Birth is nothing like they depict in the movies and TV shows, as much as that sounds obvious and something we all know, it is worth reminding yourself in the last days and hours before your baby or babies arrive.
Please remember, this is my birth story - not Sarah's and also not one of those horrible stories you simply should not read before your birth. Birth for a father is a life changing experience and not just because you end up holding a bundle of joy and life long commitment :) This blog is a bit photo bare, this is due to me not wanting to share some of the moments that are special to just us. I hope you understand.
Our day was magic! After the stop-start leading up to this we had been left more relaxed. I still don't understand why, maybe we had used up all of our nervous energy the day before. Either way, both Sarah and I rolled out of bed on the 11th of September ready to have our little girls come into the world.
As we drove from the Kapiti Coast into the city we didn't talk much. It was more a time of reflection on our life together up to now and the amazing journey that lay ahead. We listened to all the songs that had become part of the fabric of our life; the song from our first dance when we got married, the song we first listened to when we met and of course, Tim McGraw's 'My Little Girl'. It was a peaceful ride into town, we didn't even seem to notice that we were in rush hour traffic, as as we left the motorway the first drop of rain fell on the windscreen. Sarah and I looked at each other and had a little laugh - you see, I had maintained she would never go into labour on a nice day, she was always too busy enjoying the sunshine! So it was perfect, as the rain started to fall we both knew this was the day for the girls to arrive.
Time flew past and suddenly we were pulling into the hospital car park and I was again face to face with my old friend, the sign showing clearly that a woman going into labour should only require one bag (not something Sarah adhered to!) the reception lady at the delivery suite greeted us with a big smile and said "this way Sarah" almost as if she were our old friend. We followed her down to our room and started to unpack all of Sarah's stuff. Most importantly, I hung up the beautiful little dresses Sarah had made to take the girls home in. We were under no illusion that being twins and coming early as they must we would be in for a little stay at the NICU but I still wanted to have them there to remind us that we soon would be taking the girls home.
From this point, things got under-way quite quickly.
If you cast your mind back you will remember that when we had first got pregnant we were wanting to have a birth at the most natural end of the scale, so much so that a home birth had even been talked about. As our pregnancy had gone on and we found out we had twins on the way and then further understood what that meant we had realised that we were going to be having a far from natural birth. But over the months we had come to terms with things like the fact that Sarah would have to have an epidural line put in even if it never got used, purely for the safety of the babies and in the event they had to come out quickly in an emergency, then she would not require a general anaesthetic. When I say come to terms with it, I do not mean happy with. I am very much pro every woman choosing what is right for her with things like epidurals but what I found so hard was that it felt like although Sarah did have a choice, it was all but made for her.
Once we were unpacked and had met the midwives that were looking after us it was just a short wait to see the consultant doctor. It is worth saying again how amazing the hospital staff are! Everyone from the receptionist, to the doctor who delivered the girls was so warm and supportive.
It was finally time to begin the induction. Sadly even with all Sarah's willpower; walking on the beach, focused meditation and my cooking hot curries, the babies were still going to need a hurry along. So started the small but invasive medical procedures. I am so proud of how Sarah took all of this, I know how it was all against every fibre of who she is, and all I could do was sit and support her.
In saying that all the will power, walking on the beach and focused meditation didn't pay off, well it kind of did :) partly at least. When the doctor came to start the induction with the gel it turned out that Sarah had already party got herself under-way and they were able to break her water straight away! Yippiee!! It's a small win but it meant that we were able to wipe 8 or even up to 24 hours off the waiting time! Everyone was excited - this was Sarah's first big win.
