I am so glad that we had a request for a twin birth story from one of our blog readers and that my friend, Heidi, was willing to share her experience. Shortly after she moved to our ward we discovered that we both loved childbirth. I consider it a privilege that I was allowed to be a part of Liam’s and Landon’s births. I had so much fun reading back the story again. I hope you enjoy their faith-filled journey. –Robyn
A Twin Birth: Peace that Passeth All Understanding
by Heidi Hellstrom
I don’t normally share my birthing stories by writing them down for people (besides myself), but I’ve had a few people asking me about it lately and I’ve been thinking a lot about it, so I feel it is the right time. It is my prayer that this story will help someone.
I lost my first baby. Then I had my son, followed by two more miscarriages. A nurse practitioner told me that it might be difficult to have any more children. Then I conceived my daughter. (Her story is a complete miracle, and I’ll share that some other time.) It was while I was pregnant with my daughter that we found out at my 20th week ultrasound, that I have a “heart-shaped” uterus. (I’m not sure what the medical term for it is.) It basically means that I will have a really hard time carrying a baby to full term, without losing it. A friend was telling me about how they used a portable ultrasound to keep track of things when they found out they had this condition, but I didn’t opt for that myself. After my 2nd child was born, my doctor told me that “there is really no point in ‘preventing conception’ because you will likely never conceive again”. I was very saddened by this news, but followed his advice, hoping that someday another miracle would occur. Fast forward 9 months. I was at my doctor’s office getting some tests done, when we found out that only one of my ovaries works, and only some of the time. Great! Now it’s going to be even harder to have another baby. But I wasn’t too fazed by this news. I knew that if it was meant to be, it would be. (We moved to another state shortly before my 2nd child was born.)
Several weeks later I was at my old doctor’s office (in another state) getting some more tests done, including an ultrasound. I was NOT there for a pregnancy test. He comes into the room and jokingly says “Well, let’s just make sure you don’t have any twins or anything in there!” and proceeds to start the ultrasound. While we were still laughing about it, a few seconds later his face gets really serious and he says, “Oh! You are going to have twins!” What?!?? We were both shocked. Later that day I was on the phone with my husband, trying to convince him that we were in fact going to have twins. He didn’t believe me. It actually took him a few days before he realized I was serious! Then all the fun began…
I had always wanted to have a home birth, with a midwife. But in the state where we live, by the current law, midwives are not allowed to attend a birth of multiple babies, and especially where it isn’t in a setting like a hospital. So I had two options: 1) Try finding a doctor who would allow me to birth them vaginally and drug-free, or 2) Deliver them in the next State over, where I could use a midwife, and it would be in at a birthing center (free of the hospital chaos). However, option #2 would be a 2 ½ hour drive, while in labor. After a few months of praying about it, and many interviews with potential doctors, we decided that staying here would be the best option, for us.
I started taking the Bradley Method classes from one of my neighbours, who is a birth educator. In there I learn about the importance of eating right while pregnant and the great importance of eating LOTS of protein. My husband was SO great about making sure I got plenty of protein each day- which is especially important when carrying multiple babies. I also was blessed to have a neighbor who had had twins herself nearly 20 years ago. Throughout my pregnancy she would constantly bring me foods & drinks that were chalked full of protein. I’m so thankful for her! Another thing that helped me stay pregnant was taking fish oil capsules, twice daily. A midwife told me about them, and how she told her patients that it would help them carry the babies to full-term. I took two daily because I was carrying two babies.
I started bleeding somewhere between 11 – 15 weeks, and was put on bed rest for nearly two months. I was also put on bed rest several more times throughout my pregnancy. With two little kids at home, this was not easy. I was told that I better avoid stairs at all cost, if I wanted to stay pregnant. (I would have mild contractions every time I used the stairs. One time I even blacked out and fainted- that was in my first trimester.) It was difficult because in my home, all the bedrooms are upstairs and the kitchen is on the main level. My sweet husband would make some snacks and an easy lunch the night before, and in the mornings before he left for work, he would bring them upstairs so that I could feed my two older children during the day without having to go up/down stairs. Towards the end, I could NOT sit for longer than a few minutes without being in a lot of pain, because of the weight of the babies. I tried just going to Sacrament and then coming home after. But it got to the point where I had to stay home from church (for 4-5 weeks, or so). Everything hurt. I was completely exhausted, all of the time. I was blessed to meet a lady who had twin two year old girls. She warned me that I’d get to a point where I just wanted to be done, no matter what. She said she felt that way when she started having a few contractions, and didn’t stop them. She told me she regretted that because she believed her daughters were born “too early”, and she advised me against that. “Try to not go into labor,” she said. “The longer they are in there, the better.” I really wanted to “be done” but I remembered her words, and just tried to survive one day at a time.
