February 5, 2016

Making Peace With The Regret


It's going to be quite the exciting few weeks around here. We have lots of big changes coming this Spring with new babies! My sister is due in just a few weeks with our little man and my best friend is due mid-March with her first baby girl. I am over the moon for them and so looking forward to all the newborn snuggles and cuteness to come.

My brain is being all logical and I know I do NOT want another baby, I know, I know, I know, but my heart is like, waaah, don't you want to have another baby? No, I do not have baby fever. I have... labor fever? Normal pregnancy fever? I don't know what you would call it, but I'm wishing there was a way that I could just carry and deliver my own baby without having to actually raise and pay for another child. God, that sounds awful. Hear me out ok?

Exactly two years ago this week I was forced to reconsider everything I thought I knew about pregnancy and childbirth. I had to make decisions about things that I never envisioned myself having to even think about.  For someone who likes to be prepared and have things organized and planned out due to potentially debilitating anxiety, this was obviously the worst thing ever. Worse yet, all the things I knew I wanted and all my knowledge of how to have a safe, natural, hell, even just normal a childbirth experience, were no longer in my best interest. Essentially, I would have to change everything or risk losing what I now knew was not just a baby but identical twins.

I don't think I need to tell you how much that sucked.

I planned my perfect pregnancy and birth years before we were even married. I have Ricki Lake to thank for a lot of it, thanks to her film The Business of Being Born. I'm still so grateful for the perspective that movie gave me. It challenged everything I knew about giving birth in America and helped me make informed choices as I began learning so much about real child birth and what we are capable of. Today, I am proud of the choices I would have made but heartbroken that I may never get to use them.

After getting that big fat positive I called my midwives to schedule our first appointment and started planning and researching my baby's birthday. I felt in control, ready to face this challenge and reap the benefits of one of the most natural and amazing experiences a human can have.

Three weeks later we met with the home birth midwives from HeartSpace Midwifery and decided that I would have a home birth as long as everything looked great on the ultrasound the following week. I started looking into tips and tricks, working on getting CJ more comfortable with letting me put a birthing pool in the living room. I would use hypno-birth techniques and water and be ready to deliver whenever baby was ready. I would feel every contraction and try to embrace the insanity, all hopefully in the comfort of my home with my husband, a doula and my midwife there to welcome our little love. We would do delayed cord-clamping and immediate skin-to-skin. We would slowly begin nursing and cloth diapering and spend a few days just bonding before anyone else got too close. I had back-up plans, including two hospitals within five minutes of my house, but I wasn't worried. I was ready to do this.

I saw my original midwives for the ultrasound a week later. We were in there for all of two minutes when that home birth plan dissolved right before my eyes. Yeah, there was no way in hell was I going to deliver twins at home. Sure some people do it. Some people also deliver them spontaneously on the side of the road (identicals at that), but I couldn't do it. I wasn't willing to take the risk.

While adjusting to the news that we were having two we also settled on Delivery Plan B: our amazing midwife would deliver them at the local birthing center and I could still labor in the water and would have complete control and minimal intervention as long as everything went well. They were prepared for everything, there was no need to worry. I was referred to a Maternal Fetal Monitoring Specialist just because they were twins but otherwise I had no indication that my plans would change yet again.

A week later we were in Dr. Margono's office when he basically laid it all out there and crushed my hopes and dreams. I know, I'm being melodramatic, but to this day I still feel like this one man, amazing and wonderful as he was, created my birth plan for me and I was to stick to it or suffer the potential consequences. It wasn't really him though - it was the identical twins. My babies, the ones for which I would already do anything, at just 10 weeks pregnant, changed everything on me just because they shared a placenta.

After an intense and seemingly hours long ultrasound, Dr. M. explained exactly how the next 7 months of my life would go, right up through the birth of my children:

- I would have bi-weekly ultrasounds starting at 16 weeks - these scans included extensive anatomy, growth and fluid screenings to monitor for complications such as TTTS, TAPS and sIUGR.

