Alright, if you’ve read my other posts, you realize that I’m not that great about sticking hard and fast to a topic. My 2nd Employment post turned into a Parenting post and my 2nd Education post turned into an Employment/Parenting post so you’re probably wondering what my Parenting post today will turn into. You don’t have to worry too much; it’s not hard to see the common thread of Parenting in my posts, so there’s a good chance I will stick to the topic of Parenting. Being a parent is what I’ve done longer than anything else in my life besides being a wife. I don’t claim expertise, but I sure do claim experience. I expect I’ll veer a little off topic here and there, since that’s my M.O., but it must not bother you too much or you wouldn’t be back reading my blog today! Warning: this actually turns into a birth story, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, you can stop now or anytime you decide. Just wanted you to be aware.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have five grown children, ages 22, 22, 25, 28 and 30. I haven’t told you that there are four boys and a girl in that line up. If you notice, two of them are 22. Yes, they are twins. Hey, it didn’t necessarily mean I had twins. My husband is only 11 months younger than his sister, so for a month each year they are the same number of years old. Also, I went to school with two sisters who were the same age but not twins. Their parents had tried for years to have kids with no luck. They finally decided to adopt and while they were in the process, they found out they were pregnant! They decided to go ahead with the adoption and voila, they had two girls the same age who weren’t twins.
Anyway, my 22 year olds are twins. It seems that my husband and I make a boy every time we get pregnant so the only way to have a girl was to have twins! That’s a family joke I like to tell and since it’s gotten kind of old (22 years now) I rarely tell it anymore, but since you are fresh meat, I decided to pull it out and dust it off.
I didn’t know I was having twins. It’s really a funny story. You see, I had already had three babies, each pregnancy and birth getting easier and my body becoming quite proficient. I was only in the hospital for 12 hours after my third birth, so we decided that having a homebirth and using midwives would be the way to go this time around. I knew a Registered Lay Midwife who was practicing with a Certified Nurse Midwife who also worked as a Labor and Delivery nurse at the hospital where my third son was born. They did home visits alternating which one came each month. During the third visit, when I was about 4 months pregnant, I had a large jump in the fundal height, but I assured her that I’d done that with each pregnancy. She asked if there was a history of twins to which I replied no, only later after the birth did I find out that there were actually two sets of triplets a few generations back on my side! My fourth visit brought the other midwife and there was only a small gain within line for what a singleton pregnancy should be. The fifth visit again brought a big jump in fundal height and the lay midwife checked really closely for a second heartbeat, felt all around searching for an extra set of knees and elbows all to no avail. Again she asked about twins in the family and again I insisted no, there weren’t any. I surmised that because I had two midwives who alternated monthly and the gains kept happening in alternate months, perhaps they somehow measured a bit differently. They scheduled a home visit the next week for them both to come and measure me independently of each other to see if that was the case. They came in one at a time, measured me, wrote down the measurement and left the room. They later told me that they felt like school girls being tested and in a sense they were. Sure enough, their measurements were 2 cm. different, just the amount that was throwing them off. The fundal height is usually about the same as the number of weeks pregnant within 2 cm. either way. Say my first measurement had been 23 cm at 20 weeks which was a little high, hence the question about twins in the family, but then 4 weeks later when that first midwife would have measured 27, the other measured me at 25 cm at 24 weeks, so it looked like a normal singleton pregnancy. Then another 4 weeks goes by and the first midwife measures me at 31 and I’m only 28 weeks pregnant, so again the twin line of questioning. The next week they both measure me at 29 weeks; one measured me at 32 and the other at 30.
So, at this point they said that there was a 25% chance I was carrying twins and began diligently listening for a second heartbeat, feeling for extra body parts and wishing they had done a measurement around my belly for another rate of comparison. No other signs of a multiple pregnancy were presenting themselves, so I was certain I only had a boy in there. My technical certified nurse midwife encouraged me to have an ultrasound, but I did not want one. I was sure it was not twins. My laidback lay midwife encouraged me to do whatever I felt comfortable with. My weight gain was normal. My morning sickness had been in line with my previous pregnancies. Other than looking like I’d swallowed a watermelon and only being 6 months pregnant, I was sure this was only one baby, heck, even they thought it was a 75% chance it was only one baby.
I thought back to the date of my last menstrual cycle and remembered that it really wasn’t much more than spotting and my previous period had been three weeks prior to that. I shared this information with my midwives and we decided that I might possibly be three weeks further along than we thought, right in line with my fundal height. We then revised my due date to anywhere between September 13th and the original date of October 4th.
