On Monday April 18, 2016 I went to bed contented with the knowledge that in the morning I would be a full 35 weeks pregnant with my twin boys. Having developed mild pre-eclampsia a week earlier, I was celebrating each day I stayed pregnant as a win. I could feel my body was getting tired and stressed from the pregnancy and while I hoped to make it to 37 weeks, my intuition was telling me that it as almost time for my babies to be born. I was comforted to know that I had already received steroid shots for the boys' lungs in case they did come early. While I knew if they did come early, they would probably spend some time in our hospital's Special Care Nursery, I had every hope that it would only be as "feeders and growers" and not as sick or troubled preemies.
That night I woke up around 2:30am to pee. As I stepped away from my bed I felt my underwear suddenly flooding. Immediately I thought, "My water broke!" and I ran down our short hallway to the bathroom. In the bathroom I felt a big gush and heard a splash on the floor. I reached for the light and looked down, expecting to see my waters beneath me.
Instead, I found I was standing in a large puddle of blood.
After suffering five long years of infertility, heartbreak, and loss to finally carry these babies inside of me, my body ran cold with fear. Please God. Please God. Please God.
I cried inwardly. Don't let me lose these babies.
Outwardly I called for my husband in a strong voice, "JOHN! Come here! EMERGENCY!"
John jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom.
He found me sitting on the toilet, continuing to bleed. I could only think that with such heavy bleeding I might soon pass out and wanted to get an ambulance on the way as soon as possible.
John's eyes grew wide and filled with fear when he saw the blood on the floor.
I pointed to my phone charging on the bathroom counter. "You need to call 9-1-1. Tell them I'm 35 weeks pregnant with twins and bleeding heavily."
John quickly responded and did exactly that. The operator on the other end was concerned that I would give birth on the toilet and told him to get me off quickly.
As stood up I realized I was not feeling faint from the blood loss; I began to hope that the red river on our floor was actually my waters mixed with blood. The color was so richly red though, not dilute, that I still held my breath.
As he continued to talk to the operator John brought me a t-shirt, underwear, and sweatpants to change into. Once dressed he helped me downstairs and grabbed my hospital bag. Soon a fire truck and an ambulance were at our door.
Since our five-year-old son was still asleep upstairs, I rode to the hospital in the ambulance alone. John ran upstairs to clean the blood so our son would not wake up to see it and then called our friend- who I will now always think of a rescuing angel- to come sit at our house while his mom drove the hour-long drive to come stay with our son.
Meanwhile in the ambulance I began having contractions. I was still alert and not feeling sick or faint which encouraged me. At the hospital I was brought right up to the birth center and hooked up to fetal monitors. I breathed through strengthening contractions as I waited anxiously to hear my babies' heartbeats.
The nurse found both heartbeats strong and steady right away. I thanked God from the very deepest depths of my faith. My babies were still alive.
The on-call OB took a sample of the red fluid coming from my body, now slowed to a steady leak. She told me that amniotic fluid has a very specific pattern under a microscope and when she examined it, it was indeed my waters that had broken. I asked her why there was so much blood and she said, "I know it's scary for you and you did exactly the right thing by coming in but sometimes this does happen when the membranes pull away."
I took a deep breath and sighed with relief.
She got out an ultrasound machine to check on the babies. "Are you planning on a cesarean birth?"
"Well," I said, "My baby A was head down and baby B head up so I was hoping to attempt a vaginal birth but... I didn't know if all this bleeding would change things?"
"No," she said, "You can certainly still try." Then she smiled and said, "And it looks like your baby B has flipped and is now head down too!"
I cheered with happiness! In less than an hour I had gone from thinking my babies might be dying to learning that I was likely to have the vaginal birth I had been hoping for my entire pregnancy!
After the doctor left the room, John arrived. I smiled and explained that everything was okay with both me and the babies. His sigh of relief rivaled my own.
