Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lyda June and Oscar Abraham - A Twin Birth Story

I was 36 weeks and 5 days the night I started labor. We had just had our 36 week appointment at our doctor that day and received several shocking pieces of information. Firstly, our OB (whom we'd collaborated with for a vaginal birth plan, though our son was transverse) was unexpectedly out of town for an unknown amount of time. Secondly, we were greeted by an entirely new doctor to the practice, who glances at our chart and says, "So, you'll be having a cesarean section." Thirdly, I was 3cm dilated and 75% effaced. Luke and I high-fived after that last one. THAT, at least, was good news.

Now, hear me. When we first found out we were pregnant with twins (Yes, naturally. No, they don't run in the family. Yes, we were "trying." Yes, it was a shock.), I, with all sincerity and a look of irreverent stubbornness on my face, said, "I'm having a cesarean." So, you see, I'm not against it.  I prayed a lot. And I'll tell you what I said to my ever-patient Father in Heaven. I said, "God, if you really want me to push these babies out of my vagina, you just set them up right, and I'll do it." And so he did. So that was the plan. A plan, nonetheless, that took some time and effort to get our doctor to agree to, our doula to help me tweak, and for me to come to terms with all the unknowns this presented.

So, here I am in labor. I've laid myself to bed for the night and those low, aching contractions have begun. This has been normal for several weeks at bedtime. So, I wait, drink water, and I force myself to sleep. By 1:00am I am periodically waking up with the contractions and making a note of the time between them. Bleary-eyed, I check the clock. "Was that ten minutes or a half-hour?" Mmmm sleep. By 3:00am I have enough consciousness to know I am certainly in labor. By 4:00 am the contractions are about 6-8 minutes apart. I get up. I go to Luke's side of the bed to plug in my cell phone. He sleepily rolls over and sweetly says, "Honey, I can do that for you." What a helper. "Babe, my contractions are about 7 minutes apart." The poor fella didn't even know I was in labor. He grips my arm quickly, "WHAT?!"

We get up. I gather a few things for our hospital bag, put on something nice, and head to the bathroom to pee, brush my teeth, and put on makeup (LISTEN. I will NOT show up to the hospital looking like a broke-down-hot-laboring-mess. I will show up looking like a Fine Warrior who is about to DO.THIS.). Something has changed in the amount of time it has taken to for me to do these things. I suddenly can't stand for the contractions anymore. They're short - 45 seconds, maybe - but they're coming every 2 minutes now. My feet clench and I am moaning, searching for a comfortable position and finding none. Luke calls our doula, Jackie. I can't make any decisions or speak. It becomes a desperate priority for me to see our sleeping son before we go. I have 3 contractions on the way to his bedroom ten feet away. We wake Luke's parents, they pray over us, and I have a loud, gripping contraction in the kitchen. We leave and tell our doula to meet us at the hospital.

How do I find myself on my hands and knees on the curb of the sidewalk? In the elevator? At the check-in desk? The pain is intense in my abdomen and unbearable in my lower back. Having my cervix checked is excruciating and sharp at first. I still think about how I yelled out in pain like those crazy ladies in the movies and I'm a little bit embarrassed. Luke and Jackie help me to relax and focus during the cluster-cuss that is getting registered (WHERE IS MY HUSBAND???), my medical history reviewed, my IV administered (insult to injury), triple monitors on my belly, and another try at the cervix. I'm 7 centimeters. The babes' hearts are looking great. "Let's do this," I say.

I made it known that, unlike my delivery with Hugo (au-naturale, intense, and lovely in retrospect), I'd be receiving an epidural to ensure a vaginal delivery of both babes. It was assumed by the sweet, young nurses in triage that I would be delivering by cesarean. But, oh! The infamous Dr. Nett - who recently delivered twins naturally - is in the building tonight! Let us see if she'll be around to deliver! She will. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God. We all thank God.

What is the hold-up on the epidural? Why is the penicillin in my arm like a fiery dagger? That is so rude and obnoxious! Jackie rubs clary sage oil on my chest and it calms me. She massages the hell out of my back and hips during contractions and it helps me cope. She lets me bruise her hand with my grip. Luke is there, always there, my plaid-shirted pillar of strength. I can't look at his face, can't focus like I did my first labor, but I smell him and feel his flesh under my fingers as I grip him through contractions. Standing isn't an option - not because of all the monitors - but I feel like I have most control while I'm in the bed. I'm just surviving through these contractions. When I labored with Hugo I was heard to say through clenched teeth, much to Luke's amusement, "I...just...want these be...productive...".  Not so birthy-all-star this time. This time, it is intense and I feel with every contraction like I am desperate and my body is revolting against me.