Because of this revision, my bi-weekly and then weekly visits started early on. At some point in August, I began dilating a cm. a week. Yep, I must be due on September 13th, but that date came and went and no baby. I continued to dilate a cm. a week. My certified nurse midwife offered to break my water, but I did not want any intervention. I would let my baby come when he was ready. I continued getting my second grader ready for school each morning. I waddled my kindergartener into his classroom every day after lunch. I continued nursing my toddler (oops I hadn’t mentioned this yet, yes, I was still nursing my toddler, mainly for his naps and at bedtime. I am an accredited breastfeeding support counselor for an international organization and I was open to tandem nursing if my toddler didn’t wean during pregnancy, which he hadn’t and my due date was fast approaching so I fully expected to nurse an infant and a toddler. Nursing twins and a toddler is a whole other post!) The last few days of September I began having Braxton Hicks contractions, but they never lasted long enough to call the midwives.
On October 3rd I had my weekly pre-natal visit with both midwives arriving and lecturing me about the need to call them even for Braxton Hicks contraction. They were fine making false runs just in case, especially with the fact that I was dilated to 8 cm. meaning that when labor started it wouldn’t take long. At this exam they still could not find a second heartbeat, but they did find a mass which they said was either a large cyst or the placenta but that it did not feel like another baby. (This did turn out to be the placenta as their placentas had fused together and was rather large, 10#s!!!) They said that if I was carrying twins, they had to be both vertex and they were comfortable continuing with a homebirth. Although they did reverse my percentages and claimed it was now a 75% chance of twins and only a 25% chance of a singleton. I was still in denial; “Tomorrow is my due date. Don’t twins usually come early?” I asked. “It can’t be twins. I’ve only gained 28 pounds,” said the lady who for the last three months had looked like she’d swallowed a watermelon. Even though the scales didn’t lie, the weight in my body had shifted with my arms and legs getting skinnier as my belly grew.
Early in the wee hours of October 4th strong contractions finally began. When the first midwife arrived, she wouldn’t even do an internal exam worried that it would spur things on before her partner arrived. I breathed through contractions resisting the urge to push. The second midwife arrived minutes later; they examined me and I was at 10 cm, fully effaced. “Ok, you can start pushing!” they said. Soon my baby was born, gliding into my husband’s arms. Before he had a chance to tell me that we’d had a daughter, one of the midwives had her stethoscope on my belly and said, “There’s another heartbeat!” We WERE having twins! I could see the blood drain from my husband’s face as he went pale. He handed me our daughter and went running next door to get our neighbor, Patsy to help out, to hold the first baby so I could birth the second.
My midwives told me to relax and snuggle with my daughter, offer her my breast, but to let them know as soon as contractions started again. About that time our neighbor’s husband came running into the bedroom. Somehow in the excitement, he thought we wanted Patsy to come over to be with the boys while my husband took me to the hospital. He turned pale also when he saw me just after the birth of a baby. Later he would say, “My wife had three cesareans, I’ve never seen anything like that! I didn’t even know y’all were having a homebirth!”
So anyway, Patsy comes over and oohs and ahhs over my daughter peacefully nursing at the breast. When my baby girl was about 30 minutes old, the contractions started again, not with great intensity, but they had started. I handed my daughter off to Patsy and she did not like being snatched off the breast. She began to cry. She wouldn’t stop crying no matter what Patsy did to try to soothe her.
I began to push with each contraction. This birth would be a little harder in that he had farther to travel, but 26 minutes later he was born and at the moment his head was birthed the crying ceased. It was so noticeable that everyone in the room, the midwives, my husband and I all turned to look, worried our baby girl had stopped breathing. Patsy pivoted the babe in her arms to show us that she was fine, that she had just decided to stop crying. That’s when I realized that she hadn’t been upset about being taken off the breast, she had been crying for her brother and the difficult road he was travelling down. With his birth she knew he was ok. She knew she didn’t have to worry anymore.
Ok, so, it wasn’t really a funny story, it was a beautiful story about how pregnancy and birth are supposed to be. I swear it’s all true. I couldn’t have made this stuff up if I had wanted to. My twins were born on their due date weighing in at 6 lbs. 7 oz. for her and 7 lb. ½ oz. for him. The fun part was that we got to use both names we had picked out, because even though I was sure I was having a boy since we make boys every time I get pregnant we did have a girl’s name picked out too, just in case.
If you stuck it out this long, thanks for listening to my miracle of birth. Every birth is a miracle, but having an uncomplicated surprise twin birth at home is truly a miracle which I am so happy to have had a part in.