**Warning: The contents of the following blog post & Birth Story are Raw, Honest & may be Traumatic for some readers. The content of this birth story and journey may be a trigger to families who have dealt with unexpected birth plan outcomes. Please do not read on if you have anxiety related to your own (past or upcoming) labor and delivery experiences. I say this warning because, pregnancy and birth is Hard, really really Hard, but also incredibly transforming no matter the outcome. Please pause and take a few breaths to choose whether or not to Read on**
Here’s Melissa’s Story… As always, every Word, Picture, & Song was chosen by the Mama to help paint a picture of her Story, Her Voice & Her Journey.
The journey into motherhood was long, winding, and filled with uncertainty. But for this story, that is neither important nor relevant. All that matters now is that there came a time when I decided that the sadness and loss of infertility along with the fear of becoming a parent no longer mattered; I knew I wanted children.
The day before Alden’s birthday was the day that the two blastocysts were implanted. I saw Aunt Doreen in the office, and she told me it was a sign that these would stick. I went home, took a walk, and did some yoga. Alden and I spent the rest of the afternoon together, trying not to get too hopeful that we would become pregnant. As I said, it was a long journey with many letdowns along the way. Nine days later, against my doctor’s advice, I took a pregnancy test. The test showed positive the moment my pee hit the stick. Alden and I were cautiously optimistic. The next day I took another test, and this one was negative. Now we had to eagerly await my doctor appointment the next day and blood test results that evening. So, I went in for what I hoped would be one of the last visits to my reproductive endocrinologist, had blood drawn, and went to work. I received the call that afternoon that I was “very pregnant,” meaning my levels were high and promising. A few days later the sonogram proved why… both embryos had implanted, and we were “very pregnant” with twins. The emotions were a mix of happy, scared, relieved, and hopeful. What we thought would be the end of a long road had merely taken another turn down a hilly path.
Alden and I had a hard time accepting that we were pregnant since we had been trying to no avail for so long. The fact that I had experienced few of the early signs of pregnancy didn’t help. The only “tell-tale” sign was breast tenderness. Despite the uncertainty, we had hope and there was excitement; we told our families on Christmas. Everyone was thrilled and much less worried about loss than we were. Just a few weeks later, Alden’s brother and wife gave us the news that they too were expecting twins. It was an exciting time in our lives, and we were happy to have them on this road with us. We didn’t tell people openly until 16 weeks, when I was starting to show.
Alden was nervous, and he watched over everything I did- no more climbing, headstands (for now), or other activities that could potentially risk the precious lives within me. I don’t think I truly accepted that there were babies inside of me until I began feeling the movement within my womb on my birthday, at around 20 weeks.
Until that point, I wanted to have faith, but years of disappointment made it hard to trust that these babies and my body knew what to do.
Once I felt the life fluttering inside, I knew the babies were strong and would join us soon. Luckily, the remainder of the pregnancy was uneventful aside from tendinitis in my left wrist, a few aches, and edema towards the end. I believe staying active with daily yoga (doing headstands until my 9th month) and walking, meditating, and asking for help when I needed it, and not acting as though I was injured or sick is what helped me have such a wonderful pregnancy. I felt healthy, strong, and confident that I would carry these babies as long as they needed and birth them the way that was intended. That being said, I had no expectations and kept an open mind and heart throughout the pregnancy.
Once the doubts and fears subsided, I could allow myself to experience the joy and hope.
I loved being pregnant more than I would have ever expected. I learned to love my body for the amazing things it could do rather than how it looked. I nourished my body and babies with whatever foods were craved and did not worry about how they might make me look. I was inspired by the beauty of my belly and how my body could grow to support two additional lives. I was just enamored by the miracle that is a woman’s body, in all it could do. It felt amazing, leaving me confident and comfortable in my skin, and it was evident to those around me. I was told daily something to the effect of how great I looked or that I couldn’t possibly be carrying twins. It was humbling to see and feel how easily my body and soul welcomed and developed these little beings. I loved feeling baby A (Rory) as she flicked her feet together and stretched her head as low as she could go. I still cannot believe how baby B (Ryan) stretched her legs up and across my belly onto the opposite side, taking up most of the room. Both of them often had the hiccups, which always left me laughing. I sat for hours just feeling the little ones stir within me, practicing their kicks, spins, and breaths. I will miss greatly these feelings and sensations.
