She Made a Wish & Two Came True. A Surprise Gender Pregnancy & Epic Journey to becoming a Twin Mama.
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Happy Full Moon from the Mindful Mama Blog ! I’m SUPER excited to share this Birth Story with you all today! Did you ever meet someone in your life, and you just feel in your Bones that you’ve known each other many lifetimes before? This is Melissa to me. We not only share a Name, but many other synchronicities (first names, middle names, sister-in-law names, affinity for yoga & all things wellness, being in the human service field, driving a jeep, among MANY other things!). She’s one of the few “Twin-Flames” in my life for sure. Our lives collided when we were both hired at the same job, she a Psychologist & me a Social Worker. Who knew that we would both leave these jobs after her and I became pregnant around the same time & it’s been history ever since. We even shared the Same Doula and choose Midwifery Care (her out of the Stonybrook Midwifery Group) over an OB/GYN just like I did for similar reasons. Her and I have this unspoken language of mutual understanding of one another & it’s such a blessing in my life. She just gets me. She’s a crunchy mama at heart like I just trying to navigate new Mamahood & she does so with such Grace & Ease. Enjoy her incredible journey of becoming a mama, EPIC birth story & the transformative process of her stepping into Mamahood. The fun TWIST… her and her husband did not want to know the Gender of their Surprise TWINS ! (#teamgreen)
**Warning: The contents of the following blog post & Birth Story are Raw, Honest & may be Traumatic for some readers. The content of this birth story and journey may be a trigger to families who have dealt with unexpected birth plan outcomes. Please do not read on if you have anxiety related to your own (past or upcoming) labor and delivery experiences. I say this warning because, pregnancy and birth is Hard, really really Hard, but also incredibly transforming no matter the outcome. Please pause and take a few breaths to choose whether or not to Read on**
Here’s Melissa’s Story… As always, every Word, Picture, & Song was chosen by the Mama to help paint a picture of her Story, Her Voice & Her Journey.
The journey into motherhood was long, winding, and filled with uncertainty. But for this story, that is neither important nor relevant.
After five years of trying, we started injections for IVF. The first round of IVF produced 13 eggs, but not one fertilized. The hardest part was that the nurses call every day with the fertilization progress, instill small amounts of hope that they will continue to develop. My body was overstimulated and my heart was defeated. I was in pain both physically and emotionally with little hope that the next round would be any better. The doctor changed my medications, and I resumed injections one month later. We harvested only six eggs for the next round. I was hopeless; if 13 didn’t fertilize the first time this was sure to be a failure. I wish I could say that faith prevailed, but despite the lack of trust in the process we were blessed with five good-quality blastocysts this round. The doctor called and told me to prepare for the procedure by starting new medication. Alden and I went into the office to have our first blastocyst placed into my uterus. The procedure was painless and quick. I went about my normal activities after while Alden and I tried not to think about the life that could be attaching to my body. The next 10 days were long. I was hyper aware of my body; I obsessed over every little sensation. We were told to wait until I had blood drawn before taking s pregnancy test, but we couldn’t. We took a test on the morning of my appointment, and it was positive! We were elated. The blood work also showed a positive pregnancy. This was it, finally. The next day dealt a crushing blow; my blood levels were dropping. The following day confirmed that the blastocyst did not implant. There would be no baby. I was told that my ovaries were hyperstimulated and my uterus not conducive for a pregnancy due to all of the medications I had to take. We would wait another month before trying again. This time we asked to have two blastocysts put into my uterus. We were so eager to be pregnant that we wanted to increase the odds.
The day before Alden’s birthday was the day that the two blastocysts were implanted. I saw Aunt Doreen in the office, and she told me it was a sign that these would stick. I went home, took a walk, and did some yoga. Alden and I spent the rest of the afternoon together, trying not to get too hopeful that we would become pregnant. As I said, it was a long journey with many letdowns along the way. Nine days later, against my doctor’s advice, I took a pregnancy test. The test showed positive the moment my pee hit the stick. Alden and I were cautiously optimistic. The next day I took another test, and this one was negative. Now we had to eagerly await my doctor appointment the next day and blood test results that evening. So, I went in for what I hoped would be one of the last visits to my reproductive endocrinologist, had blood drawn, and went to work. I received the call that afternoon that I was “very pregnant,” meaning my levels were high and promising. A few days later the sonogram proved why… both embryos had implanted, and we were “very pregnant” with twins. The emotions were a mix of happy, scared, relieved, and hopeful. What we thought would be the end of a long road had merely taken another turn down a hilly path.
