I was determined to have a natural birth with my twins. From the moment I was classified as ‘high risk’ I was more set than ever that I wanted to do things as naturally as possible with as little intervention as possible. The problem was I didn’t realise that no matter how strong your mind is, sometimes your body surprises you. In labour, you’re not always in control.
Labour is one of those things which hardly ever goes to plan and no matter how much you prepare for it, there will be elements which are not at all how you expected. Until you’ve gone through it there’s no way of knowing if it is going to be how you want.
My birth plan was really specific and I thought that if I wanted to have an easy birth enough, then I could have one… how wrong I was. My labour nearly cost me my life and nothing quite went to plan.
Although that sounds quite negative I really want to share my natural twin birth story with other expectant multiple mums. Knowing what can happen during a natural twin birth is important so you can make the decision about whether to try for a natural delivery or an elective section.
If reading isn’t your thing, I shared my story on YouTube’s Channel Mum (a condensed version!). You can check it out below.
Induction For Twins
I was induced on a Friday, a day later than scheduled as UCLH didn’t have enough beds available in their insanely busy maternity ward. I was desperate to give birth and very impatient to finally meet my twins. I’d tried everything I could think of to induce my labour naturally at 37 weeks, from clary sage oil in the bath to acupuncture and reflexology, curries and sex… but the twins didn’t want to come out until they absolutely had to!
And so I was medically induced. The pessary was inserted at 7pm and after going for dinner just opposite the hospital I ended up going to sleep around 11pm. An hour and a half later my waters broke and I alerted the midwife. I was still in a side room at this point (they like to keep you in throughout your induction with twins) but as soon as my waters had broken I was moved to a labour room where there were two units labelled ‘Twin One’ and ‘Twin Two’ ready and waiting for my babies. At this point I was very excited.
On Saturday morning my husband joined me back at the hospital and my contractions were doing their thing. They were closer and closer together and totally manageable with the help of some gas and air and some rather loud groaning noises. I wished I had the pool though – even the short shower I had during labour felt amazing at taking some of the pain away.
By the afternoon I was starting to suffer. I had been contracting for over 12 hours and was starting to get really exhausted. My contractions were really close together – I was having them every two minutes and no matter how much I tried to think of my hypnobirthing CD I was defeated by my body. I was only 3cm dilated and yet my contractions were so close together the midwives thought I might need to start pushing!
Once I was examined and found to be miles away from the magic 10cm I decided to have the epidural. I was really against having it all throughout my pregnancy but nothing can really prepare you for how your body will cope under pressure and I was just so tired by this point that I willingly had the epidural placed, while trying not to feel like a failure.
I knew I wasn’t letting anyone down, but I’d given myself a list of criteria I wanted to succeed by for my labour and most of that criteria involved as little intervention as possible, I wanted to prove to myself I could do it all on my own. That’s not quite how things worked out though.
After the epidural
With the epidural in position I was finally able to recuperate, rest and get my energy back – mostly because I literally couldn’t move. Even so, I was happy to finally be able to talk normally. This part of the labour was uneventful, my body was still doing its’ thing opening up my cervix but I couldn’t feel it at all. I pushed the button every hour or so – I wanted to slow down frequency as my labour progressed so that I could give birth in an active position – ideally squatting or standing, however my midwife, who was actually male advised me that I would be in so much more pain if I went from the epidural to feeling everything as normal. I became nervous that if he was telling me to keep going with the button then I probably should listen to him.
After hours and hours and a few midwife shifts later I was finally examined again at around 12am on the Sunday morning and was found to be 10cm. Hurrah. I still had to wait another hour before the doctors were happy for me to start pushing.
When it came to the pushing part I had no power left in my legs, throughout the day I’d be gradually losing control over them and by this time I was very far away from the active birth I’d imagined. I absolutely wanted to avoid giving birth on my back but was unable to move an inch so ended up in the position I least wanted to birth in – in stirrups on my back with people holding my legs.
The pushing part was exciting at first. I could see the two incubator units labelled Twin One and Twin Two at the end of the room and knew that soon they’d be welcoming my babies. It was finally time to meet them!
