39 weeks, 1 day: Delivery, a love story

Delivery seems a strange term to use for the bringing of life into this world.

Is the situation that dire?

***

Tuesday, July 16. Today is the day.

No more extensions. No more chances I can wait for my body to go into labor on it’s own. Doctor’s orders -it’s time for the girls to vacate the premises.

I spent the night willing my nerves to steadiness. It was as effective as trying to wash a cat in a five gallon pail. As soon as I conquered one worry, it thrashed back up, claws wide and uncurled.

I went to bed rigid, tense. Woke the same way. Somehow, it felt as though I had failed.

***

The phone rings at 5:30 am. It is the hospital – they are currently full and our 7:00 am induction is no longer top of the list. Apparently this is a popular day to go into labor.

Can we wait?

I fish around for a time – how long were we talking about? The nurse will not commit to anything. We just need to wait.

Again.

***

Jason and I are both wide awake. Ellis is at grandma’s, so we decide we may as well go for a walk.

The morning is a golden haze – the horizon glowing over Wild Mountain’s ridge. The air is thick, rich with dew. It will be hot later. We head north down our road, taking it slow, easy. The babies are quiet, lulled by the motion.

We call it good after a couple miles. Come home, check our phones. No messages. No missed calls. We decide to go back to bed.

***

The phone rings at 11:00 am.

“Rachel, would you still like to have your babies today?”

I measure my response. It is hard, but true.

“Yes, please.”

“Great. We will see you in an hour.”

“Thank you.”

Again, measured. Again meant.

***

12:00 to 4:00 is a blur. We get checked in, and I change into laboring clothes. We settle in and start monitoring heart beats. Both babies are steady, albeit hard to track because they move so often. An ultrasound

At 4:00 pm, my doctor arrives. She gives me the choice to break my water and wait, or just start pitocin. I opt for the water break route. Pray that my body complies. When the contractions start almost immediately, I practically jump out of bed with excitement. Jason and I start walking, this time up and down the hospital halls.

***

6:00 to 8:00 marks the long haul. I have an epidural port put in, but choose not to dose it until I see how the contractions progress. I pace the room. Stretch. Sing along with the radio. Jason is a constant, steady presence. We laugh. He rubs my shoulders. He keeps close watch as things progress, checking in.

The contractions gain momentum. They are different with two babies – harder, unrelenting in the middle. After 7:00 pm,  I can no longer breathe through them with any measure of comfort or control. We decide I should dose the epidural.

***

At 9:00 pm, the epidural is dosed, and it immediately feels as though I can breathe again. In no more than five minutes, I feel the urge to use the restroom, and ask for help getting up and taking care of that before all the fun begins. My nurse looks at me slyly, and says she’d better do a quick check. The results are quick – fully dilated, ready to go.

I am instructed not to push. This is much easier with the epidural, but still feels like the last ten miles before a rest stop when you really, really need to go. The room becomes a flurry of activity as I transfer to a gurney, and all the monitors and nurses follow us down to the operating room. I am strangely giddy at this point.

This is the final ascent.

***

The operating room is not the warm and fuzzy place you imagine for delivery. But as people start gowning up and filing in, the spirit of the room becomes warm. Anticipatory. We joke and laugh, talk about plans for the weekend. I keep holding back on pushing as we wait for the doctors to arrive. When they do, it is a whole new wave of excitement.

My doctor looks at the clock. It is 9:45 pm. She looks at me and says, “Let’s set a goal – babies before 10:00 pm, shall we?” I laugh, agree. Fifteen minutes. Why not.

Everything is ready. Someone, as though this is a well-choreographed movie, the actors take their places. We all wait for the next contraction, and when it comes, I am finally allowed to push. It is a different experience, pushing without much feeling. Somehow, it works. Within two heaves, Gabrielle Rose is born. She is immediately placed on my chest.

I stare into her tiny face, and my heart swells wide. Deep.

