When I think back on the traumatic experience of Natalie’s birth, it’s hard for me to believe that a c-section could feel like a natural birthing option. With Vivian and Logan, though, it was a completely different experience. VBAC is not an option at at my local hospital, so I knew that I’d need to switch providers if I wanted to go that route for my second go-round of bringing a baby (or, as it turns out, BABIES) into the world. When I found out I was having multiples, I knew my chances of a c-section were 50-50, and that the care I would get with my current provider was more important to me than seeking out a doctor or midwife who would support a VBAC. As time went on, Vivian settled into a breech position down in my hips and Logan was happily sprawled out in a transverse position at the top of my belly, so a c-section was inevitable no matter where I chose to give birth.
It’s recommended that multiples are delivered between 37 and 39 weeks (if they don’t choose to show up early!), so I was scheduled for surgery at 38 weeks and just needed to make it to March 18th without our babies planning an early exit. Despite some false starts, we did it–made it to term! Having a scheduled c-section was a much different experience, and having one with twins made it even less like what I remembered from Natalie’s birth. This is the (lengthy) story of Vivian and Logan’s arrival into our world.
In the final stretch of my pregnancy, I was so uncomfortable. From an aching back to carpal tunnel to swollen ankles to a growing tributary system of stretch marks, I was DONE with carrying these babies! The worst of it had to be the emergence of PUPPs, transforming my regular stretch marks into unbearably itchy, ropy-looking streaks that began to break out in small blisters the night before surgery. Hydrocortisone cream provided some relief, but that particular discomfort was definitely the final straw in my tolerance of carrying multiples.
We were up bright and early (4:45am!) on the morning of the 18th, double-checking our hospital bags and excitedly getting dressed for the day we’d finally meet our new babies. Natalie spent the night before the twins’ arrival (and the days/nights of our hospital stay) with my parents, and it felt so strange to think we were going to leave the house as a two-some and enter it again with our full family of five.
The drive to the hospital (a mere 10 minutes) was my first real bout of nervousness regarding surgery. More specifically, nervousness about the health of our babies.
“What if something is wrong?” I asked in a panic from the passenger’s seat.
“It won’t be,” Mike replied confidently.
“But what if it IS? Ultrasounds can be wrong, it’s been hard to see her face, he’s got that excess fluid in his sac–”
“It’s going to be fine. I just have a feeling.”
I practiced some deep breathing and we rolled into the parking lot at a few minutes before 6am. When we arrived at the surgical unit, I saw my c-section on the schedule board and couldn’t believe it was really happening.
Prep was a breeze this time around–no rushing staff, no last-minute paperwork, no hushed whispers and concerned looks. My vitals and babies’ heartbeats were checked, my abdomen was prepped, and I got my IV line in. A flurry of excited nurses and OR staff came in to say hi and wish us luck (the whole “twin” thing made my surgery particularly exciting around the wing), and Mike and I held hands while we waited for 7:30 to roll around so I would get rolled in to the operating room.
It should be noted that while this journey was obviously deeply personal for me, for Mike, and for our family, there was also a level of personal investment in these babies from the hospital staff because I’ve known many of them as a classroom teacher for their children. My surgeon, prep nurse, OR nurse, recovery room nurse, maternity ward nurse, and lactation consultant were all mothers of my former students and were extra-eager to squeeze my hand, peek at our babies, and make sure we were taken care of.
When it was Go Time, Mike and I were separated while I had my spinal administered and got set up on the operating table. This was the toughest part of the day, partly because of nerves and partly because of the difficulty in setting up my spinal. I lost count of how many times I was pricked and poked and massaged, but it was a hugely uncomfortable experience that seemed to last forever. When the numbness finally started to set in and I was on my back, arms strapped down, waiting for Mike, I could feel myself slipping into a bit of a panic. I felt nauseous, cold, shaky, and on the verge of tears. Around me in the OR everything was bustling and full of excited noisy energy, and I suddenly felt very alone–a head on one side of a drape while my whole body was stretched out for this massive surgery.
When Mike was finally called back in to join me, I immediately began to calm down. We had planned for him to snap some pictures when the babies first emerged, but I whispered to him to please just stay right next to me and not move–forget the photos.
At a few minutes after 8am, our lead anesthesiologist put on some soft music and the room quieted down as surgery began. Two surgeons (my OB and an assisting OB), a surgical resident, two anesthesiologists, a team of nurses for me, and two sets of pediatric staff waited eagerly with us to welcome our babies.
As quickly as surgery began, we had news: “Baby A is out!” we heard our OB announce, and then Vivian’s lusty cry filled the room, followed immediately by joyful laughter and clapping from throughout the staff. The drape was quickly dropped as my doctor held our daughter’s sticky little body up for us to see. If there was any question in my mind that I would love these babies as instantly as I loved Natalie, it was gone. Tears and laughter burst out of me in one uncontrollable rush of emotion as I watched our sweet, hairy girl get handed off for her APGAR evaluation and a heating bassinet. “She grabbed right onto my tools while I pulled her out,” laughed our doctor, “That one is going to be the boss!”
Two minutes later Logan was also out and held up for us to view, his cries like a little bleating lamb. I sent Mike to go be with our babies, and cried happy tears as I heard their healthy wails. That gut feeling he had? It was spot on.
Within just a few minutes (maybe less?) of being born, my arms were freed from their outstretched position and both babies were snuggled into the crooks of my neck, crying and rooting and looking bewildered. The levity in the room was tangible as everyone oohed and aahed over our big healthy babies and congratulated our newly expanded family. Mike and I got to cuddle both of them while I was stitched up, and then both Viv and Lo were tucked neatly in next to me while I was wheeled into the recovery room.
While in recovery, I got some assistance in positioning them to nurse, and they both latched on right away. All of the anxiety of the morning seemed like a distant bad dream as I gazed at my two suckling babes, still sticky with vernix and dotted with blood. They instantly became the sweetest things I had ever seen, and the mix of hormones and adrenaline with starry-eyed parental love washed away fears that had plagued me throughout pregnancy.
Your love is not stretched thin across your children–your love grows. There is no finite amount of love to give–your love grows.
When I had feeling back in my lower half and could wiggle my toes, I was given a little snack and wheeled to the hospital room that would be our home base for the weekend. Babies were weighed and measured, they continued to nurse and fuss and sleep, and we waited for my parents to bring Natalie in to meet her brother and sister.
My dear childhood friend had agreed to join us for photos that afternoon, and captured images that still bring tears to my eyes. Our babies, our love for them, our family–it is all so new in these pictures, perfectly paused moments in time.
Vivian Taylor Flagg – 7 pounds, 6 ounces
Logan William Cherry – 7 pounds, 15 ounces