Then came my 36 week check-up. (By this point, I was having weekly appointments.) Twin A and twin B had stayed pretty close together in the same size and weight throughout the pregnancy. But after reviewing this week’s ultrasound results, Dr. Cox was very concerned. Baby B (we chose to not find out their genders until they were born) had stopped- or greatly slowed down- in growing, and there was now over a pound difference between Baby A and Baby B. He said that we needed to schedule an induction, and the sooner the better. Up until this point, my husband was rarely able to come to my appointments, but this time he was there, and I was SO glad, as we had a very serious decision to make. That was on a Monday. Dr. Cox left the room for a little while so we could discuss it. I said a silent prayer. I usually don’t believe that most things the doctors/nurses tell you are necessary, but after praying I really felt that this was true, and serious. We scheduled the induction for Friday: I wanted to give my babies as much time in there as possible, and that was the longest Dr. Cox would let us go. Like I said, it was on a Monday that we got the news that we’d be having our babies sooner than expected. All Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I cried and stressed about it, and prayed. Then Thursday morning peace came. A peace that passeth all understanding. Peace that only my Father in Heaven can give. I knew that we were making the right choice for our babies. We still had family and friends that thought we were just “giving in” or making the wrong decision or that we should just plan a C-section, but that didn’t matter to me, because I knew from my Heavenly Father that I was doing what was best. Yes, I would have liked to deliver in another 2-3 weeks, but the time was now. I felt that if we didn’t get Baby B out soon, we would lose him.
That same week, I had an appointment Thursday. It was the first time I let the doctor do a vaginal exam, and I was between 3-4cm dilated. Since I was being induced the next morning, I wanted to try to get things going on my own, if possible. So they put in one of those balloon things… that was around 5pm. I sent my kids to a neighbours house, which was planning on keeping them all night and the next day. (So helpful!) My husband and I went out to eat. (A tradition when I’m in labor, haha.) The waitress kept giving me worried looks, and finally came over to ask Scott if everything was ok. I just tried to smile and said that I was in labor. Hahaha she didn’t know how to respond to that, so she said, “Oh ok! Well let me know if you need anything” and walked off. A couple hours later, it came out, along with my mucous plug, around 8pm. Dr. Cox said it would come out when I was dilated to a 5. Labor quickly slowed down after that.
Friday morning we went to the hospital for our 4:00am induction. We learned later that it is normally standard procedure to deliver twins in the O.R. “just in case” surgery is needed, but Dr. Cox had previously arranged for me to be in an actual delivery room (which was very sweet of him). Later he told me that he had faith in me that I “could do it”. J So when we arrived at the hospital and were checked into our room, we were waiting while a nurse finished bringing in a second warming bed and all the other stuff needed. They got me all hooked up and started the Pitocin around 6:30am. I was dilated to 4.5cm. I was soon turned all the way up to the highest amount, and they said that I was contracting a lot and regularly, but I didn’t feel much and they were all pretty tolerable. Scott and I played games, walked in the hall, got in the birthing tub (which was heavenly), tried different positions to keep things going, etc. That lasted all day.
Baby A was fairly easy to keep on the monitor, Baby B was very difficult to find, almost the whole time. I had to hold the monitor just right, all day, or we lose the heart rate again. At some point during the day, when things were still pretty easy, the anesthesiologist came into our room, introduced himself, and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him “Stay out”. I didn’t want the temptation of an epidural, especially when I knew from experience that I’d be asking for it later!
That evening Dr. Cox came in to check on my progress. I was at 5 cm. I cried, a lot. I was so frustrated that this was taking ALL day and I had only progressed a half centimeter. He suggested that he break my water to see if that would help kick things in gear. He would let us talk about it, and he’d come back in one hour. Originally on my birth plan I did NOT want my water broken, because I knew that I would feel EVERYTHING. Since I was having regular hard contractions, I knew this time would be no different, though I didn’t feel very many of them up until this point. I just felt crampy, like before a period. Scott and I talked about it, and I just wanted to get this over with so I could hold my babies. So when the doctor came back, I told him it was ok to go ahead and break my water so we could get things going. That happened at 7pm.
