Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nikolas and Patrick's Birth Story

It was Boxing Day (December 26) 2005. My husband Shawn and I were having the “talk.” We had three children, Talia was almost 6, Neil and Theodore would be turning 4 in two days. We had always planned on having three or four children, but we had never anticipated the joys and challenges of having three children in 22 months and only two pregnancies. They were all born at home, but my twin pregnancy had been stressful. Although the birth was quick and straightforward (despite Neil being breech, and Theodore transverse until Neil was born), the stress of the battle, and the fear brought in to that birth had coloured the experience (attending twins is against midwifery regulations here and the threat of c-section for breech). It had taken until they were 3 years old before I fully processed and celebrated their birth.

I knew that weaning for all three was coming soon and the baby years were coming to a close, it had been so wonderful, so intense and so overwhelming — growing, birthing and caring for three babies. And, so short. I wanted to draw it out, and savour it a bit more. Shawn wasn’t sure he could handle meeting the needs of another baby, and there was the significant possibility that I may get pregnant with twins again. I told him, I would grieve not having one more, but that I needed his support. He said he was willing to try one more time. I was surprised, and delighted. Nikolas and Patrick were conceived soon after.

Once I confirmed I was pregnant, I called my midwife. We arranged to meet after my first trimester was over, and she would do an ultrasound at the clinic she now worked at, to see if we were having twins again, as we wanted to be more prepared for that possibility this time (we confirmed twins at 29 weeks with Neil and Theodore). A groundbreaking underground midwife for many, many years, she was now finally enjoying a decent income and a more predictable schedule. This however, limited her ability to attend homebirths, and she only took on a few select clients at this point.

My pregnancy was progressing normally, and I was really enjoying the feeling of growing another little soul. I was slightly nauseous, but like my other pregnancies nothing unmanageable, and of course a bit tired. My nipples were sore with nursing, but I was happy to keep nursing my “big” kids.

At about 9 weeks, I emailed my friend Annemarie, and asked if she wanted to be my doula. We had had barely enough hands here for my twin birth and I thought an extra pair of hands closer to my home would be a good idea. As soon as I e-mailed her I regretted it, I had the strongest and most intense feeling that I needed to be alone for this birth.

About mid-February I started to feel really worn out. Close to the end of the month on a Monday (I was 11 weeks), I started bleeding in the mid-afternoon. It was bright red, and I was scared. I had had some spotting in my pregnancy with Neil and Theo but it hadn’t been as late, and it hadn’t been as red. I called my mom, Shawn, Annemarie and my midwife. I would have just waited it out to see what would happen if Shawn wasn’t leaving town on Wednesday, on a business trip, but I knew I needed to know what was going on if he was going to be gone. My midwife was able to see us Tuesday, so we drove out to the birth centre where she works (about 45 minutes out of town), and had the ultrasound a little earlier than planned.

She wanted us to know that she wasn’t an expert with this machine, as she had only had 15 minutes of training on it, but none of this stuff is rocket science and we were simply looking for one thing. A heartbeat.

She turned it on, and there was a little tiny baby curled up with its heart beating nicely. Everything looked great, Shawn asked what this big white band across the top right was on the screen, my midwife wasn’t sure, but thought maybe it was cord (that seemed odd to me as the baby wasn’t that big, and the “cord” seemed much wider than it should be). He was persistent, and asked what the blob on the other side of the white band was, so she slid the wand over. There was a baby, in a different position, moving around in a different way, with another nice heartbeat. I asked if it could be the same one, from a different angle. She raised her eyebrows, and slid the wand to the middle of my belly and the white band was down the centre of the screen, and there were two little babies, looking good. The white band was the separation between their sacs. I was having twins again.

Immediately, we started talking about my birth options. I knew my midwife would risk losing her job if she attended me at home, I knew I didn’t want to go to the hospital. She started talking about the hospital or trying to swing getting me in to the birth centre (an unlikely possibility, and the idea of a 45 minute drive in labour did not appeal to me!), I suggested I could have an unassisted birth. We discussed seeing the OB I had seen with my other twins, but figured I could wait until at least 27 weeks.

