A reader contacted me the other day with a twin pregnancy question. I’ll post it below with a few thoughts of my own.
Question From a Reader:
I recently found out we’re expecting twins, and you’re one of the very few people I know who has also had twins. So if you have ANY advice/tips for a twin pregnancy, the newborn stage, or managing multiple kids that are close in age, I would love to hear it!
First of all, dear reader, congratulations on your twin pregnancy! What a blessing. I put together a list of a few things that were helpful for us in raising our twinboys. (Click HERE for the birth story of those twins. Whoa. What a ride!)
Advice For Surviving a Twin Pregnancy and Newborn Stage
Prayer. You need to pray with your husband, as a couple, every single day. Never skip it. Seriously, God will help the two of you to keep it together when things get rough, and they will get rough when both babies get sick at the same time or decide to scream and cry at the same time or…
Move next door to your mother or some other helpful person. 😉 If you can’t do that, then think about hiring someone to come in for a few hours a day those first few months so that you can…nap, shower, get out of the house, etc. Even if you can only afford one day a week for a total of 3 hours, you won’t regret it. (In our case, I had a saintly mother-in-law who helped out every Friday.)
If you plan to nurse, learn to nurse both at the same time right away. You’ll save yourself precious time. In other words, if one baby wakes up at night and wants to nurse, get the other one up too. Nurse both at the same time. I read a *very helpful book* about that when I was pregnant with our twins 12 years ago.
You don’t need a ton of extra stuff. Just say no! In fact, your babies can share a crib until they’re too big and need extra room. When that happens, don’t buy another crib. Just pull out the pack ‘n play and put the other baby there. That’s what we did. Rotating nights, so that each baby gets used to sleeping in either place.
Go for a walk every day, once your body has healed anyway. Truly, get at least 20 minutes of fresh air.
Lastly, do you pray the rosary every day? No? You’re gonna need it.
Does anyone else have any practical advice for raising multiples? Or having all Littles? We’d love to hear about it.
For those of you who are new to this series, click HERE for Baby #1 and HERE for Baby #7. (Yes, I know, these are a little out of order.) Today, I’m writing about Baby #2 and Baby #3, for you see, we unexpectedly had twins, nine years ago. So here we go.
Pregnant with Twins
This was a wild ride. We were so excited to be pregnant again, because we wanted a big family. Our little girl was just one year old, and she would get a new brother or sister before she turned 2!
But this pregnancy was different from my first “dream” pregnancy. I was growing wider and wider faster than the time it takes to blow up a big balloon. Everyone would smugly look at me and say, “Well, this is your second baby. Of course you’ll be a lot bigger.” I knew that, but would insist that, “No, this pregnancy really feels differently. I think I’m having twins.” At this point, most people smiled and laughed at me. But if I said it once, I said it 50 times. “I think I’m having twins!”
And I was right. A week before my scheduled 20-week ultrasound, I began having severe lower abdominal pains, and so I was ushered to the ultrasound room to see if anything was wrong. The technician squeezed that cold gel on and maneuvered her magic wand, as my husband and I gazed at the screen. Hmmm, I thought, there seems to be a lot of arms and legs in there.
Sure enough, twins! We both laughed and laughed, and I felt vindicated. So we celebrated and ate at Taco Johns.
This was also about the time that I began having contractions too, which landed me right in Bed Rest. This was not fun. Thankfully some very kind friends helped watch my daughter, and we also received quite a few meals. But in the meantime, I reread the Lord of the Rings series and listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio for entertainment. (If you haven’t read the Lord of the Rings, you should. It’s so good. And as for listening to Rush Limbaugh, I can only say that I was desperate. We didn’t have Catholic radio at the time.)
Towards the end of my pregnancy, however, my body had had enough. I began to retain fluid and my blood pressure skyrocketed. I was preeclamptic and made to come back to the hospital the next day at 5am for an induction.
Labor & Delivery
We were excited, nervous, relieved–all of it. What was this going to be like? There was only one thing I knew. It would be drastically different than my first labor and delivery. First of all, I had to be in the operating room, in case of an emergency cesarean section. And secondly, I was given pitocin to start the contractions and an epidural to block any pain. It was wonderful to not feel all that pain! (With my first, I did not have pitocin or an epidural, and it was dreadfully painful.)
As I said, I went in at about 5am and by 10am was ready to push. It all happened so quickly. Boy # 1 was born easily, but whisked out of the room so fast that I didn’t even hear him cry. I was worried, but was not able to ask about him because immediately after he came out, multiple nurses were sharply told by the doctor, “Hold that baby in place! We don’t want him to flip!” The doctor wanted Boy #2 to stay in his head-down position to avoid a c-section, so the nurses firmly held him by pushing down on my lower abdomen.
