well, our world has completely changed since last i posted on this blog. one day i will catch up on documenting our big euro road trip, and the weeks that followed waiting for our babies to be born back in london … and the wild weeks that have now followed as a family of six! but today i wanted to share the birth story of our twins, august and eve. they were born almost six weeks ago, and have brought heaven and the purest joy (and hearty sleep deprivation, too!) to our tiny home. it still feels totally surreal to hold them both in my arms – i can’t believe we have twins. in them, in multiple ways, i see god’s fingerprint. the days since their arrival have been sacred and special and oh so sweet.
and their birth was a fantastic, triumphant, awesome miracle. it was wildly intense and gloriously powerful. (my computer broke, so i don’t have access to the program i usually use to edit photos, so there’s just a few photos here! i’m going to come back later to add in more 🙂 )
the weeks leading up to birth are always so full of anticipation and unique suspense. this was true even more for me with this pregnancy, because it felt like the timing of the onset of labour was much more variable with twins (you hear of so many preemies but as i studied more i realized plenty of twin pregnancies go to and past forty weeks when induction / scheduled c-sections are not at play). my parents came to england when i was thirty four weeks pregnant, completed their required covid quarantine when i was thirty six weeks pregnant, and then we all waited together in london, expecting labour to kick in any moment, as i passed thirty seven weeks. in the final days before the birth, we experienced a scare when one of our friends that we had spent some time with tested positive for covid (both ian and i were thankfully able to be tested and our results came back negative), we had a big bout of worry about how long my parents would be able to stay to help, the physical toll of a twin pregnancy was wearing on me in every way. it was a wild, emotional time.
we had been overjoyed when, at a thirty six week ultrasound, we learned that both twin 1 and twin 2 were head down. some combination of chiropractor visits, “spinning babies” exercises, acupuncture/ moxibustion – and most of all fervent prayers – had helped our previously breech babies to position themselves optimally for a straightforward vaginal birth. we were so, so grateful! i then moved on to efforts to encourage the natural onset of labour – lots of walking, red raspberry leaf tea, colostrum harvesting / nipple stimulation (including using a breast pump), a prenatal massage and some reflexology, two membrane sweeps … my parents’ days in england were numbered and my body was absolutely at and then past its limits. i really, really wanted to avoid medical induction because i wanted the babies to come when they were and my body was ready, and because medical induction can very often lead to other medical interventions. but the days kept passing without any action (although there was one false alarm due to lots of braxton-hicks contractions and some fun late-pregnancy bowel discomfort…).
on the ninth of october, our wedding anniversary, i took a walk to kensington gardens while ian was working, moses was in school and gabriel was with our nanny, lizzy. we had an induction appointment on the books for two days later – an appointment we hoped we wouldn’t need because the babies came before; an appointment we planned to probably push off if we did get to it. the world was glowing around me as i walked (waddled, really, with my giant belly!) past the glorious trees heavy with autumn colours, and i full-on wept as i listened to love songs and thought about the immense love i have for ian and our four babies (pregnancy hormones + anniversary tenderness!). as I approached the opposite end of the park, a thought came clearly and sweetly to my mind: “if i am going to be induced after all, i should be proactive to take advantage of any benefits of a scheduled birth. if being induced means i can guarantee my beloved midwives are attending, that will be a good move.” i sent a text to natalie, the senior midwife who had been helping us with defining and disseminating our birth preferences, and who i adore, asking her if we could reschedule the induction for a time that she could oversee the medical care at the birth. then i messaged sarah, the midwife who attended gabriel’s birth had who we’d serendipitously been able to have providing care for us throughout this pregnancy, and who we love as a dear friend, to see if she could be working at the times natalie suggested. by the time i got home from my walk, i was absolutely confident about the best path forward, and so thrilled to be feeling that way. natalie was able to reschedule our induction appointment for a day and a half later than originally planned, at a time when both she and sarah would be with us. both ian and i were ecstatic about this outcome – it felt so right. we arranged childcare and organized last bits for the hospital bag and leaned into a different kind of anticipation that comes with a scheduled birth.
