After I’ve been in serious pain for hours, they decide the epidural line is in the wrong place and the anesthesia team comes in to replace it. A different doctor this time, a small woman wearing a pink scrub cap. They say that only one person can stay with me for the procedure and Mom and Pastor J rush out of the room. MB stays with me. They bring in a metal contraption that looks like the front part of a massage chair with places for my face and arms attached to a stand which has a place for the feet. I’m told I must sit up and put my face, arms and feet on this stand. The idea being it will put my body in the perfect position for placing an epidural.
The minute I sit up the pain skyrockets. I begin to cry. MB tries to comfort me. Every time I try to place my body in the correct upright position a contraction comes and I fall to the side. I cry and ask if it’s going to go on forever. I wonder if I’m going to die. Finally, someone comes and shoots something into my IV line. I think someone says its propofol. The pain does improve some but I am still crying and unable to hold the proper position. They give me another shot and finally I’m able to sit up although I’m still in some pain and crying. MB asks if I can have another shot and someone tells her another dose could make me stop breathing. They finally are able to replace the epidural line.
Afterwards, they tell me to lie on my side and switch to the other side after an hour. I still feel the contractions for a while but with less intensity. I’m able to stop crying and calm down. I think how strange it is that I can still feel the contractions pretty much full force on the side I’m not laying on. After an hour, I roll over and after a while I don’t feel anything at all from the waist down. I’m able to close my eyes. I think I actually fell asleep during this time. It’s during this time that I think I hear Mom and Dad talking. He decides to go home and when Mom asks if he wants to be there to hold the babies, he says no. I remember hearing two people talking, maybe MB and Pastor J, saying that it had been close to an hour and should they wake me up to have me roll back to the first side. I looked at the clock which I think said 7:50 and said to myself that I would close my eyes for 10 more minutes and then roll over.
It’s also during this time I have a beautiful … dream? vision? of my Grandma B. She’s sitting at her kitchen table and she’s smiling. The table is gleaming from the sun coming through the window and Grandma looks so beautiful. She has a slightly leaning forward posture, like she’s been waiting patiently and she’s ready to dash out the door to meet someone. I think she says something to me but I can’t make out what it is.
When I wake up I know that it will soon be time to give birth to my two sons and that my Grandma will be there to greet them when it’s time for them to leave me. I feel strangely calm and say the doctor should come since I haven’t been checked in a few hours. When Dr. O’Neil does the exam she says she thinks one baby is in the birth canal. Pastor J says MB has gone to get something to eat and we should call her. I remember distinctly asking if I should wait for her to get back to have the babies.
Pastor J calls MB while I ask the doctor if these babies will be similar in appearance to my first son. She says they will look similar but these babies will show some signs of life. I ask if they will cry and she says they won’t. It’s really time now. The doctor asks me to “bear down”. I can’t feel anything below my waist so I ask how to bear down. The nurse says to just try.
The first baby was born. I remember the doctor jerking a little trying to catch him and then laying him on me. The moment I laid eyes on him something changed inside me. Some say you fall in love but for me it was much deeper than that. Something in my hard wiring changed and I became a mother with stars in my eyes for my beautiful baby boy. He blew a little bubble out of his nose and grabbed for my finger when I reached for him. I remember the first words I used, “Oh! What a precious little boy!” I can still hear the proud delight in my voice.
From that moment on my experience was really no different from a full term healthy birth until the end, of course, when they took them away. I told him “Happy Birthday” and motioned Pastor J over. She asked what this baby’s name was and I told her Jack D. She baptized him with two sentences.
Only six minutes later, I handed Jack off to his grandmother and was told to bear down again. I remember asking, “Am I doing it?” Along came Aaron W, who gave the tiniest of squeaks and also grabbed for my finger. Pastor J baptized him.
