Birth Story VII
Surrogate Twin Homebirth of Liam and Lionel
July 5th, 2013
This story begins with 2 weeks of limbo, being more pregnant than I ever wanted to or thought I’d be, and going overdue with twins. Those final days are an entirely separate story, and we have to start somewhere, so we’ll start at the beginning… of labor that is.
It was Thursday July 4th. 41 weeks to the day. I awoke to a text from Kaleem, encouraging me to trust my body and let go. “You did it!” were her exact words. “They are whole and healthy babies… trust is essential that you let go.” I knew in my heart she was right but convincing my body was an entirely separate endeavor, one that would test my limits of faith and try me in ways I never thought possible.
I did what a laboring woman does best, and retreated to my cave. Forrest was at work and I was home alone with the kids. I came into my bedroom, locked the door, and shed a few tears over conversation with these babies. I truly believed, and was inspired by Kaleem, that if I could find that emotional side and convince it to let go, these babies would come. My body was ready. The babies were ready. At two failed attempts of “induction” in the previous week I knew there was nothing more we could do physically and that the “shift” would have to take place on an emotional level. I gave voice to the fact that I would never nurture them again; that once they came out, if they cried, I would not be there for them. I would not take them to breast or hold them in my arms. After 9 months of growing and nurturing them in the secure space of my womb, the time had come to pass the torch, in trust, to those who would care for them. It was harder than I imagined. These were thoughts I had managed to suppress the entire pregnancy that needed to come out now, to provide the space for me to safely labor and give birth to these little boys.
Earlier while I was on the phone with Kaleem my uterus began contracting. I didn’t want to acknowledge it at first as they were just Braxton-hicks intensity, but there was no denying what my body was responding to. I later described her words as an oxytocin drip, pushing my body to the edge of where it needed to be. I was in denial, but saw what was happening. I decided to take this and run with it, fearing the alternative of going into the hospital for an induction. After our conversation I went into the bathroom and made myself comfortable on the closed lid of the toilet. Rachel brought in the Hello Kitty c.d. player and put on some “pretty music” for me, which happened to be Ashlee’s girls’ camp c.d. The sweet spirit of the music, combined with my tears, helped to further things along. I was certain the oxytocin was beginning to flow and my uterus was responding. Braxton-Hicks were coming every 5-7 minutes. I continued to look at and talk to my belly and the babies, creating the perfect harmony for them to work together in unison and get the job done. Nevertheless, at the slightest distraction, the work would stop. My body was heading where it needed to go but was not quite ready to take off on its own.
Forrest called from work to ask how I was doing. After hearing my tears, he said he would be coming home. Yes, I was quite a wreck at times, and everything was now coming to the surface, just as it needed to. I continued to acknowledge the fact that this is where my journey with the babies would end, and theirs would begin. I realized I was starving, as I had now been in the bathroom for a few hours, and asked Forrest to bring me home a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream, and I wanted to eat it in the bathroom. Whatever was going on was working, and I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of things. The kids would have to fend for their own (and thankfully I had Ashlee here to help.) I knew there was a whole world of busyness going on outside my bedroom door but today this was my work, and I had to focus. These babies had no more time.
Through texting the midwives I knew I had to find my voice and invite Leon to the birth. He had been waiting in L.A. to receive the call that the babies were here, and had planned on coming up the day after. However, I wanted him at the birth all along and that was what was in his profile, so I decided to call him out on it. It took courage. I texted him and said that if he wanted to be at the birth, today would be a good day to come. He asked me if I was sure, and when I told him I thought it was important for him to witness the birth and be able to tell his boys their story, he said he would book his flight right away. It was about an hour and a half from L.A. to Sacramento, and he had booked the 3:30 flight. I looked down at my uterus as it continued to contract, one step closer in the equation. Seeing my progress, I asked Leon to tell me how excited his mother was for the babies. Though non English-speaking, if she could talk to me, what would she say? His response was this: “My mum texts me 10 times a day asking about the babies. I showed her your picture and she also says you are the prettiest Caucasian she has ever seen.” I smiled. I told the babies that their daddy was coming and that their grandma was so excited to meet them. The light contractions continued every several minutes. I had been dilated to a 4-5 for over a week and was assured that once a labor pattern set in things would go quick, yet somehow I knew that my body would teter on the brink until Leon arrived.