on induction day, the twelfth of october, i woke up and laid in bed for a little while with my hands on my belly. i talked out loud to the babies, telling them that today it was time to come out, that i was sorry if they didn’t feel quite ready, that their dad and i felt this was right to do some things to encourage them to come, that i was so excited to meet them, and that we would have to do this huge, important, sacred, amazing hard work together.
we said a family prayer before moses went off to school. mo said, “please bless the babies to come out safely. please really bless that.” lizzy took him to school and then took gabriel to the park while ian worked. i did some yoga, reading, meditating, resting, took a candlelit bath, and waited for an update from our midwives on when to come in (no one was sure when there would be beds free on the labour ward!). it was a peculiar feeling – working around human schedules rather than some cosmic timing – but i couldn’t deny that i felt good about moving forward. as i went about my day, i felt so proud of my body. i took some photos of my big huge belly. i thanked god for my health in pregnancy. i relished every little kick and hiccup and flutter that i felt from the babies.
ian and i tag teamed with the boys in the afternoon, trying to cherish our last bits of time as a family of four. we all did an animal puzzle together at the table in the big bay window. after hearing that we should come in around 7pm, we had a pizza dinner with grammie and grandfather and then ian and i tried to sleep for thirty minutes before we left. i couldn’t fall asleep but i rested. we gathered our bags and said a prayer. moses offered it again and it was so sweet. “please bless that the babies will come and worship god too like we do,” and some other awesome sweetness – i wish i had recorded it! we gave big hugs and called an uber. we waited on the porch while it rained in the now-dark night. the boys and the grandparents waved at the window. i hope i’ll always remember that scene: moses and gabriel in their matching red striped pajamas, wide eyed, grandfather in his mask and grammie taking photos on her phone with a huge grin.
and then we were on our way through the dark city, the lights of the streets blurred by the raindrops on the car windows, holding hands in the back seat. we turned around when we were halfway there since we had forgotten the camera! but before we knew it we were in the hospital, riding up the lift to the labour ward on the third floor, finding the bright masked faces of our midwives. i cannot express how grateful i am for these two women, sarah and natalie. they were my absolute dream team and i am so so grateful that we could work it out for them to attend the birth. seeing them talking near the reception desk when we arrived just put my whole soul at ease.
we got settled in to a small labour room, with the assurance that we would be moved to a larger pool room as it became available, and monitored the babies’ heart rates, chatting. the time passed quickly and we finally took the first step of induction – manually breaking my waters – at about 9:45pm. i was really hopeful that this would be all we’d need to do to kick-start labour, and i thought things would start happening pretty quickly – i hadn’t really thought too much about how late it would probably be by the time the babies were born. i was expecting a big gush but sarah had a tough time really releasing the waters because baby boy’s head was so low and tight against his sac, so there was just a trickle – for hours just trickles. i bounced on the ball and ian and i walked the empty, dim halls and stairwells of the hospital, eagerly anticipating contractions. nothing … a little twinge … nothing. thus began hours of me mentally begging for intense contractions.
at 12:30am i decided i should nap if i could. ian was already passed out in the chair next to the bed. after their gentle asking, i told the midwives i’d like to nap for 30-60 minutes and then we could start the syntocinon (artificial oxytocin, called pitocin in the states) drip. i had taken some time and mental energy to mourn the fact that i was being induced, and then to mourn the fact that we’d need to do more than the manual water rupture. i kept getting these niggles of regret or uneasiness, and then a gentle assurance that this was right – we needed these babies to come out. after some restlessness wondering “is that a contraction?” at 1:08am a definite surge woke me up from my little nap. i told ian and we called for the midwives and they told us the pool room was ready. we gathered our things and moved down the hall and got all set up – i had a string of fairy lights and a fuzzy blanket from home and we created a little labouring nest in the room, with my carefully curated birth playlist playing over the bluetooth speakers. by this time i was experiencing pretty regular, mild contractions and so i waffled a bit on starting the drip. natalie told me she was just a little concerned about my energy levels, and i knew that sarah, natalie, and the doctor on call (who had introduced himself and seemed really wonderful) would have to stop working at some point in the morning. i summoned up some courage and then a tube delivering synthetic oxytocin was connected to my arm.
