I climbed onto the bed per the nurse's orders. Shortly after, the room shifted into an unsettling quiet. She placed an oxygen mask on my face, ushered in two more nurses to watch with her Emerick's distress displayed on screen, and I steadied myself for the unknown. I prayed God keep my sweet babies safe. They explained to me that Baby B's (Emerick) heart rate was dropping each time I was having a contraction and that they needed him to recover quickly. The unsaid being that an emergency c-section might be knocking on our door.
I did what I always do in times of difficulty. I quieted myself, wringing my stomach and throat from the inside, choking back the letting loose of my fears. It was just then that my mom, dad, and brother, Mark, walked into our room. It took me a moment to register that a.) my dad had successfully surprised me with his presence and b.) three nurses and an oxygen mask on their daughter might be an image a touch distressing for my family who hadn't yet heard of any complications or concerns.
My dad is a truck driver. I grew up with him working long hours, difficult shifts, and either waking at wee hours in the morning or climbing our stairs to go to bed long after we had all fallen asleep. My parents both carried the load of stress this lifestyle offered as means to provide for their family. My dad couldn't make it to my mother's birthing of me because he was on the road (and I love hearing that story about so much waiting and Grandpa driving anxiously and Grandma helping out). My dad's unexpected arrival with a timing no one could have predicted seemed a happy throw-back to that which he missed before. Just as my mother's presence for Thomas's birth was a comfort indescribable, so was my father's for this one.
Someone grabbed my hand as my eyes closed in concern for Emerick. I thought at first it was Paul's, but in my tightening grip of a smaller hand, one which seemed to match my own, I realized it was my mother's fingers which wrapped around mine and I cried because I did not want her worried about me.
My family was asked to leave while Emerick stabilized. With me cut off from the Pitocin, we held our breath for him to bounce back. And he did. At some point a nurse checked my cervix and felt Emerick's umbilical cord pushed in a position which did not favor him working through those contractions.
I couldn't tell you if it was 1 minute or 10 later, but when I looked up to see my obgyn, Dr. Lehnert, at the side of my bed in scrubs, I couldn't have been more relieved. We hardly needed to say anything to each other. We had gone over and over and over my concerns, my questions, my feelings and what-if's every appointment throughout my pregnancy. In that second I looked at him, I felt like we were talking without words, an experience I thought reserved only for family and loved ones. He asked me, "You ready to do this?" and I must have said yes, but all I remember is crying big tears of happiness and telling Paul that I was so excited that we were about to meet our boys.
The shock and sterility of my 1st c-section was replaced by big doses of joy for our 2nd. I already knew the sheet would be stupidly close to my face and that I would crane my neck to see my boys. I already knew I would go numb in nervousness when they did my spinal and that I would feel like Paul coming into that surgery room, a vision of hospital blue, would feel like being separated from him for hours (even thought it's only 20 minutes or so). I already knew they would count off the instruments, that I would generally feel like a piece of meat, and that I would need to be okay with more people seeing my body mechanically opened than I could even keep up with. All this which is great to be avoided when you can worm your way into natural birth, vaginal birth... it didn't matter much to me because I made it. I made it to the end and I was so glad to be there.
Alistair, Baby A, was the first to be pulled out at 11:20 a.m. and hearing his panicky screams sent me into big momma sobs of joy. I heaved with joy. And sixty seconds later, as Emerick emerged I sighed relief and heaved with joy all over again. Paul and I marveled at the sound of two newborns crying simultaneously. As real as the pregnancy was, the sights and sounds of two identical healthy baby boys was so completely unreal to us. Nothing could have prepared my heart for its jump in size, the way it climbed up and crashed upon this moment like waves on a shore, so fierce and beautiful and loud.
|Alistair sporting his Mr. Contemplative look on the left and Emerick donned with a #2 on the right.|
While being put back together and grinning like an idiot, I stole myself for that last scary, awful element I had prepared myself for continually during the seventeen weeks I knew I was carrying twins, quieting my anticipation of the birth for the very strong likelihood the NICU would whisk off our boys right when we needed them the most. I caught eyes with the closest person near me, feeling as if I was reaching out with my very arm to stop them in their wrapping up of surgery. "When will the NICU take them away from us?" was answered by an eager reply of, "Oh, they already checked them. They're fine. They're all yours!" And my heart leapt again. Had I ever known such great joy??
I'm not quite sure where a birth story ends and the rest of life's story begins. And there's really so much I could share with you about all the joys that continued to pour in with the arrival of the boys, namely the love and support of so many family and friends through visits, texts, calls, and so on. But if I had to book end this experience of meeting my sons, nothing would be more fitting than our connection via that first nursing session. Because sure I didn't warrior woman my way through birth, opening myself up like a flower or scream-pushing like some possessed monster, but I nursed my babies and said hello, you're mine, I love you and in a way that's all that ever mattered to me--showing up and being fully present.
Both boys latched, Emerick first and then Alistair, with an ease that took me by surprise. To hold them, one by one, skin to skin, brought my ship safely into harbor. I could take on what lay ahead. I had this, this connection, and that's all I needed to make my way. That and the boat loads of oxytocin two nursing babies can release because hello holy high; nursing twins feels like being drugggggged up! And nowhere in those awful, horrible things that I read about twins did I find a mom professing love for the happily milked ever after. But there I was, double, triple checking with the nurse that I really wasn't slipped something something without my knowing, that it really was these tiny littles that had me high as a kite.
And it was. It is. It will always be that my sons, all three of them, through a lot of work and some preparation and a few scares here and there, will over and over again catch me by surprise and have my heart soaring.