Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Long story: The day that forever changed my life

I had one full term pregnancy. It was huge. Not that it would have landed me a reality show, but huge in that I had been trying to get pregnant for a long time. I learned I was finally pregnant on my 10th wedding anniversary. It was a crazy roller coaster ride to get to that day - but learning I was finally going to be a mom was the best day I had since getting married.

I had a great job at the museum. On doctor's orders, I stopped working at 7 months in order to carry the twins as far as possible. I assumed a lonely and slovenly existence. I had to eliminate stairs at 25 weeks. My life became a simple cycle of sleep on the couch, eat, go to the bathroom, read, watch tv, sleep some more, repeat. I read a little and watched a ton of cooking shows. Occasionally, I'd flip the channels to some Jerry Springer trash or a frightening baby delivery miracle story on TLC. Cooking shows seemed to comfort me the most. These were the days before Facebook and Twitter. I felt isolated. I knew the time would be over soon. And I also knew that I would need the sleep - because everybody told me that I wouldn't have it after the babies were born. The most important job I had was to keep the babies inside me as long as possible: ultimately to the scheduled c-section in April.

My only venture outside the house was to the weekly OB/GYN appointment where the doctor would greet me with the ritual weigh-in and measure the shrinking distance between my stomach at the door frame. My doctor had a great sense of humor. I matched his with snarky comments like, "I haven't seen my feet in a few weeks. Would you mind clipping my toe nails for me?"

The day I finally reached the 200 pound mark, I had prepared for the moment with a pocket full of confetti to throw at the nurse. "Yay! I'm a bonafide heifer." I never wrote down how much I weighed on the last day of pregnancy.

The appointment of March 13th, I told him that I was sad to be missing St. Patrick's Day. Not that I ever really celebrated the drunken debauchery, but there was a twinge of regret at not seeing some friends in their annual Irish music night and a pint of Guinness. I really missed Guinness, conversation and stairs.

My wonderful OB took out his prescription pad and wrote me a permission note for one Guinness to be consumed on March 17th. He said that in the event of early labor, I would be given an alcohol drip to slow down contractions. Steve was only happy to bring home a can for me with my daily request for cake doughnuts. He had the other three.

That week, Steve was working on a commercial with a good musician we both knew. He loved studio projects; spending hours getting the sound mix and producing balances until perfection was reached. On March 20th, the musician came to the house to talk over some things with Steve. The pained look on his face as he saw my belly was enough to say, "Oh sweetie, that's gotta hurt."

Through most of my pregnancy, many people made comments about my size; friends and strangers. I guess people forget that we still have feelings about our body image. Hint: when you see a pregnant woman in the full flower of her condition, tell her she looks beautiful. Don't look at her belly. Look at her eyes to see that she's brimming with excitement. And if there are circles under her eyes, she just might be having a little trouble sleeping and breathing with 30 extra pounds pushing on her lungs.

Before dawn on March 21st, my bladder forced me off the couch for another trip to the bathroom. After returning to the couch, I felt like I had to go again. I thought maybe the babies decided to sit heavy on the bladder, so when I went back to the bathroom, I was ticked that my bladder was empty. Those darned kids were playing tricks on me. But I remembered this horrible story of a pregnancy gone wrong. Wondering if I was losing my amniotic fluid, I called the local hospital for some reassurance. The maternity ward nurse asked me how pregnant I was. "35 weeks with twins."

"I wouldn't mess around. Get yourself to the hospital. If it's a false alarm, what have you got to loose?"

It was 5am. I knew Steve had just crawled up to the second floor bedroom not four hours before, so I hesitated. I couldn't even climb up the stairs to wake him with a gentle shove. I had nothing ready. The hospital bag wasn't packed. I still had three weeks to go.

My mom has a tradition of calling each of her children on their birthday; early in the morning so as not to miss them or interrupt any plans they may have. The birthday call never starts with "hello." It begins with a slight pause, a breath, then a low, morning, husky-voiced "Happy Birthday" rendition that tickles, soothes and reminds you that you are never too old to have your mommy sing you "Happy Birthday."

I didn't want to miss her call. Worse, I didn't want her to worry if she got the answering machine while we were gone. So while Steve splashed water on his face and tried to put things in a duffle bag for me, I called her first to let her know it was probably a false alarm. She shot off the quickest birthday song ever, we got into the car and drove the 30 miles to our Trauma Level 1 hospital.

When I stepped out of the car, my water broke. Steve congratulated me on letting it go outside the car. That would have been a real mess. Breaking water is a really weird, panic inducing experience. It feels like a sudden loss of bladder control that nothing can stop. And there's a lot of fluid. All those dramatic jokes on TV - they reflect the truth. It's an out of control moment.

Two baby monitors were quickly strapped around my belly. The on-duty OB said the words I wasn't ready to hear, "It's time."

WHAT? No it's not! I have three more weeks until the scheduled C-section. My house is a wreck, I didn't bring the baby stuff. I don't know what's going to happen on the next episode of Guiding Light.

"The first one is presenting head down, but face up. We could deliver it vaginally, but the second one would drop down butt first or into a breech position; which would require a C-section. What do you think?"

Duh!? Take them both out by C-section. Vaginally delivery is really not that important to me.

"OK, we have to wait until the next operating room is available after this morning's scheduled surgeries."

I only had to endure 40 minutes of labor pains. The next ridiculous moment came when the anesthesiologist needed to put in the epidural needle. "Just lean over a little more, OK?"

If he couldn't see the huge medicine ball of mass that was between my neck and my hips, I don't know what else I could have said except, "I haven't been able to tie my shoes in 3 months and you're expecting me to reach that far? Now?"

Needle in. Laid back into operating position. Curtain up. Two delivery teams; one for each baby. Steve gowned and at my head. I had a rosary in each hand.

First out was Lady B. Screaming. Good lungs. A little bit of messing around in the basket before the doctor pulled out Master S. Quiet at first; almost as if he were asleep. When he woke up, he let out a little cry. Enough for me to let out my breath.

Babies were taken to get cleaned up and measured. I was cleaned up, sewn up and moved to recovery. 45 minutes later, Steve and I were presented with our babies.

We had wanted them for 10 years. We waited for them to arrive for 35 weeks. In two hours, we went from a dozed "false alarm" to "parent hood." It was surreal to say the least.

It was the best birthday present I ever received.
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