Harper & Carter’s Birth Story

Harper & Carter’s Early Arrival

Mama: Michelle

Stats: 3 lbs., 13 oz. (Carter) / 2 lbs., 10oz., (Harper)

Type of birth: Cesarean

Location: Hospital

Primary Care: Obstetrician

I was pregnant with twins and had already been on bed rest in the hospital for more than six weeks due to preterm labor and a rapidly shortening cervix.

I was admitted at 24 weeks and thankfully, my doctors were able to stop the contractions and stall the cervical shortening by keeping me off my feet at all times except for bathroom breaks and a quick shower every other day. I thought that all I had to do was take it easy and stay lying down and everything would be okay. I would be incredibly bored never leaving my hospital room but at least my babies would remain safe inside of me until at least 35 weeks…hopefully longer.

I was wrong.

The Monday of my seventh week in the hospital, my nurse for the day said that she thought I was looking a little puffier than normal. My blood pressure, while not high by normal standards, was high for me because it usually ran a bit low. My doctor ordered a 24-hour urine collection to test for proteins in my urine to rule out pre-eclampsia. All tests came back negative and I went back to resting.

For the next few days, my blood pressure remained high-for-me but still within the standard normal range for most people. My feet were also becoming more swollen but everyone chalked that up to the fact that I had been immobile for so long.

That Friday started out like any other day in the hospital — rounds by doctors, bad hospital meals, lots of internet surfing.

Then in the early afternoon, I started to get an uncomfortable ache between my shoulder blades. I thought it was because I had been in one position for too long so I changed sides to see if it would ease up. Soon, the ache became a sharp pain and it radiated through to my chest. It got worse and worse and eventually, I was throwing up multiple times from the pain. I ended up curled up in bed, just trying to breathe through the pain.

I was sent for multiple ultrasounds of my liver and kidneys to makes sure those were okay; everything looked fine. Blood work was done in an attempt to figure out what was happening.

Shortly afterward, I got the news: I was developing HELLP Syndrome and it was coming on pretty rapidly. My blood platelet level was dropping quickly and my liver enzymes were shooting up. I started having strong contractions very regularly, almost as if my body was telling me that something had to give.

My doctors decided to watch things overnight and make a decision in the morning about how to proceed. The doctors administered a steroid shot to help mature the babies’ lungs in case delivery was necessary. I was given medication for my pain and slept fitfully hooked up to fetal monitors.

The next morning, more blood work was done to recheck my levels to see if things had improved. But just the opposite happened — they got worse. According to my doctors, I needed to deliver my babies that day by c-section or risk their health, as well as my own.

I was going to have two babies that day.

I was 31 weeks and 2 days along. I was given an IV of magnesium sulfate, a common procedure for premature births, to both decrease the likelihood of brain bleeds in the babies and to lower my risk of seizures from HELLP. I also had to wear a heart monitor because the last time I was given magnesium to stop preterm labor, I developed atrial fibrillation.

My husband suited up in his scrubs and cap and we were wheeled off to the operating room.

My husband and parents waited outside of the operating room while I was helped onto the table and given a spinal block. The room was filled with organized chaos— my obstetrician, my Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor, an anesthesiologist, a neonatologist, and two teams of NICU nurses.

I remember music playing in the background and my sarcastic, fun-loving doctors cracking jokes to lighten the mood.

Once the drape was raised and everyone was set, my husband was led back into the room. I remember that he appeared by my head all of a sudden and was holding my hand. Then my doctor said they were going to get underway. She kept talking to me and joking with me because she knew I was scared. My husband, who I thought would pass out at the idea of blood, actually became very confident and was even taking pictures.

I felt a ton of pulling and tugging as the doctors worked. I heard my doctor say that they were about to bring out the first baby. Then I heard “and we have…. a little girl!”

At 3:05 p.m., my daughter was born. The next words I heard were “oh she’s TINY.” But then I heard her cry… and it was a good strong cry, too. Tears filled my eyes because all I really cared about was that they could both breathe on their own from the start. My doctor held her up over the drape for us to see and then the NICU team took her away. She weighed 2 pounds 10 ounces.

After my daughter was delivered, the doctors got back to work on the second baby. Exactly one minute later, at 3:06 p.m., my son was brought into the world. He let out his own strong cry and was briefly shown to me before being taken away. He weighed 3 pounds 13 ounces.

As my doctors worked to sew up my incision, the NICU teams wheeled our babies by us briefly so that we could get a quick look at them. They asked my husband if he wanted to come with the babies to the NICU for evaluation. I told him that our babies needed him more than I did at that moment so he should go. He kissed me and left to be with our children.

Then I was alone in the operating room without my husband and without the two little people that had been inside of me for so many weeks. I started to feel incredibly cold and couldn’t stop shaking, a side effect of the drugs used during the c-section. Once I was sewn up, my doctor came over to my head and gave me a big kiss on the cheek and told me that I had done a wonderful job keeping them inside of me as long as I did.

I was then wheeled to my recovery room. Recovery was no walk in the park in those first hours. The anesthesia caused me to throw up violently multiple times. My nurse didn’t want my incision to rupture while I threw up so she put all her weight on my stomach to hold it steady; it was so incredibly painful. I spent that night in the Intensive Care Unit to be monitored for atrial fibrillation.

Because I was still on the magnesium and couldn’t walk, I wasn’t able to go visit my babies in the NICU. My husband went several times that night to be with them and take pictures that he brought to show me. It killed me that I had just brought two babies into the world but still had not been able to hold them. It wasn’t until noon the following day that I finally got to see them. I was wheeled to the NICU and taken to each baby’s isolette so that I could hold them.

That was, and still is, one of the most surreal moments of my life. We were finally together again. They were so small and hooked up to so many monitors but they were doing well. And they were mine. They both were able to breathe room-air from the very beginning and needed no major medical interventions. Despite their very early births and very small bodies, they were healthy.

While my birth story did not go as I had hoped or planned, it will always be the most incredible, albeit immensely scary, day of my life. And while it isn’t pretty or warm and fuzzy, it’s MY story and I hold every second of it close to my heart.

Image by Kristi Klemens of KLK Photography


Guest Mama Michelle is a 37-year-old former social worker living in Orange County with her husband of 4 ½ years and their crazy and fun 13-month-old twins. She spends her days juggling babies and her evenings relaxing with her husband. She loves great food, good wine, traveling, her family and her girlfriends. You can learn more about Michelle through her Real Mama interview.

6 Responses to Harper & Carter’s Birth Story

  1. You are such an incredible mama, Michelle! I can’t even imagine going through everything you did. Your little ones are so strong too- and they are so lucky to have you. :)

  2. What an amazing, scary and wonderful birth story! You are such an amazing mama. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  3. You are such an amazingly strong mama! Those little ones are so lucky to have you as their mama.

  4. Awesome story from an incredible momma!!

  5. Your birth story brought tears to my eyes!! You so strong and such am amazing mama!!! And you have the cutest twins ever!!! Thanks for sharing your story!!

  6. What an amazing story! You are one awesome, strong mama! Congrats on your two beautiful children.

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