Eight years ago today, my body decided that my twins needed a birthday. The same birthday as my husband. Can’t say I don’t give good gifts!
(Warning: This is a very FRANK and RAW description of the day of my twins birth. Please read the WHOLE story if you are going to read any of it.)
At 12:30am on 12/16/04 my doctors came in and decided that my body could no longer tolerate being pregnant. Pre-eclampsia had set in and my body had enough. I was induced within moments and what I thought would be a long, drawn out process began.
My husband was there, my mother, my sister and my mother in law decided to stay the night and wait out the twins arrival. The labor and delivery room at Mt. Sinai was REALLY small and only my husband was able to stay in the room and keep me company.
Considering that I was only 34 weeks pregnant, on the day, I had visits from a neonatologist, Dr. Holtzman, and other specialists that were giving me a play by play of what to expect after the twins were welcomed into the world.
Both twins were head down, Pitocin drip was started and the show was just beginning.
I can remember the pain, such bad pain. It wasn’t from labor, it was radiating where my ribs ended, in the center of my chest. It was a horrible, horrible pain. The doctors had given me many types of pain medication but the pain was unbearable and they started giving me morphine. Once that kicked in, I was more comfortable, but still in pain.
The long night began. I can remember my husband telling me he was going to “close his eyes for a few minutes” and then moments after that, the sound of his slow, steady, snoring. I remember the nurses coming in to check on me and commenting “Wow, your husband is such a sound sleeper.” Great, I thought to myself. Here I am alone, in pain, not knowing what was happening to my body or my babies, and my husband is taking a nap! (He still to THIS DAY says that was on purpose so that he was able to be “On” once the babies got here. Good Story? I’m not sure. But he was right. He did need to be “On”.)
Labor went on till 5:30am when I called the doctor in. Dr. Barbieri was on call that night, and I now know what a godsend that was considering that I credit her with saving my life that day.
When Dr. Barbieri came in, she said, “Nat, it’s probably nothing. Your a new mother and this process can take a long time.” I remember my reply. “Well, no matter what you say, someone better catch this kid because it’s coming out.” Sure enough, she picked up the sheet and she confirmed it was showtime, a twin was crowing!
My husband threw on scrubs and at the last minute I said “Please doctor, can my sister come in with us?”. This was no time to argue, she agreed, and my sister was thrown a pair of scrubs as well. (The photos below in the OR were taken by my sister.)
I was wheeled into an operating room moments later and an entire team seemed to appear out of nowhere. Since I delivered at a teaching hospital, every Tom, Dick and Harry was there to witness the miracle of a multiple birth.
The stage was set. I was the star. It was time. Dr. Barbieri instructed me to push. Out of nowhere this inner cavewoman came out. No Lamaze class. Nothing. But I knew exactly what to do. It’s almost as if my body had been ready for this for a long time.
One push, nothing. Two pushes, progress. Three pushes, welcome to the world Baby A! 5:56am.
The doctor said “Here’s your fiery red head!” and I thought to myself “That morphine is some hard sh*t. A red head?”. Sure enough, she held her up, placed her on my chest and I saw my fiery red head for the first time. Moments passed. They brought her to a side area where she was cleaned up and given a small amount of oxygen. I had an URGENT urge to push, but the doctors had told me to hold off. I did my best but I could no longer resist the urge. That cavewoman was in control and there was only so much I could do.
One push. Welcome Baby B! 5:58am.
I heard crying from my right side where my Baby A was and I looked on my chest once again and another child was laying there. Holy crap, I had twins! Sure I knew it was going to happen. But it was all so real now.
Baby B was taken to the same area where A was, and doctors were working on both of them. They had both cried and they were both looking good. Weighing in at 4.6lbs and 4lbs they were still so small in my eyes. I didn’t know what to make of the whole event.
Then, trouble arose. I saw worry on my doctors face and I noticed an enormous amount of blood on my sheets. I quickly looked to my husband who was turning white as a ghost. I looked over at my sister who was emotionless, but what I could see of her eyes through the surgical mask, they didn’t look happy. What was going on?
