The Lesser Reported Facts of a Birth Story

I’m a birth story junkie. Admitting this makes me decidedly less-than-cool, but hey, you were bound to find that out sooner or later. I watched The Business of Being Born long before my husband and I started trying to conceive, so I’ve spent the bulk of my twenties with a hefty mistrust of any birth person who dare suggest that a woman bring forth life in anything other than a comfortably heated pool. Ohh, I love a good birth story. Don’t call them contractions, they’re rushes! A woman doesn’t need an epidural–she can just breathe through the pain! I lap up each birth story I came across, practically salivating as I read about the first twinges of labor, the sweet husband who walks with the woman through her contractions, the dreaded transition, the euphoria of the moment when the baby actually appears (bonus points if the husband is the one who catches it!). I couldn’t wait for my own euphoric birth story. Like a truly insufferable twenty something, I scoffed at all who would dare go any way but the “natural” way.

And then life happened. I got pregnant “unnaturally” via IVF–so why should my birth story be anything different? When my husband and I found out it was twins, I knew the chances of me doing anything “naturally” were slim to none. I was right. Turns out, if you have twins and your Baby A (or, as I so often delicately put it, “the one closest to the chute”) is breech, you basically have to be willing to give birth in a bush if you want to deliver your babies naturally. Most likely it’s planned-C-sectionville for you, lady. So it was with me. I had my 40 week due date; my C-section date was set for 39 weeks on the nose, “like an execution,” in the words of my own twin sister.

See that lady in the birthing pool? #notme

The execution C-section date arrived. I got up, put on the maternity clothes I’d been wearing for the last five months, straightened my hair, put on make-up. My husband, Ryan, and I stepped out into our driveway to watch the sun rise and pose for some pictures, taken by my mom and sister. We drove to the hospital and they followed behind; parking in the parking garage, I might as well have been going to my six month dental checkup. I didn’t have one contraction as I slipped into the hospital gown and the stretcher bed. When the nurse came back and told us it was go time, she was a few minutes ahead of schedule.

It was just another Monday morning at the office in the operating room; my OB/GYN, anaesthesiologist, nurses, cafeteria workers, the cable guy (okay maybe not, but there were A LOT of people) all chatted comfortably together. A pop radio station played on the radio. In went the epidural. In order to distract myself from what was about to go down behind the curtain which separated us from all my exposed bits, I demanded my husband talk to me. I’d been ranting about a certain cuckoo-crazy Republican presidential candidate on the drive over and tried to pick up that conversation thread again, but then realized–wait, no, hatred is probably *not* the emotion I want to dwell on seconds before my precious baby girls enter the world. So my husband and I talked about vacations we’d taken instead. In the midst of one of these recollections (which one–Colorado? New York? Rehoboth Beach?) someone butted in and asked if Ryan would like to peek over the curtain and see Baby A being born. We’d discussed this previously: no WAY, because hello, what could be more sick-nasty. I think we were both shocked to hear “Yes” come out of my husband’s mouth. I bit my lip as I watched Ryan stand up and peer over the curtain, then exclaim with relief: “it’s not that gross!”

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Political rant: done.

Next, a strange sound came from up above. Only later would I learn that my husband spontaneously began sobbing as soon as he saw our lil’ breech Baby A. I don’t remember much about meeting my babies in the OR; they were taken out and whisked over to have their vitals checked. Ryan came over, teary-eyed, to give me updates. Baby A came out wide-eyed, looking around the room and not crying. “She kind of looks like me,” Ryan said. Baby B came out wailing, giving us just a taste of the feisty personality we’d come to know all too soon. “She looks like your dad,” said Ryan. Someone (a nurse?) helped me hold them both, while Ryan took pictures. In the pictures, I look strained, disbelieving. We’re done? They’re out? They’re OK? Yes, yes, yes. I was so certain something was going to go terribly wrong, but everything had gone perfectly. We’d made it.

I think I finally exhaled for the first time in nine months right then. Not comprehending the reality of my two babies, I took in every little detail of the room. The radio played “Roar” by Katy Perry when the girls came out. How funny! I thought, even in the midst of the operation. It seemed somehow absurdly appropriate, an omen that these girls would grow up to be strong. The next song was “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by the Black Eyed Peas–this too struck me as hilarious, for some reason. (Who needs a birthing CD? I say, go in with an open mind and let yourself be surprised!) As my OB/GYN stitched me up, she chatted away with a resident. She was from Oregon, she said. Huh, OK. I’d wondered about her home state throughout my whole pregnancy; she didn’t sound like a Texan. She’d be a surgeon if she had it all to do over again, but she was happy she got to do some surgery as an OB/GYN. I filed these facts away and made a mental note to discuss them with Ryan when we left the OR. Turns out, people are pretty loose-lipped after they’ve brought new life into the world. Pregnant ladies, take note: immediately after your babies are born is a great time to get the juice on someone.

Someone wheeled us into the recovery room. I’ve read a lot about the high women feel after they’ve given birth naturally. Well: allow me to make a case for the pumped-full-of-drugs-after-surgery high. I won’t lie; it was pretty great. (The crash, not so much, but that’s for a different blog post.) I remember stillness, a marvelous heat coursing through every part of me, like I was wrapped in the world’s most comfortable blanket. The girls were calm, I guess tired after their welcome-to-the-world crying binge. Nothing felt real, but everything felt natural and right–like I was in the waking version of the best dream I’d ever had. Ryan and I cooed over our two babies in disbelief and settled (finally) on a name for Baby B. Wheeling through the hallways, two babies in my arms, I smiled contentedly, pleased and proud to see every head swivel in our direction. I could barely peel my eyes away from the sleepy-eyed bundles in my arms. We did it. We made it. We’re okay.

[For another blog post: how I had a breakdown every day during our hospital stay for some reason or other, how Ryan nearly changed baby B’s name a second before she was introduced to the world, thereby delaying her “official” naming two full days, and that super fun time when my epidural had worn off but I needed to be re-catheterized and the nurses finally found the sweet spot on the fourth try.]

If you’re a birth story junkie, too, there you have it–my very own. Full of nutso presidential candidates, Katy Perry, regretful doctors from the Pacific Northwest, and yes–ahhhh!–the euphoric conclusion.

And not one rush. That’s okay with me. They look like they really hurt.

 

 

 

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