He did stay in place and was born just minutes later. And I heard him cry, which was a relief. He was alive and healthy! And so was the first one, I would soon find out.
I asked my husband what he remembered about all this, and he said, “I sliced through the doctor’s glove while cutting the first umbilical cord. He wasn’t very happy with me.”
In the end, it was all so very beautiful – a great gift from God. Even though I had to take some kind of terrible magnesium drug for the eclampsia afterwards, I was only so grateful to have three children!
I kicked this series off with the story of my latest baby girl, #7, born about six weeks ago. (Click HERE for that one.) Now it’s time to back up and start from the beginning.
My husband and I were married on the feast of St. Agnes, January 21st, 2006. From the earliest part of dating, we both knew that we wanted a big family. So once we were hitched, there was no waiting for such things as a bigger home or more income. Nope. In fact, we were renting a little craftsman-style house in Duluth, MN, and I was still finishing up my degree in Catholic Studies in St. Paul.
It took us a whole month to get pregnant, and we were excited! She was to be the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Our first move was to move, literally. We didn’t want to live in Duluth anymore, as it seemed to snow perpetually–something called “Lake Effect” snow. (It’s terrible.) And we wanted grandparents around.
So six months later we ended up in North Dakota. (This is where my husband was born and raised.) He promised me that on the western side of the state, it didn’t snow very much and was warmer. I remember him saying, “Sure it’s warmer! We used to golf in December in Dickinson.” HA! Our first three years here were record-breaking snow-fall years.
In any case, my first child was a dream pregnancy. I could have been one of those pregnant models in those fake, glossy maternity magazines in OBGYN offices. (You know, the ones that make every real mother feel terribly for having swollen ankles and stretch marks.) I was able to run a few miles all the way up until two weeks before she was born. I had zero problems. You bet I felt great!
And I had no idea what was coming, for I came from a small family and had never even held a baby until mine was born. You could say I was about to have the shock of a lifetime.
Labor & Delivery
After arriving in North Dakota, settling down, and purchasing our first house, it was time to have a baby.
The night of November 13th, after my husband and I had just gone to bed, I suddenly felt a wetness all around me. Naturally, I wondered if maybe I had accidentally urinated? I had read that that could happen, so I went to the bathroom to check. Then I yelled for my husband to go get that pregnancy book, so I could look it up. This water didn’t smell like urine after all.
It was, of course, my “bag” of water. Contractions began soon after that. I did know enough that I’d probably have plenty of time before needing to go into the hospital, so I took a shower at 11pm, put my makeup on, and styled my hair. Who knows how long it might take? I wanted to look good. (Vain. Just vain.) Then we drove to the hospital.
I had also read in some condescending pregnancy article that it was best to not have any drugs or medication, if possible. So I decided to not have an epidural, or any other drugs. I was going to do this all on my own and show all those other “weak” mothers how it was done. (What a self-righteous prig I was.)
Well, it was a long, long 12 hours of sheer hell. And I deserved every pit of pain too. In the end, I broke down and had a dose of Nubain because I started to hyperventilate. Again, I had no idea what to expect.
Thankfully, after tearing and with the aid of an episiotomy, Baby #1 was born. And I was relieved. What an experience.
The Worst Was Yet to Come.
I didn’t know, however, that the worst was yet to come. Remember, I had no experience with babies whatsoever. None. I didn’t know that I’d be up all night. I was used to my 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I didn’t know that I’d have hemorrhoids. I didn’t know that nursing a baby could hurt so badly – like someone with a knife slicing off my flesh and then burning it with red hot coals. This mothering business was painful!
My own mother, God bless her soul, came to help me for a few days. She was wonderful to have around, especially to hold the screaming baby for a few hours, so that I could sleep. But she only stayed for a short while. The night before she left, I remember bawling uncontrollably in my husband arms because I felt like I was living in a black hole, with no light at the end of the tunnel. My life would forever involve a screaming baby and a terribly aching body. I had a complete meltdown.
Truly, the next two months were very dark. Looking back now, I can see that I was suffering from Postpartum Blues or Depression. It was mentally, physically, and emotionally draining, but I survived it, mostly with the support of my husband. He was just as clueless as I was, but was able to keep his wits about him.
I learned a lot from this pregnancy. Firstly, never again would I look down on any mother who would choose to have medication during labor and delivery. In fact, I think it would have helped me greatly to relax, especially since absolutely everything was so new to me. Secondly, I would never again scoff at any mother having difficulty with nursing, or getting up at night, or anything else related to motherhood. It’s just downright hard at times.
Conclusion & Light At the End of the Tunnel
While this first pregnancy was awesome, easy, and glamorous, everything afterwards was not. It was confusing, dark, and difficult. Thankfully, I would never again experience that kind of postpartum darkness again.
