I adore twin births. I admit to bias as a twin mum myself. My own twins were a transverse lie so the vaginal option was out for me and I take joy when I see other twin mums get the birth that I didn't. Now, I'm not putting my birth preferences on these mums, I am supporting them in their decisions. It still, however, fills me with great joy to see twins born naturally.
Today I am going to share the birth story of one of my mums. First we have to go back to our meeting and her subsequent antenatal visits to the hospital.
It was a late booking. I was finally off call for the first time in months. I planned many theatre trips, a weekend away, parties and visits to friends out of town. I made the mistake of popping my off call status on my facebook page. Within a few hours I had spoken to this expectant mother and like that I was her birth and postnatal Doula. I felt bad as I explained that I would do my best to be at the birth but that I had theatre plans and I really didn't want to miss any plays. She said that she understood. Her initial enquiry, after all, was for a postnatal doula. And so I prayed, for once, that the birth would entirely suit my schedule.
We arranged to meet at the hospital where she had an appointment with the consultant. It is highly unusual for my initial meetings to be like this. Normally we chat on the telephone and then arrange for me to go round so that we could meet each other. I suppose it helped that I had been recommended to her by a past client. We had talked through how she wanted her birth to go and what she wanted to discuss with her doctor. Her partner had been with her earlier in the day for the scan but work commitments meant he couldn't stay for the consultant appointment. As usual it was running late. When she was called, I went in with her. I said nothing throughout but listened as her reasonable consultant tried to reason her into an induction. She didn't want to be induced and she was sure of her reasoning. Mr Reasonable told her that it was dangerous to let twins go beyond 38 weeks and that in his experience the best thing was for her to be induced. She refused again. He explained that if she didn't book a slot for induction it would be too difficult for her to get another one. He then said that of course he would respect her decision not to be induced and book her in for induction at 39 weeks instead. When she refused again he told her that he would like to see her again at 39 weeks to talk things through once more. In the meantime he suggested that she got a sweep from either a midwife or me. I explained that Doulas don't do anything medical or clinical and therefore I would not be performing any sweeps. I still remain confused on the whole sweep issue. He said that she could have a first sweep and if it didn't work some days later she could have a second and a third sweep. My confusion, I suppose, is that if they are so good.. why do women need more than one?
My lady went in for regular monitoring, which kept everyone happy but the pressure was still on to accept induction. Finally she agreed to a 40 week induction, but her mindset was that she probably wouldn't go in for it. Of course once she'd agreed, everyone was happy with her again and there was no more mention of sweeps and inductions.
I went to the theatre. I saw the amazing Comedy of Errors and the RSC's production of Matilda amongst other things and I waited. Finally, with no plays to see for several days, her waters went 4 days before Induction Day. We were so happy, she didn't want to be induced and now she wouldn't have to. She went into hospital in the early hours of the morning and had the loveliest, quietest midwife she could hope for. I arrived at 6am and watched in awe as she laboured with a TENS machine, support from her partner and a smile. The shift changed at 8.30am and another beautifully supportive midwife came to take over. She was totally respectful of my lady's birth wishes.
Baby one waited for no one. My lady's breathing changed and her gentle "this hurts" became slightly more guttural utterances. The midwife turned to open her birthing pack and said "Don't push yet" but baby one was not to be held back. Suddenly a beautiful wee head emerged and the midwife turned to catch his body. His speed meant that there was no second midwife in the room and so the emergency button was pushed (this because the midwife couldn't reach the simple help button). Suddenly the room was filled with doctors and the atmosphere changed. From calm and tranquility to a sense of panic. It was as though no one knew what they needed or wanted to do. Lovely midwife tried to explain that she simply pushed the button to get a second midwife, but no one seemed to listen. It was all about canulas and misoprostol. The doctor said "Right, we need this second baby out in 10 minutes. Are you having any contractions mum? No, let's get the misoprostol up". Within moments of the drug being sited and running baby two's heart rate dropped. The doctor decided to attempt a forceps delivery. Mum's legs were up in stirrups, people were busy doing many different things and there was no time to wait, listen and discover. A beautiful birth had suddenly become an emergency. Baby two was high up and so the forceps delivery was neither gentle nor nice. Mum had extra internal tearing due to the forceps and the baby arrived battered and bruised.
Two births, two very different experiences in the same bed. Don't get me wrong, the fact that the baby's heart rate dropped meant that all bets were off, but did it have to go that way? I suppose we'll never really know. The frustration of not knowing what might have happened if they had let mum take a breath and allowed her contractions to come back up... well in doctor speak "at least she has a healthy baby". In my lady's words "it's as though they let me have the first birth the way I wanted it but then it was their turn to show me how it ought to be done".