But there is still work to be done. My water for the second baby is broken, and in the process, she presents us with her feet. Repositioning ensues, but she is stubborn. My doctor tells me to push again, and with Gabrielle on my chest, I give one final, but monumental effort. Lucia Grace is born immediately, without regard to her breech positioning.

For some reason, all I can think of is the bible verse that says, “how beautiful the feet of those that bring good news.”

***

My friend Sarah asked me a few days after the girls were born what it was like to hold both the babies. Was it love at first sight? A huge, overwhelming love that blossomed and spilled? I told her I’d think about it, and I have been.

My answer is this. The feelings I have for these two are like a mountain stream. They have been rushing under the rocks like snowmelt, making their way to me throughout this pregnancy. But upon meeting the girls, it was as though the stream broke free of the rocks, burbling up and forward into the daylight as it continued its journey.

It will only continue to grow. With force. With feeling. With immensity. With each tiny blink and movement of their mouths. With the individual personalities that start to emerge and endear. With the smiles. The wailing. The comfort, the peace.

We are grateful. Overjoyed.

Praising God, from whom all blessing flow.

 

 

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38 weeks and 6 days: The Waiting Games

IMG_0602It starts around three in the morning, this inability to sleep.

There’s nothing to do at this point but make another pilgrimage to the bathroom. On my way down, it occurs to me that I’ve never once paused to be thankful for not tumbling down the stairs during my uneven state of half-asleep hallway meanderings.

In fact, there are a great many things I should really take the time to be consciously be thankful for that have happened over the past few months.

(And in case you’re wondering, getting one more extension on inducing is one of them. We now have until next Tuesday, July 16.)

I can tell I haven’t done that recently – been consciously, list it out, write it down, thankful.

A few hours ago, my husband hugged me before bed. He told me to try to enjoy these last few days of pregnancy the best I could. I snorted like some sort of Spanish bull.

But it’s what I’ve thought about all night, in a roundabout sort of way. How to be thankful for things in your life you don’t feel thankful for.

Nightly bathroom walks. 14 pounds of baby tucked safely between my ribs and hips. This period of what feels like constant waiting, waiting, waiting.

To be honest, sometimes all I want to do is gripe to myself. Feel sorry for myself. Take shower after shower because it’s one of the only sensory things that takes all the discomfort away as I wait for these babies to arrive.

I believed the stories that everyone told me about twins coming early. 36 weeks, 37 weeks, 38 weeks. I ticked them off on my fingers and held my breath. Any day. Any day now.

And yet, this coming Monday marks 39 weeks. I never expected to carry this long. Quite the opposite, in fact. And now that it’s here, I’m having the audacity not to be thankful for it?

I climb back in bed, rearrange my pillows for the millionth time, and wait for the babies to settle in. This is always a reassuring part of my evenings, because I can feel both girls readjusting themselves from vertical to horizontal. I put a hand on my stomach and wait patiently for them to calm. One of them responds, a small movement tracing itself under my palm.

I smile.

For this, I can choose to be thankful. It really can be that simple. Gratitude can be a choice. David the psalmist made it in Psalm 130:

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

He continued to wait – enough so that he wrote down his metaphor twice to remind himself of his intent.

But notice his focus. He was waiting not on the thing that was coming, but on God himself. On God who never failed him, never left him, never gave him any cause to doubt His provision.

So. Here in our little corner of Taylors Falls, we continue to wait. And in my case, take plenty of naps.

38 weeks: Where are the babies?

waiting-room-signAt the beginning of this journey, my doctor gave me a list of all the appointments I needed to make. It was two pages long, and was full of notes for the types of ultrasounds I’d need, tests I would take, and office appointments I’d have to review each result.

The list stopped at 38 weeks. Under the instructions line, it simply read, “Where are the babies? :)”

I wish I had an answer.