within minutes, the surges came, and i disappeared into a different plane of existence – time totally fragmented, my eyes mostly closed, the room mostly quiet besides the soft music, my moans that came every few minutes, and the steady galloping of the babies’ heartrates from the monitor. i felt really, really tired but tried to relax into and completely surrender to each contraction. the intensity was really variable, which surprised me. i think the artificiality of the hormone mixed with my own authentic hormones maybe made things not as steady as i’d experienced in my previous births (when the intensity increased steadily over time). we disconnected the drip after a little while, once contractions were obviously established (i was glad that we’d only had a little bit of time with the lowest dose). hours somehow passed, and eventually i wanted to lay on the bed instead of kneel or sit on the mat or ball – i was just so tired. i didn’t even have the energy to ask for the pool to be filled and to get in. i was immersed in labouring; everything was hazy. when i had a less-intense contraction, i felt stressed. i needed more power to get those babies out, and i wanted the pain and the pressure so badly. my body started shaking uncontrollably. sarah rubbed my low back with oil and ian held my hand and reminded me of my mantras: “it’s not pain, it’s power!” and “you were made for this!” i started telling ian and the midwives that i just wished someone could tell me how much longer, then that i just wanted it to be over. in my mind i prayed hard for transition, and i talked with the babies, asking them to come. i was shaking pretty constantly through all of this, a steady tremor that was exhausting. i was also super, super thirsty and constantly asking for water, but didn’t have much appetite even though i was expending so much energy and could use more fuel. ian told me a few times that there were way more people there than we could see – he was sure of angels. sarah gently reminded me that i could use the gas & air (nitrous oxide – very commonly used to “take the edge off contractions” in the uk), but i was too tired to turn to anything and i really wanted to do this with only the incredible power of my body, mind and spirit.
at one point i started to feel more pressure and i felt like moving up onto the bed on my knees, my hands pressing into the top of the bed which was inclined most of the way up. i noticed that the midwives had suited up for the second stage – everyone thought i was in transition and getting ready to push. i wasn’t sure and felt kind of sheepish that i had signaled this. the contractions teetered, and that made me so discouraged. i was glad we had disconnected the drip but now i just needed p r o g r e s s. so we connected the drip again, and natalie suggested we do a vaginal exam (which i was thinking we should do anyway). sarah put her fingers in me and immediately i knew we weren’t all that close to crowning. she said we’d made progress but we weren’t there yet, and she asked if i wanted to know the number of centimeters dilated. that number didn’t really mean anything, since i know i can go from a 3 to a 10 in 20 minutes … so i decided to have her not tell me, so i wouldn’t psyched out either way. (i learned later that i was just past halfway, at a six!) she tried to release more waters and shake things up a bit.
it was nearing 6am and i thought to myself, “i have to get these babies out in the next hour and a half.” i did not want my team to leave. i asked ian to silently give me a priesthood blessing, and i started praying really fervently. i knelt by the side of the bed and pleaded for intensity and pressure. i have no idea how much time or how many contractions passed, but god answered my prayer, and i again assumed position kneeling on the bed, hoping so much for not another false alarm. it was now the thirteenth of october, the birthday of my beloved grandmother who died when i was nine years old. i distinctly felt the presence of angels, specifically my grandmothers, in all of my births. so as i was getting ready for the pushing phase with these twins, in my head i said, “grandma hazel, release their spirits, please! let them go!”
