Thursday, March 22, 2007


I remember being extremely relieved when I saw my babies, and saw that they were beautiful and alert. I was also terrified. Here were two people with their own appearances, ingrained personalities, likes, and dislikes. And I was their mother and it would be my job to get to know them and to take care of them in a way different from anyone else in the world. It really felt like meeting someone new, except I was partially responsible for their very existence.

After the C-section, the babies were taken to the NICU. I was wheeled to the recovery room. Along the way. I caught a glimpse of a deflated balloon my own stomach. I mentally reassured myself, "You just gave birth ten minutes ago; it will get better."

"Will my stomach....go down?" I groggily inquired of my obstetrician.

Without a momentary pause, he made one of those vigorous nods that people make when they are being totally honest. Have I mentioned that I adore my obstetrician?

In the recovery room, I was given some pain relief medication and my parents were able to join Ty and me. I felt shivery for about 20 minutes, and itchy (I learned this was a side effect of the anesthesia), and tired, but, overall, I didn't feel too bad. I had to stay in the recovery room for a while, but I encouraged Ty and my parents to go and see the babies. I was happy that they would be around family so soon after the birth, even if I couldn't be there myself. Ty took pictures to bring back to the recovery room for me.

The first night was hard. I was in pain and couldn't get out of bed on my own. My face was itchy; I asked for a cool washcloth, which I patted against my skin several times during the night to soothe the itching. I was tired and loopy from the surgery and the pain medicine. I was disappointed that I hadn't been able to nurse right away. I had initially been placed in a room with a woman who wanted both to keep her crying infant with her (us) all night AND to talk loudly on her cellphone every three minutes; my husband and parents spoke up in a hurry and got me moved so that I could get some sleep. I am eternally grateful.

The next day, I was encouraged to get up and move as much as I could. Since my babies were in the NICU, they couldn't be brought to my room; in order for me to see them, I had to get up, get in a wheelchair, and go to them. With the help of my husband and a nice nurse, we located a wheelchair and painstakingly maneuvered me into it. No easy feat. Ty pushed the wheelchair and I pushed my IV. We tried to call the NICU, but the line was busy. When we got down there, they didn't want to let us in, because it was time to do rounds.

I started to cry.

"This woman gave birth 19 hours ago and hasn't seen her babies," Ty told them.

"Well, next time, you should call," they said.

"WE DID. Your line was busy," Ty and I answered simultaneously.

It was our first test as parents.

I mustered up all my strength, broke out of my painkiller-and-surgery daze, and shot a DON'T-FUCK-WITH-US look at the NICU lady. I looked at Ty; his gaze made mine look like that of a timid bunny.

With that, they let us in.

Our babies were next to each other, but in their own little plastic bassinets.

I was terrified of them.

I was physically incapable of caring for them on my own, and I had no idea what to do. They were already being fed on a schedule, with formula, by nurses, which went against all my ideas of how I would be feeding my babies in their first day of life. I assumed I'd be breastfeeding immediately after giving birth, would have them in my room, and would nurse them on demand. I felt overwhelmed.

There was a nice nurse who was taking care of them. I told her I wanted to try to nurse. She handed me one of the babies, who hereafter will be referred to as Sage. Sage was the smaller of the two babies, but he was born first, and is therefore the "older brother."

The nurse showed me how to hold his head and position him at the breast. I held him to me and he immediately started to fuss and cry.

"You need to bring him to the breast and guide it into his mouth. He wants guidance. That's why he's getting frustrated."

With a few more tries, we got Sage to latch on successfully. It hurt considerably less than I expected, and Sage sucked away. It was a stirring maternal scene.

Ty smiled.

And I felt like the biggest failure in the world. I knew that nothing was coming out of my breast. I knew that milk took a few days to come in, but shouldn't there be colostrum? Shouldn't I be able to feel something coming out?

To be continued.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

We interrupt this birth story...

...for a momentary freakout.

My steam sterilizer stopped working for a half an hour and, oh my goodness, that was about the worst half hour of my life. Far worse than when the obstetrician was actually cutting into my stomach for the C-section.

TWINS. I have NEWBORN TWINS, with TINY STOMACHS. Sometimes they get hungry every hour. And they like their pumped breastmilk with a little formula chaser--a baby boilermaker, if you will. Do you know how many bottles we go through???

