They were born on a Tuesday but their birth started months before that. I was almost 24 weeks when I felt my belly go into a round tight ball and I remember the sinking feeling I had in the pit of my stomach. The doctor asked me to come in for monitoring and Tim was at work so I brought my Mama for support. As I lay with the monitors strapped every which way I remember trying to decide who to bargain with to make this all right. And then I was off to Labor and Delivery, the first time I walked (or was rolled down) that hall but certainly not the last.
What followed was weeks of strict bed rest and medication, frequent trips to L & D, constant contraction monitoring, Baby stay in hypnosis CDs and daily meditation and the mantra in my head that they would not come; not at 24 or 26 or 30 or 32 weeks. They were long weeks, trying and scary but there were flashes of wonder despite the worry. There was the lovely shower my sisters arranged with generations of women gathered around my lounge chair. And seeing the wonderful job Tim did on the room that would someday become their bedroom. And watching and feeling as they grew and grew and grew.
And then it was Tuesday, April 24th. I had my visit with Dr. T in the afternoon, but I had been in and out of L & D three times that week. I was exhausted, worn from the medication, the terb spiking my heart rate up to the hundreds even lying down. Tuesday marked one day before my official 36th week, the goal I had set internally on that first day of pre-term labor. Tim helped me into the office, onto the plinth and we waited for Dr T, me crying from the stress of it all. He walked into our exam room, took a look at my face, took a swipe with the ultrasound and asked me if I had eaten lunch. Which, oddly, for the first time in a long time, I had. Well, he told us, than we cannot do the c-section until 8 or so, so go home and get your things and check into L & D at 6. And just like that, we were off back home to get ready to have our babies.
I think we both felt a little surreal on the ride home. So many weeks all I had thought about was keeping them in, keeping them safe and away from the stress of early delivery. And now we had a time and it was not far off at all. The family was waiting when we arrived home and everyone was excited and asking what they could do. Which was not much, just take some last pictures of me hugely pregnant, a wan tired smile on my face. We did not even have baby bags packed. I was so afraid to do that as I wanted to avoid any invitation for delivery. Plus I had no real idea of what they would need. And so we threw a few things into a bag for me and I gathered my copious knitting projects and in a few hours we were off to check into the hospital.
The nurses greeted us as always but this time they were not coaching me to keep babies in rather they could be excited they they were coming out. I think I knew at least 4 or the 6 nurses on duty that night. We went through the now familiar routine of hospital gown and IV, dual fetal monitors with Mason so deep in my pelvis that they had a hard time finding him (nothing new there). And we settled in to wait, listening as women were admitted and prepared themselves for their babies.
The wait was long, they had to have two OBs for the delivery and the second was running late. We talked a little, I knit and knit as always and finally they told us we would be moving to pre-op. One of my sweet nurses, a young-ish blond girl, looked at me curiously a few times as she ‘prepped’ me for the c-section. Then she asked me where I had worked in the past. It took a few minutes but we finally traced ourselves back to the same hospital where she had been a nursing student and I had been the PT to give in services to the nurse trainees. It felt so lovely to see her, a totally capable surgical nurse and know I had something to do with that. And I felt more connected and grounded as we started the alien process of surgical removal of my children.
I think it really hit us that the boys were coming in pre-op. I am not a huge fan of being on the patient side of the relationship and the talk with anesthesiologist made me feel shaky and scared…and I remember sending Tim out to call my parents and tell them the surgery time. Somehow we thought it would be better for them to wait until the surgery was done before coming to the hospital but in those ten minutes before, I just wanted my mama, someone to hold my hand and tell me it would all be just fine. Tim and I felt like scared teenagers trusted with too much responsibility.
And then off I went to pre-op to be numbed while my nurse gave me a big hug, to be prepared for these little people to join us. And it all went okay, details of this surgery are not terribly pleasant and Tim is not a hospital/surgery kind of guy and had to step out after the boys came and I kind of existed in a hazy panicky state until I heard the boys cry and they were pronounced perfectly healthy. I didn’t see them, did not even ask actually. I was watching Tim turn a little pale and calling the nurses to give him a hand and then he was gone and I was too. I felt it all became a bit too much and the lovely anesthesiologist was patting my shoulders and telling me to relax, that he would help me relax…relax….And that was all I remember.
They were born at 11:11 and 11:12 p.m. on Tuesday night April 24, 2007.
When I woke up I was in post-op and Tim was telling me I had to open my eyes and it was all so blurry and then I made out my Mama smiling at the end of the bed and Tim smiling and it was almost dark in there and there were no babies. I asked but the nurses told me they had to take them to the nursery. And then I started throwing up. A lot. Could not stop actually. You know what is not exactly fun? Throwing up after a C-section. Un-uh. Every nurse was trying to help but not much helped. And to make it worse I asked them every time they came in to bring me my babies and they patted me gently and told me 6 a.m…..we will bring them in the morning at 6 a.m. We promise.
That night was rough. I remember seeing my whole family in the hall as they wheeled me to my room with Tim, they were gathered at the nursery window, peeking in quietly at their new people. It was nice of the nurses to let them in at that hour but they could not come to see us. And so they went home too. And I think I slept a little and started to feel my legs (thank the blessed gods) and then threw up and then asked the nurses if it was 6. Over and over again.
And then it was morning and Heidi our day nurse came in wheeling two small bassinets and there they were. My people. My boys. She was a great nurse, explained how their night went and what we should and could do and all the little bits tucked into the drawers of the wheeled bassinet. And then she left. And there they were.
They were quite simply the smallest things I had ever seen. So tiny. It was unreal. Tim fished little Mason out and we looked at him in wonder. Then Owen. And then we looked at him too. And that feeling, that feeling of being an untrustworthy teen with precious cargo came rushing back and I wanted to call Heidi back and say you cannot possibly mean for us to keep them here? But then Tim gently changed Mason’s myconium dipe with assured hands and it started to feel more real and less surreal. We snuggled them together into the same bassinet because that seemed much more right and began the process of learning to be parents.
That first day I could barely sit up, my arms felt like rubber and my legs like jello. But in those first few moments, delayed though they were from their actual birth, dissociated as the taking of them from my body felt, they became my people. Their names indelibly stamped into their being and my heart.
I think it has taken me this long to write because of how guilty I felt for the way that day ran…how I did not see them and hold them and touch them in those first minutes, first hours, first day. Birth for me was a medicalised process, one that I submitted to wholeheartedly. I had complete trust in the team that helped them come to be, but I can see now how unprepared I was for the experience. It is not like they give classes in how a c-section runs, right? And I did not realize just how badly my body would react to the event.
But of course the ending is a happy one. By the next day I was up and walking and learning about the boys and their needs and we stayed in the cozy supported comfort of one of the best hospitals I have ever seen for 5 days and took them home with too many issues (oh god, someday I will write about the car ride home). And of course the happiest ending is just beginning as they come to their third birthday…
But I am glad I finally wrote this.
Your Mama love you boys. So very, very much.