Nothing goes according to plan. Anyone who has lived on this Earth longer than a day knows this to be true (the year 2020 is a large scale example of this).
At some point in your pregnancy, you are expected to create your “birth plan.” This is basically a well-organized list of preferences to give your doctor and nurses so that they might create your ideal atmosphere with your ideal method of pain relief during your ideal birth scenario. A perfect world scenario.
I had created my birth plan based on what I dreamt would be perfect for me. I did not want a Caesarean. I wanted to attempt to push both babies out and the idea of having a major surgery was scary to me. I wanted to avoid being cut into at all cost. I wasn’t attempting to be superwoman either…by that I mean epidural? Yep, sign me up. I wanted the babies immediately placed on my chest to begin skin to skin. I wanted to attempt breastfeeding as soon as possible. I wanted them to delay cutting the umbilical cords. I did not want NICU time for either of my sons.
Before you continue reading, here’s a spoiler alert: absolutely none of these things happened for me. Nothing on this perfect world birth plan came in to fruition.
My boys are healthy. They both came home with us after our four-day hospital stay and, in the end, this is absolutely all that matters. For a twin family, we’re one of the lucky ones. However, I did give myself the grace to grieve a birthing experience I hoped for but never lived.
Now, the birth of James and John. Let’s begin.
My induction was scheduled for September 22nd. At that point, I would’ve been 37 weeks along and I had been questioning again and again my ability to make it that far. For months I had expressed my want to attempt a vaginal birth with the boys. My doctor was honest about the risks associated with a vaginal birth with multiples: while the first may come out successfully, the second child could get stuck or have a placenta or cord fall in its way, ending in an emergency Caesarean for the second (which would be recovering from both a vaginal and Caesarean….no thank you). One twin could fall into distress if I labored that long. A vaginal birth with multiples has been shown to increase hemorrhaging in the mother. I took in these risk factors, but decided that I still wanted to try. Anything to avoid the idea of a C-section and the recovery from a major surgery.
Monday, September 14th, held great significance because on this Monday I had officially hit my goal: I had carried the twins to 36 weeks. It was also the morning I awoke with some of the most horrendous pregnancy back pain I’d experienced to date.
Over the previous weekend, my husband and I had been spending the weekend in our hometown celebrating my sister-in-law’s birthday and my mom’s birthday. This was the most social and active I had been since my hospital stay at thirty-two weeks, as I had been put on “modified rest.” Therefore, I decided my back pain must’ve been due to overexertion or even the restaurant chair I’d been sitting on for my mom’s birthday the night before.
I made my way out to the living room to distract myself with episode upon episode of Say Yes to the Dress. All the while, I was doing my best to change positions, from the couch to the recliner, in the hopes that I might find a pose to alleviate some of the pain.
I walked. I stretched. I drank water. I leaned forward on tables and couches.
Nothing could combat this searing pain in my lower back.
My husband (who works from home) would walk into the living room during breaks, noticing the discomfort etched on my face and the many positions I was trying.
“I mean, could you be in labor?” he asked each time he passed.
There was no doubt in my mind that I could be in labor. However, with a pregnancy as wacky and unpredictable as mine, I couldn’t be sure. Yes, back pain could be a sign of labor. Yes, I was having contractions. However, I’d been having consistent contractions five to six minutes apart for the last two weeks. This was considered normal. Therefore each sign of labor I’d experienced to this point was deemed “false labor” and caused because I carried two. So how I was meant to distinguish between my false labor signs and true labor signs was beyond me. I believed this back pain was just another symptom I’d have to endure until my induction.
As the day drug on, Jimmy asked me multiple times if we needed to make our way to the hospital. I kept telling him no, denying that the back pain and contractions might be labor.
“Plus, the first Steelers game of the season is on tonight. You don’t want to miss that,” I joked.
“I don’t think the game is going to stop labor,” he said, adding items to his hospital bag.
We ordered in Chipotle, as I was in no position to cook, and proceeded to watch some Monday night football.
Looking back I should’ve known. This was labor. There is just something animalistic about it. I say that because I placed my dinner on the coffee table and spent the next few hours watching the football game on all fours, taking breaks to eat my burrito bowl and carb-load with tortillas. Being on my hands and knees seemed the best way to alleviate some of the back pain. I breathed deeply and swayed my weight from hands to knees, hands to knees.
All night Jimmy asked if I needed to go to the hospital, but multiple times I told him no. On the one hand, I was too tired to go to the hospital to be told it was more false labor and be sent home again. On the other, I was scared it was real labor and I’d have to face the reality of “where babies come from.” I just wanted to stay home.
I proceeded to take a shower, thinking the warm running water would bring comfort to my lower spine. I put my hands on the wall of the shower and leaned my weight against them. I let the warm water run onto my back while I continued swaying my weight from leg to leg, breathing as deeply as possible.
It was pain like I hadn’t experienced before (and truthfully, I hope to never experience again). A change in position, a warm compress…nothing alleviated the back pain.
I attempted going to bed as normal, but sleep never came. I spent the night walking and “stretching” my back out. I took naps on the recliner in the living room. I swayed on all fours on the floor. Timing my contractions seemed impossible when the pain from my back overshadowed any contraction pain I’d been having.
When morning rolled around, I was exhausted. I was more and more convinced this was labor, but doubt still clouded my judgment. In between following his morning routine, Jimmy asked again if we should go to the hospital.
“I can cancel some meetings today, babe, if you want me to take you just to get checked?”
I almost gave in. I almost let him take me. However, something in me didn’t feel ready. I wasn’t ready to face this new chapter, this new reality, yet. I was scared of experiencing birth. I was afraid of the challenge. I was nervous about this big change.
So, again, I denied my labor.
I turned on Say Yes to the Dress and continued to breathe through my contractions and back pain.
With each passing episode, my energy was declining. I finally lay on my side with pillows stacked under my legs, snuggled with our dog, Sadie, and napped harder and longer than I had my entire third trimester.
(Looking back on this, I feel like this was God’s way of making me rest. I picture Him saying, “Take this nap…you’re going to need it,”).
When I woke up two or three hours later, I didn’t know where I was or what time it happened to be. I sat up slowly and decided I needed to rehydrate. I stood up to go to the kitchen and that’s when I felt it…
Ladies, don’t let movies and television fool you. When your water breaks, it isn’t always an obvious gush of water. Sometimes it’s just a little gush or trickle at a time, which further complicates your ability to be sure of your own labor.
Therefore when I stood and felt that small gush or trickle, I thought, “Was that it?”
And just as I stood there staring quizzically at my belly, Jimmy happened to walk into the living room.
“Hey babe,” I said. “I think it’s time.”