I figured I was pregnant one morning when hit with a sudden nausea and instant craving for food. I had to eat something IMMEDIATELY and as we were driving I reached for my daughter Esther’s snack bag and ate everything in it. A trip to the GP confirmed the home pregnancy test but the symptoms weren’t quite right so she sent me for a date scan. Lying back on the table for the scan I got the shock of my life when each movement of the scanner picked a little body. There were somehow two in there and I was already 10 weeks pregnant!!
Excited about being able to repeat my positive experience of the Birth Centre with my first born Esther, I called to make an appointment. I was stunned and amazed to be rejected on account that in carrying twins, I was suddenly regarded “High Risk”. I couldn’t believe it! Someone as healthy as me, who had a good track record was a risk??? All tests were showing completely normal and I’d never felt less risky in my life!
So reluctantly I was booked into the Hospital Clinic and a journey of disappointment, rejection and frustration followed. I was informed that shared care with my GP was not acceptable and a Normal Vaginal Birth (NVB) without intervention was not an option in the hospital system. In my striving to have a NVB without intervention obstetricians in several clinics told me of all the many things that can go wrong, endless horror stories and a barrage of tragic statistics. One obstetrician recommended a caesarean at 34 weeks, others 36 to 38 weeks or induction at 38 weeks. Epidurals, foetal monitoring, the list went on and the treatment was negative. Not once was there any encouragement for an expectant mother of twins – just a constant resistance to letting a woman’s body give it a go naturally.
I started to look outside the hospital to search for more positive approach. Although I was keen to have a home-birth to avoid all the intervention and reap the benefits, my partner Damien understandably was a bit apprehensive given the lack of insurance, so we decided to go the hospital path, but on our terms. Talking with independent midwives, a midwife consultant and home-birthing mothers, hearing inspirational stories gave me hope. There were also many frustrated tears and constant consultation with my beautiful doula Jerusha. Our information gathering continued. I spoke with one mother who had home-birthed her twins at full-term in the water at home. Another who had run the gauntlet by labouring at home to the very last minute with her Doula present and getting to the hospital fully dilated, so they had no time for interventions. This seemed like a very good strategy, but for additional support we decided to also include a midwife in the team. Damien and Jerusha would act as “security” for the babies and my body and our midwife would be there for a nod and a wink when we needed it. We would all be across the birth plan and anticipate any interventions and try to avoid them.
Operating against us as well was the due date, New Years Eve. So many obstetricians and independent midwives were away on holidays or not taking any bookings at that time. After many calls we were blessed with finding an incredible independent midwife Akal, who immediately put us at ease and became a sensible sounding board and a champion of our cause.
From week 12 to week 29 with my support team I battled against the hospital system and obstetricians at every monthly check-up. All my results were completely normal but their horror stories persisted. Eventually after being moved through several clinics all refused to handle my case. Then finally I received a call from a wonderful Clinical Midwife Consultant (CMC) who had found my file on her desk and recognised and supported what I was trying to achieve -a natural birth. She then referred me to the clinic of a female obstetrician who was happy to support a NVB – this was ironically in the High Risk Department of the hospital. I had several monthly checks with her and all was progressing normally. Unfortunately, however she left for holidays overseas just three weeks before my due date.
At 38 weeks I had my weekly check in the clinic. The babies were in good positions and all was progressing normally. The CMC later called to say that she felt bad that we had been left without an obstetrician we could put a face to so she organised a meeting for that afternoon.
A terrible meeting ensued with a very senior obstetrician. All available monitoring had continued to show the pregnancy to be uncomplicated at this stage and from my position all I wanted was to be allowed to have a NVB with the support of a skilled medical team available IN CASE something went wrong.
On expressing my desire to the obstetrician to have no intervention immediately upon hospital arrival, I was told that “if I was his wife, he would make me have an epidural”, followed by “I’ve been delivering babies for 20 years and you haven’t”. (Interestingly our independent midwife who was offering emotional support had been delivering babies, including many sets of twins, for over 30 years both here and overseas.)
At 38 weeks +3 days I was being attacked with total disdain because my babies were still in utero 10 days before my due date. From the beginning, having done my research and with everything progressing normally, reaching my due date had been my goal as it would maximise the benefits pre and post birth for my babies.
The obstetrician then told me that I was being “incredibly selfish and putting my babies lives at risk”.
My confidence was knocked, I knew now that regardless of the normality of the pregnancy and my knowledge and acceptance of the small risk, my preference for a NVB without intervention was totally abhorred by the system and the clinicians operating within it. I felt rejected, dejected and very depressed. How would I recover from this in time for a positive birthing experience?
In order to make it happen I visualised the safest place to birth. It was on my Tibetan Rug in the lounge room. The carpet had been made by the hands of women in a rug factory I had found by chance in Shigatse, Tibet and I had carried it on my shoulders whilst trekking down the treacherous border crossing between Tibet and Nepal. Jerusha and I joked that I should roll it up and take it into the hospital delivery suite. We laughed as we imagined the looks on the faces of the staff and what would be going through their minds as we rolled it out to give birth.
On the day before the due date I walked to the next suburb for a few errands and some reflexology. I bought a beautiful scented candle, for the client meetings I have at home and some incense. I felt strongly the need to spiritually cleanse the apartment in preparation for these new spirits who would enter our home. I wanted them to feel welcome and loved.
