I never thought the story of the birth of my twins would be life threatening. Life altering, yes. Well, actually I have to admit, I have thought about my own mortality much more than I ever have. The thought of dying during childbirth did cross my mind. More than twice.
Maybe it comes with venturing into mom territory. But I've wondered what would happen if I died. Who would be mom to my twins? What would my husband do? It's far too painful to think about for more than a few seconds.
During some intense contractions in the hospital on December 1st, everything was going fine. We even listened to the entire four hours of my delivery soundtrack.
My doula was there, I was doing my breathing, staying calm, but then I started sweating, had blurry vision, and felt dizzy. Something was wrong.
The nurse checked my blood pressure...it was dangerously high. She tested my urine and we learned I had severe preeclampsia with HELLP syndrome -- which can be fatal and for me, came on during labor.
I was so out of it, even before I was given any drugs, that Hans, my husband, asked if I understood what was happening.
My sister was in the room and crying. My doula wiped tears from her eyes. Hans had fear on his face.
A mother dose of magnesium sulfate was administered to prevent me from having a stroke or seizure. A Foley catheter was put in.
C-section. We needed to get the babies out as soon as possible.
Anesthesiologist was called in. He wasn't aware of the situation yet. Was casual. Told my nurse, the woman whose quick thinking helped stabilize me, that I would have to wait. I heard whispers, but my sister heard the nurse explaining my condition. I was tended to immediately.
Was I going to die?
My parents arrived, confused over what was happening. My sister led them out to the waiting room to explain.
Tears. Gasps. Worry.
I was out of my body, floating, not feeling, calm, yet quietly panicking.
I remember being wheeled to the OR. I remember the lidocaine sting, the epidural. Arms strapped Jesus Christ style, needles everywhere, the sheet going up, oxygen in nose, lots of people in the room, my husband arriving in scrubs, the numbness taking over almost everything, but I was still so anxiously awaiting to hear my babies cry.
It was night and we were near windows. With the bright lights in the OR, I could see the doctors working on me from the reflection. I felt tugging and saw bright red masses taken out of my body. My insides.
Hubs saw them too and he knew I was looking. "Look at me, look at me," he said, trying to keep me calm.
I was crying a quiet cry, tiny puddles in my ears.
My doctor asked me if I worked out, saying my abs were strong. It made me smile and calmed me. Things must be going well.
At 10:05pm, Penelope Jolene was born. I heard her little voice. I started breathing heavier. At 10:07pm Hunter Johan was born. I heard him, too. Daddy held them and showed them to me, let me kiss their cheeks.
Twins were healthy and that moment was the happiest one of my life.
Then I started throwing up.
Hans had left the room to tell everyone the babies were born and I remember feeling so alone. So helpless, almost lifeless, not being able to feel anything from my chest down, arms still strapped, the magnesium sulfate making everything fuzzy. I was so happy, but couldn't emote.
I wanted to hold my babies, but couldn't move.
The doctors finished sewing me up and I was moved to a post-op room and the intense shivering from the epidural began. Uncontrollable shakes, yet I was sweating. I could barely see.
The drugs made it hard for me to talk. The babies were in a bassinet next to me, but I couldn't hold them.
I was poked for 30 minutes while the nurses looked for a vein to test my blood.
With my husband at my side, my sister, doula, mother, father visited, but it was all a blur.
I was kept in an observation room off the OR for two days. Even though I delivered the babies, the risks of severe preeclampsia HELLP syndrome were there for me, so the drugs kept coming.
I would nod out mid-sentence. I felt like I was inside myself. I felt dead. Couldn't be present. Couldn't be mom yet. I was so sad. I wanted that amazing post-birth bonding with my babies but that just couldn't happen.
Those two days were an eternity.
When I moved into recovery with the other new moms, things slowly started to become more clear. They reduced my magnesium dosage, but my blood pressure and levels were still high so I was still hooked up to an IV with more drugs.
I cried a lot. Nurses and doctors visited me often, taking blood, urine, checking my blood pressure, reflexes, vision. They made me aware of my long road to recovery not just from the c-section, but the preeclampsia HELLP, plus the time it takes for all drugs to exit my system.
My feet and legs were swollen before, but they swelled even more -- from just above my knee down to my toes, the sight of them was frightening. It made it hard to walk.
But I could do this...I had two healthy babies, both around 4 pounds 11 ounces, and my body could handle this more than their tiny little bodies could.
I had to be patient. And I am still trying to be as I continue to recover.
Oh and I'm not thinking about my death (as much) anymore. It's these little lives...so beautiful and sweet, who take those thoughts away.
I am a mother.