The only "bad news" was that I had taken an injectable blood thinner- something I had been doing my entire pregnancy to treat a blood clotting disorder- at 10pm that night and would not be able to get an epidural until 10am the next morning. I was also not able to get up out of bed to move around and cope with the pain my contractions because my blood pressure was high and my nurse was worried about me seizing. I was strapped to fetal monitors continuously so moving around would have been very difficult anyway. After the scary was my labour started I wanted
those monitors on, though! I wanted to be reassured of every single heartbeat until my babies were in my arms.
My labor progressed fairly quickly for a first time birth. By 7am (about 4 hours later) I had dilated to 6cm. My body began to shake from the intensity of the contractions and I thought, "I bet I'm in transition."
I had been offered Stadol- an intravenous drug- to help me cope with the contractions. "It won't take the pain of the contractions away," explained my nurse, "but it will help you relax and take the edge off."
For a few hours I declined because I was worried the drug would make me nauseated, but then I began throwing up from the pain of the contractions anyway, so I requested a dose. The Stadol was awesome! Like my nurse had explained, it did not take the pain away but I was able to relax and fall asleep between contractions. The first dose wore off after about an hour and my contractions felt unbearable. I moaned through them, trying to externalize some of their painful energy with my voice. John and my nurses encouraged me through each painful wave- some lasting as long as six minutes!- and told me I was doing great. I continued to shake and throw up through the labor. At 8am I asked for a second dose of Stadol and that got me through until a little after 9am.
At 9am my OB came in and checked me to see how far I was dilated and I was at 8cm! I thanked God I wasn't at 10cm because I had been wondering if I would be able to get my epidural before I was complete and ready to birth my babies. My OB has explained to me that sometimes in a twin birth, baby B will flip to breech presentation and required her to reach up inside of me to turn him or get him out. Even though I knew baby B was head down and likely to come out just fine, I had a strong feeling that something was going to happen for which I would need an epidural. I wanted that thing so bad!
Finally I head the words I had been waiting to hear, "The anesthesiologist is on his way."
I'm pretty sure I replied with a tearful, "Thank you Jesus!"
And I meant it.
It was amazing how even just sitting up to get the epidural helped with my pain. I can see why it is usually recommended that women get up and move around during labor. I think that would have made my labor much more bearable!
I'm sure like many women I could have kissed the anesthesiologist once my epidural was in. I reclined back in my bed and felt both peace and excitement flood over me! The pain was over and I was soon to meet my boys! Laboring with the epidural was amazing. John and I enjoyed those last few hours before the birth together, we talked about what a crazy night it had been, he sent updates to his mom, and we felt abuzz with anticipation! All the while our boys' heartbeats beat steadily on.
My OB came in a while later to check me and I was "9cm with a lip." I remind that way for quite a while. My contractions were not registering as strong on the monitors, likely due to the epidural. I received a small dose of Pitocin and that was exactly what I needed to dilated to the full 10cm!
At 10cm my OB asked my nurses to start pushing with me in my room. I knew I would deliver in the Operating Room in case I needed an emergency c-section, but she thought I would feel more comfortable pushing as long as possible in my cozy room as opposed to the sterile OR. She also told me to not push the dose button on my epidural if I could because feeling the contractions would help me push. That had already been part of my birth plan so I readily agreed.
With John holding one leg and a nurse on the other, I pushed my babies down for almost an hour in the room. That hour might have been the fastest hour of my life! It seemed only minutes later I was being wheeled down to the hall to the OR!
The atmosphere in the OR was incredible. The small room was filled with people- a doctor and nurse practitioner for the babies along with a nurse for each baby, two nurses for me, John, my OB, the anesthesiologist, and a few other support people whose titles escape me now. Everyone was smiling and introducing themselves to me. I felt so safe and secure knowing all those people were there for me and my babies.
My OB had me do a few pushes and then took the contraction monitor off my belly. Until then, John or the nurse had been reading the monitor and told me when to push, but she said, "You can feel them. You're in charge. You tell us when you need to push."
I pushed with each contraction hardly believing that my babies were actually going to come out of me. They were about to be born
! How long had I waited for this moment? How many times had I dreamed of exactly this? Cried with unspeakable grief at the thought that it might never happen? Prayed with more power, more desire, more desperation than most could imagine?