Alden and I had a hard time accepting that we were pregnant since we had been trying to no avail for so long. The fact that I had experienced few of the early signs of pregnancy didn’t help. The only “tell-tale” sign was breast tenderness. Despite the uncertainty, we had hope and there was excitement; we told our families on Christmas. Everyone was thrilled and much less worried about loss than we were. Just a few weeks later, Alden’s brother and wife gave us the news that they too were expecting twins. It was an exciting time in our lives, and we were happy to have them on this road with us. We didn’t tell people openly until 16 weeks, when I was starting to show.
Alden was nervous, and he watched over everything I did- no more climbing, headstands (for now), or other activities that could potentially risk the precious lives within me. I don’t think I truly accepted that there were babies inside of me until I began feeling the movement within my womb on my birthday, at around 20 weeks.
Until that point, I wanted to have faith, but years of disappointment made it hard to trust that these babies and my body knew what to do.
Once I felt the life fluttering inside, I knew the babies were strong and would join us soon. Luckily, the remainder of the pregnancy was uneventful aside from tendinitis in my left wrist, a few aches, and edema towards the end. I believe staying active with daily yoga (doing headstands until my 9th month) and walking, meditating, and asking for help when I needed it, and not acting as though I was injured or sick is what helped me have such a wonderful pregnancy. I felt healthy, strong, and confident that I would carry these babies as long as they needed and birth them the way that was intended. That being said, I had no expectations and kept an open mind and heart throughout the pregnancy.
Once the doubts and fears subsided, I could allow myself to experience the joy and hope.
I loved being pregnant more than I would have ever expected. I learned to love my body for the amazing things it could do rather than how it looked. I nourished my body and babies with whatever foods were craved and did not worry about how they might make me look. I was inspired by the beauty of my belly and how my body could grow to support two additional lives. I was just enamored by the miracle that is a woman’s body, in all it could do. It felt amazing, leaving me confident and comfortable in my skin, and it was evident to those around me. I was told daily something to the effect of how great I looked or that I couldn’t possibly be carrying twins. It was humbling to see and feel how easily my body and soul welcomed and developed these little beings. I loved feeling baby A (Rory) as she flicked her feet together and stretched her head as low as she could go. I still cannot believe how baby B (Ryan) stretched her legs up and across my belly onto the opposite side, taking up most of the room. Both of them often had the hiccups, which always left me laughing. I sat for hours just feeling the little ones stir within me, practicing their kicks, spins, and breaths. I will miss greatly these feelings and sensations.
At the beginning of month 9, my midwife, Anne, said she would be on vacation during weeks 36 and 37. I was hellbent on holding the babies in until she returned. I had built a birth team and plan with which I felt safe and confident, and there was no way I would be risking the birth I wanted. My doula, Kristina, ensured that I knew all I could about my experience.
I was educated on pregnancy, babies, and birth.
The day before my water broke, I joined the primos for a picnic in Prospect Park. The weather was gorgeous- warm and sunny, with almost no humidity. While walking to the bathroom with Toni-Anne, a man commented on my belly, saying I must be pregnant with twins and that they are two ”bad ass boys.” We laughed about it along with the swelling in my legs and feet and the fact that I had to pee so often. Alden and I discussed natural induction on the drive home. We were to start the process that night and would continue it with a strong raspberry leaf tea infusion, acupressure, and yoga postures. While hoping to trigger the babies to come sometime in the next week, I went about my usual routine. I weeded the garden (getting stung by a hidden, underground bee hive), went on a nice walk, had a foot massage with Katie, and saw Alden’s softball game. In the evening, Alden did some acupressure to induce contractions, and I continued other methods. Little did I know that the aides were working very well and the babies were ready- my water broke that evening.
I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening to me. I think I expected there to be immediate pain. Instead, There was just a stead stream of fluid for a few hours before the contractions began. I texted Kristina who got on the first ferry from Fire Island. I called Anne, and she reminded me to eat, drink, and rest so that I could prepare for what was to come. I could do the first two, but rest did not come easily. I moved to the couch and put classic kids shows on the television. I snacked on dry cereal and coconut water while I watched Double Dare in between contractions, which slowly increase in strength.