I was educated on pregnancy, babies, and birth.
The day before my water broke, I joined the primos for a picnic in Prospect Park. The weather was gorgeous- warm and sunny, with almost no humidity. While walking to the bathroom with Toni-Anne, a man commented on my belly, saying I must be pregnant with twins and that they are two ”bad ass boys.” We laughed about it along with the swelling in my legs and feet and the fact that I had to pee so often. Alden and I discussed natural induction on the drive home. We were to start the process that night and would continue it with a strong raspberry leaf tea infusion, acupressure, and yoga postures. While hoping to trigger the babies to come sometime in the next week, I went about my usual routine. I weeded the garden (getting stung by a hidden, underground bee hive), went on a nice walk, had a foot massage with Katie, and saw Alden’s softball game. In the evening, Alden did some acupressure to induce contractions, and I continued other methods. Little did I know that the aides were working very well and the babies were ready- my water broke that evening.
I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening to me. I think I expected there to be immediate pain. Instead, There was just a stead stream of fluid for a few hours before the contractions began. I texted Kristina who got on the first ferry from Fire Island. I called Anne, and she reminded me to eat, drink, and rest so that I could prepare for what was to come. I could do the first two, but rest did not come easily. I moved to the couch and put classic kids shows on the television. I snacked on dry cereal and coconut water while I watched Double Dare in between contractions, which slowly increase in strength.
The time between contractions started at about seven minutes, with each one lasting 45 to 90 seconds. I felt strong cramping in my sacral region and the lower part of my belly. When the contraction began, I found myself instinctually dropping to all fours and rotating my hips and belly. At first, this seemed to help ease the pain. Later, this helped me have a routine and something constant to hold onto as the intensity, pressure, and uncertainty increased. This went on for several hours— laying on the couch, snacking and drinking, dropping to the floor, gyrating my hips. During the cycle, I found it helpful to walk up and down the stairs and do light yoga postures.
I had let Alden sleep during this as I knew one of us needed rest and strength for the labor to come. As dawn approached, I told Alden to call into work because the babies were coming soon. He was confused as I woke him and soon realized the labor had progressed while he rested. He stayed in bed for another hour before I asked for help; my contractions were now four to five minutes apart and becoming increasingly intense. So much so that I could barely speak during them, and my rhythmic routine and movements no longer provided much distraction or comfort. Alden suggested it was time to move to the hospital, but I was not ready. I took a warm shower, which helped some. He helped me time the contractions while I moved about on the floor and made low, grunting sounds. Within an hour, around 6:00am, we decided to go to the hospital. While Alden grabbed his bag, and decided now was the time to empty the trash, I put on comfortable clothing, grabbed another snack, and headed to the car.
We were on our way to the hospital to welcome our children.
Without these strong people, the chance of an unmedicated and natural birth would have been tough. We got into a rhythm, and I found myself managing the pressure and pain with a mindful routine.
My body knew just what to do. My body knew how to bring these babies earthside, as a good friend had said.
I started having the urge to push. I wasn’t sure at first, but Betsy said if the instinct remained once the contraction stopped, then it truly was time to push. The feeling that I had to push waxed and waned, and a thought crept in— I want these babies out of my body, NOW. Looking back, I knew that was transitional labor, a time when many women have similar thoughts. I’m thankful for my birthing team, who adhered to the birth plan and never once mentioned medication as I was vulnerable to begin with and most suggestible in this moment. Near 10am, the urge to push remained, and I began to bear down. Goldie, Betsy, and Kristina guided me through this path, telling me how to move my body in a way that would push these babies out. They reminded me that now was not the time to breathe through the contractions but rather to gather all my strength and force, hold strong, and push with all my might. The intensity increased. Sure, there were thoughts such as, “are my eyes bloodshot right now?” and, “is it possible for my eyes to actually explode out of my head?” But for the most part, I was so zoned in on meeting my babies that nothing could distract me. Soon, Toni-Anne said she saw a head (joking that there was red hair), and Goldie told me baby A was crowning. It was time to roll over to the operating room for the delivery. Alden and Kristina came with me, and I said goodbye, for now, to Toni-Anne.
Alden leaned in and told us all that this tiny life, that so suddenly and quietly arrived, was a girl, and he didn’t leave her side from that moment.