We called every store I could think of to try to get a replacement; none of them carried it. I was about to trade my kidney to an online merchant in exchange for overnight shipping of a replacement sterilizer, AND THEN...

My mother fiddled with the plug, and she made it work!!!

And she told me she's going to buy me a backup one, because "I don't ever want to see that look on your face again."

My mom is officially Queen of the Day.

Friday, March 09, 2007

And Then There Were Four

Last week, two obstetricians, two anesthesiologists, two pediatricians, four nurses, and two scared parents--twelve people in all--entered a room.

A short while later, fourteen people left it.

A week ago today, I gave birth to two beautiful baby boys.

On Tuesday, their dad and I--assisted by two very excited grandparents armed with tank-like carseats, snowsuits, and assorted blankets--braved the bitter-cold New York winds and took them home.

Now I get it.

We arrived at the hospital before 7 am. I filled out a bit of paperwork, and then Ty and I were led into a nice quiet room. An IV was inserted and the process of induction began. Everything progressed swimmingly. Weeks of praying and kegels and strategic sleep positioning had paid off. Terrified of surgery and its attendant recovery while trying to care for twins, I was on track for the vaginal delivery that I wanted. We talked, laughed, watched TV, and chatted with my parents, who came in periodically for updates.

Contractions progressed. If you're not familiar with them, they feel very much like menstrual cramps. C.S. says that menstrual cramps are the "chicken" of women's health complaints--everything feels like them. When they became uncomfortably strong, I asked for the anesthesiologist to come in and start the epidural.

The epidural felt no worse than a simple injection in the back, and better than some injections in recent memory. Inserting it was a bit scary, because one is supposed to remain totally still, but one possible effect is that it causes a feeling like an electrical surge through one's leg. This happened to me--strongly--and scared me, and I moved a little bit, and then I got upset because I moved, but the doctor assured me that everything was fine.

Within a very short time after insertion, I felt WONDERFUL. Warm, tingly, cozy, and pain-relieved. If epidurals didn't require so much skill and advanced training for insertion, I'm sure that they would be sold on the street for phenomenal amounts of money.

Labor progressed. After a while, I started to get extremely uncomfortable. The pain was increasing, despite the epidural. I can't describe the feeling exactly--it wasn't horrendous pain or anything, but, yet, I knew that something wasn't right. I told the nurse, and the doctor came in to check things out.

He discovered that I was no longer dilating. The contractions had stopped being productive. What was happening was that my son's head was pushing hard against my cervix. I had been right about something being wrong. It became clear to me that my son and I might actually be hurting each other. The repeated bashing would ultimately cause fetal distress, and put both babies at risk. After 9 months of not wanting a C-section, my instincts suddenly switched over and told me that it was probably the right thing to do about five minutes before my doctor gently suggested, "Let's give it a little more time, and then maybe talk about an alternate plan." I felt at peace knowing that my thoughts were on the right track, that my body was telling me what I needed to do.

A short while (and no progress) later, my doctor pulled up a chair. He and I agreed to wait what we both considered to be a more than reasonable amount of time for my body to catch up, and then to proceed with a C-section. He answered all my questions. When the time was up, he checked; still no change. With that, the medical team sent Ty to don some scrubs while they pumped up my epidural and wheeled me into the OR.

In my opinion, the OR is an oddly peaceful place. I find the bright lighting soothing. A whole team is assembled, ready to tackle a challenge and get a job done. In the case of a C-section, there is a sense of wonder about the whole thing. Everyone knows that life is about to enter the room in all of its screaming, kicking, gooey glory. And as for the mothers, we lie still in the midst of all the energy and activity, meditating on our last few moments of being in one body with our babies before the end of a long road.

About ten minutes after Ty joined my side, we had babies. Pink, beautiful, wonderful babies. Babies with my hair and his nose. Babies with two families and at five nationalities flowing within their veins. The OR team held up the babies for me to kiss and smell, and placed them in Ty's arms. I couldn't hold them because of the anesthesia. That was probably the most frustrating part of the whole delivery, but I knew that they were happy in their daddy's arms, and that made it easier. I just sat and stared at them as long as I could.

I'll continue the story in my next post. Thanks for reading with me as I get my blogging-feet wet again. :)