True, we were sort of trying for a second child. Or rather, we were not *not* trying. But it happened more quickly than we expected. If my math was correct, baby #2's due date would be two years to the day from Junebug's due date. Two babies, two years apart! We were excited, grateful and nervous all at once. It would be a lot to handle, having two children so close in age.
For 16 weeks I was Sick. As. A. Dog. I never understood why someone named this condition "morning sickness." No pregnant woman I've ever known experienced the "just rode the Gravitron five times in a row" sensation only in the morning. I literally spent the first four months of my pregnancy sitting on the front porch most of the day, trying not to move in any direction (any sudden movement could induce vomiting), and sipping Coca-Cola through a straw. The only other food I could stomach was the plain crossaint that my dear husband, with Junebug in tow on the back of his bicycle, would procure fresh from the bakery each morning. I did try branching out once, which ended with me sobbing alone in the shower, my hair lathered stiff with shampoo, as bits of heaved-up watermelon clogged the tub drain and pink water pooled around my ankles. It wasn't my happiest pregnant moment. So I stuck with the plain crossaints and Coke. Sip. Sip. Sip.
I entered my second pregnancy wiser and with more realistic expectations than my first. I'd been through the nausea before; I knew it would eventually end. I knew that I wanted to use a midwife for my prenatal care and delivery, and that I wanted to aim for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesearian). But I also knew that sometimes c-sections or other interventions needed to happen, and I felt more prepared to accept this fate, if it were to be mine, than the first time around. I was cautiously optimitstic about the birth experience I would have with this baby, but not naiive. Also, with this second pregnancy, I was so busy trying not to barf while working a part-time interpreting job and chasing after my one-year-old daughter (while trying not to barf), I wasn't all that focused on reading Ina May Gaskin or creating my idyllic natural birth plan.
I chose Mary Mumford Haley to be my midwife and my early prenantal appointments with her were wonderful. She didn't even get judgey about the Coke and crossaint diet. She said, "Yeah, it's not the best. Do what you have to do right now and we can focus on nutrition in a few weeks when you feel better." Awesome. At the time of my pregnancy, Mary was the only home birth midwife in Rhode Island. She also delivered babies at Memorial Hospital. My baby's birth would happen in the hospital because of the VBAC situation. Both she and we were most comfortable with this plan.
Providence, RI hosts a shiny and fancy Women and Infants hospital, which boasts a top-knotch neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU), provides affiliation with Brown University Medical School and ranks highly in all sorts of prestigious ways. By contrast, Memorial Hospital, where my baby would be born, is a rather dumpy-looking facility located across the Providence border in neighboring Pawtucket (affectionately referred to as "the bucket" by people who live there). Touring the two hospitals was like test driving a sporty BMW and then a used Honda Accord. But as I considered these two options, while wearing my comfort clogs, sipping my Coke and holding my 16-month-old's hand, I realized I didn't want a BMW birth experience. I didn't need my experience to be shiny and state-of-the-art. Certainly if my baby needed neo-natal intensive care I would be grateful for all the whistles, bells and modern technology that Women and Infants could provide.
But during my tour at Memorial Hospital, the doctor who showed me the ropes smiled warmly, spent time answering all of my questions without looking at her watch, and treated Junebug kindly. (A side note: this doctor, Liz Brown, is now my primary care doctor and she is awesome.) I could tell, as we walked the worn halls with Dr. Brown, that she liked her colleagues and they liked her. People were busy, but not rushed. There was a warmth to my experience at Memorial Hospital, and a calmness, in spite of the peeling floral wallpaper and the shabby upholstered chairs. There was also medical competence. Memorial was truly comparable to the Honda Accord: reliable and trustworthy even if lacking in glamour.
And, ultimately, my decision about where to deliver came down to this: I felt my chances of having a successful VBAC were higher at Memorial Hospital with Mary Mumford Haley delivering my baby. Women and Infants, for all their awards, could not beat Memorial in what was important to me: VBAC success rates and low c-section rates. Granted, the statistics are somewhat skewed because women with high risk pregnancies, very premature labor and complications end up at Women and Infants by default, so of course there will be more c-sections and NICU care among them. But at the same time, I knew how these things worked: with an expensive and top-notch NICU at their fingertips, and with so much experience dealing with "emergency" births, I believed there would be a tendancy among the medical staff at Women and Infants to operate in four-alarm-fire mode as a matter of course. Why walk when you can drive, right? Well, I wanted to walk. I was a healthy woman having a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. I just wanted a safe and low-drama place to birth, and Memorial felt like it.
D.H. and I decided to delay getting our first ultrasound until the baby was 20 weeks. We knew that even if a possible "problem" were discovered via ultrasound, we would not choose to terminate the pregnancy. We opted out of doing genetic testing for the same reason. Mary found the baby's heartbeat quickly using a fetal doppler during my two prenatal visits with her. She said, "Yep, there's the heartbeat! Going so strong! Sounds good!" For us, that was all we needed to know in the first trimester.
I was feeling much better by the time we had our first ultrasound appointment in October, mid-way through my 20th week. No more Coke-sipping. No more barfing in the shower.
D.H., Junebug and I headed over to the New Beginnings ultrasound imaging office to find out the baby's sex and see him or her on the monitor for the first time. We were so excited to share this moment with Junebug, too. We hoped that seeing the baby moving on the monitor might help prepare her for what was happening in her family, how her world was about to change -- as much as it was possible to prepare a child who was not yet a year and a half old herself.
I reclined on the cot as the ultrasound technician lowered the overhead lights and turned on the computer monitor screen. She lubed my belly with ultrasound jelly and then placed the wand against my protruding mid-section. She looked up at the monitor. She looked down at my chart in her lap. She up looked again at the monitor. She looked down again at my chart. She huffed and then sighed, clearly annoyed. For a split second, I froze: something was wrong.
She said, "Well, they only scheduled you for 45 minutes today. I don't know why they did that, it's not enough time. But I'll do what I can." Then she looked at my face and saw my frightened eyes. A confused expression came over her. She said, "Well, you know you've got two in there, right?"
What? We have two what in where? Two... WHAT?!?!
My eyes went from vulnerable and concerned to very, very wide.
"Holy SHIT!" I let fly, quickly covering my mouth as I remembered Junebug was in the room.
I looked at D.H., he looked at me. We were literally speechless for what felt like an hour as this news of our twin pregnancy sunk in. Then I said, "Oh wow, I am in total shock. I am so shocked. I can't believe it. I am so shocked." Then D.H. said, "I'm in total shock right now. I am totally in shock." Then Junebug said emphatically, while waving both arms, "Shocked! Shocked! Shocked!"
We finished the ultrasound, which revealed that inside my belly I had two water sacs, two placentas, and a growing and healthy baby boy (baby A) and baby girl (baby B). Their heartbeats were exactly synched. We learned we were 21 weeks pregnant with fraternal twins!