The bleeding got worse and worse. I looked at my doctor again and said “Do I need to worry?”. She promptly replied (and I can remember this like it was yesterday) “I’ll tell you when to worry.” She called for blood and she tried to explain what was going to happen. She told me there was a lot of bleeding, she said I was hemorrhaging, to be specific. I kept thinking “I never got to hold them. I don’t even know their names.” Worry was setting in. Dr. Barbieri told me that she had to go in and manually contract my uterus. I didn’t care what she did. I just wanted to be well. I was scared. I was very scared. I took a deep breath and focused on the sound of my twins crying. I felt pulling. Tugging. I didn’t want to look down. I just kept looking to my right where my babies were crying.
What seemed like an eternity later, I clearly heard my doctor exhale. Apparently the worst was over. She explained how I needed some stitches since she had torn me on the way in. I didn’t care. I had faith in her. I knew then she was my angel. She saved my life.
A while later my twins had to take a journey up to the NICU. My husband when with them while my sister stayed with me until I was brought to recovery. I was in recovery for over a day. I remember bits and pieces of my time there. I remember asking for a breast pump (and getting one). I remember “drunk dialing” a friend from work to tell her I had the babies. I remember seeing my babies on a small camera screen since they were in the NICU. I remember telling my husband to get a priest to see them. I am not a religious person, but was raised Roman Catholic. I needed the peace of knowing they were blessed. I remember thinking “I’m not going to make it. I don’t know if I am going to live.”
The bleeding continued. More blood was ordered but I kindly asked if I could wait to receive it. The doctor granted me my wish. She said that as long as my blood stayed at X level (I can’t remember what that X is) I could forgo a transfusion. I was able to make it without any transfusions at all. I was happy about that.
I remember my husband checking in on me in the recovery room. I remember going to the bathroom and feeling my stitches for the first time (YIKES!). I remember talking to my husband and sister and asking them who the babies look like. I remember telling my sister “Does she look like an Amanda?” my sister said “She looks like an Anna.” And I said “Then please call her Anna. I want to know their names incase anything happens to me.” It was dark. It was a very, very dark time.
The next day I was stable enough to be brought to a room. It was VERY early morning and I remember Dr. Barbieri coming into my room. It was the same room I had been in days before my delivery. I was all alone. The sun was coming up over Central Park where the hospital sat across from. It was cold. There was frost on the glass. There weren’t any lights on, but the brightness from outside was covering the room. The doctor walked in. She said “Natalie, that was bad.” She explained how all the bleeding was from a blood clotting disorder I have. I had been on blood thinners my entire pregnancy, and because of the preeclampsia, they couldn’t reverse them in time. She then broke the news to me. She told me, in her professional opinion, I should not have any more children.
My heart was broken. I knew she was right. I knew I came close to the end of my road.
I hadn’t even met the two kids I had, and I was already mourning the others that I would never know. I had always wanted a very large family. John and I joked about six kids. Well, he joked, I was serious. Now, that dream was gone.
After the doctor left the room. I cried. I cried that this was it. This was my chance. Thank goodness I had two. I cried that I lived. I knew it was bad, but I had no idea how bad it was. I cried all alone in that room on that cold December morning.
I didn’t rush to see the babies. I waited. I was scared. I wanted to go. I wanted to run out of the hospital. I had already failed them as a parent. I failed them because I couldn’t hold them in my body. My body failed me and therefore I was a failure as a mother, as a woman. Yes, I know this was irrational, but it was honest.
My husband and sister arrived at the hospital later that day. My husband kissed me and quickly went off to the NICU to be with the twins. My sister remained in the room. I told her “We have to go. We have to leave. I can’t do this.” Because I don’t think she knew what to say, she said “Ok, let’s go. Where do you want to go?” I didn’t expect that answer and didn’t even know how to respond.
