A Short Novel: Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond

The Story of Selah Joy and Jadah Hope
March 1, 2010

Getting pregnant for the 2nd time was much less of a deal than the first. My 15 month old boy kept me busy and I usually forgot I was even carrying another small life inside me. That all changed at my 12 week ultrasound. “Hmm, interesting” were his words. The doctor said he was double checking, then moved the monitor around my stomach while saying “Here’s one…” (slides the monitor again), “…and here’s another one!”
Twins had never in my life crossed my mind (except after my first son was born I kept wondering how people with twins manage it). I didn’t know of any family history with twins, and this thought completely blew my mind. I broke into a sob, not because I was mad, but just in sheer amazement. Simon was at my side, holding my hand and all he could say was “holy cow!”
Being pregnant was suddenly all I had on my mind. Two little babies? How will I do this? How did God choose us for this special blessing and miracle? My due date was set for April 1st (I was nearly convinced that this date was part of an elaborate hoax) and we started counting the weeks until our family of 3 would become 5.
At a 19 week ultrasound, we were informed that both babies were girls. We had in our minds that at least one of them should be a boy, so we were taken back for a few moments, but quickly grew to love the idea of 2 little girls and all that comes with that.
The pregnancy went perfectly, no complications or worries. Even near the end, many people wondered if I was big enough to be carrying twins, but I assured them I felt quite large! My ankles and feet started swelling 2/3 of the way through, and my stretch mark-free belly quickly turned into the breeding ground of stretch marks. At 34 weeks I started getting a rash on my stomach, and by the end of the week, it came out on my feet and hands. This rash, called PUPPPS, was almost more than I could bear! Suddenly being large and pregnant was a breeze, but this rash was going to push me over the edge.
At my 35 week check(Thursday), the doctor informed me I was dilated 4 cm. I had been having more regular contractions the day before, even to the point that I packed a bag just in case. But they had dissipated so I wasn’t worried.
Friday and Saturday came and went. I had my baby shower. The rash got worse. I didn’t even go to church because I was so miserable. Simon and I went on walks and I was trying to stay active to try to speed the labor process. On Sunday my contractions were 10 minutes apart all afternoon, but then subsided in the evening. We decided to go the doctor Monday morning to get checked.

5 cm. The doctor said I didn’t have to go the hospital to get monitored, but if it were his wife, he would make her go. I was still hesitant to go because nothing hurt yet. No cramping or pain, just tightness. But I wanted to make sure I was at the hospital when they were born (based on Christian’s birth, I’m a prime candidate for a car birth!).
So after a last trip home to get our bags and say bye to our son, we checked in at the hospital and started the monitoring process around 1. I also had to get the antibiotic for beta-strep, a 4+ hour process. My contractions had increased again during the day, as did my cervix. By 5:00 I was dilated 6-7 cm, still without pain, and at 5:30 the doctor broke my water (a very interesting feeling). It only took 20-30 minutes before I was having hard contractions. In the next half hour, I went from 7 to 10 cm dilated and was told to lie down the bed, we were going to have these babies. I had invited my mom to be present during the delivery, hoping she could take pictures and capture the moment of their birth. But the doctor put both her and Simon to work, holding my legs and coaching me. Simon was such a huge help as a coach (we were both glad this wasn’t our first time), and he counted during pushing and was a huge encouragement.

It had been my hope to have a completely natural birth, as I did with my first. But about the time I’m ready to push, I always second-guess myself, although by that point it’s too late anyway. The doctor sat on the bed and was saying simply “okay, I just want you to bear down and push…” I figured he was just checking the baby or seeing if I was ready to go, but as soon as I started pushing, there were nurses counting and saying PUSH and I just wasn’t ready for that yet.
But ready or not, the pushing continued. One hairy-headed baby, coming right up. I was very scared of tearing down below, but my doctor assured me I wouldn’t tear (how would he know?!)(in the end, he was right--- no stitches for me!), but I had chosen him because of his avoidance of episiotomies. The head was stuck half way, one more push they said, and two pushes later, she was born.

6:33pm. Selah Joy.
I reached down to her tiny body and pulled her up to my chest. So precious at 5 lb 14 oz. They took her away and I looked down at my stomach: there was another one in there!? I touched my belly with a bit of amazement, how in the world had 2 babies been inside of me? And then the thought that the 2nd baby had to come out too.
The next 6 minutes were a mix of fear and pain. The doctor reached his hand into places unknown and broke the 2nd bag of water, then grabbed the 2nd baby’s feet and began pulling her into the world. This was painful. A baby’s chin doesn’t want to come out the same way the top of a head does. In those moments of intensity I just wanted to give up, to lay back and say “no way.” It hurts so badly you yell, but you can’t go back, and even though everything inside tells you not to, there is nothing to do but push. Push!