I pushed to the encouragement and cheers of my husband's voice. To the marvelous words, "I can see his head!"
I heard the the gentle voice of my anesthesiologist behind my head saying, "Jillian, look up." He placed a mirror above me so I could see my son being born. His small, beautiful, vernix covered body emerged from my own and my OB placed him right on my chest. His tiny cries were met by the tears of his father as I drew him close to me.
I held our baby Ira tight speaking over him words I had longed to say for many years. "My baby! My Ira. I love you. I love you! We have waited so long for you. Hi baby. Hi Ira! I love you. I love you!"
I kissed his warm body and worked to impress every detail of his birth in my memory.
I felt another contraction coming and handed Ira off to someone, preparing for the birth of my baby B. Just 11 minutes after Ira William arrived, Roman Irving followed. Again I watched as his purple wrinkled body emerged from my own and again felt the beauty of his wet, warm body close against my skin. I kissed his head as John and I welcomed him into the world like we had his brother.
Roman wasn't crying or breathing quite as strongly as his brother so his doctor came over and scooped him up to check him out. I looked over at John and he was already holding our sweet Ira, wrapped warm and tight. Roman quickly recovered and was soon back in my arms. John and I stared at our babies and each other, smitten and dreamy over our precious sons. Our boys. Our babies. Our many thousand prayers answered at last.
As I stared at Roman's precious face I heard my OB's voice growing with concern over my bleeding. She looked up at the anesthesiologist behind my head and said, "I'm going to have to go in and get the placentas."
He sprang to work upping my epidural with stronger drugs. Inwardly I thanked God for slowing my labor long enough that I could get that blessed epidural! What followed was not pretty. There was much pressing and pulling and scraping and administering of medications. Deep in new baby bliss I did not feel the gravity of the situation but poor John experienced a terrible whiplash of moving from joy to great concern over my health. I was hemorrhaging.
I heard my OB celebrate with the removal of each placenta and frustrate with the amount of membrane my body had retained. Through it all she remained calm and I never worried about her ability to handle the complication. After what must have seemed like an eternity in the room, she announced that she got it all and my bleeding had slowed.
She explained to me that I may need a blood transfusion but we would wait to see how my labs read later in the day.
Since they were premature, Ira and Roman were brought directly to the Special Care Nursery, which is like a low level NICU. John followed them to see them settled and then met me back in my room. My body shook pretty violently from the whole ordeal for about an hour and then finally began to calm down. My labs came back better than expected and I did not need a blood transfusion which was great news!
I thought I would have been very sad that my boys were in the Special Care Nursery and I was separated from them in my room, but I was so depleted from the birth and the hemorrhage that I just wanted to sleep and rest.
The next few hours passed quickly and soon I was feeling stronger and able to spend time with my beautiful, beautiful baby boys. John's mom brought Arie to the room as well and he was able to meet his brothers! My heart swells with immeasurable gratitude as I look at my three precious boys who were all so very, very deeply wanted. With all my heart, I thank God for them.
John and I are in absolute love with Ira and Roman. I cannot explain how precious their little bodies, how soft their skin, how beautiful their eyes. Loving them is already one of the greatest privileges of my life.
Ira William was born April 19, 2016 at 2:12pm weighting 5lbs 4oz and Roman Irving was born at 2:23pm weighing 6lbs even. They've been with us for 5 days now and continue to grow stronger in the Special Care Nursery. I was discharged after 2 days in the hospital and leaving them was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. John and I visit each day for at least 4-5 hours and the time passes so fast. We cannot wait to bring them home! They are both primarily learning to eat. Neither needed any IVs or respiratory assistance for which we are so grateful.
Over these last few days Psalm 126 has been on my mind and in my heart:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Over the years and through the heartbreak of our fertility journey we sowed with tears again and again. Now we hold our boys and look into their beautiful faces we are reaping with great joy. Indeed the LORD has done great things for us and we are filled with joy!
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.