When the birth plan doesn’t go according to plan

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Just three days before the twins were born.

When a woman finds out she’s pregnant there are so many fantasies that she builds in her head and plans she makes for the arrival of her little one. But it’s an unfortunate reality that many of our birth plans don’t come to light, as our bodies and our babies decide they want to do things a little differently. In my case, my twins were born prematurely at 32 weeks.

I had a very healthy pregnancy. I loved almost every minute of being pregnant, and, besides a minor scare of a blood clot at around ten weeks, I had no other major concerns. I didn’t even have any morning sickness. Pregnancy was this amazing miracle for me, and I was in awe of what was happening inside my body. I loved seeing my belly grow, and I stuck it out proudly. I think there is a certain amount of additional gratitude and wonder that comes when you’ve suffered the heartache of infertility, and finally after a two-year battle you have your miracle babies growing inside you. Nothing is going to stop your good mood, your excitement, your joy at what you are finally experiencing.

It’s funny how we have this perfect idea of how things will happen, but then, well, life happens. Things don’t go according to plan, things don’t happen how you expected them to…

In the days leading up to the birth I was on a mission to get everything ready. I guess you could say I was in the nesting phase – almost like my body knew something I didn’t. I had just finished off working full time and was going to help train my replacement over the next two weeks – she was even going to come to my house so that my big belly and I didn’t have to trek all the way into town. I had at least six more weeks to go before my planned C-section, where the girls would arrive on a calm and peaceful morning, we’d take photos and smile as I held my little miracles on my chest, close to my heart, and both sets of grandparents where going to be waiting excitedly outside the operating theatre.

Well, that never happened. My parents weren’t even in the country. They were in Australia for a holiday. They had planned their dates very carefully, keeping my due date in mind and I had assured my mom that they’d be back in plenty of time to be present when the girls came. It never even crossed my mind that they would potentially come early and my parents wouldn’t be here.

In the early hours of a Tuesday morning my waters broke. I woke up thinking I’d just wet the bed – after all I’d been getting up at least three times a night to pee. I woke IP up and off we went to the hospital. I was in such denial as we drove calmly down the dark, deserted streets. We drove in virtual silence. We think back and laugh now at those moments. We were both totally calm, he wanted to shower before we left, and I said sure, as I wanted to get changed and then we could head to the hospital.

I took my handbag and my iPad along, thinking we’d be home again in a few hours, no hospital bag. It was funny, I had everything prepared for the arrival of the babies – fortunately! And my hospital bag was the only thing I still had to pack – I still wanted to go buy some new pyjamas and slippers, but alas, that never happened.

It was an absolute miracle that IP was even in town that week. He was originally supposed to be on a business trip in Lebanon the first week in September, but just a few weeks before it had been pushed to the following week.

Everything happened rather quickly after we arrived at the hospital. Initial tests showed that the babies were just fine and not in any distress so I was going to stay at the hospital for observation, and until they were born. I was shocked. “What?” I asked the nurse. “I’m staying here till they’re born? How long could that be?” Could be a few hours or a few days, I was informed. I had the injections to help strengthen their lungs. Not long after that I started having contractions and serious labour pains, the girls wanted to come, and they wanted to come now!

After about three hours HJ was engaged and ready to come naturally, but it would have been too risky for AG, as she was breach and there was no guarantee she would turn, and I would likely have had to have a C-section for her anyway. But, there was no anaesthetist to be found for the theatre, so preparations were being made for me to have a vaginal delivery. A second gynae arrived and large open incubators were being wheeled into the room. It was all getting real now. I don’t think I’ve ever been so calm and quiet in my life as I was in that moment lying on the hospital bed. I don’t think I said a word, as activity whirled around me. The worry on my doctor’s face was evident. I had absolutely no control over what was about to happen, all I could do was leave it in God’s hands.

At what felt like the last second an anaesthetist ran into the room and we were rushed into theatre. It felt like we were in a movie, with nurses and doctors and IP all running alongside my bed towards the theatre. Within minutes I was set up and the doctors where working on me, getting the babies out. At 10:55 HJ was born weighing 1,65kg. AG came a minute later weighing 1,52kg. HG let out a wail when she came out and all was well, but when AG came out there was silence. We waited, scared, and then it came, like a little kitten, her tiny screech to let us know that she was here!

After the paed examined them, the babies where both taken to the nicu. I saw them for the briefest seconds when the doctor held them up for me to see, and was not to see them again till a full 24 hours later. There was no touching or holding my girls after they were born, there was no skin-to-skin with mommy, there was no trying to latch straight away. There were no happy photos of mom and dad smiling while holding their miracles in the operating theatre, there was no baby to hold while in recovery.

When the birth of her child doesn’t happen as a woman expected it to, there is a certain loss that she may feel, and a grieving process to endure. Many have said that I should just be glad that they arrived safely and are happy and healthy now – and believe me, I am, absolutely! But, nevertheless, these precious missed moments that any mom might take for granted, and that I never got to experience, are things that I still grieve for today.

(I’ll be sharing more of our birth story and nicu journey in the coming weeks, so watch this space!)

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