It is 1:50am on the 18th May (I’m 36+4) and my husband has just hopped out of bed to take our 4-year-old daughter (Edith) to the loo. I am laying completely still when I feel my membranes release. I yell out to hubby (Craig) to grab towels because I am too afraid to move “there’s so much! It’s going EVERYWHERE!” What I could’ve sworn were gushes of such a grand scale (think Hollywood movie) is just a little puddle. I shove a towel between my legs and waddle (because that’s how I move now) to the loo so I can assess what’s going on. Edith is following me asking, “Mum, did you do a wee in the bed?” “No baby girl, I think the babies are coming!” “Oh, so it isn’t wee?”. “Nope, not wee darling, amniotic fluid, remember?” I can’t blame her for thinking it is wee; I may have hopped up during the night days earlier and weed down the hallway as a baby jumped on my bladder…who’s to say?
Me at 36 weeks with my daughter, Edith
So, back to the loo. As well as clear waters, I also have some mucous (which started coming away on the 9th of May), and a small stringy blood clot. As I sit on the toilet, and with amniotic fluid still coming out, I begin to get the shakes. Adrenaline! And I think, “Shit’s getting real!” I have Craig bring me my phone, while I sit on the loo, do a poo (glad to get that out of the way!), and I attempt to contact my doula. Straight to voicemail. No worries, it’ll be ages before I need her, so I send her a text letting her know what is happening. Off the loo and into the kitchen, sitting on a bunch of towels, I casually say to Craig, “I’m not feeling any surges, perhaps I should just go back to bed?”
After a brief discussion around the fact that I haven’t had a scan confirming the boy’s positions but that we know they are breech, we figure the best course of action is to contact our Ob, and see what he has to say. Our Ob confirms that given we are unsure exactly how the boys are positioned, it best we jump in the car and head down…of course that’s what he was going to say! I mean, we only have a casual 1.5-2hr drive to get to the hospital; I can’t believe 10 minutes ago I was thinking of going back to bed!
Being a childbirth educator I always emphasise that it’s a great idea to ensure that you have everything packed for hospital well in advance. As such, I say to Craig, “Can you pack our bags?” (I was certain these boys were going to stay tucked up inside until at least 37 weeks, so in my mind I still had plenty of time to pack…doing the math, I had 3 days. In my defense, I did have a bag for the babies ready to go).
Two breech babies
While Craig set about that task, I set about calling my sister-in-law to take Edith. No answer when I call, so I get Craig to try our brother-in-law’s phone, same deal. No worries. I’d organised our neighbours as back up. So, I give my neighbour a ring and she was set to take care of Edith. Then we get a call back from our brother-in-law and thankfully they can meet us on our way (sorry neighbour for waking you needlessly).
It’s about an hour later and we’ve finally managed to pack a bag for me, a bag for Craig, all my pregnancy records, my hypnobirthing stuff, and a bag for Edith. I get Craig to put a mattress protector on the seat in our car and off we go. No signs of surges. We end up meeting our in-laws on our way at around 3am and do the hand over. We both breathe a sigh of relief; we are on our way. We are going to meet our beautiful baby boys soon.
I feel my first surge at around 3.25am. The surges are mild, but consistently around 7 to 5 minutes apart from the get go. I mention to Craig, “I’m trying not to sink into them yet. We don’t want to have breech twins on the side of the Monash Freeway”. So, I just focus on getting to the hospital, and we chat away about other things, as if nothing is happening. Fast forward to just over an hour later and we come to a standstill on the Monash Freeway due to an accident. No worries. I sarcastically ask Craig, who I had come along to my Hypnobirthing Australia™ Classes a month before, “So, what do we do in the case of a double breech baby’s choice birth on the side of the road?” He casually replies with all the right answers and we have a slightly nervous laugh. About 15 minutes later we are back on the road and we eventually arrive at the hospital.