The time between contractions started at about seven minutes, with each one lasting 45 to 90 seconds. I felt strong cramping in my sacral region and the lower part of my belly. When the contraction began, I found myself instinctually dropping to all fours and rotating my hips and belly. At first, this seemed to help ease the pain. Later, this helped me have a routine and something constant to hold onto as the intensity, pressure, and uncertainty increased. This went on for several hours— laying on the couch, snacking and drinking, dropping to the floor, gyrating my hips. During the cycle, I found it helpful to walk up and down the stairs and do light yoga postures.
I had let Alden sleep during this as I knew one of us needed rest and strength for the labor to come. As dawn approached, I told Alden to call into work because the babies were coming soon. He was confused as I woke him and soon realized the labor had progressed while he rested. He stayed in bed for another hour before I asked for help; my contractions were now four to five minutes apart and becoming increasingly intense. So much so that I could barely speak during them, and my rhythmic routine and movements no longer provided much distraction or comfort. Alden suggested it was time to move to the hospital, but I was not ready. I took a warm shower, which helped some. He helped me time the contractions while I moved about on the floor and made low, grunting sounds. Within an hour, around 6:00am, we decided to go to the hospital. While Alden grabbed his bag, and decided now was the time to empty the trash, I put on comfortable clothing, grabbed another snack, and headed to the car.
We were on our way to the hospital to welcome our children.
knelt in the back seat if Alden’s Chief car for the 30 minute drive, bracing for contractions as they came. I remember thinking that the drive felt long and that I didn’t know how much longer I could manage in the car. Alden missed the turn into labor and delivery, and he pulled in front of the main entrance, leaving his car in the fire zone; it sat there for the entire time we were in the hospital. I slowly sauntered to the admitting area, stopping a few times until contractions passed. Alden handled the admitting and I walked straight in, telling the staff the babies couldn’t wait. The nurses had me sit in an exam chair while they used monitors to try and find the heart beats and track contractions. Anne examined me and said I was 7cm and that she could feel a head! I was quickly moved to a laboring room where I met my nurse Betsy and settled in. Anne introduced me to Goldie, who would be my midwife during the labor and delivery since Anne had to leave us. Kristina arrived soon, and she and Alden settled into a routine— Alden holding my hand and making deep, rhythmic sounds and Kristina doing hip squeezes and reminding me to keep my sounds low and guttural. I thought of getting out of the bed, but laying on my side seemed more natural and like what my body needed at this point. This went on from about 7-9, when my sister Toni-Anne and my mom arrived. My mom came in to tell me through tears how proud she was of her “little girl.” Toni-Anne stayed and helped me through the labor, holding my leg, “om-ing,” and reassuring me. This team— Alden, Toni-Anne, Kristina, Betsy, and Goldie— stayed by my side and supported me in whatever way I needed. They knew what to do instinctually and without asking. Kristina providing honey for energy, Alden squeezing my hand and reminding me to use my meditative sounds, Toni-Anne rubbing my leg between contractions, Betsy guiding me to learn how to “bear down,” and Goldie telling me I can birth these babies.
Without these strong people, the chance of an unmedicated and natural birth would have been tough. We got into a rhythm, and I found myself managing the pressure and pain with a mindful routine.
The room was dark and quiet. Only interruptions from the outside world (like my head hitting the TV remote and turning in the news) distracted me from my job.
That’s the thing about birthing, it’s all about finding a rhythm and focusing one’s mind during each contraction. Remembering that I had just had a similar experience mere seconds earlier helped me have the strength and resolve to get through the contraction. It wasn’t so much pain but a pressure and intensity that I had never experienced before. Thinking of the contractions as expansion helped me remember the miracle my body was performing. I found a place in my mind where I could feel the sensations rather than push away. I reminded myself that each contraction was bringing me closer to meeting my babies.
My body knew just what to do. My body knew how to bring these babies earthside, as a good friend had said.