The whole thing threw us for a loop initially. Five children was not something we ever considered very seriously. We knew first hand how intense it was parenting two infants, now we also had three older children to attend too (although thankfully no toddler this time). We knew the birth options were very limited. I was mopey and exhausted; I wallowed in self-pity, mourning the relative ease of birthing and parenting a singleton, frightened for our marriage and our kids, since I knew what kind of stress lay ahead. And, also scared for the babies growing inside, as I was still bleeding. I was glad at that point that I had asked Annemarie to doula for me, as I realized that I may need more hands, and more advocates than I had previously thought. But the feeling of needing privacy did not leave.

It took me twelve days of bleeding to pull myself out of the wallow. On the twelfth day I woke up in the morning and decided that it was possible that I could bleed through my entire pregnancy, but that I knew how to grow and birth twins and that I could do it again. In my previous twin pregnancy, when Neil had turned breech and we were discussing c-section, my midwife had said to me “Don’t ever forget it is your body, they are your babies, and you always have a choice.” I held on to that message again. That day I had a call from a second attendant in the next province about something completely unrelated. She was calling about a Birth Issues magazine deadline that she thought was that day (I had been the editor until recently), but in fact was a month away. I think she was my first angel. We had a lovely conversation and she was confident that I could birth my twins at home without a “professional” and that I knew what I was doing. She also told me there was a lovely video of an unassisted twin birth that she had heard about. She couldn’t remember the name, but told me to ask Gloria Lemay. I knew then I was on the right path and that I would follow my heart and my instincts to create the birth that my babies and I needed. That afternoon, the bleeding had stopped.

I contacted Gloria Lemay; she was also very positive and told me about the video: The Birth of Psalm and Zoya ( I immediately contacted Mindy Goorchenko, and purchased the DVD. She also sent me a thoughtful message describing her process, in a way that spoke to my experience. It was so good to finally meet someone who understood what I was going through. I didn’t watch the DVD right away and then I misplaced it. I found it strange that I couldn’t find it, but then decided it would reappear when I needed it to.

I spent a lot of time talking to my babies telling them I would really appreciate it if they were both head down. I read a fair bit on optimal positioning, wonderful unassisted birth books including my favourite “Birthing the Easy Way” by Sheila Stubbs, which opened up the door to birth as an intimate sexual encounter. Something I figured might help my husband wrap his head around catching our babies.

I spoke to a woman I know who had an unplanned, but not unwanted unassisted twin birth and she told me what Michel Odent and written to her about “special twin protocols.” He’d said “First we wait for the first twin, then we wait for the second twin, then we wait for the placentas.” I figured I could do that!

I continued to make connections, contacting other women who had had twins at home (with and without midwives present), and joining many unassisted childbirth (UC) e-mail lists. Every time I began to doubt my path (and it was often!), I would get a message that told me I was on the right path. Sometimes they were devastatingly sad, including the death of a twin son during a c-section of a mom I had supported indirectly. Some were joyous and serendipitous. Such as learning about Mrs. Vassilyev a peasant woman who had 69 babies, all multiples — 16 sets of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quads in 19th century Russia The sad and disturbing ones were always hospital scenarios. The joyous births and serendipitous moments always told me that home was the safest place for me and my babies.

As I spoke to people about my options, I never suggested I had made a decision, but the responses were profound. I had people tell me that they had stayed up at night worrying about me, and others tell me I should go to the hospital and do art therapy to process my fear. I made it clear, that I was more concerned about my babies than they were (to suggest otherwise is such an insult) and that I would be the one having to live with whatever choice I made and that no matter what happened, in hospital or out, I would be responsible. No one ever tells a woman going to the hospital that they are up worried about them because of it (though we should be), or that she should do art therapy to figure out why she is scared of birthing at home or birth in general (which we should also do!). Fundamentally, we are responsible for our children and our own lives, from the moment they are conceived, until they are able to take responsibility for themselves.

It became increasingly clear that I needed to protect myself from other people’s fear, and I realized that I had to go in to partial “hiding.” This process helped me realize how sensitive to fear I was, I have always been very empathetic but I began to realize that I am more than that. That I have a gift for instinctively reading other people’s feelings, but that this also comes with the significant risk of losing my boundaries and letting those feelings rule my own instincts. Knowing this, I was much better able to protect myself, but it was still a challenge.