Forrest came home with my waffle and that was one of the best things I had ever eaten. He left me be and set to work cleaning the house with the kids. I stayed in the bathroom for another few hours, focusing on my contractions and trying to convince my body to take over, when Leon texted me to let me know he was in Sacramento on his way to the hotel (5 minutes down the street from our house.) He texted me again when he had arrived at the hotel. Around dinner time I came out of my bedroom and called Kaleem. I told her that her words had had a powerful effect on me earlier and was wondering if she could come up and do some homeopathy, massage, and more talk to get me to give in to my body and let labor happen. She was willing.
While Kaleem was here we decided it was a good idea to get in touch with Leon; see him face-to-face and let the babies sense his presence. We texted him and he was over within 10 minutes. Forrest welcomed him at the door and introduced him to the family. He came back to the bedroom where I sat with Kaleem, on the bed in my birth attire. I gave him a big hug and told him I was happy he was here. We chatted for a few minutes and I told the babies their daddy was here. Kaleem suggested he tell them how much he loved them, and how excited he was to meet them. He paused, “I will tell them in my heart,” he said with a smile and a pat to the chest. His visit was brief and he returned to the hotel. I proceeded to lie down while Kaleem gave me a back massage and continued with her words of encouragement. I knew my body wouldn’t remain dormant forever.
I finally told Kaleem she didn’t need to stay any longer; I didn’t expect her to “labor sit” and my body certainly wasn’t in the heat of anything. We said our goodbyes and Forrest and I decided to put on a movie. Grandma Cathe had taken all the kids down to Folsom to do fireworks and I needed to take my mind off of things; I’ve always said labor never happens when you’re staring it in the face. We kicked back in the recliners and chose a cute romantic comedy. After about an hour we both decided we were tired and retired to the bedroom. It was just after 11:00 p.m.
Around midnight the kids began to trickle in the door, coming into our bedroom to retrieve diapers and jammies and go to bed. I received a Facebook message from my friend Katie telling me she had signed up for the half-marathon I was doing in October. Yea! I was excited to have another friend on board. I told her I was lying in bed trying to get some sleep in between inconsistent contractions. The kids settled into bed rather quickly. Around 12:15 I had that first contraction that felt rather crampy. Seven minutes later another one. I waited out a few more before deciding, “I can’t sleep through these.” I quickly decided I did not want to do this labor alone, and texted the midwives. “I know I’m jumping the gun, but they are seven minutes apart. This is it and I want you here.” Kaleem was on her way. I texted Renee. “Are you up? My contractions are 7 minutes apart and very crampy. I know this is it and I want you here.” I woke Forrest, only 30 minutes or so after he had fallen asleep and told him I needed him up.
I labored standing up, I labored on hands and knees, I labored out back under the stars. We spread a blanket and some pillows out on the back patio where I was able to look up and get a view of the night sky through the pine trees in between contractions. That was my favorite. The whole world was sleeping and this was my work, it was happening. I took advantage of the natural endorphins from being out in nature.
I came inside and had one contraction on the bed and told Forrest I would feel better if I threw up, so I went into the bathroom and did just that. It’s something I did in Anthony’s birth and I think my stomach just needed to empty its contents to clear the passage for its work. Around 2:00 I sat on the toilet and had a few contractions there. At this point the midwives were setting up and Rebecca came in to check the babies’ heart rates. Forrest came in and out and I told him I wanted to be left alone. At about 2:20 I wondered what would happen if I gently released my bottom during a contraction, and with a pop and a gush my water burst into the toilet. I called to Forrest, “That was my water, tell them to fill the tub.” I looked down and noticed meconium, which the midwives said was nothing to worry about. It was just a byproduct of these babies being overdue. I reached in to check my cervix and thought I felt complete. I asked Renee to double check, and she said she couldn’t feel any cervix either. It was at this time that I received several minutes of a lull, the “rest and be thankful stage.” Baby A was coming.