I started having the urge to push. I wasn’t sure at first, but Betsy said if the instinct remained once the contraction stopped, then it truly was time to push. The feeling that I had to push waxed and waned, and a thought crept in— I want these babies out of my body, NOW. Looking back, I knew that was transitional labor, a time when many women have similar thoughts. I’m thankful for my birthing team, who adhered to the birth plan and never once mentioned medication as I was vulnerable to begin with and most suggestible in this moment. Near 10am, the urge to push remained, and I began to bear down. Goldie, Betsy, and Kristina guided me through this path, telling me how to move my body in a way that would push these babies out. They reminded me that now was not the time to breathe through the contractions but rather to gather all my strength and force, hold strong, and push with all my might. The intensity increased. Sure, there were thoughts such as, “are my eyes bloodshot right now?” and, “is it possible for my eyes to actually explode out of my head?” But for the most part, I was so zoned in on meeting my babies that nothing could distract me. Soon, Toni-Anne said she saw a head (joking that there was red hair), and Goldie told me baby A was crowning. It was time to roll over to the operating room for the delivery. Alden and Kristina came with me, and I said goodbye, for now, to Toni-Anne.
There was an emergency medical team waiting in the operating room, in case things didn’t go as planned. The OB introduced himself to me and stayed throughout the delivery. I was allowed to stay on my bed rather than move to an operating bed since everything was proceeding as expected. I felt Baby A’s head in the birth canal and the movement of Goldie’s hand as she lubricated my baby’s head to help her slide more gently from my womb. Goldie and Betsy reminded me to bear down, hold my breath, and pull my knees in as if I were trying to look at my baby. It took about 20 minutes, and with a 3-push pattern, I brought my first child into this world. I felt the pressure lessen as her head finally passed through the canal and her body tumble out of mine. Everything seemed to stop for a moment.
Alden leaned in and told us all that this tiny life, that so suddenly and quietly arrived, was a girl, and he didn’t leave her side from that moment.
Alden cut the umbilical cord and held our first born to his chest, staying with her while I rested for a minute and refocused my mind on the fact that there was still a baby to birth.
Baby B was not so eager to leave the warmth and comfort of my womb. The OB put pressure on the top of my uterus so that the baby did not try to reverse to the now more spacious womb. Contractions had stopped, and Goldie told me to rest until they began again. Baby A’s placenta had detached, which led to bleeding. I overheard the medical staff discussing the option of a C-section if my contractions did not resume soon as they worried about blood loss. I thought to myself, “there is no way they are cutting me open now.” I looked at Goldie and told her I could push. She said if I could get this baby out, then I should do just that. So, remembering the movements my body needed to do to bear down and push a baby out, I restarted the pushing pattern. As my second child descended the birth canal, I heard Kristina mention she was “sunny-side up,” or looking at the sky— hence the back labor. I was hemorrhaging with each push since my uterus was not contracting, and in 21 minutes, Baby B came screaming into the world.
Alden was near us at this point and told everyone that we had a second daughter, who was placed immediately onto my chest.
Baby B squirmed her way toward my breast, quickly found her target, and instinctively latched and began suckling. I distinctly remember her umbilical cord, this iridescent and pulsating rope that tethered her to me and provided life to my child. Alden cut her cord as I now provided nourishment from my breast.
While I held this little being, Goldie continued to work to stop the bleeding. She asked questions, and I was so preoccupied with my little girl that I did not realize I had lost more than half of my blood. At this point, the focus was to help my uterus contract to stop the bleeding. I was given two medications that helped stop the bleeding. A catheter emptied my bladder, which relieved some pressure on my uterus but also burned like hell. Goldie happily told me there was no tearing or need for reconstructive stitches. Kristina stayed with me to explain every medical procedure while Alden stayed with our first child.
Once I was stable and the bleeding had stopped, both girls were placed on my chest. We announced their names, Rory Ana for our first girl and Ryan Marie for the second. Alden walked proudly next to the hospital bed as our family rolled into the recovery room. I was exhausted, elated, shocked, and so many other things.
The recovery room was just that, a chance to recover my energy while the girls rested. While they slept in the same incubator, I laid in my bed, falling in and out of sleep. I felt weak and tired. Kristina provides tea with honey, the warmth is traditionally meant to support recovery of the uterus. Toni-Anne rejoined us, the proud aunt fawning over her nieces. Alden went to the waiting room to tell my mom and brother that we were ready for visitors, and he sent out the announcement to so many other loved ones. I had received no medication for the pain up until this point. Kristina gave me Arnica pills, but I think I was too tired and drained to even feel any pain. It took several attempts to get to my postnatal room as my hemoglobin count was very low, causing my pulse to race and blood pressure drop— the key ingredients to fainting. I came pretty close to passing out and was shocked back into the present moment with smelling salts. Eventually we made it up to our room, where we were greeted by visitor after visitor. The sheer amount of joy and love was overwhelming. Rory and Ryan entered this world with an amazing amount of love. Over the next few days I received three units of blood while I nursed our babies every two hours. Due to many factors— critically low blood and iron, hormonal imbalance, and anatomical issues, my milk supply was low. We conceded to formula supplementation while I worked tirelessly to increase my supply. We met with several lactation consultants, trying anything they suggestion. Breastfeeding would become a great struggle.
