I had a difficult delivery with my first baby, including posterior presentation, premature rupture of membranes, meconium staining, stalled labour, 18 hours of Syntocinon, a largely ineffectual epidural, a 4 hour second stage, and forceps delivery. My daughter had severe respiratory distress and was in the NICU for several days. It was a very tough introduction to parenthood and left me quite traumatised, especially the separation from my daughter. My husband and I decided that we would try for a homebirth if we had another baby, in the hope that a calmer environment would assist the birth process. When I fell pregnant again, we found a lovely homebirth midwife.
I started to show really early. At 8 weeks I was in maternity wear. I thought it was just because it was a second pregnancy, but a 9 week ultrasound showed TWO BABIES. We were completely shocked as there are no twins in my family. Twins of course meant that a homebirth was out of the question.
There followed many long months of argument with various obstetricians about our birth choices. We wanted as little intervention as possible. A standard twin delivery involves syntocinon (which I was very afraid of, after the previous experience), continuous monitoring (which I had hated with my first birth, as I felt chained to the bed) and an epidural prior to the second stage, in case positioning/version or a c-section is necessary to deliver the second twin. In my first birth, the epidural meant I had no pushing urge and seriously compromised my ability to deliver my daughter, hence the very prolonged second stage, so I did not want an epidural this time around, although I was prepared for Synto to be administered between the twins if labour did not re-establish. The hospital also wanted both twins delivered on the bed, which I did not agree with as I had found pushing in that position impossible the first time around. Our views were very challenging to the obstetricians and some were quite aggressive about it, although I must say the head OB was more reasonable and was prepared to admit that my refusal to consent to an epidural would be a “complete contraindication” to giving me one! Throughout this stage our midwife was a pillar of strength and information. She gave us the courage of our convictions and more than once came to the hospital to talk with the obstetricians on our behalf. Even so, the hospital was very unhappy with our birth preferences. It was a stressful time, helped somewhat by a Calmbirth ® course.
In the end all our arguments ended up being moot. At 33 weeks, I started to feel an ominous itching all over. Tests showed elevated bile salts and poor liver function results. I had obstetric cholestasis. Our midwife and the hospital agreed: the babies would need to be delivered by 37 weeks. And I knew that that early, an induction would almost certainly involve Syntocinon.
This was really difficult for me to accept. I was terribly afraid of the drug, and knew that Synto would mean continuous monitoring and therefore limit my movement, which I also feared. However, I knew that my fear would make the delivery more difficult and the pain worse. At this point the hospital dropped the bombshell that despite all their delivery rooms having deep birthing baths, I would not be allowed to use those or the shower if I had to have Synto, as they believe this risks pump damage to the Synto pump. Essentially this meant I was walking into a labour that was likely to be more painful, with less pain relief options. It was going to be down to Calmbirth ® alone, if I wanted to avoid drugs (and I did!).
I did a lot of Calmbirth ® practice from then on. But the Calmbirth ® visualisation exercises presupposed a normal delivery without intervention, and I found it very upsetting to listen to them. I hit on the idea of doing my own visualisations, of a medicalised induction process. After a few of these I was able to work through some of my fears.
On the day of the induction, we kissed our daughter goodbye at 5am and met our midwife at the hospital. Preliminary checks showed a Bishop score of 5, very promising for 36 weeks. The hospital midwife applied prostaglandin gel and sent us out to freedom. We had a lovely breakfast. I started to have sporadic contractions but nothing serious. We returned to the hospital 6 hours later. My cervix had ripened to 2cm, and the very cheerful OB was able to break the waters for twin 1 (our second daughter) at 3.45pm. No meconium staining! I dared to ask the OB how she was presenting. ANTERIOR, WOOHOO! I was very pleased with that.
Contractions came rather more strongly after that point, but were still sporadic. The felt very “knifey”, and our midwife explained this was from the prostaglandin gel. We held off on the Synto as long as possible, but at 6.25pm the drip was put up and contractions started in earnest. Continuous monitoring was in place, but via telemetry so I could have moved. Ironically, though, I didn’t feel the need to. I went deep into calm breathing and spent most of the labour sitting beside the bed on a fit ball, sometimes circling my hips but more often just breathing to ride the contractions with my husband stroking my back. Unlike my first labour, I had no real idea of when the next contraction was coming, and ended up doing my calm breathing (in for 4, out for 6) solidly for hours. I wasn’t afraid of the contractions. I could really feel them doing their work, and little twin 1 moving firm and fast down. I was determined to “get out of the way” of labour and with each contraction focused on opening up and not clenching against the pain. Our midwife was convinced things were going quickly and asked us when we thought we would be having the babies. I told her anything before midnight was a sucker bet! She said 11pm.
