Okay, you can stop holding your breath. Here it is. (While you wait for Erin and Elliot to post James's story, here's E and L's to tide you over). So after Dr. N told us we were on for the next day, we immediately began to freak out. The week before, she had told me I could get my hair cut and take ½ an hour a day to get ready for the babies, so a lot of the nesting work around the house was done (and my hair looked better). But I hadn’t really left the house for anything other than doctor visits for over eight weeks, so there were a few things I needed to get done. Like eating at our favorite Mexican food restaurant, for example. Each week at the beginning of the week, Rob would promise me that if I was really diligent about my bed rest and very cautious to do nothing, he would take me to Uncle Julio’s Casa Grande after my doctor visit the following week. And every week, after the visit, he would say, “I don’t feel good about your being up and around so much today. Maybe next week.” And I would say that he was being mean and we were going anyway, but he would drive us on home and back to the couch, because I wasn’t supposed to be driving and my balance was thrown a little by the 6 zillion pounds of baby I was carrying and the prolonged bed rest and was consequently unable to wrest control of the car from him. So you can imagine how excited I was for Robert to no longer have any excuse for his cruel oppression. But first, before the chips and salsa, I felt that if I was having major abdominal surgery the next day, I was definitely going to need a pedicure. Fortunately, there was a spot open at the day spa near the doctor’s office an hour after our appointment had ended. So we had just enough time to run to the mall for a nursing bra (let’s all have a hearty laugh at this point about how necessary that ended up being). Then to the spa. Now keep in mind that I’d been lying with my feet even with my heart for about 8 weeks and that I had been very disciplined about getting off my feet for about 10 weeks before that, plus, the doctors had scared me into drinking a ridiculous amount of water each day, so I hadn’t swollen at all. In fact, instead of the cankles every one else who was pregnant along with me were getting, I had these comically skinny ankles that didn’t look like they could support my normal weight, let alone the whole “two baby figure” I’d developed. But when I emerged from the warm water soak and foot massage part of the pedicure, I had the most swollen feet and ankles I had ever seen. My toes were kind of numb where the skin had stretched so quickly. It was the first thing Robert noticed when I emerged from the treatment room- normally he says something kind about my feet, but all he could manage was “Wow-your feet…” However, there was no time for chit chat about my grotesque looking lower legs, because we were off to Casa Grande! Which was everything I’d dreamed that it would be, except that I could only eat three bites because E (then known as Baby A to her friends and family) took the precaution of keeping her head under my ribs crushing my stomach so as to avoid being kicked in the head by L (known to her significant other as Baby B).
We went home and had naps- I needed to rest, as this was the most activity I’d been involved in since before Christmas-did the pre-op stuff by phone with the hospital and headed to our last community group meeting with the Tim and Rhiannas (although it might have been held at the Phil and Christys, I’m fuzzy on that point. It was a great way to spend our last baby free evening-with our wonderful friends who had supported and prayed with us until God brought our babies into being. But I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable. I hadn’t taken the Brethine since that morning before our appointment and I was having contractions probably every seven to 10 minutes, plus my fingers were beginning to swell, too. So we borrowed the Mill’s video camera (and we’re so grateful now that we did) and headed home so I could lie around and feel swollen. We had called my Mom as we were leaving the doctor’s office (it was her birthday) and she and Dad immediately got tickets and headed out. Since I hadn’t been able to go on the hospital tour (just Rob and the other expectant couples), I wasn’t really sure about the hospital waiting room arrangements for surgical births, so I my parents them Rob would just call them at their hotel when the girls arrived –I’m not sure what I was thinking- but they said no, they’d come wait in the hospital lobby if necessary, thank you. And again, I’m so glad they were there.
I had contractions all through the night, but I slept pretty well, considering. We got up early, got the house ready to bring babies home, set up the pack and play bassinet at the foot of our bed and got ready to go. As Rob was loading the car, his Mom called and said that she had decided that she would probably need to come out and meet the babies the next day and we were so glad that she’d be able to- it hadn’t looked like as much of a possibility when we had initially called and we wanted both families to be there and be a part of the girls’ first few days. So that was a really happy moment for us. We headed for the hospital around . Rob dropped me off at the Women’s Pavilion lobby and I did the initial check in work and waited for him while I waited for them to call me back. I was watching all the other women coming in labor and remembering that night in January when Robert was still in
As soon as Robert had parked and gotten back in the building, they took us back to the obstetrical surgery prep area. We were third couple having twins that day, so the nurses were excited for us and made us feel really comfortable- both nurses had had c-sections in the past, and that was reassuring. We took a few last belly pictures and the anesthesiologist came in to give me the epidural. He said as he was working that he had his first baby eight weeks before- I think if I had realized at the time how sleep deprived he must have been, I might have been more nervous about his inserting a needle into my spine, but you know what they say about ignorance being bliss. I was so surprised at how heady the epidural made me feel, but also shocked at how good I felt. I hadn’t realized how much my back and legs had been hurting the last trimester or so and how uncomfortable the constant low-grade contractions had been. I kept saying over and over how great I felt, so while I hadn’t wanted the medicated birth, I definitely loved the medication.
