This is a repost of something I wrote a few months after starting this blog. In honor of my twins’ birthday, I shared their birth story – which started with a trip to the hair salon and ended with my husband almost passing out.
I think it’s a good one. So here it is again. Hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I love telling it. To everyone. Pretty much anywhere. No matter how disinterested they may be…
Exactly five years ago (give or take a week), I looked like this:
And yes – it was just as uncomfortable as it appears. And what is even more outrageous is that I remember looking at that picture and thinking it was “flattering” – that it made my stomach look less gigantic than it actually was. So apparently, I was even bigger in real life. People who have never been pregnant before can pick themselves up off the floor now. It’s not like that happens overnight. You do have some time to get used to it.
Enough about my enormous stomach though. I am showing embarrassing pictures of myself as an opening for the story of the birth of my twins. It’s their birthday! On October 9, 2006, at 9:23 p.m. and 9:24 p.m. (respectively) I gave birth to George and Eleanor Hood. They looked like this shortly after they departed my body:
And no – they were not nearly as angelic as they appear. Actually, they were perfectly sweet babies – it’s just that there were two of them. And having had one newborn already – I knew the difference between one screaming baby and two screaming babies. It’s simple math: 2 x 1 baby = 1 seriously deranged mother. But that’s another story.
On the morning of October 9, 2006, I had a feeling that the end was near. While my scheduled c-section (my “baby A,” George was breech) wasn’t supposed to take place for another week, I just didn’t feel right. And of course I was already four centimeters dilated and showing some “signs” that are TMI for even this blog. Also, we had just moved into a new house three weeks prior and I was still carrying my 35 lb. 18 month old up and down the stairs. This probably helped to speed things along.
The bags were packed and waiting by the door and I was finally resigned to the fact that George was not going to turn over for me, and I would have to have my first experience with surgery. Awake. One word: barbaric.
We were as ready as we were ever going to be – and I decided that I would spend the day trying to wrap things up at work, even though it was a federal holiday and the office was closed. It’s like I knew…
I won’t get into the details of the day – mainly because I barely remember them. But at about 5:00 p.m. I was ready to leave. I felt the urge to do some errands, so I called Chris and told him that I would be running late, and that he’d have to do Oliver’s bedtime routine (which he was more or less covering already in preparation for my post surgery limitations). Then I was off to the mall.
First stop – the cosmetics department at Nordstom. I was running low on concealer, and you know – this is a huge priority for someone that expects to be sequestered to their house for several months. I have to look good for the mail man and all. Then I headed over to Suissa, a hair salon where I had a history of success with random stylists (I’m notorious for being a walk in client).
When I arrived, the receptionist smiled at me and told me that I was the third expectant mother to come in that day. My first thought was that I hoped the others were as far along as I was and also sporting ill fitting maternity clothes that hinted at a penchant for inappropriate belly baring. I didn’t want to be “the big one” when they talked about the run on pregnant ladies that day. She told me that Giamcome would be able to take me immediately. (I don’t remember his name – but I once had another stylist named Giacome, and I think it suits my no name guy.)
Giacome? Not that much of a talker. But that suited me well enough, as my mind was racing in fifty different directions, and I didn’t mind NOT playing 20 questions with him as he pretended to be interested in my pregnancy. But one persistent thought running through the rest was that I was starting to worry about incontinence (don’t worry – this isn’t a story about incontinence – but it’s relevant in context). All day, I had been feeling a little…well, loose – for lack of a better word. I had never experienced incontinence before, and I was wondering if this was an early sign.
It was while my hair was being washed that I had the first pang of concern. There was definitely something going on down there – and I was feeling extremely grateful for the long black gown that covered my legs. At this point, I was thinking that I might look as if I had just had accident – or more accurately, that I looked like I HAD had an accident. But at the end of the day, I’m an optimist, and I hoped that it either wouldn’t show once I was standing up – or that maybe it would be dry by the time I had to unveil myself.
The haircut was uneventful. It was looking exactly like what I had requested and Giacome continued to play the strong silent type. But about ten minutes into the blow dry, something rather significant happened. I suddenly knew that I was not experiencing incontinence. I had my water broken for me in the hospital when I had my first son, and while this was not the same, there were definite similarities. It finally dawned on me: I wasn’t peeing my pants – I was going into labor.
I had never spontaneously gone into labor before. My 9 lb. 2 oz. first born was a week late and I had to be induced. And I was expecting a scheduled c-section for the twins. So I was completely unprepared for the slapstick situation of having my water break during my blow dry at the Tysons Corner Suissa where I was a goddamn walk in for god’s sake. Oh my god! Damn!
But I’m nothing if I’m not practical. And I never panic. So I quietly weighed my options as Giacome continued to smooth and straighten my hair. I had done this once before, and I knew that I had some time before I actually went into real labor. At this point I wasn’t even having contractions. Oh what the hell – my hair was only half done, and I figured that it wouldn’t hurt anything if I just let him finish. I deserved to have perfect hair for my first surgery. Awake. BARBARIC I tell you!