I began to realize that fear was my biggest enemy in birth (and I believe it is for any birthing woman) not only in the concrete way that our birthing hormones are compromised, but also that other people bringing fear into birth is a dangerous and unhealthy thing. I had previously been attending a local hospital to talk to expectant parents of multiples about breastfeeding, I always felt sick walking in there although I generally have no trouble with public speaking. The sessions would always go well, but my knees felt weak going in and leaving. Finally, during this pregnancy I realized that I was reacting to the fear in the building, the fear of the staff who believe birth is dangerous, the fear of the little babies, aggressively torn in one way or another from their mothers and separated from them, even if sometimes only briefly, the fear of the mothers, traumatized, abused and disempowered, the fear of their partners and support people also traumatized, abused and disempowered. I realized also, that this deep fear that rose up from my gut was healthy and protective and that it came from my own earliest moments. My mother had wanted a natural birth, even a home birth, but I was born on a long weekend, she had a doctor they called “the butcher,” instead of her carefully researched and interviewed OB, and I was separated from her against her will (and my own), with the nurses bringing me back crying to be fed saying “she’s the only one crying in the nursery.” I had good reason to be afraid of the hospital. I knew that during those most intense, vulnerable and instinctual moments, I would not be able to keep other people’s fears out of my birth, that I would take them on myself and that that would put me and my babies at risk. It was such a relief to know why I felt the way I did, and that my responses were healthy and protective. Now I just needed to keep myself safe and work on my boundaries.

I was still looking for support people, not completely convinced of an unassisted birth. I spoke a number of times to a midwife who used to be registered but now practiced rarely as a TBA. Initially, our conversations were positive and she seemed supportive, but shortly before our first meeting, she started to sound quite guarded. She told me that if anything “twigged” she would call 911. Now I don’t have any qualms about calling the paramedics in an emergency, but it didn’t sound like we were going to be a part of this decision if she made it. She also didn’t seem to be connecting to me on an intuitive level, and misunderstood some of the things I was expressing, this seemed like a dangerous combination, but I waited until I met her to make a decision. When my husband and I met her I could feel her fear as she walked in to our house. She was friendly and supportive, but she had never attended a twin home birth before and many of the hospital twin births had been c-sections. It was obvious she didn’t completely trust me, or the process in our situation and that her fear would get in the way. After that I knew I was on my own.

My friend Annemarie was also going through a tough time, as she was put in a position where she had to choose between supporting me and a few other women, and birthing women’s choices in general, or continuing her midwifery studies. She chose to quit, as she felt the professionalization and registration of midwifery in our province was undermining women’s choices, a sentiment I strongly agreed with and one I had to combat in my first twin pregnancy as well. I find it highly ironic that with a supposedly “high risk” (I hate that term) pregnancy, the continuity of care touted to be so important, is completely undermined.

I kept making deals with myself about what kind of help and what kind of equipment I would need to feel “safe.” Initially I wanted oxygen, as I was worried about the second twin. Theo had had heart decels as he was turning (and as our fear mounted), and although he didn’t need oxygen, he needed more rubbing than my other pink and vocal babies. I looked into getting a Doppler to check the second baby’s heart rate after the first one was born, in order to monitor the situation in case it was similar to what I had had with Theo. In the end Annemarie ended up finding equipment to borrow if we wanted, but by then I had begun to trust that I could birth without it.

I enjoyed hiding out through the summer. My due date was September 19, but I expected they would come a bit earlier. My daughter was born at 38 ½ weeks, and my first twins born at 37 weeks. I wanted to avoid having borderline term babies again, as Neil and Theo were sleepy and less effective at the breast initially, but I also knew that the OB may start pressuring me to induce after 38 weeks due to the misinformed attitude that twins cook faster and are full term at 38 weeks. Looking at the calendar, I realized that I would be 38 weeks on Monday September 4th –Labour Day. I thought that was highly appropriate, so I decided that would be a good day for them to be born.

