of being done and able to cuddle with my baby and eat some food, I had to birth a whole ‘nother human, I also began feeling like I wanted out of that tub. I expressed this desire and a discussion was had about where to birth baby B. There was a tarp set up underneath the tub that seemed like a good place, but for whatever reason, I wanted to be in my bedroom. I climbed out of the tub in between contractions that were becoming necessary to breathe through, and made my way, baby A’s cord dangling between my legs, through the house to our bedroom. Marin asked if she could go to bed, and handed baby A off to Juli.
The portable ultrasound machine that the birth team brought to assess baby B’s position was taken out and we observed that she also had settled into a breech presentation. But of course! It had been our hope that once baby A was out of the way, B would move vertex, but hey. No worries. We did this once, we’ll do it again. Dr. Fischbein wanted to do a cervical exam to see if he could tell what part of the baby was presenting and he found me still completely dilated with a bulging bag of waters and the presenting part a bit obscured by said bag. Contractions began to pick up in intensity while in my bedroom as I deliberated over what position I wanted to birth the second baby in. I started on the bed, then stood a bit, then climbed back onto the bed to try all fours. Someone suggested we move to the floor, so chux pads were laid out and I lumbered onto my hands and knees on the floor. Lucas brought me a small wooden stool of Pearl’s to lean my elbows on. He covered it with one of the pillows from her bed in our room, and this small, thoughtful gesture of his is one that I recall most fondly from the birth.
At this time, I just felt tired. It was nearing midnight; I’d slept about two hours in 24 hours and had birthed one baby already. I could hear baby A crying every so often and felt like I needed to be with her. I decided that I wanted baby B’s bag ruptured so I could push her out on my own. We worked through a few contractions there on the floor, while Dr. Fischbein waited to see if B’s bag would break on its own. I began to get frustrated with waiting since I had my mind made up what I wanted to happen. Finally, during a contraction, I pushed hard and the doctor broke B’s bag using an amnio hook to discover that her butt was presenting. I began pushing with the next contraction, felt a slight burn, and her butt and feet were born. One more push and I could feel her stomach and shoulders and soon after, her head. Dr. Fischbein exclaimed, “And we have a baby!” With a short cry, our baby B announced her arrival. I turned over and they handed her to me, she was also covered in vernix, but seemed a lot bigger than her sister. She definitely felt bigger as I pushed her out. (The differences between the two births, in water and on land, were pretty significant sensationally.) She was very alert and observant and I was very relieved and elated to be nearly done birthing. Baby B was born at 12:20a on February 15, 2011. (Just after her birth, it began to rain outside.)
Everyone thought it was really swell that the twins had different birth dates.
After some time, Aleks began to remark about my bleeding and started to seem nervous that my placentas had yet to detach. I nursed B for awhile and felt some contractions get started. I suppose the bleeding began to increase and I could see the look of anxiety on her face. Postpartum hemorrhage is more common in twin deliveries and it was a fear I’d had so I was especially attentive to her reaction. She began to announce the amount of blood I’d lost, first one cup and then two. She mentioned a slow trickle and checked with her fingers if she could feel either placenta descending. At one point, there was a large burst of blood and fluid and she actually recoiled with shock. It was at this time that I began to feel faint and kind of hot. They laid me down and I just took slow breaths to fight what I think now was just anxiety. I did end up getting a syringe of pitocin (um, ouch.) and the doctor came over to help the placentas deliver. He placed traction on the cords and they both came out at once. They were fused into a heart shape and there was noticeable calcification on one of them, even though I was so early. There were some fragments that stayed attached so I got the joy of having the dear doctor reach into my uterus and pull them out. After such a triumphant birth of two breech twins, if I had to say that any part of the experience was a downer, it was certainly this moment.
After the placenta drama, we got me up and moving towards the bed. I had the usual dizziness and bizarre organs shifting and lungs now taking giant full breaths weird feeling and had to pause a few times to stabilize. I climbed into my bed and they handed me my two gorgeous babies. We sat around a bit relishing in our accomplishment and recounting our memories of how quickly everything happened once it finally got going. There was talk of beer (yes, please) and the other half of my sandwich from earlier that day. The team left the room to start cleaning up and disassembling the tub and I was left alone with the two little girls. I began trying to nurse them both at the same time, and it was truly like I’d heard nursing newborn twins was…like juggling eels. It seemed like a long time before everyone came back in to do the newborn exams, but they eventually did. The mood was light and joyous. We were all very proud.
Baby A, who we later named Rowan Bee weighed 5lb2oz and was 18” long. Her sister, Baby B, soon be called Lennox Aileen was a full pound and an ounce bigger at 6lb3oz and 19”. I had a minor abrasion and no need for stitches. We took pictures, sent texts, gave hugs and kisses and bid our lovely team adieu.
There is no way, in this country, that I would have ever been supported in my decision to birth breech twins vaginally in a hospital. In fact, most midwives aren’t licensed or experienced enough to attend breech, much less twin deliveries. I feel fortunate to have pursued my options far enough to have found the team I did. I am so grateful for the birth team I ended up with and for their devotion to normalizing birth and their trust in me.
Now that I’ve done it, I can say that my hugest obstacle, and the hardest part of this entire birth experience was getting over my fear. My head built some pretty high walls with my lack of information, confidence and trust in twin pregnancy and birth and then breech presentation and at the end of it all, I can truly say that pushing out these two breech babies was MUCH easier than my two vertex vaginal births. That might be due to their being 1 and 2 lbs smaller than my smallest baby, but for what it was, there seemed to be little to be afraid of once in the moment.
This entire pregnancy was full of firsts for me, first for twins, first spontaneous rupture, first urge to push, first water birth, first breech deliveries, and first postpartum bleeding episode. Also, my first redhead child, after which I always said we’d stop making babies. I have to say that throughout it all, I really learned so much about birthing freely, informed choice and refusal and overcoming personal fear. I feel very lucky to have this experience as I move back into the birthing community as a care provider someday. I feel like I have so much to share now having had a past cesarean, two vertex HBAC’s and now multiples and breech.