Almost as soon as my water broke, I started into full-swing labor. It was like someone had flipped on a light switch! They came fast and hard and right on top of the last one. Right before they broke my water, I called my doula and she came up to the hospital. I had never used a doula before, and I was very glad to have another woman there, who knew what it felt like and all the emotions that come with natural childbirth. She was very helpful in reminding me to not hold my breath, but to breathe, and when the time came, to breathe the baby down; keeping my voice low-pitched was actually very helpful (haha I was surprised how that worked). Shortly after my water broke, my sister arrived. She stayed up by my head the whole time, rubbing my forehead with a cold wash cloth. It was helpful to have that distraction, when I needed it. As I was nearing the transition stage, the anesthesiologist literally poked his head around the curtain and said, “Hi! I just wanted to see if you needed…” But before he could finish, I yelled “Get out!!” hahaha Later it made us all laugh, but at the time I was really annoyed that he waited until he knew I was in full-swing labor before coming in to ask if I wanted an epidural. Later I felt bad for yelling at him, and I told him I was sorry and hoped he had no hard feelings… but I did warn him.
This birth was SO different than my first two. Not just because I was carrying twins, but also I had invited people there to witness it, and I’d never done that before. In fact, one of the student nurses even requested to stay and watch after her shift ended. The doctor told her that something very rare was going to happen and she better stay to watch; rare being- a woman having a vaginal birth to twins drug-free. I didn’t mind. In looking back, I did have quite the audience haha! I would never have done that with my first two. Also, I literally felt prayers that day/night. It is almost unexplainable and indescribable, but I literally felt like there were angels arms wrapped around me. Like I wasn’t alone. Of course I know that I literally wasn’t alone, because of the other people in the room. It just felt like my heart was full. Full of my Saviour’s love for me and my babies, and all the people of the world. I’ll never forget how completely blessed and at peace I felt that night!
So right before they broke my water (at 7pm) there was a shift change, and I got a new nurse named Kathleen. She was an angel! The BEST nurse I have ever had. (We found out later that Dr. Cox had requested her a week before to attend me, if she happened to be on shift when I came in. That was cool that he did that.) So after I started feeling the contractions, Kathleen told us that the hospital just got these new birthing chairs and that no one had even used them yet. She asked if I’d like to try one out, and I said yes. It was like sitting on the toilet with a tall back to it that was slightly reclined, but not too much. The center and front of the seat were missing. It was perfect to allow for gravity to help Baby A come down. Since I was only at a 5 when they broke my water, the doctor and most nurses left, thinking it would take a while. I only remember Kathleen being there with me, trying to make sure both babies were being monitored. Then all of a sudden I felt the urge to push and push now! I pushed once with the next contraction, but tried to do it inconspicuously so that the nurse wouldn’t freak out. She looked up at me and quickly asked if I needed to push. I lied and said no. Haha Sorry! I really am not sure why I did that! But there was no time to think because a half second later the next contraction was there and I REALLY needed to push! So I did. The nurse started yelling for someone to get Dr. Cox in here NOW. He came running in and was frantically trying to find gloves and a gown, but saw there was no time. He leaned over the bed (my chair was next to the bed, and I had my feet up on the side of the bed) and helped Kathleen catch Baby A as he came into this world. The doctor lifted him up to my chest and my husband announced that he was a boy. I’ll never forget it! We just did it! My first un-medicated, successful birth. Liam was born at 8:14pm, weighing 6lbs, 6oz. (So yes, I went from a 5 to a 10 in one hour!)
Right after handing Liam to me, the doctor was about to clamp the cord. I noticed and said “Don’t clamp it. Don’t clamp it.” He thanked me for reminding him and stopped. He had forgotten that was on my birth plan, that I wanted to wait until the cord had stopped pulsating before clamping it. Later my doula told me she was shocked that I had the presence of mind to notice/remember that. Looking back, I was shocked too!