They left us alone for half and hour to make sure I was thoroughly numb and I told the babies how much I’d loved carrying them around the last eight and half months and then we told them how excited we were to meet them in person and what we’d be wearing so they’d recognize us (“I’ll be the one in the hair net cap and blue, tie back hospital gown. With glasses”). It was then, in the prep room that we decided for sure whose name would be whose. Robert said, “I’ve been kind of wondering if we should go ahead and name them. We feel like we already know them pretty well.” And it turned out we both agreed Baby A (always what the doctors call the twin closest to the cervix who’s going to come first) was E and Baby B was L. We had chosen both of the girls full names based on their meaning. E. means “Christ has mercy” and her middle names means “clear and full of light” and L means “crowned with glory” and her middle name means “consecrated to God.” It was one of the most moving moments for me of the whole day. By , they were wheeling us into the operating suite. It was quite the party with the surgeon, the assistant surgeon, the neonatalogist, the nurse anesthetist, the two respiratory techs (one for each baby), and the team of nurses for me and the two nurses for each baby. Rob points out that, given the number of medical personnel that were involved in their conception, it only seemed right that there be at least an equal number present at their birth. I asked them to tell me when they began cutting and Dr. N. said she already had and that I would feel a little pressure and suddenly (at 3:12) she said “The first baby is here!” and she held her up and she (E) started to cry- and so did I. I don’t think I truly believed until that moment that I was going to have two, live, healthy, take-home babies and I was overwhelmed with the anxiety and fear that had clouded so much of the pregnancy and how quickly it all dissipated with her angry little cry. Robert went over to the incubator where they were rubbing her off and suctioning her out and doing her Apgar, but Dr. N said “Dad, you’d better get back here! We’re getting ready to deliver the next baby!” I remember calling across the room, because I needed him there to tell me about her when she was born. He ran back, and at , Dr. N. held up L. and said “She’s so much bigger!” And she was-she weighed a full pound more than E at birth. L. was crying, too-she’s had a very distinctive cry since birth- and I felt so relieved and grateful. When we had planned the surgery, I had initially thought that I might want Rob to stay with me while they finished the suturing. But once I saw them, there was just no way I wanted them to have to be away from at least one of us at, so there was no question that Rob would go across the hall to the surgical recovery suite and wait for me with the babies. Before he went, though, the nurses brought them over and let me hold them for a few minutes. They were indescribably beautiful and they were looking at me with their tiny eyes and they got so quiet and I knew they knew I was their Mom. It was probably the helpful physical description I had given them earlier. We called them by their names for the first time and Rob went with them over to the recovery room.
One of the neat things about the surgery- if it can be said that any aspect of a procedure that involves your organs being removed from your body is neat- was that the assistant surgeon recognized me from my pre-in vitro laparoscopy he had assisted on the year before with another surgeon (actually, my OB’s uncle, who is an endometriosis specialist). He said that he had taken such care to minimize my scarring last time that he wanted to take extra time to make sure my section scar was not noticeable- and he really did. He gave me great sutures and I didn’t have any of the numbness and all of that that a lot of people I know have had. (***unsolicited advice warning: if you ever for some reason require a c-section, request that your surgeon do a double closure on your uterus and do NOT let them just through in staples. That’s faster for him or her, but the outcome in terms of incisional pain is much worse in the controlled studies that have been done. So you’ll feel better more quickly with stitches. Just so you know***). While all of this was going on, I got to listen to the fascinating surgical talk as he and my
As I look back on the day, I know that I was too in shock, in such a good way, to have processed it all at the time. I think that’s a big part of the reason that it’s taken me so long to commit the story to paper. It’s not beautifully written and the OCD part of me hates that. I want the girls to know their birth story and I don’t ever want to forget, but it’s really hard to wrap everything we experienced that day into words. One of the nurses offered to videotape the birth for us so Rob could concentrate on helping me and focusing on the babies and she held the camera up so high that, well, if you’re ever planning a c-section, so don’t rely on mere descriptions in books about what exactly they’ll do, but call me and I’ll send you a tape. I couldn’t watch it until November and I still cry every time I do. I see so much of God’s hand in our story-His bringing our babies into being, His protecting them during a complicated pregnancy, even His perfect timing in their delivery. While they scheduled my surgery to avoid complications from the choleostasis, by the time I arrived at the hospital, I was swelling and my blood pressure, which was perfect the whole pregnancy was very high. Even the epidural, which normally causes blood pressure to drop didn’t help and I know that, if we hadn’t been scheduled that day, I wouldn’t have recognized that I was developing some serious symptoms that could have been devastating for me. And I’m so grateful. I’m grateful for an end to that particular season of infertility, I’m grateful for the blessing of two beautiful, healthy children and I’m grateful because in the midst of a world in which everything can and so often does go wrong, Christ had mercy and granted us those days of complete joy and grace. I know that when I’m in another season of suffering I’ll probably forget-I always do- but I pray that Rob and I will be able to look at our children, remember why we named them what we did, remember that beautiful day they were born and know that God is powerful and that Christ is merciful and try to order our lives in the knowledge of those two things.