I lit the incense and walked around the apartment clockwise. My doula had told me babies often turn clockwise and I wanted the second baby to feel the strength to turn and make the best movements to come out freely. I asked all the darkness and negativity to leave and welcomed in white and golden light. In reality I knew nothing of what I was doing, I was making it up, but it felt right and gave me strength that there would be other forces taking care of me in my special moment. As it turned out I was intuitively performing a “smudging ceremony”, something I perform regularly these days.
Damien cooked a beautiful meal for Jerusha and I. I went to bed and about midnight started to get a few pains. By 12.30 a.m. I thought I should share this with Damien, who was at the computer. I told him not to get too excited it was probably just pre-labour and I went back to bed. Given that my pre-labour had been so long with Esther there was no need to panic, but it was exciting to know that something was finally happening and the twins would be with us soon. Damien came in about half an hour later and could see I was having another contraction, so I asked him to start to time them and we decided to call Jerusha, our doula. As soon as she arrived I had one giant contraction following moments later by another. She immediately told us to call our midwife as we would need her here soon and we certainly wanted her reassurance and presence before heading off into the hostile environment of the hospital delivery suite.
At 1.30am we phoned our midwife to come and also my friend Angela to babysit 17month old Esther. The contractions were coming quite strongly and I had already thrown-up Damien’s beautiful dinner which caused a few chuckles about the quality of the meal. We then thought it might be a little more soothing to get under the water in the shower, but as soon as I got in I felt the incredible pressure and desire to push. The midwife hadn’t had time to reach our home and we didn’t want to make a move without her approval so I went to my Tibetan rug on the lounge room floor and with head down I stuck my bum in the air.
At about 2.30 am our midwife walked in to this picture and obviously wondered how it had gotten to this. The labour had progressed so fast and we were all caught by surprise. She examined me and said “either call an ambulance or you’re having them here”. I knew immediately what I wanted and with Damien’s confirmation it was action stations. There was the odd joke about tearing up the sheets, but I was only laughing on the inside as the contractions had me bellowing deep and long. Jerusha and Angela ran to our midwife’s car to grab her gear, Esther’s plastic play mat was placed over the rug and the girls efficiently gathered whatever else we needed.
I give great thanks to our midwife who with her ease and reassurance allowed all the team to be calm in the face of this unexpected turn. Our babysitter Angela was stoically boiling instruments on the stove in her moo-cow pyjamas, still in shock at what was happening. Our doula was there with her joyous spirit and encouraging words and Damien patiently knelt beside me, still massaging me in the contractions and ready to catch the babies – “in the slips” in cricketing terms.
Whilst on all fours and the pressure of the contractions allowing me to push, the membranes of the first baby swelled and burst. I felt an incredible release at this moment and knew that it wasn’t far to go. The baby was teasing us as the head moved in and out but finally and beautifully unassisted, at 3.12 am, Harvey Francis arrived weighing 3.96 kgs. Both his hands were up around his face, probably why he had been taking a while. He was moved into my arms and nursed until the contractions came again and I then passed him into the lap of his father.
I started to push the next baby but he seemed to be taking his time. In between contractions I would look at Damien and Harvey in his lap, cord still connected. Our midwife wondered what the hold-up was with the second baby and on inspection discovered his arm beside his head. With the next two contractions she instructed me to push while the arm was held so the head could move past. This done, I moved into my favoured squatting position and with the assistance of gravity and supported in the arms of my doula, at 3.41am, Nash William arrived weighing 3.74 kgs. Once he was safely in my arms Damien returned Harvey to me. What a feeling of triumph. Both my babies in my arms. Hooray!! And a home birth – a dream come true!!!
Joyfully, because we were home there was no abrasive fluorescent lighting; no cast of thousands; no removal of the babies from our arms; no immediate clamping and cutting of the cords – the two cords were not touched until the single shared placenta delivered and ceased pulsating.
Three little words that mean so much. Three little words that change everything.
Born at home.
Later, when the early morning light was pouring into the lounge room, I took a look around to assess how everything could look the same as the day before, but everything had changed. Under the circumstances I’d expected the place to be in total disarray. I was amazed that despite the size of the babies there had been no real blood loss….. and so quickly everything in the room was back in place. Jerusha and Angela had efficiently collected and washed everything that had been used and it was already neatly hanging on the line.
Then I noticed that my new scented candle was burning and remembered during the birth looking up at its golden light and thinking one of the girls must have lit it. I mentioned it was still burning and Damien said that he had been the one to light it when I’d come out to him at 12.30 a.m. and he’d lit it thinking there would be a long night of labour ahead. I smiled and loved the fact it had been Damien.
So in the end, surrounded by a wonderful team, I unexpectedly had the gentle birth at home that I was endeavouring to have in hospital – without the battle or the emotional distress. Whilst understanding and accepting that there was a small risk, I was one of the over 95% of the Monochorionic Diamniotic pregnancies (twins that share one placenta with two amniotic sacs) that remained uncomplicated through to a natural and normal vaginal birth demonstrating (contrary to most medical recommendations) that successful outcomes are possible and probable.
As a result my children and I continue to reap the considerable benefits.