Being a childbirth educator, I always make sure clients know the afterhours entry and protocols so that it is a smooth transition if they arrive overnight. So, I say to Craig when the main doors are shut, “Uh, where do we go?”. We ring the number on our handy list of contacts (which we’d packed!) and are advised to go through Emergency…obviously. Craig suggests that he drop me there and park the car and then he’ll bring the stuff. Nonsense. “I want to walk”. So, we find a park and I waddle with a soaked maternity pad from the car park, through Emergency, and then on the epic labyrinth to the birth suites (I swear this is deliberate tactic to help in bringing baby down, so props to them for that!)…having to stop a couple of times for strong surges.
We arrive at the assessment unit and the midwife asks to have a look at the waters. “Ooh, lovely and pink” she says. I breathe a sigh of relief that this is still the case, after the meconium curse with my first born. The midwife then sits me down to do a trace to see how everything is going. In the time it takes her to organise everything for the trace, I breathe through three surges. I inform the midwife with each surge, and also let her know that I am hypnobirthing and that I labour very quietly. She decides to take me straight across to the birth suites and not worry about a trace. I have no idea what time it is at this stage.
I’d been to the birth suites before with a client (who also had twins!), so everything is quite familiar to me. I am feeling quite excited, confident, and calm at this point; we had arrived at the place where my babies would be born!
I get Craig to check if our doula has responded yet…nope. I meet my main midwife, Sharon (praise be to Sharon – she is AWESOME), a few other midwives pop in to say hello, including the head midwife on duty who comments, “I see you’re declining the epidural?” “Yes, that is correct. I have discussed this at length with my Ob, and understand exactly what this means. If you have any concerns you can raise this with him”, I confidently reply. “Well, okay then”, and then she leaves the room. Sharon lets me know that my Ob is on his way. There are two midwives in the room now (I’m sorry second midwife, I can’t remember your name), and with my consent they set about getting a trace of the babies, and checking my blood pressure (which is slightly elevated, but fine). Baby B is easily found and is well, but there is some difficulty getting a good trace of Baby A, because at this point he is so low down in a breech position, so there is lots of fiddling. During all of this, I am continuing to have frequent and consistent surges, but they are still completely manageable simply by closing my eyes and doing my surge breathing. After each surge, I reopen my eyes and continue chatting. I am sitting upright on the bed.
Still with no awareness of the time, my Ob arrives and says, “So, it’s all happening then!” in his calm and friendly way. Just one week prior, on leaving his office knowing that both babes were breech and I’d decided to proceed with a vaginal birth I asked, “So, you’re comfortable and confident with this approach, yeah?”, and his reply was, “I am if you are”, and indicated that given I am not having an epidural, that it is his intention for the birth of both babies to be “hands off”. YES! I feel a wave of relaxation wash over me when he arrives; a familiar face. I have this guy on my team for a reason. I did my research. He knows exactly what I want. He is skilled in vaginal breech birth and twin birth – this is it! It is really happening.
Given that we still don’t know exactly how Baby A is positioned, I consent to a vaginal exam so that we can be sure that there is no cord presenting. All good! And I am 4cm dilated. Eep! We also discuss the option of putting a clip on Baby A to monitor him. I say, “I’m not really comfortable with him having a clip on his head”, and I’m reminded it’s actually his bottom that’s coming out first! I feel more comfortable with this, and I want to ensure that both babies are happy in there, so Baby A has the clip put on. I have a cannula placed, as I’d agreed to this ahead of time. My Ob then asks, “Have you had breakfast?” “No”, I reply. “Well, let me go arrange some for you”. Sharon says that she can do it, and my Ob says, “No, I’ll be back in a minute”. Seriously? Who is this mythical Ob creature that has presented himself?! He returns saying that it’s on its way and that he is on the ward and to call him whenever I need. From here on, my Ob shall be referred to as ‘The Unicorn Ob’.
Now, to steer in a slightly different direction for a moment, if any medical professionals would like a lesson in bedside manner, I suggest poking your head in on The Unicorn Ob and Sharon, because they seriously have this shit down! Respectful, gentle, kind, and considerate care. That’s where it’s at.