I held off seeing the OB until I was about 29 weeks, and then he didn’t do the ultrasound to confirm positioning that I was expecting. He listened quickly with a Doppler, but didn’t even get both heartbeats. As usual, he didn’t tell me what my blood pressure was when he took it, just that it was fine and I had to ask him three times for the numbers. (I had been worried about it earlier n my pregnancy after getting one quite high reading). Isn’t it MY blood pressure? He talked about how I knew better this time than to try to have a home birth, since my midwife couldn’t attend me but I reassured him that I was still keeping my options open. Despite being quite patronizing, he is one of the most natural birth and midwifery friendly OBs in the city. It’s sad though, as he truly doesn’t understand the real issues. My next visit with him at 33 weeks, I had the ultrasound and sure enough both babies were head down and growing very nicely. Nothing I didn’t know. I noticed that the presenting baby was curved to the side under my right side, but the tech didn’t think anything of it. I realized then that the baby’s head was sideways and that could be tricky, but when I mentioned it the doctor and my midwife they didn’t seem to think it was a problem so I dismissed it. The OB also had a resident come in to my appointment, without asking permission, and told me of a twin birth the night before where everything went well at 35 weeks and both babies were over 5 pounds. He then told the resident that he likes to tell stories like this to his patients who like things “au naturel” so they realize it’s not a butcher shop. I wasn’t impressed, my first twins were 6lbs 8ozs and 6lbs 13ozs at 37 weeks. My primary issue with hospital birth isn’t wanting things “au naturel” necessarily (although I think that’s generally best). My issue is rather with who holds the power and with the climate of fear. When Shawn asked if the OB if he heard both heartbeats, he said “no”, he “relies on ultrasound for that.” Funny thing, since I had only ever had two ultrasounds my entire pregnancy. I asked the nurse to see my blood pressure on my chart after the appointment as again he didn’t tell me the numbers. He told us he was going on holidays for all of August, but that I could see his friend who was covering for him. I avoided booking an appointment and left, knowing I wouldn’t ever be going back.

My midwife was also finding it hard to get both heartbeats, and sometimes I was worried about one of the babies because the movements weren’t all over the place like they had been with my first set of twins. However, their positioning also meant that their movements would be more localized. I often suggested checking for the heart rate further over to my right, but she didn’t always do it. My reassurance came primarily when I would ask the babies to let me know they were ok.

My midwife was also going on holidays in August, and so was my very supportive family doctor. I thought it highly ironic, that all my “professional” support was leaving town in my final month of pregnancy. I figured it must be a sign that I wasn’t meant to have their help for the birth, and I relished preparing my nest and getting more in touch with my own instincts. I had collected a number of quotations and images to put on my wall in my bedroom, so I started to put them up on my wall, I collected supplies for the birth, and I tried to take it easy. I had been measuring myself throughout my pregnancy to compare it to the “pros.” During those last weeks, I would measure myself and take my blood pressure. Annemarie would come over and the three of us, with all of our kids hanging around, would listen to the babies’ heart rates. It was funny because although we had a Doppler, the Pinard and fetoscope were much more accurate. We found the heart rates more consistently than any of my professional support people ever had throughout my pregnancy, partly because one of the babies was much further over on my right side. We always had so much fun, and it was such a mutual experience.

Towards the end of August, probably about the 22nd or 23rd, I started to have intermittent periods of regular contractions. They were painless, but my uterus was definitely working. I felt it was a little too early, but I also knew it could still be weeks, and I had already decided to stay home as long as the babies were over 34 weeks. By Friday, the 24th, I figured something must be happening to my cervix, as I was getting this strange, but not unpleasant vibrating sensation throughout the day, so I asked Annemarie to describe to Shawn how to check my cervix, since I couldn’t reach it. I kept trying but my belly was too big. He did so and found that I was about 4 – 5 cm dilated. I was surprised it was that far along, and figured I might be having these babies a bit earlier than anticipated. Over the weekend I had this vibrating sensation and rounds of contractions in the mornings and evenings that would send me on endorphin highs. I would feel so blissful and so sleepy as my body would work on opening up, and then they would stop. Shawn decided he would stay home since things were definitely progressing, if slowly. On Monday, I asked Annemarie to check my dilation, something she had only ever done about half a dozen times during her studies. I wanted to confirm Shawn’s estimation.

At that point I was around 7 and very “squishy.” Shawn was quite accurate.