And of course, it was all worth it. Every bit of it.
Stay tuned for future additions of, “Birth Stories Are Never Boring,” as I attempt to relate Babies #2,3,4,5, & 6, wherein the pregnancies increase in difficulty, but where the labor and deliveries become a little easier!
Birth Stories are just never boring, at least for mothers anyway. Birth stories are also never alike. Each one is unique, and it’s all a miracle.
Today I intend to begin a new series, as I will write the Birth Story of each of my babies, and since #7 is fresh in my mind, I’ll begin there.
Pregnant With Baby #7
Now I know that many of you enjoy being pregnant, but I, however, do not. Let me say it again, I do not enjoy being pregnant. Man, is it difficult. For whatever reason, usually around halfway through my pregnancies, my body decides to commence Braxton Hicks contractions every time I attempt to move. These uncomfortable contractions, along with the cumbersomeness of a large, pregnant body, do not allow for me to exercise, let alone walk up and down flights of stairs or even walk out to the mailbox without pain.
In any case, it’s just not fun. And I am always very glad when labor begins.
Last Monday, which was President’s Day, I was particularly fed up with my pregnant self. That morning my poor husband, who happened to be home because of the holiday, received an earful from me lamenting my inability to do anything I wanted. “I can’t go for a walk.” Sob, sob. “I can’t even bring this pile of laundry downstairs.” Cry, cry. “I’m going to be pregnant forever, and it will be winter forever, and the sun will never shine again!” Hysterical, emotional, breakdown. “I hate being pregnant!!”
I then stomped out of the room and put myself in Time Out, whereupon I apologized to my unborn baby and to God for losing it. Deep down, I knew that all of those statements were lies. Truly, I only wanted God’s will to be done, not mine.
I then prayed the opening line of the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” I stopped and glanced out of the window at the blue sky and thought about this Creator of Heaven and Earth. God is a good God. He knows what’s best for me, and His timing is perfect. I prayed for the grace to accept His will, and I begged Mary to help me, and then I walked out of Time Out and apologized to my husband.
A half an hour later, I noticed a trickle of blood. Any amount of bleeding during a pregnancy is obviously not good, so I told my husband and called the hospital. They immediately scheduled an appointment for me at the clinic, as I was 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant.
So, after we calmly told our children that Grandma was on the way over, we drove in. It was about noon.
At the clinic, a Physician’s Assistant examined me and promptly sent me over to Ultrasound to make sure everything was ok. Then she saw me again and decided I had better head over to the hospital to be monitored, as she didn’t know the cause of the bleeding because everything looked normal.
Since the PA was not overly concerned, and since we were hungry from having missed lunch, we decided to hit up Jimmy John’s first before going to the hospital. At this point, we kind of knew that we weren’t going to be sent home, and furthermore, that the hospital wasn’t going to feed us.
It was while sitting in the drive-thru that I began to have a few minor contractions. Nothing serious, though. And nothing painful. So we ate our sandwiches and filled the car full of gas too.
By the time we rolled into the hospital parking lot around 1:30pm, my contractions were a bit more regular, and when the nurse examined me, I was dilated to 3 cm. So I asked her if my doctor happened to be around? She said no, that he was on his way home from their satellite clinic a few hours away. The reason I asked was because I knew that if he was there, he’d break my water, and we’d get this party started. He, of course, knowing my history of early deliveries.
I then boldly asked her to tell him to drive straight over to the hospital and break my water. She laughed, and then sent me over to Labor and Delivery, as she also thought I wasn’t going home without a baby.
Well, that nurse did tell my doctor, and he actually did drive straight over. (He’s so awesome.) He strolled into the room at about 3pm, ordered the nurses to get my IV hooked up, and said he’d be back in an hour to break my water. Alleluia! (I know it’s Lent, and you’re not supposed to say Alleluia, but really, that’s what I thought.)
At 4pm, he came back, broke my water, and real labor began! I knew it would be quick, from previous experience, and it was. I chose not to have an epidural this time and only requested a dose of Nubain, which is a drug that goes through your IV. It doesn’t take away the pain of the contractions, but only makes you care less. I can only describe it as making you feel a little “loopy” and more relaxed.
Well, it was intense; I pushed three or four times; and she arrived. She would have come even sooner, but she was facing sideways, instead of down. But she was perfect. She is beautiful.
About That Bleeding?
Later on I asked my doctor about that initial bleeding. He said that for some women, as your cervix thins and dilates, your blood vessels begin to break. I guess that’s what happened to me.
And one more providential thing…a Mass was celebrated for our family last Monday, February 19th, when our baby was born. A good friend of mine had scheduled it last summer. Coincidence? I think not.