I spent the majority of my first pregnancy thinking about giving birth: how it would happen, when it would happen, if I would know it was happening. I definitely had a plan in mind, but I also knew that birth plans don’t always work out like the mom-to-be hopes.
After months of infertility, I was thrilled to be carrying twin boys. I felt great, was taking water aerobics, discussing boy names with Hubby and pricing two cribs (along with two sets of everything else) when my doctor dropped a bomb at my 20-week appointment: I was in preterm labor and would be on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy.
Luckily, I could stay home with the aid of a terbutaline pump meant to stop the contractions and delay my labor for as many weeks as possible. I spent those weeks on the couch watching a television program called “Birth Day” about high-risk pregnancies. In every case, the mother’s birth plan didn’t work out as intended. I was addicted to the show, and it began to freak me out.
I knew there was a high probability that I would have to have a C-section. After watching one too many of them on television, I also spent my weeks willing both babies to be head down. My plan was to deliver both babies vaginally.
I had just passed the 34-week mark when I began to have excruciating back pain. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sit, and I couldn’t sleep. “The only way we will know if you are in labor is to come in,” the nurse on the phone told me. Once in the hospital door, I promptly threw up.
I was in labor.
Thankfully, both babies were head down, and a vaginal birth was imminent. Despite that, I was taken to an operating room “just in case.” After Baby A was born, the nurses held him up for a quick glance before whisking him to the neonatal intensive-care unit, with my husband following.
And then, nothing. My contractions stopped, and I felt Baby B, who had been cramped for 34 weeks by his brother, stretching out and getting comfortable in my now-roomy uterus, with no plans to vacate anytime soon.
My cervix had closed and needed to dilate again to deliver Baby B. I was a little scared — I mean, aren’t twins usually born one after the other? What if my cervix decided to be as stubborn as Baby B and stay closed? What if, after all the pushing for Baby A, I would need a C-section to deliver Baby B? What if this extra uterus time somehow harmed Baby B?
My doctor was the smartest person I have ever known. She had a fact and a percentage for everything. She assured me she wouldn’t have to operate to get Baby B out and that he would be fine as long as they were monitoring his vitals. I trusted her implicitly. If she said my cervix would dilate again, it would.
The nurses gave me a blanket and some Pitocin and told me to get comfortable.
Time went by. Hubby popped in to say Baby A was doing great and then left me alone again. The nurses and I laughed about it being New Year’s Eve: What if this baby isn’t born until next year? they joked.
After two hours, I didn’t think it was funny anymore. I was shivering and the oxygen mask was making my mouth dry. I asked for ice chips and saw my doctor solemnly shake her head at the nurse. I knew she was thinking she’d have to operate.
After three hours and a nursing shift change, my doctor said, “Kathy, we have to get this baby out.” I had to push. I had to make Baby B leave the comfort of his months-long home.
Three hours and two minutes after his older brother was born, Baby B came into the world. This time, the nurse let me kiss him before whisking him to the NICU.
In the years to come, my doctor would share my story with her other mothers of multiples. It was a hospital record, she would say.
In the years to come, I would wonder if the three extra hours in my uterus caused my son’s ADHD and autism. (We found out that they were actually caused by a gene deletion.)
My doctor delivered two of my other three babies and saw me through two miscarriages. I still think she is the smartest doctor I know, and I wouldn’t change a thing about the way my twins were born. Even though it missed the mark by more than three hours, my birth totally went according to plan.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2016.