This pattern of an hour or so of regular painless, endorphin filled contractions in the morning and evening continued all week. Every night I would go to bed thinking maybe it will be tonight, and every morning I would think, well maybe it will be later today. As the week progressed it became increasingly frustrating. The emotional roller coaster was intense. Shawn and I spent a lot of time together, and we were enjoying the process of loving the babies out. I hadn’t had this opportunity with the others, as my labours had been so fast. But, I was also starting to get scared that there was something suddenly wrong with me, since my other labours had been fast and furious and this was definitely NOT Friedman’s curve. I would wonder if I should go to the hospital, but every time I would say to myself, “you are fine, your babies are fine, your mental state is the problem, and how would they help that?” And I knew I would wait a little longer. By Friday September 1st, I was essentially fully dilated, except for a small lip. I was ready to tear my hair out. In the back of my mind I thought that something was up with the baby’s positioning, but since no one had confirmed this for me, I didn’t really think about it.

In the evening, I even had a round of pushing contractions that then petered out to nothing. My kids were getting really anxious, and Shawn was getting exhausted with taking care of me, and taking care of the kids. On Saturday September 2nd, I had friends over in the evening for supper. My usual evening contractions started up again, and I holed up in the bedroom. I even started having pushing contractions again, and this time my water broke. My mom was over too, and there was a party in the house. Part of me knew I needed to be alone, but part of me wanted to have the party too. My mom convinced us to call Annemarie, and she came over and we holed up in the room for a while. I asked her to push on the lip while I was pushing, but in the end she looked at me and told me she didn’t think my heart was in it and that I should go to bed. I was so sad and had a hard time falling asleep that night. But, I realized that I had to change something.

I decided that night that I needed to cleanse my house of all the pent up fear and emotional energy that I had allowed to enter. So many people were thinking of us and lighting candles and praying, and others were scared and not supportive, the combined emotional load was too much for me to bear. I decided that the next morning I would sweep my porches, and walk around the house with a candle to purify it and bless it and reclaim it as a safe place. I asked Shawn to support me and help me create this safe place, and help me reclaim my own body as a safe place for my babies as well. I fell asleep feeling exhausted but much more grounded.

The next morning (Sunday Sept 3) I woke up really early. I had Shawn work through a relaxation visualization for me (from Sheila Stubbs book – I think), and I went outside and vigorously swept my back deck, sending everyone’s energy back home where it belonged. I swept my front porch too, and was feeling quite worn out by then, but I continued by lighting a candle and going thorough my entire home, including the porches, reciting simply: “This is my home and it is a safe place.” Then I drew a picture of my family, in our home with two babies in my arms and an arc of protection over our house. I called Annemarie saying I wanted to take castor oil and get things moving. I had arranged for my kids to go to my father’s for the afternoon, so I could concentrate on kicking labour in to gear.

Annemarie said she would come over, but that first we needed to farm out the kids, and do whatever I needed to do to get in to the right space such as: go for a walk, have a bath, cuddle with Shawn etc. The hardest thing she asked me to do was to draw a picture of my worst fear and how I would cope with it if it happened, and then a picture of what I wanted to happen. She said Shawn should do the same, and that she would do the same as unexamined fears would otherwise get in our way. I knew as soon as she asked this that it was crucial that I do this, but that it would be incredibly difficult. I got off the phone and started to cry inconsolably. My worst fear was horrible and I had been shoving it down, hoping to ignore it. Shawn took the kids off to my dad’s and I started to draw. It was just stick figures, but the images were clear. I feared that after I had the first baby that something would happen to require me to transfer for the second baby and that I would have a c-section and the baby would die. I would then become the center of some media storm, have my children taken from me and have my husband abandon me. The only thing I could think of that I could do to cope with this complete loss was pump my milk for my living baby or some other baby if they wouldn’t give my baby my milk. I sobbed through the whole thing, but felt so much better after putting it on paper. I also drew a picture of myself holding a baby, with a second baby crowning and everything peaceful and serene.

Shawn came home and we went for a walk, I couldn’t get past the end of my block but it was good to be up and moving. I then had a bath and soaked for a while, talking to my babies and telling them how much I loved them and how ready I was to meet them. Annemarie came over at about 3:30pm with castor oil, a milkshake to drink it down and a big textbook from her studies. A colleague had suggested to her that since the membranes were ruptured on the first baby that maybe we should check the fontanels to figure out what position the baby was in before trying to get things started.

