Dandelion: A perennial yellow-flowered herb, native to Eurasia
but widespread throughout much of temperate North America.
A weed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

They're here!

Sarah’s due date for the twins was Saturday, August 25. We’d hoped that with twins Sarah might deliver early, but this was not the case. By the 25th, Sarah was convinced she’d never go into labor.

Sarah wanted to do some cleaning that Saturday morning, and so I watched the boys in their room while Sarah picked up, swept, mopped, vacuumed, and basically worked herself to the bone cleaning up our living area and kitchen. She only worked about an hour and a half, but she probably did what would’ve taken me four or eight hours. :)

And Sarah’s energy was not yet abated. We had planned to look around at local garage sales for a couple of items we wanted for the twins. It was a little bit late, but we got in the car and started driving around looking for sales. Sarah bought Joseph a couple of toys he’ll be eternally grateful for, including a soprano recorder for a dollar, and a big plastic car he can get into and run around in for six. Joseph quickly learned to hunt down the toys at each sale. ;) I’m not sure why it is that at a store or a garage sale, Joseph goes straight for the toys, but at home, Joseph tends to abandon toys and head straight for non-toys he shouldn’t get into…

After two or three sales Stephen was getting tired (it was past his naptime), so I started staying in the car with him while Sarah and Joseph shopped. We probably visited eight or ten garage sales, and Sarah was still going strong. I should’ve known this incredible display of energy meant something.

That afternoon we started putting the twins’ crib together. Yes, we definitely waited until the last minute. :) But previously I had figured we had plenty of other places for them to sleep if they’d been born suddenly before it was ready. And it turned out we were missing a couple of screws, so we didn’t finish the crib that day. We went out to have dinner at the cafeteria, visit the hardware store for screws, and walk at the mall. The hardware store turned out to be closed. At the mall we did only two laps. We talked about doing an extra, but Sarah didn’t quite feel like it. For the past several weeks, she’d often felt contractions during our walking. This night I asked at one point for her to tell me how many contractions she thought she’d had since we started. Turned out she’d had four contractions in twenty minutes — one every five. They weren’t quite "regular," yet, but they were definitely frequent. For the first time I began to wonder if Sarah might be going into labor. We talked about this possibility, and were excited, but Sarah wasn’t ready to believe it, yet.

We’d invited my family over for lunch the next day, which was going to be Stephen’s first birthday. (We’d previously celebrated in a birthday party the month before because we knew Sarah might be giving birth to the twins round about the time of the official birthday. But we wanted to have a nice lunch, anyway. Plus, Sarah had bought Jello molds at a garage sale and she wanted to try them out by making something festive.) So after leaving the mall we needed to stop at Wal-Mart to buy a few things for lunch. We were going the easy route, and letting Wal-Mart cook for us. I went in to buy rotisserie chickens and other goodies. I left Sarah with my watch and a piece of paper, and told her to write down the time when every contraction started and when it stopped.

It took me longer than I wanted to shop, but when I got out Sarah had a consistent record of contractions every five minutes. I knew at this point they still might stop after she got rested from the walking, but I was much more hopeful. :) Sarah, though, still didn’t expect the contractions to continue.

When we got home Sarah still wasn’t done with her last minute burst of energy. She gave every male in the house a haircut. She made several different flavors of Jello in her new molds. She gave the boys a bath and put them to bed. Her parents called to see how she was doing, and for the first time she could tell them that something might be happening, although she still wasn’t willing to believe that labor probably was starting.

Finally Sarah laid down on the couch to rest. I was doing some casual reading, and thinking that we ought to go on to bed and get some sleep in case Sarah really did start labor that night. Last time, labor was 30 hours, and we were of course exhausted by the end. I’d been asking Sarah all evening if she was still having contractions, and she had been, roughly every five minutes. I’d asked if they were more intense than the usual Braxton-Hicks contractions, and they were, but still not something Sarah thought for sure was labor. But at ten o’clock, Sarah gave out a singing, sighing moan as she experienced another contraction. Sarah is a very instinctual laborer, and her instincts were prompting her to sing as she managed the pain of the contraction. Now I knew she was in labor. But Sarah was still not willing to admit it. :)

At my prompting, Sarah allowed me to call our midwife. Sarah said not to tell her to come out yet, but to just be on alert that we might be calling in the middle of the night. But Sorani said she’d really rather come sooner rather than later, since we were having twins and they ought to be monitored. She asked us to call her back in an hour, and let her know if things were getting more intense.

About three contractions later, things were in fact getting more intense. And Sarah was finally starting to think that labor might be starting. We called Sorani at 11 and told her to come out. We also called Sarah’s parents and asked them to come. They were to be taking care of the boys during the labor. They live a couple of hours away, but the boys were still asleep at this point.