Since leaving the hospital, I continued to meet with lactation consultants, trying everything to increase my milk supply. I started the usual way, eating oatmeal and having daily herbal teas. When that didn’t work, I moved to supplements such as fenugreek and brewer’s yeast; still, I was pumping barely a combined ounce, and the professionals estimated the girls were getting about half an ounce each from me during each feeding. It was suggested that I bring them to a pediatric dentist to assess tongue and lip ties, as they were not transferring milk well.
I was determined to do anything to help my little girls eat. I became obsessed with increasing my supply so that the girls could have MY milk rather than formula. I just couldn’t lose this part of motherhood. I thought the struggle was over once we conceived and did not imagine the hardest part of this all would be breastfeeding. Stress and obsession caused me to overlook the other things, such as comfort, that I was providing with the boob.
So, I went with a good friend by my side to see the dentist, who confirmed both tongue and upper lip ties. He completed a laser revision procedure on each girl. I was an emotional mess as held Ryan on my lap, swaddled tightly, one hand under her head and the other on her chest. This peacefully sleeping three-week-old child was awoken with a terrible shock. Tears streamed down my face as I watched the doctor aim the laser at her frenulum and saw the tissue burn away. Ryan screamed, squirmed, and cried in my arms while I provided whatever comfort I could. My friend Kristen stood with her hand on my shoulder and tears falling, comforting me so I could be strong for Ryan. The instant the doctor finishes, so did Ryan’s screams. I immediately put her to my breast to feed and comfort her, and she calmed in seconds. The same procedure was done on Rory, with the same reaction from baby and mama. I found solace in the fact that Ryan was already sleeping in Kristen’s arms, seemingly unbothered by this all. Nevertheless, I reacted much the same, maybe worse, as I saw blood stream from Rory’s lip.
I held that strong baby so tightly to keep her still and even tighter to comfort her once the doctor was finished. She nursed and fell asleep as if nothing had happened. I felt terrible, drained, and I prayed this would help them eat better.
More lactation consultations with the midwives. The girls were latching better (Rory wasn’t chomping anymore), but sadly I was only providing about 25% of their needs with breastmilk. I started on a prescription to increase my prolactin. Though my levels rose, the amount of milk I could produce stayed low.
I did not give up and continued the exhausting triple-feed schedule where I nursed them together for 40 minutes, bottle-fed formula and expressed breastmilk, and pumped for up to 20 minutes. This went on every three hours. My life became about the milk. I thought, “this has to work.”
I went to a few breastfeeding groups, which helped me emotionally. So many well-meaning mamas gave their advice- “my milk came in around 8 weeks,” have you tried oatmeal?” I was sad but trying not to lose hope. It reminded me of the IVF process- my body just couldn’t do what it was meant to. A friend told me about a medication that cannot be prescribed for lactation support in the US but is used successfully in Canada. A midwife suggested that I buy it online, which I did. Although it is FDA approved, I was nervous to take a medication I purchased online from another country. Anything for my babies. This is where I am now. It’s been a few weeks and my milk is increasing. It’s low compared with most mamas, but it’s more for me, which means more for my babies. They’re now getting 30-40% of their nutrition from breastmilk. Somewhere during the milk obsession, I became ok with using formula. I’ve accepted what my body can do, and it’s allowed me to better connect with my babies while nursing. There are so many benefits to any amount breastfeeding.
By coming to terms with providing some nourishment and comfort to my babies with the boob, I’ve relaxed and enjoyed the process much more.
Childbirth and providing nourishment for these beings was the most exhausting and important task I have ever endured.
Alden was by our side perpetually, changing diapers, helping me in and out of bed, and holding our babies. I’m grateful for this time when nothing else mattered. I’ll wrap things up here, but the story goes on eternally. Being a mother has changed me. Whereas I used to put everyone else first, I now only put these two little lives first. It’s amazing how instinct kicks in and caring for new life is just natural. One knows what to do without even trying. When all else fails, comfort is what everyone needs. Holding my babies heals me and them, and love, consistency, and connection set a foundation to prepare them for anything.
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