Before doing anything else, we lit candles for us and the babies and shared our fears. I cried when I shared mine, but Annemarie immediately realized what my story was really about. She asked me if I had been separated from my mother at birth. Of course I had. And then said “this is about fearing abandonment” and suddenly everything clicked for me. There had been many times in my life that I had felt abandoned. I have known for a long time that the fear of abandonment was probably one of my most deeply held fears. Yet, I had not faced this fear until now in all the work I had done through my pregnancy. Realizing this was a tremendous relief, and it is not surprising to me that once I cleared my mind and heart of this fear, everything else became much clearer. Shawn and Annemarie also shared their fears, they were both primarily afraid that if things weren’t going well and I needed to transfer that I would be mistreated in the hospital and they both knew how devastating that would be for me.

Once we had cleared the air, we set to work on figuring out what position the presenting baby was in. Annemarie pulled out this book that has diagrams of the dozens and dozens of possible positions and the relative location of the fontanels in each one. When she felt, and Shawn felt, we realized that the baby was sideways but we weren’t sure if the baby’s nose was facing up toward my left hip, or if he was facing down toward my right hip. While lying there, I said to Annemarie that since my membranes had rupture I felt this really hard part on my right hip and it made hands and knees positions really painful. She felt over there and guessed that it was a shoulder, we listed to the heart tones there and finally heard the presenting baby’s heart rate as clear as day for the first time since early in my pregnancy. Just as I had suspected when seeing the ultrasound, the baby was sideways and it was causing me issues. He was posterior, but sideways posterior. Not exactly an optimal position. This explained the cervical lip, it explained the on again, off again labour (although not the painless part!). Rather than take the castor oil we decided that I would work on turning the baby, easier said than done at 38 weeks, with ruptured membranes and another baby perfectly lined up vertex right on top of him! But I was confident that over a few days we could encourage him to turn one way or the other and that he could be born.

I immediately started doing hands and knees which was incredibly painful. I had a bath and lay on my left side in the bath to encourage him to roll that way. We walked some more and over all I felt much better about things, knowing that we would wait a while longer, and we were no longer in a rush and I knew what was happening, and my instincts had been right all along. Once again, trusting my own instincts was proving to be the best course of action.

I decided to go with Shawn to pick up our kids at my dad’s place. I wanted to get out, and be able to collect them, as they were feeling pretty at sea with mom in the bedroom all the time and dad doing double duty taking care of me and trying to tend to them. The emotional intensity, and the anxiety and waiting had been really hard on them. When we got there I told my dad what we had learned, he was quite unsure about this whole process and asked me yet again if I would go to the hospital if something was going wrong. I reassured him that I would, but I was angry that I had to assuage his fear, and let that in to my psyche after all the work I had done to cleanse my mind, my body and my home of other people’s fears. When I got home, I sat on the porch and refused to come in until I had cleared it from my mind and heart. I lit a candle, and started writing, pages of stuff, purging all my pent up anger, frustration and fear. Our neighbour across the street came over to chat, he was feeling quite social and so Shawn and I visited with him for a while. He finally went home, and I was able to finish my writing and come in. My butt was very sore from sitting on the stairs of our porch with a baby head between my legs, I was exhausted, but at peace.

That night I went to bed, lying on my left side instead of my right. I had been sleeping on my right, because that meant I was on the bed closest to the edge so I could get up and pee, and I always rolled onto my right side to snuggle with Shawn. This of course encouraged the baby to snuggle into a curve on my right side, a position he’d been in for weeks now. So this time, I took up the spot on the inside wall, so I could put my right leg over Shawn and encourage the baby to turn over. I went to sleep, thinking that it would be days before I would meet my babies, but feeling much more peaceful.

I woke up to go to the bathroom about 4am. I crawled over Shawn, went to the bathroom and as I was sitting on the toilet looking up at the sky I had a contraction that hurt. Then almost immediately, I had another one. I felt my belly, and was stunned to realize that the presenting baby’s bum was now under my right breast, instead of deep under my armpit. My baby had turned almost 180 degrees in just a few hours, despite another baby being on top of him and his membranes being ruptured, and being wedged deep in my pelvis! I had another contraction, it really, really hurt. I called Shawn and he came to the bathroom. He helped me up and we went back to our bedroom, it was only a few feet but I had another couple contractions in that short walk.