“Would you like a shower?” Sharon suggests. Oh, yes! THIS. I never got to experience labouring in the shower during my last birth so I’m super excited at this point. Sharon leaves to find the waterproof monitor, but comes back empty handed. “Not a problem, I’ll just contact The Unicorn Ob and see if he’s happy to have the monitors off while you have a shower”. She returns. “Let’s get you in the shower! He said to take as long as you like”. Of course he did, he’s The Unicorn Ob. Sharon removes the monitor from Baby B, and the monitor for Baby A just hangs between my legs. I think about how glamorous this moment is, as I jump in the shower. Oh my! The water running over my body is EXACTLY WHAT I NEED. I rock back and forth under the shower head. During my surges, I bend my knees in a semi-squat position and do figure eights in an attempt to help Baby A move down. This feels amazing! It feels like my body is really doing something; I can feel my muscles working. The surges are quite intense now, but completely manageable. At times, Craig has the shower head and holds it close to my back, which feels lovely. Oh, remember how he’d packed his bags earlier? Turns out his bag only contained ‘smart casual’ clothes! No boardies, no trackies, nothing shower suitable! So here he is, in the shower with me in his jeans! I look down to see that the clip from Baby A’s bottom has fallen off. Craig lets Sharon know and she says not to worry about it, and that we can put a clip back on a bit later. So I continue in the shower, breathing through my surges – which feel quite close together – and swaying my hips.
All of a sudden, I begin to feel very hot, so ask Craig to turn the shower off. He grabs a towel to help dry me. “Oh god, I feel so hot, so hot”, I repeat as we walk from the bathroom back toward the bed. “Grab me a cold face washer”, I demand. “I’m so hot”, I repeat. “I feel like I’m going to vomit”, I add. “I’m shivering…I’m hot…where’s the face washer…I need a vom bag…I feel like I’m going to faint! I’m going to pass out”, I proclaim, all in the matter of seconds. Craig helps me onto a seat and gets Sharon. I see Sharon come in and I can tell that she’s talking to me, because I can see her mouth moving, but I can’t hear what she’s saying. “I can’t hear you. I’m going to faint”, I tell her. By this time, Craig has a cold face washer on the back of my neck and Sharon continues to say something. I finally begin to hear Sharon’s words and everything returns to normal. (I don’t realise it at the time, but this is transition). Sharon helps me put a robe on and to sit on the end of the bed, and I tell Craig that I want some music on, “Something without words, ‘Tranquil Chambers’”. Sharon calmly lets me know that she is just popping out to organise a few things (clearly, she realises I’m in transition). I say, “I really need to pee”. Craig helps me to the loo, and Sharon leaves the room. I sit down on the loo, and the pee is sweet relief. Suddenly, my body starts bearing down and I let out a primal, guttural, moan. Sharon bursts into the room and helps me to stand up, while having a look. She calmly says, “Well, I can see your baby’s bottom, so I’ll just put my hands underneath you and we’ll help you back into the room. You don’t want to have this baby on the toilet!”. Nope; I really do not!
The Unicorn Ob places his hands gently on my tummy and ensures that Baby B is in a good position to come out (eg: not transverse). All good. My surges continue and after a few minutes Baby A’s cord is clamped and cut. No rest. I continue to bear down with each surge, while holding Baby A in my arms. Before long Baby B begins to emerge; as my membranes release, Sharon has to jump out of the way to avoid wearing my amniotic fluid. At some stage, Craig takes Baby A (did I mention that I have absolutely no idea of time?!) as I continue to bear down sitting on the edge of the bed. The room is calm and quiet (you’d not know – and I certainly didn’t – that there were 5 midwives, The Unicorn Ob, two paediatricians, and Craig). The Unicorn Ob suggests calmly that it’s time to get this baby out. I have no idea that Baby B has emerged with both feet out (double footling) and at this stage he is out up to his underarms; this meant that his cord has been compressed for several minutes. The Unicorn Ob asks if I am able to push a little, and I try, but I don’t have the urge…my body has been doing everything without any conscious thought from me up until this point and I feel very confused as to how to do it. I say, “I can’t do it…it doesn’t feel right without the urge”. The room remains calm, and The Unicorn Ob then suggests that I stand up, ready for the next surge. So, with an arm around Craig and the other around Sharon I am lifted up, and with one final surge, Baby B slips out into the world with his arms over his head like Superman, a mere 12 minutes after Baby A! Baby B needs assistance with breathing given the way he was born, so we agree to clamp and cut his cord so that he can be seen to by a paediatrician. While this is happening, I have Baby A back on my chest, but I cannot stop looking at Baby B, just at the foot of the bed, repeatedly asking, “Is he okay? How is my baby?”. Sharon replies, “Your baby is good, but just focus on the baby in your arms”. A couple of minutes later, Baby B is brought to me and he is completely perfect! I breathe them both in – I’ve just given birth to TWO babies…TWO BREECH babies…without medical intervention or medication…and remember the monitors…they never made it back on! Boom! It feels amazing.