I know now that the medical people were there working on me during some of the time we are loving Jack and Aaron but it’s like they faded away for me. In the coming days, I was alarmed to look back at some of the pictures and see hands between my legs with blood half way up the arms. I know at one point I asked a nurse in a whisper if the babies were suffering. She said no, they were enjoying being loved on. At another point Dr. O’Neil says they are having trouble getting one of the placentas out and they need to administer some medication. She asks if I want to hold it between my cheek and gums or do I want it inserted rectally. I remember thinking, “For the love of God, what a decision to make right now. It doesn’t matter what happens to me now! Can’t you just leave us alone?” However, one of my favorite moments came when they were inserting the medication. I was holding both babies and when they lowered the bed to insert it. I said something like, “These are the two strangest things I’ve ever done at the same time in my life.” The nurse laughed just a little and said, “Welcome to motherhood.” It made me feel good that she considered me a mother too. The doctor and nurses stay for a while longer but I guess at some point they gave up and finally leave us alone.
We all took turns holding each baby. They are warm and perfect and they move around just a little. Although there are a few tears, the room seems filled with happiness. Mom stands close to the bed and we look at the little feet and hands and fingernails and eyelashes and tiny ears and little noses. We can feel their hearts beating in our hands. We hold them and hug them. We laugh when they move a bit. Pastor J exclaims over how big their feet look in relation to the rest of them. MB notices their long fingers. Mom fusses with their blankets just like any good grandma does. She changes one of them into a clean blanket and checks the other. Aaron likes to keep his mouth open and Jack has a furrowy brow. Aaron has a tiny bit of hair and lots of eyebrows. Jack has a narrower face and a lighter skin tone. Aaron has a fuller face and his scalp has more veins showing. Aaron strongly resembles Em to me and Jack resembles our grandpa.
Someone had called Em. I only wish I had thought to call her earlier because she really should have been there when they were born. She’s almost too late but then she rushes into the room and I tell her, “Look at what we did!” I’m happy and proud to show her our babies. I’m grateful she got there in time to hold and love them. I can even now see her across the room, rocking one of them. She also jokes that Aaron is definitely from her egg because his mouth is always open just like her’s is because she talks so much.
Mom and I reminisce about when Greyson was born. He seemed so much bigger than these boys. It took two good hands to hold him. My twins would each fit in a single hand. Later when they weigh Jack and Aaron, we find out they were all about the same weight. I talk about how Greyson’s skin didn’t look as nice because they took him away for a while after he was born. Mom tries to cover for me by saying they took him away to measure and weigh him and maybe she does remember it like that but I’m unashamed to say that they took my Greyson away at first because I couldn’t bear to look at him. I tell those in the room I wasn’t aware and no one told me, he would be perfectly formed but thought he would be a mass of indistinct tissue. Also, because he never drew a breath of fresh air but died inside me. Someone in the room, Em?, says it does seem like they shouldn’t be this perfectly formed this early.
My happiest time is when I’m holding both Jack and Aaron. I’m truly a mother during these moments and no one can ever take that away from me. I tell each of them over and over that it will just be a short while we’re apart. I tell them I’m sorry I couldn’t take better care of them. Someone in the room says I took good care of them and I say it wasn’t good enough. I tell them to never forget who they are. I tell them I’m a lucky girl to have two beautiful boys. I hold them each again and again so their heads are touching my cheek. I stroke their heads and kiss their foreheads.
We all talk about what might have been. Mom says she thinks Aaron would have been a Professor of Literature. I say Jack would have stayed on the farm. I wonder about the color of their eyes since they are fused shut and Pastor J says she feels that Jack would have had blue eyes. I keep asking things like, “Wouldn’t we have had fun with them?” and “Wouldn’t they have been so cute in the Christmas pageant?” and “Wouldn’t they have just run roughshod all over the farm?” and “I wonder what trouble they would have gotten into.” All the doubts and worries I’ve ever felt and thought recede and I become sure that we would have all had a good time raising these fine boys.
Slowly Jack and Aaron stop their little movements and their skin starts to get cooler. Every time I check they still have a heartbeat. Eventually I stop checking. I have no idea how much time passes but finally the nurse comes in and asks if she should weigh them and check for their heartbeats. Jack comes in at one pound and Aaron is a little smaller at 15.4 ounces. And of course they are both gone.
We take turns holding them one last time and saying goodbye. MB stands over my shoulder and says how she loves them and thanks them for being part of her world. I hold them one last time to my cheek and their heads are so cold. I know it’s time to let them go. When the nurse takes them away, I try to cry hard but only a few tears come. Truthfully at this time, I feel peaceful.