Once the tub was full I put one foot in and asked Kaleem to cool it down a little bit. I climbed in and settled over the edge of the tub, face toward the water, slightly kneeling. Forrest had called Leon at the hotel and told him to be on his way. After about 3 contractions I started working with my body as it began to push. Cathe and Vera came in from the living room and Ashlee and Jacob came in from their bedroom, only having been asleep about two hours. I gave one big push and out came Liam’s head. I looked up to see a row of faces in the dimly lit room, smiling down at me. I didn’t get the typical relief that usually comes once the head is out, so I asked Renee to finish pulling it out, thinking maybe he had stopped at the ears or jaw. She gave a gentle pull to which I responded, “Stop!” as his head was in fact all the way out and I wanted to wait until the next contraction to birth the shoulders and rest of his body. The next contraction came and I pushed him all the way out, Renee lifting him out of the water and into my arms. Two and a half hours after the first contraction. He cried immediately and I could tell right away he was Asian, with puffy eyes, full lips, and a full head of dark hair. I held him and we marveled. I looked up, but no Leon. He would miss the birth by about 20 minutes. My work was half done.
It wasn’t long before that next crampy contraction began to crest. I winced, said I needed to hand him off, and asked Renee to cut the cord. She let Forrest do the honors and passed Liam into his arms. I began contracting and my body was bearing down. However, it wasn’t the same feeling as when Liam’s head was in my birth canal. Pushing wasn’t quite imminent. I sent everyone out of the room, thinking maybe the “all eyes on me” was prohibiting me from relaxing and letting go. At this point Leon had arrived and was marveling at Liam on the bed, wrapped in a white towel. I remember looking up in the double mirrors of my closet and seeing Leon smiling at Liam, examining his tiny hands and toes. I smiled at the midwives. Renee wanted to check Baby B’s heart rate and position, so she reached into the tub. At this point it gets kind of hazy, but what I do know is at one point Renee said she thought Baby B might be transverse because she felt small parts. She had me get out of the tub twice to check his position, and each time was unpleasant as I had to leave the warm water and change positions. She felt a bottom and gave me the go-ahead to deliver, but in my mind’s eye something was not right. While kneeling in the tub and in between contractions I reached my hand in to check myself. I needed to know he was safe to deliver. I felt something round, and slightly back and to the left a knobby body part. In my mind it was what felt like an elbow. I told Renee to feel, which she did, and she asked me to come out of the tub and onto the bed again. It was then suggested again that the baby might be transverse, and they offered to turn him. However, at that point I think the pain I would’ve endured from a manual version would’ve sent me through the roof, so I begged them no. It also went against my instincts, which were pretty strongly saying just go the the hospital and get him out. They said I had two options: turn the baby at home, or go in and most likely receive a c-section. Unfalteringly and following my instincts, I opted for the section. Renee was quick to support us in our decision. “Okay, let’s go quickly.”
I dressed, contracted, and remember walking out in the kitchen to a row of sympathetic and apologetic faces. I was not seeking sympathy, just the quickest route to the hospital. I reached the door and Forrest had stayed behind in the bedroom, gathering some last minute items (my glasses, phone, and a pair of flip-flops.) “Forrest, where are you!” I yelled. I didn’t know which car to get into. I hung over Renee’s strong shoulders for one contraction on the front porch. She instructed us to climb into her truck and that she would drive, Leon would follow. I caught a glimpse of Liam on the couch in Tenny’s arms, peaceful.
The ride to the hospital was a hellacious one. I was fully dilated, contracting every 1-2 minutes, and fighting the urge to push. I had to find a way for the energy to go up and out instead of down and out so I became very vocal. My noises ranged from a variable singing that rose in pitch to mirror the wave of each contraction, to a very desperate, “sh**, sh**, sh** ” under my breath. I just remember being on my knees and burying my face in Forrest’s neck, periodically grabbing at his shirt.
We made it to the hospital in about 15 minutes, and Renee dropped us off in the circle out front of the new Birth Center. With each contraction I felt a gush of fluid, and I was pretty sure the back of my pants were covered in blood. Liam’s cord was still hanging outside of me. I stepped out of the truck, had a contraction, and looked down to see a small amount of blood pooling at my feet from inside my pant leg. I also noticed a black shoe behind me. “She’s having a contraction,” I heard Forrest say. I stood up and turned around to see not the nurse with a wheelchair I expected, but a very concerned Leon. Renee instructed us to get to Labor and Delivery quickly, do not stop, do not pass go, walk through every contraction. With Forrest and Leon on either side of me, arms draped over their shoulders, we did just that. There was some confusion over which building to enter, and the first door we tried was locked. It was definitely a moment of surrealism, us being the only ones around and no one in sight. Between a fast walk and a semi-drag we reached the Birth Center, where an amazing team of nurses and one great Dr. Cherry awaited us. I was soon to be delivered.