I got in to a hands and knees position on a gym mat beside my bed, and I was in transition. I think the baby was still trying to turn a bit as the contractions were unbearable. After about a half an hour or so, I asked Shawn to call Annemarie as I didn’t feel like I was coping well at all. I talked to the babies but I was feeling like I was going to lose control at anytime. Annemarie arrived close to 4:50am. I was exhausted and totally overwhelmed. I kept thinking “I can’t do this for six hours” because the TBA I had spoken to earlier in my pregnancy had told me that third births often mimic first births, and my first labour had been six hours. Apparently, I hadn’t tackled that fear before my labour, so “I can’t do this for six hours” became my mantra. Almost as soon as Annemarie arrived I asked to lie down. I had been on my hands and knees up until then, but every part of me was in excruciating pain. I felt like my insides were being shredded, and I wasn’t even pushing yet. The area that had been so painful on my hands and knees before active labour was searing with pain now. Shawn and Annemarie helped me to the bed, but before I was even on my side, I had to clamber up off the bed, with a will that came from some unknown place, as I didn’t think I had the strength in me to continue. Lying down was absolutely the last thing my body wanted to do. I think if I had successfully lied down I would have given up, but my body wouldn’t let me do it.

I went back to hands and knees for a few minutes and then the contractions started to change. They started as transition contractions, but they midway through, they changed to pushing contractions. It was confusing and strange, nothing I had ever experienced before. Pushing, during my other births, had always been so much easier than transition, but this was like transition and pushing all squished together. At one point Annemarie said to me “You’ve done this before and you can do it again!” I really didn’t think I could do this, I felt truly on the edge. But when she said this it helped me focus. She apologizes later for being so blunt, but it was exactly what I needed at the time. After a few more of these weird in-between contractions, Annemarie helped me in to a supported deep squat. Then the pushing started in earnest and after only a few minutes the baby was crowning, I pushed the head out, and unlike my other births, I had to wait for another contraction to push his body out in to Shawn’s waiting arms. Shawn scooped up our son and passed him straight in to my arms. He was crying a bit, and as soon as he was on my chest, he bobbed over and latched on to my breast. I kept saying “my big baby,” “my big baby.” He looked so gigantic to me. And so perfect, and so much like his big brother Neil, the first born of my other set of twins. I sat on the floor, holding and nursing him. He was born at about 5:20 am, an hour and 20 minutes after my labour had “officially” started. We were all so ecstatic.

Eventually, I had to sit up, so Shawn and Annemarie helped me up on to the birth stool, with the baby still in my arms. With our first set of twins, I had ached for my baby after Neil was born and we were waiting for Theo, I desperately wanted to hold him, but I needed to change positions and things were to stressful, he was crying, and passed between Shawn, my mom and Shawn’s mom, while I changed positions and talked to him across the room. It was heart-wrenching. This time I held on tight knowing I wouldn’t have to give him up if I didn’t want to. As I sat nursing our new son, I talked to him and kept telling him that his brother or sister was coming out too and that they would be together again soon. I also told the baby inside that his brother was out here now with mommy and daddy and that he would be with us soon too. I wish I had told Neil and Theo what was going on during their birth. I think it would have helped us all stay calm. Meanwhile, Shawn called our moms and our daughter Talia got up. My sister Hannah (who was sleeping over and helping with our other kids) had been awake during the birth, but knew how desperately I had wanted privacy. We invited Hannah and Talia in.

