The day you give birth is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. With Olivia, I had a picture perfect birth and I was able to take home my adorable, healthy girl just a few days later. I am so glad that I had this as my first experience, because the second was much different… anything but happy. In my situation with twins, I was lucky that everything ended up as well as it did, but it didn’t make the trauma of prematurity any easier.
This pregnancy was a surprise and finding out that I was having twins was an even bigger surprise. I don’t think I spoke for about 5 minutes after the OB announced that she saw two heads… we had quite the challenge in store. The pregnancy was relatively easy, mixed with excitement and a little apprehension of what life would be like after they were born. I never had to go on bed rest and there were no extreme complications.
At the tail end of week 31, John & I were shopping for TV stands (we still to this day haven’t bought a new one yet!! Figures.) I didn’t feel well… John went to pull the car around to head to my Mom’s house where Olivia was. With Olivia, my water broke in the middle of the night and I was already in extreme pain by the time I woke up. I missed all of these early warning signs of labor the first time around. I am also the exact opposite of a hypochondriac. One time I had an extremely bad kidney infection and I swore I was just constipated until I ended up in the E.R. with an IV of antibiotics.
To get to the point, I called the doctor claiming I had a bladder infection. About 6 hours later, I was home calling my Sister to come pick me up and take me to the hospital. Her boyfriend drove and we hurtled down the freeway as I obviously was having very strong contractions. I still had yet to admit I was in labor. After an exam, I found out that I was already 6 cm dilated and that there was no turning back. The panic was like someone had just punched me straight in the stomach… how did this happen? They aren’t ready… then the tears came and I couldn’t calm down. I read all of the chapters on prematurity, but I never thought it would happen to me. I figured they would be a little early, but not two months early! My Sister called John and I could just feel his shock and angst through their conversation. I felt like I had failed us and our babies.
The nurse finally reassured me… many babies have come earlier than this; they had a great NICU here; everything was going to be OK. (On a side note – The Maternity and NICU nurses at El Camino Hospital do AMAZING work. I have never met more caring people in my life. Without them, I wouldn’t have survived this ordeal with my sanity intact.) The next few hours were a blur… calling my specialist to see if we should go with a C-section or not… steroid shots to help the babies’ lungs… praying…
Finally after what seemed like an eternity, they wheeled me into the operating room. We were going for a vaginal birth, but had to be ready just in case of emergency. There was a doctor and 2 nurses for each baby, my OB and nurse and the ultrasound technician to watch the progress as each were born. With John by my side and these 9 masked faces standing over me ready to go, I took a breath and prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed before. The birth itself was quick; two pushes and Alex was out, three pushes and my Big Ben was out. My Alex cried for the first time and he sounded like a little kitten and not like a baby… it shocked me. All I saw was his foot before they whisked him into the incubator. I got to hold Ben for a few seconds… he was beautiful. Lots of dark hair with a face like a skinny little old man. I’d always wanted sons.
After that was silence… the babies went to the NICU and I was wheeled back to my room to wait. I didn’t know how to feel. I don’t even know how much time passed. My family came in saying how beautiful they were. They had been able to see them and I was livid. Those were my babies… I worked hard to carry those boys and keep them healthy inside of me and now they were out and I hadn’t even had a chance to bond with them. They were MINE. It was like my heart was living outside of my body and it was locked up in an incubator that I couldn’t get to… that I couldn’t even see.
FINALLY, the babies were ready for a visit. I really wish someone had prepped me for what I was about to see. If finding out that my twins were about to be born prematurely was like a punch in the stomach, then seeing them for the first time in that state was like a brick to the head. They were so little, and so skinny. They had probes and lines everywhere… I couldn’t even see their little faces covered by seemingly huge breathing masks. What I remember most was how they couldn’t take a deep breath. They were breathing so quickly… sharp little gasps while their chests retracted. I wanted to pick them up and tell them it was OK, that Mommy was here now. I wanted to tell them I was sorry… they were probably so scared. I couldn’t do anything. I was helpless. Being a Mother and feeling like there was absolutely nothing I could do to help my children in their time of need is on the top 5 list of worst feelings in the world in my book. I lost it… I cried and cried and with all of our immediate family there staring at me, trying to console me, all I wanted was to be alone with John to grieve. It wasn’t their fault, but the sea of emotions that I was swimming in was just too much to handle in front of anyone.
In the weeks to come, my mental state had it’s highs and lows as they improved. Words like brain bleed, feeding tube, central line and blood transfusions became standard in my vocabulary. I had to stay strong for my Olivia who was going through her own trauma. She was only 20 months old when this all happened. I am so glad that Alex & Ben will never remember those first days as they were poked, prodded and struggled to breathe. It was only 6-8 weeks before I had them home, but it went by so slowly when I was in the middle of it. Luckily, with the help of modern medicine they made it out as healthy babies. I, on the other hand, will always remember… the impact on my person is immense. Life is so delicate and should be carefully valued each step of the way. While I’m thankful for the positive impact it had on my life in the long run, I still mentally block it out as much as possible. Even writing this brought back the tears to my eyes. If I had wanted another child, I know that I couldn’t do it – I’m done emotionally. I don’t think I could survive it if I went through all of this again or something even worse. I see my beautiful children today and am delighted to be able to continue to move forward with our lives. I love you Olivia, Alexander & Benjamin! You are all so brave.
Here are pictures of my boys a few days after they were born (Note that their middle names Thomas & Tevin both mean “Twin.” And the fact that Baby A ended up as Alex and Baby B ended up as Ben was not purposeful, though cute!):
Baby A: Alexander Tevin (born 3 lbs 15 ounces)
Baby B: Benjamin Thomas (born 5lbs)