Plus – I kind of needed time to figure out what I was going to tell Giacome. I couldn’t imagine that this was something that happened every day at Suissa. So when he finally finished his last flicks and fluffs, it was time for me to break the news. I said, “so Giacome…I have to tell you something. I THINK that my water may have broken.” He looked at me blankly – and if he did say anything, I don’t remember what it was. At this point I was beginning to wonder if he was actually mute.
Then I stood up and he removed the vinyl drape. And that’s when I realized that my water hadn’t really broken yet – it was just starting to break. It was only when was vertical and gravity took over that it really BROKE. All over. With sound effects. I was truly in a sitcom from hell. And as an added bonus, that morning I decided not to wear the black pants that I had sported every day for the past two months. No – I was feeling “khaki.” And there was no camoflauging the river of amniotic fluid running down my legs.
Giamcome looked me. I looked at him. And then as if we had the same thought at the same time, we both looked at the chair where I had been sitting. Thank god it was the usual fake leather. I can’t even imagine the humiliation of leaving a soggy chair in my wake. I guess I expected more of a puddle – but maybe my pants absorbed most of it. All that was left was what you might find after a very sweaty person in shorts got up from a vinyl seat. And in silence, stoic Giacome switched on the hair drier and commenced to cleaning up my mess.
The receptionist’s desk was conveniently located directly behind me, so I grabbed her attention and explained that I’d have to settle up rather quickly. And I would have to use her phone because – of course – I left my cell at home that morning. I called Chris – told him to get the bags, make the necessary calls, take Oliver to our plan A person, and if she wasn’t home, to our plan B person. And then I was ready to go.
The receptionist was incredibly sweet and asked if there was anything she could do for me. I couldn’t really think of anything… She wasn’t a doctor, and she had already helped me with the walk in appointment… And a pedicure was definitely out of the question. So I said that I thought not. But then she offered to get my car for me – and that sounded like a great idea since I seemed to be losing gallons of amniotic fluid with every step I took. And I was pretty sure that I’d needed to keep some in there for another hour or two.
After some discussion about where I may or may not have parked (pregnant women NEVER remember where they park), I handed her my key chain and told her to “walk in that direction and just start clicking.” Eventually she’d hear the “beep-beep” noise.
While I was waiting outside for her, strategically covering my soaked pants with my purse, it occurred to me that I hadn’t called my doctor. Rookie mistake! And I didn’t have my cell… so had to again rely upon the kindness of strangers. The only person in speaking distance was a touristy looking guy who I think I remember as being Japanese. Either way – he definitely didn’t speak much English, and I could only hope my appearance made up for any confusion over the translation for “broken water.” Apparently it did since he handed the phone over without any questions.
Just as I signed off with my doctor’s answering service, the receptionist peeled around the corner in my car. I handed the man back his phone and realized that I had never said goodbye to Giacome. Seems like we should have hugged or something. But it was too late, and it didn’t seem appropriate to hug the Japanese tourist. We didn’t have quite as much of a history, and you know – I was really wet.
With effusive thanks to the receptionist and the tourist, I was finally on my way to the hospital.
I was very lucky in that I didn’t start having painful contractions until I arrived at the hospital. It was only when I was sitting in some light traffic, that I started thinking about the fact that I might not be able to drive if my barely perceptible contractions became more intense. I was definitely rethinking that decision to let Giacome finish my blow dry before leaving for the hospital.
Ideally, Chris would have been driving me – but it was important that I go to the hospital immediately. And he had to drop Oliver off before coming to meet me.
It was a little anti-climactic when I first arrived. I drove around for a bit looking for a good parking place, and then I stopped to give someone directions on my way into the building. Once I reached the reception area, I had to wait in line behind people who were interrogating the receptionists about whether it was possible to order vegan meals from the cafeteria. Okay – I just totally made that last part up. But I did have to wait in line behind a bunch of people that did not have blood pouring out of a gunshot wound OR amniotic fluid streaming down their legs.
Eventually I was sent up to Labor & Delivery where I finally got a little service! Actually – it was a bit disconcerting because when I provided my name, the nurse said, “oh – your doctor just called. She’s very worried about you.” I asked if I should be worried about me. She clarified that since surgery was necessary, they wanted to check me out right away. So off I went to triage.
Here is where the pregnancy crazies come into play. The young nurse who “checked me out” said, “oh yes – I can feel that head.” Now – this made me very excited because last I heard, George (who was positioned to be the first one to come out) had his little heiny jammed firmly into my birth canal. Could he possibly have turned? Could I skip the whole major abdominal surgery thing and have the twins the old fashioned way? I was really getting psyched about this.
Then my doctor arrived. She is great and I trust her implicitly, but that woman is strictly no nonsense. I told her about the miraculous head sighting (or feeling), and she gave me one of her famous looks. “Kate,” she said, “it is almost impossible for that to happen now. They have very little room to move at this point.” But I wanted my fantasy to be real, so I begged her to check – just to make sure. She agreed to go get the ultrasound equipment, and I could literally feel her eyes rolling as she walked away from me. Long story short, the nurse gave me false hope. She felt George’s butt, not his head.