- I would be changing my doctor because my midwife did not have privileges at a hospital with at least a Level II NICU

- I would deliver at 35 weeks no matter what. Whether I was induced or had a scheduled c-section was my choice (yay!) but Dr. Margono, as well as my new OB, believed it was in my best interest to deliver at 35 weeks. Current recommendations are that identical twins deliver by 36.6 weeks.

I never felt so weird in my life. I'm really lacking in my descriptive words right now but this experience is still so surreal to me, it's hard to explain. A forced hospital birth? Just like that!? Inducing FIVE weeks early? What the what? Possible NICU time? Really?! What the hell man? And here I thought having two babies was going to be fun!

I kid. I never thought that. But I won't lie and say I wasn't kind of psyched at the prospect of taking my carefully crafted birth plan and throwing a second baby into it just for fun. But that just wasn't meant to be.

I tried to roll with the punches but I very much did not want my babies to be induced at 35 weeks. I regret that choice and not a day goes by that I don't wonder what if? But everything I had learned after years of research told me that it wasn't right. I didn't want to put my body, or my babies, through that. Selective induction was something I was absolutely against from the get-go and avoidance of it was an integral part of my birth plan.

I wanted this experience in a way that was best for both my babies and my body. Of course, I can make a case for inducing when you're way overdue, but I just cannot jive with the idea of forcing something like the birth of a child who, by all medical standards these days, clearly isn't ready.

Then I had to consider what would happen if there was a complication due to the interventions. I know that complications can happen with any labor but they are more common with inductions. What if I needed to have a double-whammy? The prospect of recovering from both types of birth with newborn twins was not something I was prepared to face. I regret it now, but back then, I let the fear of loss get to me. Whether it was because I forced them to come too early or because I let them stay in too long, I was taking a risk with their lives. And I wasn't prepared to do that. If they were to be evicted five weeks early I wanted it to be as quick and painless for all of us. I just wanted them here.

So, naturally, like I do with all hugely important decisions in my life, I hastily decided on a scheduled c-section and booked it practically that day. At 10 weeks pregnant I knew I'd become a mother by 3pm on July 30th.

All went according to plan, we had "healthy" 35 weekers who needed only two weeks in the NICU.

This is where the regret comes in.

I didn't get to hold my girls until they were hours old. And even then they were attached to tubes, too fragile to nurse and so small I thought I'd break them. I wasn't relaxed and bonding, the private moments of just me and my family were few and far between. We didn't even do skin-to-skin or hold the babies together until three days later. And then, on top of it all, I went home without them.


Not a day goes by that I don't wonder what would have happened if I had tried. How different it would have gone. Would it have been better or worse?

I wish I hadn't let the fears and what-ifs change all the things that I knew.

I wish I had fought harder to keep them in longer, especially knowing what the general recommendation is for mono-di twins.

I wish I had at least gone into labor, even if it was an induction.

I wish I had felt just one contraction.

I wish I hadn't been strapped down to a table the first time I met my daughters.

I wish I would have trusted myself and my body enough, rather than just giving into the very same modern medicine that I had spent years cultivating a plan to avoid.

I wanted my babies here and safe and this was how it was done. That's the only peace I get from this. And I guess at the end of the day that's what makes me a good mother. From that day back in February 2014 I sacrificed myself for them - to ensure that they crossed this bridge in the safest way possible, even if it went against everything I ever thought was best. They are alive and mine, no matter how they got here.

My one hope is that I can take my knowledge and empower other women, like my best friend and my sister, or other identical twin moms. I want them to know they can be comfortable and confident in their choices and that they are capable of doing this in whatever way they see fit, no matter how terrifying it is and no matter what choices they make.

Sometimes I just really wish I knew what the hell I was talking about.

I'm thinking tonight isn't about making peace after all, since I feel worse now than I did before. I could take solace in the not-so-great reminder that at least I have two healthy babies, but that does little to calm my desire to give birth the way I always wanted to. So for now I just have to push all of that to the furthest part of my mind and enjoy what I have since we are absolutely not having another one any time soon.

Maybe.

Xo,
Maigen

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