Alden was near us at this point and told everyone that we had a second daughter, who was placed immediately onto my chest.
While I held this little being, Goldie continued to work to stop the bleeding. She asked questions, and I was so preoccupied with my little girl that I did not realize I had lost more than half of my blood. At this point, the focus was to help my uterus contract to stop the bleeding. I was given two medications that helped stop the bleeding. A catheter emptied my bladder, which relieved some pressure on my uterus but also burned like hell. Goldie happily told me there was no tearing or need for reconstructive stitches. Kristina stayed with me to explain every medical procedure while Alden stayed with our first child.
Once I was stable and the bleeding had stopped, both girls were placed on my chest. We announced their names, Rory Ana for our first girl and Ryan Marie for the second. Alden walked proudly next to the hospital bed as our family rolled into the recovery room. I was exhausted, elated, shocked, and so many other things.
The recovery room was just that, a chance to recover my energy while the girls rested. While they slept in the same incubator, I laid in my bed, falling in and out of sleep. I felt weak and tired. Kristina provides tea with honey, the warmth is traditionally meant to support recovery of the uterus. Toni-Anne rejoined us, the proud aunt fawning over her nieces. Alden went to the waiting room to tell my mom and brother that we were ready for visitors, and he sent out the announcement to so many other loved ones. I had received no medication for the pain up until this point. Kristina gave me Arnica pills, but I think I was too tired and drained to even feel any pain. It took several attempts to get to my postnatal room as my hemoglobin count was very low, causing my pulse to race and blood pressure drop— the key ingredients to fainting. I came pretty close to passing out and was shocked back into the present moment with smelling salts. Eventually we made it up to our room, where we were greeted by visitor after visitor. The sheer amount of joy and love was overwhelming. Rory and Ryan entered this world with an amazing amount of love. Over the next few days I received three units of blood while I nursed our babies every two hours. Due to many factors— critically low blood and iron, hormonal imbalance, and anatomical issues, my milk supply was low. We conceded to formula supplementation while I worked tirelessly to increase my supply. We met with several lactation consultants, trying anything they suggestion. Breastfeeding would become a great struggle.
I was determined to do anything to help my little girls eat. I became obsessed with increasing my supply so that the girls could have MY milk rather than formula. I just couldn’t lose this part of motherhood. I thought the struggle was over once we conceived and did not imagine the hardest part of this all would be breastfeeding. Stress and obsession caused me to overlook the other things, such as comfort, that I was providing with the boob.
I held that strong baby so tightly to keep her still and even tighter to comfort her once the doctor was finished. She nursed and fell asleep as if nothing had happened. I felt terrible, drained, and I prayed this would help them eat better.
I did not give up and continued the exhausting triple-feed schedule where I nursed them together for 40 minutes, bottle-fed formula and expressed breastmilk, and pumped for up to 20 minutes. This went on every three hours. My life became about the milk. I thought, “this has to work.”
By coming to terms with providing some nourishment and comfort to my babies with the boob, I’ve relaxed and enjoyed the process much more.
Childbirth and providing nourishment for these beings was the most exhausting and important task I have ever endured.
:: RESOURCES FROM MAMA TO YOU ::
- La Leche League (https://www.lllusa.org/) offers online and in-person resources, groups, and support online and local groups
- Information on managing a low milk supply:http://www.lowmilksupply.org/
- Birth resources including yoga, nutrition, herbs, prenatal and postpartumhttps://www.webirthny.com and https://www.birthandbeyondresources.com/ be sure to sign up for the Mama Moon!
- Helpful resources for obtaining and using Domperidone (consult with your lactation specialist first): http://sale-pharm.com/
- Lactation consultants that I found helpful: •Jen Giordano (makes house-calls and follows up via text at no additional cost) (631) 255-8234
- Stony Brook Midwives: Marie Fischer and Pam Koch (631) 444-4686
- Good Samaritan hospital: Rita Ferretti (631) 376-3901
- Pediatric and newborn dentist: Eric Christensen: 631.288.4422 http://www.westhamptondental.com/
- Om Shanti Yoga and Reiki Center- Sayville, NY- Prenatal and Mommy & Me Yoga with Charlotte Crowley
:: CONTACT THIS MAMA ::
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org