Shortly after my disappointing news, Chris arrived looking like he had just parachuted onto the front lawn of the hospital. He was excited though and I needed some positive energy in my little corner of triage.
Then I noticed that he only had one bag with him. I had packed two. Was it the bag with my skincare products and my toothbrush and my comfy socks? No – it was the bag with my DVD player and my books and magazines. I asked him if the other bag was in the car, and he said, “what other bag?” I said, “um, the one sitting right next to this one?” Nope – didn’t ring a bell. I expect that when I called to tell him my water had broken, he didn’t register anything more than, “water broken…blah blah blah…hospital…blah blah blah…Oliver…blah blah blah…bag.” Oh well – at least I could watch some Gilmore Girls if I got bored.
As much as I really was dreading the surgery part, I was happy to see my anesthesiologist and get the news that it was go time. The contractions were becoming more than uncomfortable. And Chris was starting to get on my nerves, all windblown and positive with only one suitcase… Men.
Since I had expected to have a c-section, I knew what to expect. I kissed Chris and told him that I’d see him in the OR. He had to scrub in. Then the anesthesiologist and I walked down the hall together. Which seemed weird. I was kind of expecting to be wheeled in on a gurney. Or to at least be pushed in via wheelchair.
The next thing that I remember finding a little unnerving is that when I lay down on the operating table (which was so thin I thought I might fall off – is it me or do you picture something more along the lines of a dining table?) I was completely stripped below my chest. I don’t know why this would surprise me since I’m familiar with the area where they make the incision. But I just didn’t picture being naked. Especially with strange men wandering around talking about sports. Everyone seemed a bit too jovial for my liking… What did they think this was, Gray’s Anatomy? Were they going to be too busy flirting across my blood and guts to notice that I was bleeding out? No – I wasn’t overly fond of the banter. I wanted them to come to MY surgery with their A game.
Anyone who has had a c-section before may have noticed that I skipped the part about having a needle poked into my lower back to administer the spinal block. It wasn’t my favorite part – but it was over quickly enough. Let’s leave it at that. But the actual effects of the spinal block made me want to jump up and run screaming out of the room (if I could actually move my lower body that is). They had positioned me so that my knees were up in the air, and then suddenly my lower body just disappeared. But I knew that my feet were on the table and my knees were bent. BUT I couldn’t feel them. This made me ca-ra-zy! But once they moved my legs back down so that they were on the table again (couldn’t feel it – but I knew they were doing it – eeeeww!), I felt better.
I also noticed that the numbness reached up to my chest and I was finding it hard to breath. Of course that could have been due to the general sense of panic, but the numbness didn’t help. Finally I couldn’t stand the jokes and the sports and the numbness and the tiny table and that fact that I was AWAKE for all of this, and I pulled off my oxygen mask and clutched the arm of the closest nurse. I dragged her down so her face was right next to mine and said, “listen – I just need to tell someone…I’m REALLY SCARED.” She kindly patted me on the shoulder, replaced my oxygen mask, and told Chris who had just entered the room to come hold my hand.
And then it started. I of course couldn’t see what was going on since there were about ten inches of sheet screening my view. But Chris had to actually avert his eyes since he was sitting up. He was given instructions to stay facing me if he didn’t want to “see anything.” Chris and I are pretty much in agreement when it comes to the inner workings of the human body. We never want to see anything.
Most of the procedure was a blur – but suddenly, there was George with a full head of dark hair. He was pink and screaming – and he looked nothing like my first baby. So it was kind of like having my first baby – if that makes sense. I had never seen anything like him. Chris went to go look at him as they started to pull Eleanor out. She looked a little bizarre since she was up in the top of my uterus and didn’t get washed off the way George did when my water broke. She was covered in vernix – but she looked more like Oliver did when I had him (just a little light brown hair on her head). But she was a girl and that was new to me. Chris watched them clean her off and saw both babies get weighed. George was 5 lbs. 11 oz. and Eleanor was 5 lbs. 12 oz. They were so tiny.
It was at this point that Chris decided to come back and talk to me. Big mistake. Or it wouldn’t have been if he turned back the way he had come: facing me. Instead he went in the other direction, and got a perfect view of the intern inspecting my uterus (outside of my body) and then shoving it back in. A nurse had to grab his arm as his legs started to buckle. He didn’t actually faint, but he almost did. Now that’s an image that will haunt your dreams. And he wasn’t too keen on what he saw during the “regular” birth of our first son. You know how the doctor says you have to wait six weeks before you can have sex? Six weeks after I had Oliver, Chris looked at me, and said in complete seriousness, “I’m not ready.”
Stop making faces Chris – that last line is crucial to the story. Well maybe not – but it’s really funny.
So that’s it! We got to hold our babies and take a picture and then all kinds of drama began the next day. But that is a story for another day. Today (or Sunday) is a birthday. And while I’ve never been one to get sentimental about the miracle of birth – I’m VERY sentimental about the birth of my own little angels.
Happy Birthday George and Eleanor. I love you so very much.