The Unicorn Ob says, “You are a birthing Rockstar!” Why yes, yes I am! With my two healthy boys on my chest, Sharon and the Unicorn Ob discuss placenta birth with me. For a few reasons – precipitous labour (turns out my first stage was 2hrs & 25mins, second stage was 23 mins); low iron; two placentas – I agree to a shot of Syntocinon to birth my placentas. One or two surges later, the placentas come out fused together. The Unicorn Ob explains that I have a small second-degree tear, which requires some stitches. I ask Craig if he is still happy with the names we have chosen, and he is. So, I announce that Baby A is ‘Arlo Menzies’, and Baby B is ‘Odin Finch’. Craig sits down with Odin for some skin-to-skin, while I give Arlo his first feed. And then we swap, because WE HAVE TWO BABIES!
(Unbeknownst to me, the Unicorn Ob had asked Craig if he could take some pics for us with our camera…turns out he is also the keen photographer, and captured some very special first pics for us).
Not too long later (because, clearly time is meaningless to me) our doula, Jo, walks in to find that she’s missed the whole thing. Jo proclaims, “I can hear two babies!” and begins to apologise for not making it. But, it doesn’t matter. Seeing her walk in at that moment after everything progressed as beautifully, calmly, and with the reverence that it had from those caring for me, just seemed right (it also meant, that she was able to support us for the rest of the day as we figured out what to do with two babies, which was perfect). Jo takes over camera duties, as Craig helps weigh our boys, and dress them (I should note that Odin, who was born second, was actually 300gm heavier than Arlo). I take the opportunity to have a shower and begin to process the truly amazing – kick-arse – birth I’d just had.
Now, without getting too ‘woo’ on you I want to share my feelings about my birth, retrospectively. Having the birth of Arlo and Odin unfold the way it did has made me feel like a new woman – both physically and spiritually/emotionally. I feel more confident, strong, resilient, and brave. This new feeling has changed the way I approach parenting, changed the way I approach my business, and changed my outlook in life more generally. Why? Because I totally rocked my birth! I faced the challenges head on, researched the shit out of everything, and made decisions that were right for me and my babies, with my unique set of circumstances. Being surrounded by a team of caregivers who trusted me and the process of birth, who treated me with respect, who treated the process of birth with reverence, and who remained calm and present with the needs of me and my babies truly made a difference to my outcomes. Had I chosen a different path, had different people caring for me, gone with the flow, blindly followed the protocols, and not done my research, I am absolutely certain that I would not have had the birth I did. So, if you’re faced with challenges in your pregnancy and birth – be it multiples, GD, advanced maternal age, protocols, hyperemesis, pre-term birth (and I had ALL of these) …whatever else – I urge you to do your research, choose your caregivers wisely, back yourself, ask questions (use your B.R.A.I.N.), and trust your instincts.
Ready to prepare for YOUR kick-arse birth? Learn more via my Hypnobirthing page, and follow my new venture Hypnobirthing Twins on Facebook (worldwide online options coming in early 2018 – you too can birth your twins like a Rockstar!).
Elyse Jamieson – Hypnobirthing Australia™ Practitioner & Doula
Phillip Island and surrounding areas
*featured image by Angela Gallo
Arlo Menzies - 2040gm (image by Angela Gallo)
Odin Finch - 2340gm (image by Angela Gallo)