Meanwhile, we started getting ready. I read my nightly Bible reading to Sarah, and we prayed for Sarah and the twins in the labor that was coming. Then we had to get the bed ready: put fresh sheets on, then cover them up with plastic shower curtains to protect them during the birth, then another layer of fresh sheets to give birth on. It seemed to be slow going. I finally realized this was because Sarah was having intense contractions every few minutes and wasn’t really able to help much. I couldn’t leave her alone for very long, either, to run and fetch things from other rooms and such. I posted on the blog that labor had started. I had intended to call my parents and let them know, but while at first we agreed it was probably still early enough in the evening to call, all the other preparations took so long that I realized I wasn’t going to have time.

We started Sarah’s labor music — Gregorian chants of KJV Psalms from the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood, which I had downloaded and burned onto seven or eight CD’s. Somewhere along the line, I noticed that Sarah’s contractions were more frequent: every three or two and a half minutes! We lit candles.

Sorani and April arrived, and thankfully we’d barely finished getting the bed and everything ready. I was in the midst of a snack — I’d been dieting for the previous two weeks, but I really didn’t want to go through another potentially 30 hour labor on reduced calories. :) And I’d realized we weren’t going to have lunch with my parents the next day, and so I was having a bit of chicken. :) Sorani and April started checking the babies’ heartbeats, asking how things were going, and settled down to keep watch over the labor. Somebody observed that exactly one year ago on the same day, April was at our house while Sarah was laboring with Stephen, a labor that lasted from August 24 through August 26. :)

Sarah continued to sing through every single contraction. She’d been doing so since ten. I noticed Sorani and April grinning at Sarah proudly. They could see that she was doing well and was naturally doing everything she needed to. During labor with Stephen, Sarah spent most of her time lying in bed, with me next to her massaging her back. This time, Sarah was standing up and pacing, almost the whole time. I asked Sarah if she was finally ready to admit that she was in labor, and she agreed.

We started giving Sarah peanut butter crackers and Gatorade every so often. Gatorade is a new love for Sarah; she used to hate it, but when we started having it around more often earlier this year when Joseph was dehydrated, she decided she liked it and declared that she would have it during labor. So orange Gatorade was the drink of choice for the night, and peanut butter crackers were the labor fuel. :) After awhile we realized we were starting to have to remind Sarah to drink (and go to the bathroom) because she was so focused on her contractions.

At first I spent every contraction standing with Sarah, with my arms around her pressing on her lower back to relieve the pain. After those early contractions I asked a lot of questions to make sure I was pushing in the right places and was really helping. Her frequent request was for me to push harder! But after awhile I noticed she didn’t seem to care so much. I asked between contractions and found out her back wasn’t really hurting anymore (although she did still appreciate the massage if my hands weren’t too hard to provide it), and the pressure of the contractions had moved to her front.

Around 12:30 Sorani offered to check Sarah’s cervix and see how labor was progressing. Sarah hadn’t yet been checked. I remembered labor with Joseph and how Sarah dilated to 2 and stayed there. I remembered labor with Stephen and how Sarah dilated to 7, the midwives pronounced transition was about to start and we should get ready to birth and catch the baby, and then Sarah stayed there for twelve hours because Stephen’s head was crooked. I figured things were progressing nicely because the contractions were so close together, but I was expecting a measurement between 4 and 6. But Sorani checked, and Sarah was dilated to 8! It had only been an hour and a half since we called Sorani, and Sarah was already farther along than where we’d stalled with both previous labors!

I remarked that it had been an hour and a half since we called Sarah’s parents, and they ought to arrive soon.

April put out pads on the floor in case Sarah’s water broke, and Sarah stopped pacing so much and started staying over the pads. We reminded her a few more times to keep drinking Gatorade and eating. Sorani and April tried to check the twins’ heartbeats again … and had trouble finding Eva’s! This wasn’t anything to worry about … Jeremiah had shifted over to the middle as he came closer to be being born, and had pushed Eva way over to Sarah’s side. Sarah always hates when a baby makes her look a little "lopsided" during pregnancy. But two can do a far more startling job of that than one! Yet somehow she didn’t seem to mind as much as I thought she would, as this was a definite sign of progress. Eventually, April found Eva’s heartbeat.

Sarah started sitting down to rest every so often. The labor was coming very fast while she was standing, and she was also tired from the standing itself. Sitting offered some relief, although I still worried about us somehow getting stalled for hours and hours. I’d suggest she get back up again every so often, but eventually there came a point where she really didn’t want to, and I quit making the suggestion.