(Okay, I wish I had an answer that didn’t involve two heads between my pelvic bones, but tonight, that’s where we’re sitting.)

Today, my dear friend Juliette and her son Jameson came over to hang out, exchange some last minute baby items, and celebrate my first day as a stay at home mama. Jules is expecting her baby girl on July 19, technically 3 days before my actual 40 week due date of July 22.

Since the morning was cool, we decided to take a short walk. On the way back, we talked about the difficulty of this period of waiting. It’s hard knowing that this major life event could happen spontaneously at any time. Midday. Midnight. Mixing eggs for morning breakfast or bending over to pick up a toddler’s pair of shoes.

I remember feeling this exact same uneasiness waiting for my daughter to arrive. And although my husband planned pregnancy distraction activities for every evening, I still went to bed feeling hollow. Aching to hold my baby. Nervous about how she’d arrive.

It wasn’t until the evening when I physically felt like saying “screw it” to the universe and spent the evening mowing down on pizza with Jason and watching re-runs of Kitchen Nightmares that somehow, magically, my water quietly decided to break.

***

If these babies don’t come by Thursday, I will need to make a decision about inducing. Again. Preferably on Friday, when all the staff are available for the 10 person show that will be my little girls’ birthday.

Doctors get nervous about twins that overstay their welcome. And I’ll be honest. The last two weeks have been physically exhausting. I am carrying at least thirteen pounds of baby at this point, not to mention everything else. I sleep in 2-3 hour snatches, can’t really get comfortable sitting any more, and have contractions every day.

Honestly, my best moments are now spent on my feet in the morning, or curled around no less than five pillows at night.

But what I want is what’s best for the babies. I want to trust that my body will naturally know that’s it’s time, that my all-knowing Creator has everything perfectly planned, and that the outcome will be two lovely little girls.

I don’t want to decide when they will come – somehow, that feels like overstepping my bounds in this situation. And yet, I might have to. In which case, I want to make the most informed and healthy decision possible for everyone involved.

But in the meantime, we wait. Pray the babies come on their own. The bags are packed, the van is loaded, the room is ready. And my husband, daughter, and I? We are as ready as we can be, given the unique circumstances that are about to overtake our lives.

Bring it girls, bring it.

love,

mama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37 weeks and holding out

imagesCA8JCZIYOminous ending to the last post, I know. Sorry.

Enter: Monday, July 1st. Jason and I decided that before we jumped in to inducing, we should have a confirmation growth scan. My medical team was kind enough to accommodate this, so that afternoon, I scheduled another marathon hospital visit. 1 biophysical profile, 1 Dr. consultation, 1 more growth scan.

The results were staggering:

Baby A- 6.7 lbs and ounces, 39th percentile

Baby B- 6.4 lbs and ounces, 34th percentile

This was a full POUND and handful of ounces different from Friday’s scan.

(And no, I did not spend all weekend eating Dairy Queen heath blizzards. 🙂

Best we can assume is that Friday’s ultrasound tech was simply off in her measurements. Both Jason and I had a feeling this was the case, and the more we talked about it, the more we wondered how it played into the results. During our appointment, she told us she had been called in to work the day shift instead of the night shift she was used to working. It had been busy all day, and she mentioned she hadn’t eaten, or had any coffee. We were her last appointment, and she was not expecting to do a growth scan, which left her very flustered. And as we pulled out of the parking lot, we saw her behind us sucking down a cigarette like it was last one on earth.

This meant that there wasn’t near the growth gap between the two babies, that no one was in immediate danger (below the 10th percentile), and that my placenta actually looked great.

Induction: officially cancelled. Instead of having babies today, I’m putting in my last day of work. And in reference to my previous post, the view above tree line is great. I feel ready. The babies are ready.

So now we just need to convince my body to be ready. Any and all methods of naturally bringing on labor are welcome at this point – any ideas? Comment away!

