Monday, May 25, 2009

Sleep, Elusive Sleep...

I should be in bed. It's nearly 11 p.m. and the house is quiet. Vivi hunkered down early after a napless day in the sun and Eliya retired with my husband at around 9:30. Jude is making her little baby sleep noises in the seat next to me. The conditions are perfect for sleep and yet I just can't get there.

There is something about being so massively sleep-deprived that makes my body reject the idea of it altogether. It's not that I don't need it. Oh boy, do I. I can barely hold a conversation muchless remember simple things like what I ate for dinner a few hours earlier. It's a long slog through the day on just a few hours of rest yet I can never seem to settle myself down much before 11 p.m.

The moment I climb into bed I start to feel tense. How much time will I get before a baby wakes up? How bad will tonight be? Can I possibly make it through a night without one or both babies ending up in bed with us? (The answer is absolutely not but I cling to the hope.) It's stressful and the stress makes it hard to sleep. Plus, the knowledge that waking up is excruciating once I do fall asleep that I want to avoid it altogether.

Unlike Vivi, these babies are not even close to being good sleepers. From day one, they would only sleep tucked in next to us and we have unwittingly found ourselves with one crowded sleep situation. While I will readily admit that I love to snuggle with my kids, the family bed is taking its toll on me. I just don't sleep as soundly with a baby on either side of me. How un-mammal-like.... So I put the whole thing off.

Any advice?

Sunday, May 24, 2009


As I write, Vivi is sitting in her rocking chair in the living room sucking her thumb. Next to her, Jude is sleepily rocking in the swing. A CD of Native American chants is blasting from the stereo and my husband is dancing in front of both girls trying to make them laugh. (It's starting to work.) I am a few feet away at the computer with Eliya quietly nursing. It is both chaotic and peaceful at the same time. I love when life can be a complete spectrum of emotion in one singular moment. Right now, my life is very, very good.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Birth: Vivi's Take on the Whole Thing

We didn't necessarily plan to have our nearly 3 year-old witness the birth of her twin sisters. As we were planning our homebirth, a part of me wanted Vivi out of the house so I could completely focus on getting the babies out. The other part wanted her there because she was so devoted to my growing belly and her "Turtles." She knew all about the placenta and where the babies would come out and that mommy was likely to be in a lot of pain. I thought that might traumatize her but my midwife assured me that it wouldn't. After all, birth has historically been a family event not a medical one. It just seemed to be a shame not to let Vivi see how the whole thing ended.

I was torn about what to do right up until my labor started. Since we had put Vivi to bed right before things really got going, I thought it would be best to let her sleep. If she woke up at an inconvenient time, we could call our friend. If she slept through the whole thing, then she would get to meet her sisters in the morning. Basically, we could just assess the situation and go from there.

When I saw my friend MiNa holding Vivi right after I birthed Jude, I was surprised. Normally, she yells to us when she wants to get out of bed. Had I not heard her? Where did she come from and what had happened in those few moments when I went from pushing upright to holding a baby on the bed? I don't know but Vivi had both sleepiness and a look of awe on her face. I wasn't sure if she had seen Jude born but she did see Eliya who was out 4 minutes later. After all was over and everyone was examined, cleaned up, and dressed, we snuggled together as one big family. It felt normal and it felt good.

Vivi didn't say anything about the birth until several weeks later. This is what she recounted:

"Mama, I woked up 'cause you was screaming. I was yelling for Daddy but MiNa Chung MiNa came in and got me. Jude Bug was lying on your belly and then two burps later out came the placentas!"

She skipped over Eliya's birth but seems to have taken great joy in witnessing the whole thing.

Oh, and I've discovered that Vivi has a thing for placentas. My friend MiNa took a lot of pictures of the afterbirth. She had never seen a placenta before and was amazed that the babies' sacs had fused together. When I uploaded the pictures onto my computer a week later, I was shocked to see all the photos. I thought that I would get to editing them later which, of course, I never did. Now when the screen saver comes up on my computer and pulls from my picture files, I periodically hear Vivi yell, "Look Mama! There's your placenta!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Birth

Sufficient time has passed and I still haven't written the Turtles' birth story. As a conscientious first-time parent, I wrote Vivi's story within a month of her birth and it's still her favorite thing to hear and retell. I am going on 10 weeks with these Turtles and have finally realized if I wait until I feel rested and coherent, it will never happen. So here goes:

I was 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant when I had an appointment with S, my midwife. While palpating my abdomen, she said, "You're contracting right now." I couldn't feel it and was relieved for that. I wasn't particularly concerned since I had pretty much concluded that I was going to be the size of a house FOREVER so what's a little contraction here and there?

S then asked if she could do an internal exam and found that I was already a centimeter and a half dilated and 80% effaced. She said that she could feel a baby's head and decided to strip my membranes to get things moving. I remember thinking that it was nice having an end in sight to the pregnancy but I also felt some anxiety about the fact that I was going to go from one child to three within a day or so.

As I was packing Vivi up and leaving S's office, she offered some sage advice. "I want you to go home and get some rest. Have a glass of wine and then have sex with lots of orgasms." Huh? I'm sure I looked at her like she had three heads. She said, "I know. I know. It's like docking in space but the oxytocin is really going to help move things along." I left thinking there is no way in hell I am going home and having sex but I'll definitely take a nap.