Sorani and April had called the additional midwives at some point, and we began seeing them from time to time as they came in quietly to observe. There are ordinarily four midwives present for a twin birth, because there’s so much extra work and monitoring to do. And there are apprentices, and we granted permission for as many as wanted to be there to come. And so everybody who possibly could from our midwife practice turned out to be there, including a lady from another practice who guest-helped at Sarah’s labor with Stephen when most of the regular midwives were out at another birth, and of course April herself, who no longer lives in Texas, and timed a visit so she could be around to assist at the twins’ birth. :)

Sarah asked Sorani to check her again. Sarah was dilated to about 9 or even 9.5. She said there was a small "lip" of cervix left. Sarah had encountered this before, with Stephen, and it prevented dilation from completing until the waters were broken. I figured we’d probably be stuck there again for another couple of hours, before having to try the same. But Sorani asked Sarah if she’d felt any urge to push, and if she’d like to try to during the next contraction. Sarah said she hadn’t felt that way yet, but she agreed to try. Sarah pushed, and this was the first time she had a contraction without singing. But she said the pushing hurt. Sorani told her she didn’t have to keep trying to push.

But on the next contraction, Sarah made a lot of noise and then suddenly gasped out the word "Push?" I was startled. Very startled. I think Sorani told her she could push, and Sarah started pushing. The midwives assembled into the room and started making preparations to catch the baby. An apprentice fumbled with the lightswitches by our door. Two of them aren’t hooked up to anything, and she looked very confused. :) I asked what she was trying to do, and she said she wanted to turn the fan off. I explained two switches did nothing, one switch was for the lights, and directed her to the remote control for the fan which was on the windowsill on the other side of the room. Got to replace that silly remote some day. It’s been there since before I moved in in 2001, from the previous owners, and we really don’t like it. Sarah grumbled about the fan being turned off: she was hot! I asked if we could leave it on, but they explained that it really needed to be off so the baby wouldn’t have it blowing on him after birth. April quickly realized we had a small box fan on the table next to the bed, inches from Sarah’s face, and turned that on. I asked Sarah if that would work, and she agreed. Did I mention we’ve had a lot of fans going the last nine months? :)

Sarah pushed at the next contraction. She’d turned over on her side, but still looked uncomfortable. Sorani asked Sarah if she’d be more comfortable if Sorani held her leg up, and after trying it, Sarah made a very satisfied noise that everyone agreed meant that was much better. :) And then she was pushing so hard and so fast the midwives started telling her she needed to slow down and be more gentle. They tried to get her to pant, but at this point I don’t think Sarah could hear anybody but me, so I had to coach her to pant, and she followed directions well. We saw Jeremiah’s head, and after awhile Sarah touched him, which got her excited. When Stephen was being born, his head was covered in blood. Jeremiah didn’t have any blood on him at all.

Jeremiah was born after only about four to six pushing contractions, at 2:11 AM, weighing eight pounds, six ounces. He was doing well, and we were ecstatic! The midwives lifted him up and placed him on Sarah’s belly, where he and she were very content. :) Sarah even pushed through the next couple of contractions with him on her, and was comfortable at first but eventually agreed with Sorani that they needed to take him off so she could push. Somebody took Jeremiah and held him.

Eva’s head soon appeared, but April immediately noticed and announced her head was in the caul, that is, still in the bag of waters. This was fascinating to me; I’d read about this and always wondered what it was like. The bag was milky white. April tried to tear it away from Eva’s head, but it took longer than expected because it was very thick, and seemed to be layered, or at least to stretch out so much it created new layers as it was ripped away. Eventually she got her free.

Eva was born at 2:19 AM, only eight minutes after Jeremiah, which is very close for twins. She weighed eight pounds. Again Sarah had been pushing so fast we had to slow her down by coaching her to pant. :)

I looked up as Eva was emerging to see Sarah’s parents coming in the door. It’d been over three hours since we called them — they were delayed by the need to get gas (every night before they’d been gassed up in case we called, but of course this was the one night they didn’t :) ), and by a wreck on the interstate. I saw Glynis, Sarah’s mother, come into sight just as Eva was born.

The rest of the night was a happy blur. The twins got passed around a lot, and went out the meet their grandfather. Sarah delivered the placentas and got to take a nice refreshing herb bath. The twins joined her for a few minutes each. One of the midwives brought Sarah some of our Wal-Mart chicken from the fridge and fed it to her while she lay in bed.

Oh and one of the midwives went out to her car and discovered a thief rifling through a purse in one of the other cars. He was scared off, but they called the police, and later I answered the door holding a thirty-minute old Jeremiah wrapped in a towel only to find a police officer. I imagine the police were really curious about what was going on in our house. :)

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