and then, i transitioned. i went into that place of totally indescribable, insane i n t e n s i t y as my body pushed a baby out. i consciously bore down but my body involuntarily did the rest – as a human body joined a spirit and exited me. i felt like i couldn’t breathe and i screamed. natalie was holding the heart monitor on baby sister, and trying to keep her head down as baby brother squeezed and stretched and finally slithered. ian started yelling – he was sooo excited and i loved his loud exulting. it was amazing and awesome. all of a sudden there was a little baby in my arms, clutched to the skin on my belly, and i was totally bewildered. nothing, not even doing this twice before, could prepare me for that moment. i looked at my new son and said, “it’s you! you’re perfect!!” his precious little face was in the expression of a big loud cry but no sound came out for a few seconds. and then we heard his voice.
euphoria, disbelief, thrill, relief, wonder — and also continued insane intensity since i was still in very active labour with twin two — contractions, very shaky legs, buzzing body. the room had filled with more people – i wasn’t really aware of who, or what they were doing. i was encouraged to turn onto my back on the bed, which was no small feat considering i was holding a baby whose cord was coming out of me, natalie was gripping my belly to keep sister head down, and there were wires from the monitors all tangled around me. the doctor had brought in an ultrasound machine and confirmed that baby girl’s head was still down. i didn’t realise this was happening, but little sis’s heart rate had plummeted after her brother left her all alone in the womb. i was so maxed out on sensation and emotion that i didn’t really know what was happening, but i let twin one’s cord be clamped and cut and he went straight to skin-to-skin with ian (who was at the ready, shirtless – i love him so much). all of a sudden stirrups were coming up and i was being asked to push – hard. i could hear ian talking with the doctor but couldn’t really make out what they were saying – turns out that due to the heart rate dropping so much we needed to get girlfriend out of there asap, and so they’d have me try to deliver her quickly and if that didn’t work the doctor would assist (with suction cup or forceps). for a split second i was worried they were going to put me under for a c-section, but that fled quickly as it a chorus of “push, push!” started.
i really didn’t want to give birth like this – with my feet up in stirrups and people yelling at me to push – but we had to get my daughter out quickly and i realised that. so i pushed like hell. i held my breath and furiously pushed through a contraction and then before and after a contraction. i don’t remember taking even a little breather. i felt like my head was going to pop right off and all my veins were going to burst. i was getting that girl out safely and quickly! i summoned some energy from who-knows-where after that long night of hard, hard work. and then, she was in my arms, all covered in vernix. my glorious daughter. born fourteen minutes after her brother. ian was again yelling exultantly. the extra people immediately cleared out of the room. (we later learned that some midwives had wheeled in a cart with all the needed tools for an instrumental birth, took one look at what was happening as i pushed, and right away silently wheeled the cart back out, seeing clearly that that baby was coming without extra help!) sarah clamped and cut the second cord. no one asked to take the babies to check them because they were just fine – baby boy cuddling skin to skin with daddy and baby girl snuggled up wide-eyed skin to skin with mom.
natalie gave me a shot in my thigh to get the placentas out quick (standard with twins to prevent hemorrhaging) and sarah tugged on the cords. plop – one big mass of organ that my body created to sustain two lives. the two placentas came out together, all connected with the sacs the babies were in, the cords spiraling away. my body finally started to settle down, teetering out the contractions and the shaking, and i was just in awe, flooded with all kinds of emotions. sarah checked me and i hadn’t torn at all, not even a skid mark – yay!!! ian handed back baby boy and i had two new babies on my chest. they were both rooting so we quickly weighed them before adding some milk. sarah converted the kg to lbs for us. 6lbs8oz and 6lbs even! then i had them latch right on – our girl first and then our boy. our first tandem feed. i was delirious – with exhaustion but even more with incredible, incredible joy.