Renee was very good at explaining the situation as the hospital staff began to undress and admit me. There were questions asked, papers filled out, blood drawn, and IVs started all amidst my very intense contractions. I remember reaching up to touch my brow and feeling sweat. I never break a sweat in labor, but this was a sign of my body working hard against itself and becoming exhausted. I grabbed hands, hung over nurses, vocalized, and pulled at scrubs. After about 20 minutes they began to wheel me into the operating room, where I would receive my spinal and be prepped for the section.
Getting a laboring woman to sit up straight, curl her back, and hold still is no easy feat. Yet when I felt the needle hitting a nerve and giving me an electric zing in my lower back, I obliged. I never saw the face of the young nurse I clung to in those moments but will always be grateful to her. She was my rock. As soon as the medicine was administered I felt a warm sensation run down both of my legs, and rejoiced in the instant relief. Laboring that hard and knowing I could not push a baby out was torturous. It was the worst state of limbo that my final weeks of pregnancy could only begin to prepare me for. I lied back on the table and with the very next contraction the nurse placed her hand on my stomach and said, “You’re contracting, can you feel that?” I could not. They began to place the curtain and prepare for surgery. Forrest came into the room wearing white scrubs and a big smile that I could see it in his eyes. They began pinching me with sharp tweezers and asking what I could feel, explaining that my sensation of touch and pressure would remain, but not pain. I replied I could feel every pinch. They waited another minute, pinched again. Still felt it. After a few more times of this, the doctor drew what felt like a line across my abdomen. “Could you feel that?”
“Yes, she drew a line on my stomach.”
“Actually that was your incision.”
Oooookay, so I guess I was numb.
I chatted away during the entire surgery, happy to be in a better place than I was one hour prior. After what I considered to be some mild pressure and pulling, Baby B, Lionel, was announced into the world at 5:06 a.m. Relief. My job was done. I had brought them here safely.
After the surgery I had a brief look at Lionel, and remember upon first glance how tiny he was. 5lbs. 5oz. to be exact, my smallest baby yet. However what he lacked in size, he made up for in eyes, wisdom, and spirit. He was an old soul, there’s no doubt about it. During the next couple of days of our hospital stay together that little guy would tug on my heartstrings and find a special place in my heart. They took him to meet his daddy, who followed him into the nursery for a brief period. The midwives gazed at him through the glass. They wheeled me into a recovery room where they would monitor me for the next hour. Shortly after in walked the nurse and Leon, telling me baby Lionel needed some skin-to-skin and placing him on my chest. He latched on right away like a pro, knowing he had some catching up to do. Leon marveled, and thanked, and marveled some more. He was primarily concerned with my well-being and continues to be so this day. I assured him the scar would mean nothing to me.
Lionel nursed for an hour solid, then switched and did it again. I slowly began to regain the ability to move first my toes, then my legs. I was deliciously tired and somewhat dizzy, partly from the night and partly from medication. It was a time of sheer bliss and I drank it up.
The next few days in the hospital warrant their own story entirely and will most likely land themselves in the pages of my journal. It is a time I will forever cherish and never forget, and feels too sacred to share. I am still digesting the lessons learned. I will say it has been a walk of faith, a journey of trials, and there have been sweet moments of strength that have come from none other than my Heavenly Father. He has taught me I could be strong when I thought I could not, and to remember it was Him that set me on the path. My faith in the journey never wavered, even at times when I could not see the light.
On a practical level, I learned that you can go post-date with twins. In fact, not only is it okay to let twins go to term and beyond, it’s better. A full-term baby is much better off than a 4 lb. preemie with tubes up his nose. I had to deflect a lot of comments about going “so long” with twins, but inside I knew they were okay. I hope I can be an example to other women of not letting fear or outside comments get to them. I felt the babies’ movements, I heard their heart beats, and that was all the assurance I needed.
This was a very humbling experience for me. The choice to have a c-section was not one I would ever see myself making, but I listened to my intuition and from that I have peace. I received a blessing a couple of weeks prior that referred to the “doctors who would help bring the babies here” and “the hospital” where I would have them. At the time I chalked it up to the giver of the blessing not knowing about our planned homebirth, but in hindsight I realize it was inspired. What I take away from this experience is to support a woman in her choices, whatever they may be.