Once the phone calls were done, we chatted for a few minutes and I started talking to the second baby, as I wanted to be sure he was ok. I felt him kick, and Annemarie asked if I wanted to check the heart tones, as that had been a great fear of mine earlier in my pregnancy. I said yes, but I already knew he was doing just fine from his movements. His heart rate was perfect, and he was already engaged in my pelvis. My mom got in the door just in time for my pushing contractions to start up again. The baby’s nursing helped get things going again, and I was so glad for that. After a few pushes, I realized I couldn’t concentrate with the little baby in my arms, looking over my shoulder I saw Talia sitting on the bed, and I knew what I could do. I asked her if she wanted to hold the baby, she was thrilled. I started to push and after another minute Talia gave the baby to my mom while she went over beside her dad so she could see the next baby be born. I pushed and Shawn said “I see the head, I see the head! “ And in the next moment there was a big explosion and water went everywhere. For a split second, he thought something had gone terribly wrong, and then we all started to laugh, the baby’s head had not exploded; it was the sac of waters. I had never had that experience before as all my labours started with my membranes rupturing, and Theo had has his artificially ruptured. On the next push, the baby’s head was crowning, and then I pushed out the head, and finally the body. Our second baby boy was born after about 4 minutes of pushing, 29 minutes after his brother. He was a bit gurgly, and we rubbed him a little, he looked so wide eyed, and covered in vernix and looking quite a bit like Theo, his older brother, and the second born of our first set of twins. I was quite stunned to have two more boys, so similar looking to their brothers, but we were all in love with the two new souls who had chosen us as their family. Within a few minutes, I had a contraction and pushed out the fused placentas before anyone could scoop them up with the bowl. They were perfect and healthy. Beautiful homes for my babies for the last nine months.

When we weighed Nikolas and Patrick, I was quite surprised to discover that my “big baby” was actually my smallest baby at 6lbs 4ozs. Patrick was my second largest at 7lbs.

Shawn’s mom arrived right after they were born, and I called my dad to reassure him right away. He was already up and getting ready for a trip, so he was relieved to be able to come and see us before he left town. We had many visitors that day, and the days that followed. I probably should have enforced more of a babymoon than I got, as we were all completely emotionally exhausted from the experience. However, we made sure to enjoy those little boys as they grow up so fast.

So on what turned in to a very warm September 4, 2006, Labour Day Monday after about twelve days of irregular labour (mirroring twelve days of bleeding early on). Our sons, Nikolas Joel Michel Goa Robinson and Patrick Evan Magnus Robinson Goa were born into their daddy’s arms, in our home and into our hearts, with lots of help and support, but without any “professional” assistance.

Quotes that were on my wall:

“An expectant mother should thank Providence for her good fortune if she has her baby in a taxicab on the way to the hospital. The cab driver may not be much help, but at least he will spare her from all of the purposeless, perilous, and unpleasant intervention her obstetrician had planned to inflict on her. If the new mother has her wits about her she’ll ask the driver to wait, have the cord cut in the hospital emergency room, and get back in the cab and take her baby home. Ideally, she shouldn’t have been in the cab in the first place, because the safest place for a healthy mother to have her baby is not in a hospital, but at home. After working in hospitals for most of my life, I can assure you that they are the dirtiest and most deadly places in town.” Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, from his book “MALE PRACTICE”

Play With Words #1 July 11, 2006 Hathor The CowGoddess comic

“birth one of the safest things you will do in your life”

The highest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev** (1707-1782) of Shuya, Russia. Between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. 67 of them survived infancy.

“First we wait for the first twin, then we wait for the second twin, then we wait for the placentas.”

Michel Odent’s twin birthing protocol. Nikolas has his name as a middle name, because we waited a very long time for the first twin!

Copyright 2008 — Kirsten Goa — All rights reserved


  1. Your babies are beautiful and your story is very inspiring!

  2. Oh the best! Love this story! Another unassisted UC twin birth happened in Alberta this year, baby A was head down, baby B was breech :) Two sweet girls. Love your story!

  3. Probably the fiersest momma I know. You are a cherished inpiration.

  4. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. It has helped me as I prepare for my 2nd UBAC.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  6. Such an incredible, inspirational birth story. You are one amazing woman.

    Thankyou so much for sharing.

  7. I love reading about stories such as yours! Reading it made tears come to my eyes.

    My daughter Wren Suzanne was born at 8:02 am, July 28, 09, after 7 hours of labor. My water broke after almost 2 hours of hard contractions - at 2:47 am - everything went so quickly for a first birth.

    I had her in my kitchen, on a birth stool. I labored first on a yoga ball, rocking back and forth on it, and then in a birth pool, swaying in the water, all the while singing what my midwife called my 'birth song'.

    I thought I wanted to be alone with just my husband and midwives in attendance, but I guess being so comfortable with my own mind and body, I didn't care who was after labor started. My husband, my best friend, my midwife and her two associates, and both of my parents were there.

    Fear is a problem a lot of women have about labor, and you conquered yours, very admirably! More women need to do that!