At 8.30pm, about 2 hours after I started having regular contractions, the pain was starting to get BIG. The OB did a cervix check – I was 5cm. I was very disheartened by this, but our midwife told me that the first 5cm was the hardest, and the very encouraging OB tried to convince me that it wasn’t all about centimetres and that my cervix felt promisingly thin and stretchy. In hindsight, even in my first labour I dilated from 5 to 10cm in under an hour, so I should have known what was coming – but I didn’t!
Throughout this time I was not making any noise. The hospital’s midwife didn’t seem to think I was in established labour, and threatened to up the Synto dose to make the contractions “strong and regular”, even though they were already sufficient to dilate my cervix 3cm in under 2 hours. I managed to insist “no. more. Synto!” She reserved judgement, but it might have been the adrenaline kick I needed, as by 9.15pm I was having enormous contractions every 2-3 minutes. I could feel them as a giant swelling band of pain stretching around my whole belly and stretching lower. At this point I started vocalising “ah, ah, ah” throughout contractions, to help me ride the pain and stop me clenching down. I remember saying “if this isn’t transition, I’m in trouble!” I didn’t believe it could be transition, though – not so early, not when my first birth had taken almost 3 days. Our midwife said she thought we would have babies by 10pm, and I didn’t believe her.
I needed to get off the fit ball and change position, and asked if I could get on all fours, although the idea of moving seemed impossible to imagine. The hospital midwife set up a crash mat and a nice beanbag for me to lean on. I leaned forward and within one contraction of moving had started making some amazing noises. Unlike my “ah ah ahs” they were completely involuntary. And then I could feel twin 1 crowning. I did not believe it had happened so quickly, and cried out “what’s happening?” Everyone still makes fun of me for this. She was born in only a couple of pushes at 9.25pm, and our midwife had to tell the hospital midwife to put her gloves on to catch her. Our beautiful daughter, with a lovely round head, pink skin and a great big yell! There is a photo of me still on all fours, with a blissed-out grin. I could not believe how easy and quick it had been. I got to hold her straight away, but contractions started up again quite quickly, and she went to her daddy for some skin to skin time.
At this point the obstetricians arrived – a registrar and resident. I wanted to stay on the floor, but the registrar managed to persuade me up on the bed to check twin 2′s position, as we knew he was breech. Contractions started up again within minutes and were really agonising now, as I had lost my Calmbirth focus and as the position (twin 2′s spine to mine) had that sort of posterior feeling to it. But within seconds I was again feeling the inexorable urge to push. The OB flicked twin 2′s feet out as he was in a squatting position, the midwife and OB flexed twin 2′s head by pushing on my stomach and with a few mighty pushes he was out too, at 9.39pm. Our son! He was handed to me but unlike J, had a bit of trouble breathing, and spent some time in the special care nursery. He was back to us almost before we knew it. I must say he had a very breech-looking head, which looked like a mighty frown, but he’s ever so handsome and cheerful now.
J weighed in at 2.98kg (I was really ticked off she could not stretch to the extra 20gm), and P weighed 3.06kg, excellent weights for 36 weekers, let alone twins!
After twin 2 was out, I lost all patience for the pain – rather a pity as the Synto kept getting ramped up to deliver the placentas and then to deal with my uterus which did not want to shrink back down. I ended up with a Synto drip all night. I tell people this birth was meant to help me deal with my fear of Synto once and for all.
Both babies had beautiful breastfeeds within an hour or two of birth, which sadly was not an omen of things to come for twin 1, but it was lovely.
Anyway, that was our birth. Twins born without any pain relief (not even hot water) or really any intervention other than the induction drugs, with 4 hours of contractions total and only about 2 of those active labour. It wasn’t the birth I had wanted but it was a wonderful experience and very healing after my first daughter’s birth. I am so proud of myself, and look back on the birth with amazed gratitude all the time.