On April 21, I went in for what would be my last doctors appointment. Little did we realize that at the time! I was 0% dilated, hadn’t had any contractions for a week, and both babies performed perfectly on the non-stress test.
We were good to go for another week, at least, so the doctor said.
So when the contractions started that night, I stoically ignored them. Braxton-hicks, I told myself, again and again. Just braxton-hicks. It was a Tuesday afternoon when they started, and I felt them all night. By the next morning I was exhausted, with blurred vision and a headache, but I wasn’t in as much pain as I thought I would be in true labor, so I attributed it to pregnancy fatigue and took a nap. I had been told contractions would be much too painful to sleep through, but they weren’t, so this wasn’t true labor, I kept telling myself. Hadn’t I just had a doctors appointment yesterday? The contractions went on all day, but I was too tired to think clearly about it by then.
At around five on Wednesday evening I downloaded a contraction timing app. “Go to the hospital,“ it kept saying. I guess I’m a skeptic, because I just didn’t believe that app. I called my doctor and she told me to take some magnesium, wait another hour, and see if things slowed down.
We loaded up the car, “just in case” I told T. I was absolutely certain this wasn’t true labor.
An hour later, my contractions still hadn’t slowed down. That’s when I started shaking and shivering uncontrollably. I didn’t know that was a sign of impending deliver, but it scared me enough that we got in the car and started driving to the nearest hospital with a level 2 NICU. Thankfully, that hospital was a lot closer than the one I had planned to deliver at. On the way, I called my doula. She listened to me breath through a contraction over the phone and told us to get to the hospital as fast as we could.
The rest is a bit of a blur. I remember lumbering into the hospital and leaning up against a wall as I worked through another contraction. I remember the security guard directing me down to be screened for covid, taking a look at me, and instead calling the covid screeners to come to me. I remember being offered a wheelchair and laughing weakly as I declined. Why would I need a wheelchair? I remember thinking. I wasn’t in labor.
They finally got me on the exam table and the doctor rushed in to check everything out. I remember feeling almost guilty for taking up her time when surely nothing was happening.
Then time stopped.
“Oh.” she said, her voice a single syllable of surprise. “I see the sac. You’re ten cm dilated.”
It took me a few moments to register what she was saying. I had been in true labor for twenty four hours. My babies were coming. I was going to meet my babies that very night, within only a few hours.
Looking back, all I can feel is immense gratefulness. If we had waited only an hour longer, I might have had my babies at home or in the car, where they wouldn’t have had access to lung support or the specialized care that preemies need. I might not have two living, healthy babies today. I don’t know how I missed all the signs of labor— I suppose I’m one of those “lucky ones” for whom its just not that bad. But also maybe not so lucky, because those signs and symptoms give you time to prepare mentally for what is about to happen. I didn’t have that time.
Before I knew it, they were hooking me up to an IV, giving me a steroid shot to develop the babies lungs, and giving me another shot, I’m not sure what, to slow down the contractions. That shot was supposed to give me two more hours.
God is so gracious, isn’t He? Instead of two hours on that shot, I was given five hours. Five extra hours for the babies’ lungs to develop. Five hours for me to wait and pray. Five hours for me to take a nap before the real hard work began. Five hours for me to adjust to the idea that I was going to meet my babies that night, to prepare my heart to welcome them.
After more than 24 hours in labor with twins, it was time for my babies to come earthside!
At 2:00 a.m., the contractions started again; it was time for my little babies to come earthside. If labor was easy for me, pushing was not. I’d had no epidural. I remember, during the anguish of that time, asking the doctor if I could please have a c-section now. I remember him smiling and laughing, kindly.
It took 48 minutes for Finn to make his way into the world, at 2:48 am. The scariest part for me during that time, was knowing I had not one, but two babies to deliver. I remember trying to save energy for my second baby. It wasn’t until the doctor told me that baby B would be much easier to give birth to that I was able to deliver baby A. After Finn was born, it was all relatively easy and Eli was born exactly 10 minutes after his brother, at 2:58.
I was so relieved after the babies were born. The nurses held them up one at a time; tiny, grey, scrappy things they were. I hadn’t realized how small they’d be. The only thing I wanted in the world was to hold them.
But what I hadn’t been told about preemie babies, is that you don’t always get to hold them right away. I didn’t.
I was laying on the delivery bed, in that terrible bright operating room, with the staffs of nurses running to and fro, waiting for my babies to be put in my arms.
But instead, they wheeled them past in their beds. I got to look at them, one brief glance, before they were rushed off to NICU. I don’t even remember seeing them. I wish I had taken more note, it was the only opportunity I had to see them without their gavaches, c-paps, and monitoring wires.
Oh, the best and worst moment of my life. Seeing my sweet babies, knowing they lived…and watching them being taken away from me.