ian and I were left alone with the babies. we just kind of recapped together and kept saying to each other “we did it!!!!” ian kept saying, “no, you did it.” but it wasn’t just me at all. ian, our angel midwives, our angel ancestors, and god. we did it, all together.
we took some pictures, said a hugely grateful goodbye to sarah and natalie (the babies had arrived almost exactly one hour before shift change), both ian and i took a shower (felt so amazing and also weird – my body swollen and floppy and bloody), i sat totally naked on the bed holding my babies. the doctor came by to say goodbye. we had fallen in love instantly with this meek, kind, small, greek man. i thanked him so much and he said, “well, i didn’t really do anything.” and i said, “that’s why i’m thanking you.” he said it’s amazing what happens when we let nature take its course, and we told him we’d always remember him and be grateful to him. (as the medical professional “in charge” he honoured our preferences whereas most would pressure for both an epidural to be placed and for us to move to the operating room to deliver the babies, among other interventions.) we had prayed so hard for months that the right people would be on call when we went to hospital. our prayers were definitely answered.
we were moved to a postnatal room – well, a bay in a postnatal room with seven other recovering women and their partners and babies (this is how it works on the nhs). the minute we got into that cramped, noisy space we said to each other, “yeah, we are getting out of here.” we really didn’t want to have to stay overnight because, due to covid restrictions, ian wouldn’t be able to stay with me and the babies. we talked with the new midwife on shift and went through every option to get the newborn checks done so we could be discharged before visiting hours ended at 8pm. she was awesome to help pull some strings and get us into the baby clinic, where the twins were checked and declared just perfect. we waited for some meds and some paperwork and asked grammie and grandfather to put the boys to bed – they could meet their siblings in the morning. we took our time getting packed up – and i had a little cry just feeling overwhelmed with lots of different emotions – and then we left the hospital, twelve hours after our twins had been born. we walked out into the dark, rainy london night – just as we’d left it 24 hours earlier but totally different because we had our two babies with us. they were both snuggled into the wrap carrier on my chest and we got in a classic london black cab and drove home through the wet streets.
we pressed the buzzer next to our big red door and were surprised to see moses appear at the window! he hadn’t quite gotten to sleep. i had idealized (and planned the capturing of) the moment of meeting between the boys and the twins, and in that moment had to abandon all expectations and embrace that this was the moment. and it was more magical and joyous than i could have hoped! moses was bursting out of his skin with joy seeing the babies. he could not stop giggling and bouncing up and down and squealing with happiness and excitement. this was one of the happiest little slices of time i’ve ever experienced, and i don’t have it captured in perfectly crisp photos but i’ve prayed that i’ll never forget it. moses wanted to hold the babies and just kept nuzzling them and talking about them and patting them and giggling, in his striped christmas reindeer pajamas, up past his bedtime on a tuesday night. he is a passionate boy that never shies away from boldly displaying his emotions, but i’ve never seen him this unbridled, and his joy just made me so so happy. gabriel snuck out of bed and was super timid around the babies, declaring “noooo” when we asked if he wanted to hold, kiss, or even touch them. his shyness was funny and sweetly endearing, a cute contrast to moses. ian had some work to do to get the kids to stay in bed … just so much tender excitement radiating through the flat! … and i sat on the ground while my mom and dad held the babies on the couch and i told them what happened, relishing in their love and excitement.
every day since that glorious birth day i have felt so much awe and gratitude that we did it! we brought two souls to earth safely, and without any drugs or interventions. i can’t believe we pulled that off, and i’m so grateful for all the preparation we did and all the inspiration we sought and received. our babies came into the world peacefully, safely, and beautifully and the whole experience was just a w e s o m e. my physical recovery has been super smooth, breastfeeding has been going well, and we just feel incredibly blessed. (there’s been lots of challenges too – more on that another time 🙂 )
in the birth of our darling babies, august and eve, we were between heaven and earth. we are so grateful to have experienced this wonder.