Although they monitor the contractions, they also use judgement on the woman's pain to know how much oxytocin to give, here lies the problem, Sarah had been building her mental strength up over months so that she could handle the pain. She did this because even though she accepted she would have the epidural line in, she did not want to have any drugs in it, she wanted to experience the birth of her girls. So here was Sarah and I and her cousin Liana, who was helping Sarah with meditation, all playing Yahtzee! In itself it is a great distraction - but the midwifes were of the opinion that if Sarah was able to do that she was not in enough pain! So came a higher dose of oxytocin!But with the win came the news that they were going to start the oxytocin IV drip. This was where the painful part began. The oxytocin causes contractions, but not like you would have when going into labour on your own, much more painful and much more instantaneous. Within minutes of starting the drip Sarah was getting contractions. They were uncomfortable to start with, not painful as such. The idea with oxytocin is that they start on a low dose and slowly build it up and as they do so the contractions get bigger and bigger. In order to know how many contractions Sarah was having and that the babies were not getting distressed they also had to have three monitors on her - first and only loss for Sarah :( This, with the fact she had to have the epidural line in even though she had no intention of using it, all meant she had to stay on her back. Not the most comfortable place in the world, and also ruled out a water bath to help with the pain.
This is where it got hard.
At this point Sarah began having four or five contractions in every ten minute block, but each one was lasting for nearly two minutes meaning she was getting no rest from it at all. The pain was intense, and the worst part for me was I could do nothing to help her!
My wife is tough! She would have to be the strongest person I know, in the face of that pain and going into the eight hour of contractions she was as determined as ever to do it drug free. Even with me pleading with her to have some pain relief, she still said no. All I could do was sit holding her hand and kissing her forehead telling her how much I loved her and how proud I was of her - what an amazing woman.
Finally, the pain got to a point where Sarah could handle no more, the doctor was called back in and rather than reaching for the drugs she said to her "would you like me to take a look and see how far along you are first?". Sarah agreed - and with a rather large smile the doctor looked up at us and said "you are fully dilated, my goodness you are a tough lady!" Win number two for Sarah!
A calm fell upon Sarah as if the pain had somehow left her - it was amazing how just the knowledge that we were about to have our girls and that she had got through this far on her own strength was all enough to act as a temporary pain relief.
I don't want to play down how strong my wife was, since having the girls I have become aware that I may well be married to superwoman! I have never loved my wife more than in the moment she looked at me and said, "it's time for them to come now, are you ready?"
About ten minutes later the main consulting doctor arrived, with twins the room quickly fills with people. I think at one point there were 16 or more people in the room; between midwives, doctors, paediatricians and anyone else needed. The room was packed, I glanced around once during the actual birthing and thought to myself, "I wonder if there is room for two more in here?"
Even with all those people in the room, it still seemed like it was only the two of us. I would imagine for Sarah it may have even felt like just her, you become so focused on pushing those little babies out that nothing else matters.
The pushing part is actually the short bit, and although I am sure the pain is huge, I think it must feel more productive or perhaps Sarah was already imagining holding her girls, either way she was pushing hard! With a little assistance from the doctors and a huge last push from Sarah our first baby was born.
I have no idea how or why, but I immediately loved that goopy, blood covered little baby as soon as I saw her! She was perfect in every way. There was only time for a short pause before they cut the cord and whisked her to the table to be looked over by two specialists. This is totally normal when birthing twins and another thing we had prepared ourselves for. The plan was for me to go and be with the first one out while Liana took over being with, and supporting Sarah. Plans are always good but as soon as I went to be with our first baby I felt like I had abandoned Sarah, so I rushed back over to her, only to feel the same way about the first born baby - I was torn!
Luckily it was not for long, within minutes our second baby was making her exit - oh the excitement and joy!! I just can not put it into words!
They are here!! My girls!! Aurelia and Gracie! So beautiful and perfect, just like their mum! Win number three and four for Sarah! Looks like everything turned out perfectly after all :) When it comes down to it, not everything was exactly as we both would have liked it to be, but in the end I had two beautiful, healthy girls and one glowing wife and now mum. I would say it doesn't get much better than that! Win number five!
Then just as quickly as they had arrived they were off to NICU and that is where the first part of our journey as a family begins - next blog :)
Yay - I'm a dad!