She and I just sat in that room. I knew I had to go see them. I knew I HAD to. I didn’t WANT to. She didn’t pressure me. She didn’t push me. We sat there together until I was ready. I remember it being around 4pm when I was ready. A full day and a half after they were born. I was so scared. I didn’t want to see them. They were so tiny. They didn’t know me. Why would they want me? All these emotions were going through my head. It was horrific. Little did I know that was the start of a battle with PPD I would have for months to come. (Read about that battle here.)
Finally, I mustered up the courage and went. I was wheeled down in a chair to the 3rd flood (I was on 7 at the time) to the NICU. I had never taken my hospital tour so I had no idea where we were going. We got to the doors, they automatically opened, and I saw my husband holding a child. That was it. There was no turning back.
I wheeled over to him. He was holding our fiery red head, Anna. I saw that hair. I saw the love in my husbands eyes and I waited. I didn’t want to hold her just yet. I wasn’t ready. They were both in incubators. They were both receiving oxygen. Their little lungs were almost ready, but not quite there. It would be a bit longer till they were out in bassinets.
Eventually I did it. Eventually I held her. Eventually I held him. I don’t know if I did it because I had to, or because I wanted to, but I did it. Once I felt the fragile weight of their bodies I knew they needed me. I knew I was their mom and I knew it was my job to protect them.
It was a long uphill road. They spent weeks in the NICU through Christmas and then New Years. I’ve still never been able to experience those holidays the same since their birth. I make sure that each year is happy, but to be honest, it’s still hard for me. I make the holidays very cheerful and bright, but inside, there is a tiny piece of me that still goes back to the days in the NICU when I was worried about them, and about myself.
Eight years have passed now. I can’t recall what I had for breakfast today, but I can recall the smell of the operating room. I can recall Dr. Barbieri’s words about Anna. I can recall the look on my husband’s face and in my sister’s eyes. Yes, this is a birthday. A birthday of my twins who mean the world to me. A birthday, a celebration of their life. A celebration of my life as well. However, I still always take a moment and reflect on this day in my own personal way.
The twins spent a while in the NICU. Baby B: 14 days. Baby A: 31 days. I eventually got the hang of it. I eventually learned that the NICU is an amazing place where you can be taught how to do everything RIGHT the first time. The NICU became the first stop on my journey of motherhood. I stopped dreading my visits, and started looking forward to them. I used the NICU as my personal resource of how to care for my twins. It was a place of learning. It was a place of healing. It was a place of hope.
I’m not sure if your birth story was like this. I hope it was filled with family, laughter, little discomfort, and pleasantries, but if it’s not, know you are not alone. Not every set of twins, or child for that matter, has a “happy” birthday story. Yes, we spin it as parents. I leave out the details to them, many details, they probably will never know the truth, or at least I hope they never do. It’s not their burden to carry. They are my miracles. They are my joy. They are my blessing. They are my twins. I’ve been blessed twice with the most amazing children. God has granted me my wish, to be a mother. Today I am reminded of just how lucky we are to have our lives and the lives of the people we love.
I hope that my story hasn’t gotten you worried about your own delivery if you are expecting. I’m sure you will be JUST fine. I wouldn’t worry one bit. But if you are reading this and had a similar experience, I know what you went through. I know how you feel. You are not alone. It’s one of the reasons why Twiniversity was founded. To make sure that everyone has someone to talk to. To make sure that you know you are not alone no matter what the situation.
Thank you to the staff at Mt. Sinai, Dr. Barbieri and the whole NICU and OB team. Without you, I wouldn’t be here in the condition I am today.
P.S If you should ever need someone to talk to. Know that I am always here. Natalie@Twiniversity.com I mean that. Never feel alone. You aren’t.
Thank you Nat for your honest words. Yet another reminder of the badges of courage and challenge that we all wear as twin parents. While my own story was less eventful (still certainly very stressful) I can so appreciate how this day is a bittersweet reminder for you. Thanks again for sharing.
PS – My babes were born via C-Section and were initially scheduled at 37 weeks for December 15th – my Husband’s Birthday. After an amnio indicated that their lungs still might not be ready, we hung on one more week and will be celebrating their first birthday this coming Saturday.