Fast forward – 36 weeks and difficult choices

It’s become apparent that I might have less time than I anticipated to catch up on the week by week business, so for now, I’m moving into the present (or almost-present in this case.) Happy reading!

imagesCAUI1QI2It’s easy to take for granted that our medical care is always done right. After all, we expect nothing less. If a bone is broken, we want it reset. If tonsils are in the way, we get them removed. If cancer shows up on the scan, we start aggressive treatment.

However, last Friday proved that all the expectations in the world don’t matter, unless everything is done right.

I’ve been looking forward to the 36 week appointment for a long time. For me, it felt like the point in a backpacking trek when you get above tree line – suddenly, the view becomes panoramic. Now you know what you’re working with- how far left you have to go. Oftentimes, you can see the boulder field, the final ascent, and suddenly, you’re invigorated. Ready.

Knowing how big the babies had gotten was a milestone, and 6 lbs was the goal. Anything over six was fantastic, anything under would be a little harder to swallow.

So when the news came back that Baby A was 5.6 and Baby B was 5.2 lbs and ounces, (15th and 9th percentile for growth), something inside me flagged. It felt like rounding the curve of a trail into what you thought was an opening, but instead, faced another set of dusty switchbacks. Dr. Becker carefully explained that because of the low percentiles, the babies had a couple of potential problems – either the placenta was crapping out and couldn’t accommodate both of them at this late stage of the game, or they had become growth restricted.

Either way, she recommended inducing, for the sake of Baby B, who was under the 10th percentile. In four days.

Jason and I looked long and hard at each other.

Let me be clear. 37 weeks is a perfectly fine time to have babies. Their lungs are developed, their bodies are ready, and there are very few risks for complication. For twins, it’s totally normal. It simply was not what I wanted.

She gave us the weekend to think about it, and asked that I come in again on Monday to do another biophysical profile on the girls to make sure they were still okay prior to delivering on Wednesday if that’s what we decided. We left the hospital in shock. Four days.

Selfishly, as I was folding laundry that night, I started envisioning not being pregnant any more. Just four more stretched out outfits to put together. The ability to rest on my stomach. Bend over. Pick things up without having an aneurism.

But the mother side of me felt uneasy. I fought induction with Ellis tooth and nail in order for her to have an intervention-free delivery. I knew that having twins was a whole different ballgame, but I was still maintaining the hope that I could at least go into labor naturally.

Besides that – we were basing all of these decisions on one ultrasound. What if it was wrong?

32 Weeks: Tipping the scales

At the 32 week growth scan, the girls are weighing in at 4.1 and 4.2 lbs and ounces. The ultrasound technicians figure this out by doing a growth scan ultrasound, which means I lay on my back like a bloated wood tick for an hour and watch them sonically measure a plethora of arms, legs, heads, and stomachs. It’s amazing, and also slightly confusing that there’s that much going on just centimeters beneath the surface of my skin.

After she got the reports, my doctor literally gave me a high five, and I celebrated with a Dairy Queen chocolate malt. (After all, it only makes sense to commemorate weight gain with more weight gain.)

I never thought I’d be so excited to hear that my girls were basically the same combined weight that I carried at almost 42 weeks during my first pregnancy. But the whole goal of this pregnancy has been to grow healthy babies. Babies with fully developed lungs. Babies that won’t have to spend any time in the NICU, Lord willing. Babies that can come home with us as soon as they possibly can.

For better or for worse, I have not spent any time dreaming about what these girls will accomplish in their lives just yet. I haven’t lived out scenarios of them graduating from Harvard or climbing Kilimanjaro. Instead, I’ve prayed for them to be chubby, and pink, and healthy.

This is probably not what most mothers dream for their daughters.

But then I start to wonder, why not? With all the social pressures that my daughters will face regarding their appearance, I ought to be unloading dump trucks full of prayers for them to be healthy. Live healthy. Understand healthy.