After a couple minutes, the nurse wanted to take Liam over to the warmer, so I kissed him and let him go. THAT was one of the HARDEST things I’ve done. To leave my brand new, beautiful baby in the care of strangers, on the other side of the room, while I still had to deliver a second baby. I felt so bad for Liam. My sister must have noticed how I was feeling, and she left my side to go stand by my son until I could hold him again. That act of kindness meant a lot to me.
Within minutes of delivering Liam, I started contracting again. I was still fully dilated, and it didn’t take long for full-swing labor to pick back up again. Both twins each had their own sack, or bag of water. So Baby B (remember we still had not found out the gender) was happily floating around in there way up high, and frustrating all the nurses because the baby would not hold still long enough to get a good monitor on the heartbeat. Scott told me later that actually the baby’s heart rate had dropped way low while I was still sitting on the birthing chair (to 70; Normal is 120-150). Scott, Dr. Cox, and the nurses were all very worried but somehow managed to not let me know. Dr. Cox had me move to the bed (not very easy, mind you) to get an ultrasound of how Baby B was positioned; the baby was breach. Once I was in the bed, the heart rate went back into the normal range. They got my permission to do IFM because the baby would not hold still for the heart monitors on my stomach. Then, I wanted Dr. Cox to try turning the baby from the outside. I laid back (while contracting- not comfortable) and had to hold still and try to be very relaxed so that my abdominal muscles would be loose enough. Dr. Cox pushed and pulled and the baby rotated. It did not hurt. He did another ultrasound to make sure. I sat back up in bed. Then we just had to wait. The baby was still pretty high up. I was completely exhausted. I desperately tried pushing a few times (even though I knew it wasn’t time) just to try and speed things along. It didn’t work; it probably just made me even more tired! I asked the doctor to break Baby B’s water, and he did. (Looking back, I’m not sure if this happened before or after rotating the baby.) Then, as tired as I was, it was like another switch was flipped, and I knew that it was time to push. My doula filmed the second birth, and after watching this part, all I did was quietly say “ok”. Then it looked like my husband, who was standing next to the bed, snapped to attention and notified everyone that I was ready to push. (It’s funny to watch. I highly recommend filming the birth of your children!) After one, maybe two, pushes, the head was out. I had beforehand told Dr. Cox that I wanted to deliver the second baby. He reminded me of this but I felt so dead that all I could do was barely lift my arms. I reached down, pulled out my baby with one more push, and brought Baby B up to my chest. I literally was SO tired that I could not even lift my head or barely open my eyes, so I forgot to look to see what the gender was. My husband announced it was another boy! We were all surprised! The doctor himself didn’t even know the gender and we all thought it would be a boy and a girl. Landon was born at 9:31pm and weighed 5lb, 11oz. This time, the doctor remembered to wait until the cord stopped pulsating before clamping it. He handed the scissors to Scott to cut the cord, but at the last second, I decided that I wanted to. So I cut the cord that had held us together for approximately 36 weeks, 4 days. After 2 ½ hours of labor, I was now a mother of twins. I was so completely happy and dead tired at the same time.
They had to take away Landon pretty quick to assess his vitals and such. Both babies were unable to breastfeed, or even eat at first, and had to be monitored in the NICU (but were never admitted). Their breathing was very fast (100+ per minute instead of 60 as usual). They were getting enough air; they just had to work harder for it. After I was all cleaned up and had a little more energy, Scott and I were asked if we wanted to go to our recovery room, but I said I’d rather go see my babies first, in the NICU. Scott and I each held one baby skin-to-skin on our chests. I couldn’t believe how Landon just fit right inside Scott’s shirt, like a glove!
When we finally were able to go to sleep that night, it was close to 1:00am. I’d been awake for 22 hours. A short time later, they brought me my babies and said their breathing had slowed down enough for them to try nursing. I believe that had they been sedated by an epidural or Nubian, that they would have been unable to work as hard as they needed for air and would have needed oxygen or a respirator in the NICU. They were both able to come home with us when we left the hospital.
I just felt so blessed by this whole birthing experience. I know that everyone there in that delivery room was meant to be there, and I also know that there were angels in attendance that day, helping me and others to know what to do. I’m grateful for the power of prayer and the gift of faith. I know that every story is different, but for me, I know that I did what was best for my babies. They are now 9 months old, and healthy. I have a good life!