However… pushing is not fun. It’s bloody hard work and even though I had the epidural I found it exhausting because I didn’t have regular contractions any more and had to give everything to each push. I was told to imagine pushing out a big number two, but without the signals from my body it was almost impossible to know if I was pushing correctly or not. I also found the language used by the midwives really discouraging after a while, “Harder, harder, harder, longer, longer, longer” made me feel like whatever I did was never enough and each time I gave it everything and he still wasn’t here, I felt like I was disappointing everyone. All I need to hear was that I was doing a great job
It turned out my son was back to back which made it harder for him to come out, and after 2 and a quarter hours of them telling me he was nearly there, everyone was getting concerned and I was out of energy. I’d not slept or eaten for hours and seemed to have no strength left at all. I remember feeling limp and also completely intimidated and horrified at the idea that I’d have to push out a second baby after this nearly 2 and a half hour ordeal. I couldn’t imagine having to go through that.
To get things finished I had to have an episiotomy, another thing I was convinced I should avoid at all costs but the staff don’t give them lightly and I knew that I was so tired and the baby had to come out. We were out of options. The cut was made.
Soon after I pushed out Louis and he was born at 5lb 11oz, a perfect purple little person, eyes wide open and ready for a cuddle, he was placed on my chest and the cord was left to pulsate for a couple of minutes although it felt like seconds (one of the only things on my birth plan which actually went to plan).
As soon as he was out one of the midwives’ focus was on my daughter, who was scanned and found to have turned position.
The other midwife was focused on my episiotomy which was now bleeding uncontrollably. The once white blankets underneath me were removed and were now a shocking red. They were weighed and an emergency button was called.
My episiotomy was sewn up straight away and I remember thinking that was a stupid idea as I was going to have to push out another baby shortly, but the bleed was so severe there was no time to waste.
Post Partum Haemorrhage
The room filled with people and I was told that my daughter was now transverse and that she would have to be moved manually. At this point my epidural had worn off and I was rushed into theatre after signing a consent form that I would have a C-section, under general if necessary.
My body was pumped full of drugs and I was eventually numb from the waist down. My legs were placed in stirrups again and a blue sheet was put between my legs so that I couldn’t see what was going on. I just remember the doctor’s arms vanishing under the sheet to turn the baby and then them telling me to push. I gave it a shot, one push later she was delivered by forceps and I had to wait some agonisingly slow minutes before I heard that beautiful first cry.
I was surrounded by people and my husband was in the corner in his scrubs with our babies.
After that, I remember being on the bed and feeling all my life force drain away from me. I was bleeding uncontrollably and was loosing a life threatening amount of blood. I couldn’t stay conscious and kept drifting in and out of the room.
Meanwhile the medics removed the placentas and tried to stop my uterus from pumping out blood. It wasn’t contracting properly after the deliveries and was simply letting me loose litres and litres. They transfused quickly, giving me 4 litres of blood. The average person has 5 litres of blood the doctor told me afterwards.
Eventually they resorted to putting a balloon inside my uterus and filling it with water to put pressure on all sides to stem the bleeding. Then I was packed with gauze and moved to the recovery ward to await my fate, if the balloon in my womb didn’t stop the bleeding enough I was to have an operation.
Finally in the recovery ward, opposite the theatre, just in case, I was able to hold my babies properly for the first time. It was so special. I was so lucky to have survived thanks to the incredible staff at UCLH and was so lucky my babies didn’t need any NICU time, Lenea my daughter was 5lb 9oz and both in great condition.
My birth ended up being a traumatic experience in many ways but also a very humbling one. I thought because my body belonged to me I knew what I could expect from it, but I’d never birthed a baby before, let alone two, and it turned out to be more difficult that I’d anticipated. Sometimes even a positive mental attitude can’t help a girl out.
I now have two healthy happy babies and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m also ever grateful to the staff at UCLH for preparing so well for every eventuality and for reacting promptly and sensibly at every stage.
Before I gave birth I thought medical staff got a bad rap for interferring in what is obviously a natural physical experience but when you need assistance, you’ll be ever indebted to their expertise and knowledge. I know I am.
Thank you UCLH!