I’m not talking about being fitness obsessed, or so diet-focused that they have a meltdown if they decide to eat a funnel cake.

playingI’m talking about teaching them to love the amazing varieties of good food we’re so blessed to have access to. About having energy to play and dance to the whimsical songs in their heads. About knowing that no matter what they look like, what they are wearing, how many mosquito bites or pimples or wrinkles they have, they will always be solidly, deeply LOVED.

This morning I listened to a radio blurb on how parents who talk about health instead of appearance tend to raise children who focus on the same thing. This sparked my memory to a really great blog post I read a few years back, titled “How to talk to little girls” by Lisa Bloom. It’s short, and if you ever plan to interact with little girls, please take a minute and read it.

(PS – Anyone coming to our house for dinner is more than welcome to try this with Ellis – as long as you’re ready to read the book Yummy Yucky at least twice.)

Sometimes, the actual work of parenting seems a long way off, and I’m a big believer in being present. So I’m choosing not to worry about it. But I’m no fool – raising three girls is going to be a challenge. It will be one of the most fulfilling things Jason and I do with our lives, and one of the hardest.

But I’m starting to think what might make a sustainable, lasting impact is keeping up with my goal to raise my girls to be healthy.

To be individuals who do not focus solely on themselves, so that they have the time and energy to focus instead on the people and the world around them.

To eat ice cream and kale with equal gusto, because health is a fine balance between enjoyment and good choices, self love and self care.

31 Weeks: Nursery meditations and why a cardboard box might be easier

Welcome to this week’s classic, first world problem: We need to start setting up a nursery.

boxHonestly, I think the third world has it right. Find a cradle, or a cardboard box. Line it with a blanket. Put it by your bed. Nursery complete.

But the privileged Western side of me says “Hey! Target keeps sending me coupons. I better at least look at them.” And I’m not even going to mention the time suck of Etsy and Pinterest, because I’m embarrassed by how many hours I can log looking at other people’s ideas for picture frames and fabric initials and homemade stuffed animals sewn out of old jeans and grandma’s floral blouses.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad about creating a space for babies. And that whole nesting instinct? That’s real. Because suddenly, I’m in a fit of panic about what color to paint the babies’ room. Is pink too, well, pink? Yellow reminds me of kitchens. Blue and green are hard to pick. White is impractical. So on, and so forth. We need another crib. A dresser. A rocking chair.

So I go into a fit of pregnant activity, buy the paint, open the windows, and start in. Two hours and one wall later, I realize I probably should have asked for help. My stomach is covered in paint. It is now 11 pm and I can’t even think straight, much less paint a straight edge on the ceiling slant.

The non-pregnant me would have tightened my ponytail, turned up the fan, and tackled the rest of the room regardless. (I’m pretty good at self talk and internal pity parties.)

But the pregnant-with-twins me sighs. Stands in the middle of the room. Stares at the rest of the walls. And says screw it – I need to go to bed.

This is where I’m thankful for the pregnant-with-twins me, because honestly, I’m learning a lot from this person. There’s something to be said for purposeful self care, and there’s a reason why the Old Testament commandment in Leviticus says love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Not because we need to be narcissistic, or so completely wrapped up in our own lives and bodies and selves that we cannot think about anyone else.

Precisely the opposite. We love ourselves so that we have the capacity to love others.

We leave the mess and choose to relax with our loved ones. Forgo dishes in order to play whales with the toddler in the tub. Ignore the clothes in the dryer to catch one more minute of burnishing twilight.

Why? Because these are the moments that feed us, body and soul.

Luckily, self care these days automatically equates to care for my girls. But I don’t want it to stop when I’m no longer pregnant. I want to continue to be intentional about how I care for myself IN ORDER TO have the capability to fully care for everyone else in my life.

I want to take in as much love as I can in order to pour it all back out when someone else needs it. I want to be a culvert instead of a dam – a place for love to go roaring through, nourishing life on both sides.