Within 30 minutes of our departure, I started to have some cramping off and on. It was completely tolerable and I wasn't totally convinced it was doing much of anything so Vivi and I snuggled into my bed and slept for an hour or so. After we woke up, we went about our late afternoon business. She played and I made dinner and did some laundry. Mark came home and we ate and goofed around as usual. At 8 pm, Vivi went to bed and it was immediately after when things really got going.

Mark phoned S. at about 9 pm to tell her that my intermittent cramping had turned into regular contractions about an hour earlier. She said that she would be over to take a look but she wanted to be sure it was the real thing before she called the other three midwives. Mark joked that it definitely was the real thing because I was rolling silently on a yoga ball with a meditation tape instead of watching Gray's Anatomy. Mark then called my two friends named Mina. One Mina had volunteered to take Vivi and the other was going to be my birth buddy. We made the decision to let Vivi sleep but wanted Mina to know that I was in labor and we might call her later to come collect our toddler.

I rolled on the yoga ball in our living room for a couple hours while the house filled with people. I was barely aware of what was going on. I was in my zone focusing on the woman's voice coming from our stereo. The pain wasn't bad at all and I liked having the solitary peace while there was so much going on in the kitchen and upstairs, where I planned to birth.

At about 11:30, S. asked me to move upstairs while I was still able to climb the steps. I couldn't believe how our bedroom had been transformed into a birthing space within a few hours. There was a large inflated tub sitting in the middle, tools neatly lined up on a dresser, and other supplies lined up along a wall. I was waiting for the tub to fill so I continued to labor on my own by walking the hallway upstairs. The pain was getting more intense and I would go from feeling warm to quite cold. At one point during the evening, I sat on Mark's meditation cushion in his office with my back pressed up against the heater. The heater in that room is particularly active and the cushion provided just the right height to help with the back labor I had.

At about midnight, I was starting to feel like I needed some extra help with the pain and I wanted to go in the tub. The problem was that the water heater had run out of hot water before the pool had filled so the midwives, Mark, and MiNa were frantically boiling water on the stove while the water heater refilled. It was something out of Frontier House and I remember thinking that this is going to be pretty funny after the fact. At the time, however, it was really hard trying to make it through the pain. The back labor (which I did not have with Vivi) was excruciating.

Finally, I was able to get into the tub and was there until I felt ready to push. I got out of the tub and the midwives moved me to the bed. I lied down and said that I couldn't push that way and I wanted to stand up. I think they may have been reluctant to let me but I remember somehow getting up. The midwives had cranked the heat up for the babies and I was feeling completely overheated. I was pleading for them to open a window or to let me go downstairs but they wouldn't. I was standing/resting on Mark while someone held a cold cloth to my head and a midwife fanned me with another.

When I gave birth to Vivi, I was pushing for two and a half hours and never once felt like I was getting her down. With this birth, every push felt like real progress. I think I did six really hard pushes before Turtle A was about to crown. I was still standing up when this happened and the midwives said that I had to move to the bed. I refused. I was in such intense pain that there was no way I could walk the three steps to the bed. Every instinct I had told me to keep pushing and I was trying to do that when Mark basically carried/tackled me on to the bed. I was seriously pissed off but in retrospect, I understand why. With twins, the midwives needed a clear view of what was following the first baby in the event that Turtle B had a prolapsed cord. (That would have required immediate transport to the hospital.)

As I was lying on the bed, S. broke my bag of waters and with one push out came the first baby. She was quiet for a moment and then started crying. It was a frantic cry and she was a little purple but it was an immense relief that she was out. As she was lying on my belly, I looked over at my friend MiNa and saw that she was holding Vivi. It was all so overwhelming that I was completely in the moment and had totally forgotten about the second baby until 4 minutes later and one big push, out she came!
More to come.... babies are crying....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seeing or Doing

Yesterday, I saw my twins for the first time in a long time. I don't mean seeing in the sense that they were off traveling and now they're home or the daily recognition that the blue-eyed baby with more hair is Jude. I mean really seeing-- taking the moment in and truly understanding who these beings are and what our collective life is now.

In the whirlwind of the past eight weeks, I have been going, going, going without much of an awareness of how, why, and for whom I am doing things. At our house, there is almost always someone crying and it rarely registers in my head who. All I do is run through a checklist of possible causes and remedies. Diaper clean? Check! Full belly? Check! Working toy? Check! Vivi occupied? Check! Gas? Ahh, that's it. Then I mindlessly proceed to try 25 different ways to relieve it. I am barely conscious.

I'd like to think it is sleep-deprivation that is causing me to subconsciously check-out on my life but it's more than that. There's the sheer volume of work that makes it next to impossible to sit back and enjoy the moment. There's also the mama guilt that was born the moment these Turtles entered the world. It's a distressing reality that I am outnumbered by babies and can't give either one my full attention so I've been giving nothing and everything all at once.

So, in what must have been a moment of divine something or another, I actually sat in recognition of what my life truly is and who my twin daughters really are. I saw that they are beautiful, helpless, open beings and in a rush of overwhelming emotion, I felt incredibly privileged and lucky to be their mother.

Then Eliya puked and I was back to doing...