Post-epidural kissin' time
By the time the epidural is administered, we've made it to the laboring room, I've gone through transition, and my doula has successfully sent a "code blue" alarm throughout the hospital. It was hilarious. She apparently was helping unhook some of my monitors in triage and pulled a cord she wasn't supposed to. It's good to know that a solid dozen people actually respond to those things. Anyway, the epidural made me feel lovely. It also made me feel itchy. And chatty. I was too excited about being able to enjoy the arrival of my twins that I couldn't rest. Jackie and I talked for a while. I kept asking the nurses to check my cervix. Not quite ready. I became oddly bored. When it was finally go-time, my sweet nurse, Jenny, looked at me with a gleaming smile, "You're complete!"

As I was wheeled into the OR (standard for multiple births - at least at this hospital), the tone changed. I'm not sure how to describe it. I was separated for the first time from both my husband and my doula. I had expected this and I don't think this was the source of my rising anxiety. The OR is buzzing with nurses and doctors, none of whom look at me. The lights above are glaringly clinical (duh, it's an operating room). Everyone is moving quickly, performing their tasks, preparing for what's about to happen. I feel my throat tighten and my eyes threaten to leak. I can't pin-point exactly what I was feeling, but, whatever it was, I was feeling A LOT of it. This was it, I was about to meet my babies! I was excited - but, it all seemed so serious.

Luke beaming at Lyda
Several nurses introduced themselves, asked me how I was doing, and the neonatal team came over with their smiling eyes (I couldn't see anyone's faces from the nose down). This made me feel better. My legs were strapped down into the harnesses (weird - where did they think I was going to go?) and Luke and Jackie were by my side again. Dr. Nett arrived, excited and encouraging.  And unceremoniously the delivery began. She monitored my contractions and told me to start pushing. This is strange, not being able to feel them and direct my own pushing, but, I pushed 4 times during one contraction, with much encouragement from Jackie and Luke. I felt my daughter slide through my body. I heard her, saw her little fiesty self and exclaimed, "Oh my God!" with laughter and joy. She was slipped into my arms, covered in vernix which I rubbed into her back (I read somewhere to do this, I have no idea why) and I gushed over my first daughter. Her hair, her fingers, her sweet full lips! They let me hold her for awhile and it was bliss.

Dr. Nett then began to try to turn Oscar from his transverse position to vertex. Y'ALL. I am so thankful I had an epidural for this. She worked internally and externally to maintain his vertex position for over 10 minutes. Finally, after he wouldn't cooperate, she decided he would need to be delivered breech. She needed to have both of his feet in her hands while I pushed. A contraction came and we did our work. I sucked in breath and used it to fuel my momentum. In one contraction and five pushes, Oscar came into the world 13 minutes after his sister. I looked between my legs to meet my son and I saw him, cradled in my doctor's arms, pale and still. My excitement immediately turned to worry and fear. "Is he okay?!" I kept saying over and over, with increasing anxiety. Everyone in the room assured me he was just shocked, that he would be fine. I tried to hold it together.  They immediately brought Lyda back to me while they whisked Oscar to the side. Luke went to be with Oscar and Jackie stayed right at my head. I'm not sure whether I was crying at this point, but I felt the desperation rising. I held Lyda and let my whole heart love her. It was the only thing I could do in that moment. Jackie rubbed my head and talked closely to me, "It's going to be okay. He's going to be fine." She kissed my forehead over and over while tears began to erupt. I will forever remember her tenderness in that moment - an intimacy that matched the need in my heart. It was her voice that broke the fear, "Do you hear him? Do you hear him? That's him!" And I listened to the sound of my son's strong cry find me in that vast and crowded room. He was mine and he was okay! I wept for joy.

They brought him to me and told me to hold him firmly against my chest. For over an hour I held him there, willing him to breathe normally and to find my heartbeat as a rhythm that would calm him. My twins did so well. Lyda latched immediately and Oscar's breathing regulated. No NICU time. Incredible. God is glorious. He helped my weak body (read: I was hospitalized twice with back spasms and pre-term labor. By the end I couldn't stand for more than FIVE minutes.) carry two humans of his design, deliver them, and give breath to their lungs and life in their souls. My Father in heaven continues to care for me every day as I manage three children. He has made my body provide the food my twins need and increases my graciousness toward my children in a time when I am tempted with exhaustion, isolation, and exasperation. He has reminded me that He never rests, but is always pursuing good things for me. This season is challenging and joyous in so many ways - but that's another story.

Our new kids and the amazing Dr. Nett

Hugo meets his sister

Lyda (5lbs 13 oz) and Oscar (5lbs 11oz)

holding Lyda

2 months old

our new life


Erin said...

Thank you for posting this. It's always nice to check in with the Groce family.

Carol Valentine said...

Beautiful miracles! Thanks for sharing!

Annie said...

This was so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Brittney said...

Wow Katherine. You, are, the, woman. Amazing. SO thankful to hear this amazing story of God's AWESOMENESS and the beauty of your sweet babies. Thankyou.

Alicia said...

My sincerest congratulations on the birth of your beautiful babies! Wonderful story, and they are very lucky babies. I hope you are enjoying your new normal!

~*~AnDREA~*~ said...

Loved this little story!!! Beautiful family; twins intrigue me, but I was so relieved at the news of 1 for me this time around. ;c)