But, see, there are just something things you can’t plan for. Like a global pandemic that changes your whole birthing plan. The whole country just shut down over night and our lives haven’t been the same ever since. We knew we needed to come up with different plans, and backup plans, and backup-backup plans.
With this being our second set of twins, I knew that I had to get a c-section, that VBAC wasn’t an option. The last one had a very brutal recovery and left an ugly scar because it was a teaching hospital. (Yeaaah, never doing that again.) In my mind, I was already getting prepared for a painful and slow recovery, but I kept telling myself, “I’m strong and I can do hard things.”
I had confirmed my mom would be staying with us a few weeks before I delivered and my dad would come shortly thereafter. My in-laws live close by and would be able to help as well. If recovery was anything like last time, I was going to need all the help I could get!
See, with twins, you don’t go to 40 weeks; the doctors only let you go to 38 weeks. Basically because your fundal measurement is 9 weeks + gestational age, there is no more room inside for adequate and safe growth. So, when I was 31 weeks, I was actually measuring 40 weeks. By the time I was 38 weeks, I was just very, very pregnant.
I hate to say I had an easy pregnancy because there was a lot of throwing up and all around pain/discomfort. There were painful migraines and even a handful of unexpected, frightening hospital visits. The emotional roller coaster that comes with being pregnant was there throughout the pregnancy, too. But honestly, since this twin pregnancy was my second one, it wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew what to expect. I kept reminding myself that I’m strong and can do the hard things.
I made it to 37 weeks. I could have easily gone to 38 weeks, but the fear of the possibility of the virus spreading more led to a serious conversation with my doctor about successfully delivering healthy twins just one week shy of my goal of 38 weeks. Because my growth was on track, the OBGYN approved the c-section to be earlier.
Before the virus was even a thought, I had no concerns of accidentally catching the virus in an elevator and dying in the middle of surgery. Or touching the hospital bathroom and giving the virus to the newborns. It was simply this: I was going to have a c-section and have a family of helpers at home for the big kids. I had some form of delivery PTSD and would be prepared for the slow recovery at home with the help of family. We would hire a photographer to do newborn and family photoshoots within the first week. Announcements to family and close friends would go out as soon as we got the proofs.
But none of that happened.
Instead, I was having serious conversations with my husband about how to handle several what-ifs. What if my in-laws get sick and we have no one to watch the kids when he comes to the hospital with me? What if my mom can’t come to help us and we have to do this on our own? What if either me or the kids end up in the hospital again, sick?
All of this happened.
Goodness, how different I had imagined all this the beginning of the year!
We worked on updating our life insurance policy. We documented my last wishes in case I died on the operating table. We talked about the very serious possibility of getting any of our kids sick and how we would move forward. There were tears, there was hand-holding, there were lots of prayers.
It was a new level of vulnerability that both Sanj and I felt.
Ten days before my scheduled c-section date, my in-laws ended up being admitted into the hospital, one after another. This was so early in March that testing for COVID-19 was not even available so we presumed we would be staying away for a few months.
By the time we realized that we were on our own, just me and Sanjay (no family, healthy and close enough to help us, no friends that aren’t in quarantine, and no babysitters that we trusted to handle our big kids for several days), I had about two weeks to mentally prepare myself. Do we have friends that would have come, babysitters that would help, and family that wished they could be with us? Yes, of course. But at the end of the day, we did not want to jeopardize the health of the children we already have and the wellness of our home that we worked so hard on keeping safe.
We decided that I would do the c-section myself, all alone. That I would stay at the hospital myself, all alone. That we would be reunited as a new family of seven when we all came home. That I am strong and I can do hard things.
Lucky for me, the hospital I was delivering at only did elective surgeries on the first floor and had the entire maternity ward on the second floor; and since they were not doing elective surgeries right now, there was just the maternity ward in the hospital. They are not a trauma hospital and did not have a ICU on site. This was comforting to know because that told me they were not actively treating COVID patients. They still had a regular functioning ER so yes, COVID patients might have walked through those doors and even been treated in the ER; but there was no ICU or trauma center to treat them long-term. Did I plan this? No. I honestly had no idea until the week before. It was a real blessing because that helped reduce my anxiety a shit ton.
Per the hospital’s instructions, I was to shower the night before and the morning of, using special soap they provided me. The afternoon before, I was to go in for blood work and to speak with the nurses and anesthesiologist that would be at my c-section. I was very clear to the whole team that I was going to be doing this on my own and my husband was with the bigger kids at home. It wasn’t an awkward conversation and they didn’t pity me for being alone. They all rallied up and cheered me on, letting me know that I have their support and I can do this.
There is something magical of strangers rallying up to encourage and support you, especially at a point when you feel the most scared. I went home feeling more confident. That I’m strong and I can do hard things.
I drove myself to the hospital, parked my car, wheeled in my suitcase. There is a sense of comfort and strength that you can find in the moments of quiet solitude. That walk to the front door wasn’t a long one, but it felt like it. What would happen inside? Will the babies come out okay? Will I be able to walk back out of the hospital? There was so much uncertainty in that one minute to the door, but there was nothing else to do but move forward, literally.
Can two mutually exclusive feelings exist at the same time? Because I was surely scared as hell. But I felt so giddy and enthusiastic about growing our family and having a second set of twins. I was faced with the very frightening reality that I might not come home right away from the hospital, or even at all. But I was so hopeful that I could be wheeled to the car with both arms holding tiny babies.
Becoming a mom, whether it’s for the first time or the fourth and fifth times, is such a wondrous thing. It’s wildly exhausting and energizing. You feel the weight of the world on your shoulders and yet you feel like you can move mountains. The strength of your will and the exhaustion you feel are nothing compared to the love that teems in your heart.
Giving birth during a global pandemic – now that’s something I never thought I’d do! Was it hard? Yes and no. Anxiety is hard, but you have to allow a moment of self reflection, forcing yourself to come to terms with the worst that can happen and hoping that only the best happens. Maybe I did okay because the adrenaline with high and I was excited. When you get pushed into a corner and there is nowhere to go besides push forward, you do what you have to.
So if you’re due and you’re doing it alone, be strong and know you can do hard things.