The twins are a month old as of yesterday. Today is their due date. In honor of both occasions, I am going to regale y’all with the twins’ birth story, which sort of got lost in the drama of Ben’s stay in the NICU.
I went into labor around 4:00 on Thursday, July 22. I called Doug at 4:30 and asked him to come home from work. He biked home in record time, in near record heat, as I recall (but my memory is strangely fuzzy around the edges; I can’t imagine why), changed out of his bike clothes, finished packing our hospital bag, and ate a quick dinner.
We got to the hospital a little before seven, spent an hour and a half in triage, and then were admitted and taken to a birthing room. I got an epidural at 10:30. I’d done the whole natural childbirth thing with Jane and decided almost the moment we learned there were twins inside me that I was opting for painkiller this time around.
Even with the epidural, sleep was elusive: I had a blood pressure cuff, an IV, two baby monitors, a contraction monitor, a catheter, and the epidural line attached to my body. And I couldn’t feel anything below my waist. To even move required the help of both Doug and the nurse. I had never felt quite so much like a beached whale.
The epidural, unfortunately, stopped my labor cold, so the OB broke Luke’s bag of waters at five on Friday morning. This didn’t seem to help me progress any, so around seven, she suggested starting a pitocin drip. By this time, enough of my epidural had worn off that I was feeling very strong contractions. And all I could do was breathe through them. No dice on finding a more comfortable position.
My nurse assured me that she wouldn’t start the pitocin till I was comfortable – pitocin makes your contractions even stronger – and she sent for the anaesthesiologist, who showed up at 7:45 and gave me a bolus of epidural, which is basically as much in a minute as I’d been getting in an hour. Within five minutes, I felt nary a contraction.
Meanwhile, my OB came in with the ultrasound machine to make sure the babies were still head down, so she could know we were able to attempt a vaginal birth. She found Luke’s head, then Ben’s head, both down. My nurse was having trouble finding Luke’s heartbeat with the monitor, so my OB checked Luke’s position with the ultrasound again. She ran the wand up and down my belly, and side to side over my pubic bone, but she couldn’t find his head. “He was just here,” she said.
My nurse pulled back the blanket that covered me. “Uh, doctor,” she said. “There’s a baby.”
Doug, who had been standing by my head, coaching me through my contractions, looked down toward my feet. His eyes filled with tears and a huge smile lit his face. “Kimberlee, there’s a baby!”
“How can there be a baby?” I said. “I didn’t even push.”
But there was Luke, lying in the bed. My OB pushed the call button. “We need a baby nurse.” She was laughing. My nurse was laughing. The intern was laughing. Doug was laughing and crying. I was still confused. Then someone picked Luke up and lay him on my chest, and I started laughing and crying, too.
Suddenly the room was full of people: the neonatal nurses, the resident, the pediatrician, a respiratory therapist, and a couple of midwives. Everyone was laughing.
My OB checked Ben’s position with the ultrasound. He was still head down. After five of the weakest pushes in the history of childbirth (I was still highly doped up on that bolus of epidural, if you recall), Ben was born to the sound of happy conversation and laughter.
I got to hold both boys on my chest for about a minute before they were whisked off to the nursery upstairs. It would be eight more days before I could hold Ben again. I like to think his first memory of life outside the wound gave him something hopeful to think and dream about in the difficult days that followed. I know it sustained me, knowing that the first sound he ever heard was joy.