6:39. Jadah Hope.
Up into my arms at a mere 5 lb 9 oz. That was over 11 pounds of baby inside me, plus 2 whopping placentas (which were the size of another whole baby!). This next part was quite different than my first delivery. With my first, I had been up most the night and labored longer. After Christian was born, I was more tired than I’d ever been in my life and I was out like a light. I don’t remember the doctor stitching me up or getting everything “else” out from inside me. Not so this time. The tummy massage (sounds really relaxing, right?) was not so pleasant, 2 placentas popped out at one time, and then the shaking began. I got cold and tired (both normal after giving birth).
I wasn’t as determined to breastfeed right away either, but I wish I would have been. Because they were born at 35-36 weeks, they were extremely sleepy and worn from entering the world. I don’t think they got to nurse for several hours… I’ll have to do better the next time around.
I couldn’t believe it was over. 9 months of carrying these 2 babies and wondering what it was going to be like and being scared of the delivery, and it was over! We were now the parents of multiples and parents to 3. Wow.

Life in the hospital was crazy. They had a record number of babies born the same day, so our nurses were often from other units and our babies, well, who knows what really happens in the hospital nursery! They had to stay in the nursery the first night on the warming tables because they weren’t keeping their body temperatures up. Their mouths were so small that we fed them with expressed breast milk. They both got jaundice and had to be on bili-blankets (very annoying to hold, feed, and change your baby with a huge tube protruding from their rears!)(not literally). By the time we left the hospital, they weighed 5 lb 7 oz and 5 lb 2 oz. Perfect little angels. I got to go home with my husband and three children on my birthday. I’m 24!
Christian was pleased to meet his sisters, gracing them with kisses before being distracted by something else. He was on edge already from being apart from his parents for nearly 4 days, and the addition of the babies made the first night home a little stressful. Each day since then he has amazed us with his interest in them and kindness toward them. He will be a wonderful big brother!

The next few days were filled with attempted feedings and an insane amount of diapering. Thank the Lord for my mother’s help with feeding and being a playmate for Christian. We had to take the girls back twice for blood draws on their jaundice levels, their poor little heels were bloody and bandaged. Jadah was on a home bili-blanket for 4 nights, and we had to layer them with clothes and blankets to help them keep their temperatures up.
The girls are now 11 days old, eating every 3 hours, and sleeping pretty much the rest of the time. I have hardly heard them cry, so when they do it takes me by surprise (this probably won’t take long to adjust to though). I am still breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and pumping… it becomes quite time consuming! Simon and I looked at each other and said “how are we going to do this by ourselves?” But when that time comes (in a mere 1.5 weeks), we will adjust as needed. We have also had so many offers of help and support, I just have to figure out how to best accept the help. If you are one of these people, THANK YOU!... we do take your offers seriously, and please don’t be shy if there is something you want to do. These are the moments in which we will graciously accept the help of others so that in the future we can pass on the same generosity to others.

Now that you have read the longest novel of a birth story, I hope you feel informed and up-to-date on the Henry Homestead! Thanks for your love and prayers!


a.tonagel said...

I love hearing birth stories. It is such a physical/emotional/spiritual experience.
So happy that you were able to enjoy the worst/best feelings of life!
blessings to you!

Ericka said...

"Getting pregnant for the 2nd time was much less of a deal than the first. "

Don't tell Simon that the getting pregnant was not exciting. He'll be offended. :)
Thanks for writing that up.. it helped since I couldn't be there with you. Can't wait to come see you next weekend!

Shannon said...

I'm so glad you wrote the story. It's so amazing! I'm so proud of you guys! I think about you all the time and have been wondering how you're managing. I'm exhausted with just Halle and my one baby. Keep up the good work. God sure handed them to you because he knew you 2 could handle it! Congratulations!

Andrea said...

This is Andrea Hoover--mom of identical twin girls and worship leader at Gospel Center in South Bend. I absolutely loved reading your birth story--it was if I was reading my own when my girls were born in March 2003! Seriously--so many similarities! And I am thinking your girls are identical with all those identical poses--again, it's like a deja vu for me to see them! I look forward to keeping up with your blog! Good for you for documenting things so well!

Amy said...

Thank you for taking the time to write all of that out! Such a wonderful story to read! :) Glad to hear you guys are doing so well!

ndhelman said...

Hi Rachel! I'm due in 13 days (but who's counting?) with our first and your story--and frankly, this whole blog--has been so fascinating for me. You are well-equipped for this job--raising all 3 of them. Can't wait to watch them grow up! You look great, by the way! :)

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