Becoming Mommy and Mama

Disclaimer: As we have done previously in The Albrecht Household blog posts, this post, which discusses the story leading to our twins’ birth, is separated into 2 perspectives on the same events. We hope this offers a more complete view of what it is like to be in each of our positions during this time.

Tiffany’s Point of View

Waiting for Their Birth

Where to begin…we’re in love and it’s been two weeks, but in all honesty, that part happened immediately, though I’ll let Aly explain her experience. 

The part that everyone knows at this point is that we spent two weeks in the hospital anticipating our twins’ grand entrance into the world. What we haven’t talked about was when it became “go-time”, until now. I’ll speak from my perspective and leave it up to Aly to share however much she feels comfortable later in this post. Needless to say, the birth of our children was not without drama and a high level of emotional upheaval. 

In the early morning on August 1st, or to us, 35 and 5, I hadn’t slept much the night prior. It was 2:30am, and I was anticipating the next set of Aly’s vitals at 4am. Something was keeping me up and I didn’t know what it was. It could have been that we had been in the hospital for two weeks, it could have been the not-so-comfortable guest pull-out bed, it could have been the stress we had been under, or the inevitable arrival of our latkes, or thinking about what parenting would be like, or thinking about all the decisions we had made in just the prior several days that changed the course of how we would approach the birth. The truth is, it was probably all of that. The truth is, all of those things had kept me up for most of all of the nights we spent at the hospital and throughout most of the days. 

When the nursing assistant came in to take Aly’s vitals at 4am, as expected, the process was much the same, pulse-ox, temperature, blood pressure. We waited, as always, for the numbers to show up, and the alarm went off that indicated her blood pressure was above where it needed to be. The nursing assistant said she’d be back in 15 minutes, per the hospital protocol to take it again, and in 15 minutes she was back again. The results were similar. Aly and I looked at each other and I jokingly said to her, “You know this means I was right all along.” I had predicted that our twins would be born on August 1st from the beginning. She laughed and shrugged, and said to me, “If it happens, it happens.” A calm had settled over us as we waited for whatever would come. Our nurse walked in and hooked up the non-stress test monitors so that we could get a reading on our twins and the on-call high-risk doctors stopped by to confirm that, sure enough, we were going to be induced. 

When the doctor from our normal OB/GYN practice stopped by, she explained how the process would unfold from then on and checked to see how Aly had progressed, if at all prior to inducing. She was much further than anyone anticipated and we found out later that she had probably already been in labor, and that had probably been the cause of the high blood pressure to begin with. They hooked some meds up to her IV to get her blood pressure under control and to labor and delivery we went. 

Labor and Delivery

Our nurse in labor and delivery was arguably the best nurse we had the entire time we were at the hospital. She was kind, attentive, compassionate, and humored us when we trying to make light of what inducing would be like for Aly since she apparently didn’t feel that she had been contracting for however long she had already been in labor. We joked and said, that maybe she would be the one that God spared from the pain, but quickly informed the nurse that anesthesia should still be on deck with that epidural in case we were wrong. Things progressed pretty quickly from there. We got the babies on the monitors and they were twinning, so it was difficult for the nurses to tell one heart rate from the other. We laughed as they came in for the 10th time to adjust the sensors on the Aly’s soon-to-not-be-pregnant tummy, and ultimately, called the doctor in to get his opinion on whether they needed to approach it differently. 

Aly was feeling contractions by this point, but they were few and far between, so when they kicked on the meds to induce labor, and she still wasn’t feeling much once a contraction was hitting, the nurse and I laughed and admitted that perhaps she really would be the one. Until she wasn’t. She started feeling pressure, but not pain, and our doctor came in frequently to check on her, knowing that she was going to want the juice. He indicated that she shouldn’t ask for it until she started feeling pain, so we waited, and the pain came, so Anesthesia followed. Here’s where my perspective on the birth story will really start to differ a bit from Aly’s. During the epidural, she was a champ. She didn’t feel a thing, did everything that was asked of her, moved as she was told, even though it was tough for her, being 35 weeks and 5 days pregnant with twins. About 5 minutes after getting her in the optimum position once she was laying down, her blood pressure bottomed out and 10 people came rushing into the room to stabilize her and make sure the babies were ok. We were told this was a common side effect, but that brought no solace to me as I watched entire room fill with people, in my mind, working to keep my wife and children okay. I held a cool towel to her neck as an oxygen mask was placed over her face and additional monitors were placed on our babies because it had already been hard to get a good reading on them. They pushed one med and another as I stood there and prayed my heaviest prayer up until that point in my life that God would take care of the things I held most dear and bless the hands of the people that were helping. This was, up until that point, the single most terrifying moment of my life. It took a while, and lots of medical jargon that frustratingly, went over my head, but they ultimately got her stable and she was coherent enough to be able to tell me she was okay, even though emotionally, she probably wasn’t. That was scary in a different way for her, I’m sure as her body did things that she didn’t will it to. 

Once, everything had calmed down, the inducement proceeded and it took about 10 hours from the time we entered labor and delivery to the time when the nurse came in and said, “it’s time to start pushing.”

Change of Plans

In the two and a half hours that followed, I witnessed my wife do the most amazing thing I have ever seen anyone do. I’ll invoke Glennon Doyle here when I say that I watched her become a cheetah, and do exactly what she was born to do. I held her hand, arm, leg, any body part I was instructed to, that would help her brace for the next contraction, and, in reverence, watched as she listened to her body and responded to it, telling her how to push our son out. She was a hero, a mother effing rockstar. I was in awe, humbled to help in any way that I could to help this miracle that was happening before my eyes. We were about to meet our children and Aly, in her strongest, most amazing form, was making that happen. The only hinderance, being that Benny was determined to stay in. After hours, the doctor informed us that Bella’s heart tones were not reacting well to the labor, and it would be best if we proceeded with a c-section, so the plans changed again and I could see in Aly’s eyes that she felt she had done her best, but she also felt defeated. 

We agreed with the doctor and said, “let’s do it.” We wanted everyone safe and healthy. So, again, an army of people came into the room to prep her for surgery and presented me with surgical scrubs to change into. I watched as, in the middle of shift change, they prepped and medicated, and introduced themselves and introduced themselves again. I tried to be part of the wall, so as to not get in their way, but also look as intently as I could at my wife who I knew was about to undergo major surgery. The fear and weight that overwhelmed me, almost left me immobilized, as I absentmindedly slipped the scrubs over my clothes and prayed, yet again, continuously, for God to take care of her and our children. I think I begged more than prayed, as I felt the control slipping from me. They rolled her into the operating room and left to sit in the loneliest chair I’ve ever sat in just outside of the operating room hall for them to call me once she was prepped. The doctor passed me on his way in and said they would call me once they were ready for me. I implored him to take care of her, them, as he self-assuredly went into the hall, to ready himself to bring my children into the world and keep my wife stable.

I was beside myself with worry. Fought with myself to stay seated. Envisioned myself rushing into the operating room, just to make sure I had eyes on her. All of these things wrapped themselves around me and made me feel a panic I’d never felt as I sat, again immobilized. Time felt stilled as the minutes ticked by and no one had yet come to get me. I wondered if something had gone wrong. If the amount of time I had been waiting was normal. If, for goodness sake, someone would just come get me already. Then, someone did.

They brought me into an operating room with my wife laying down alert and what must have been a dozen people in the room. I sat next to her head and pushed my fingers through her hair as I told her I love her and how incredible amazing I thought she was. I could hear things happening in my periphery, but I focused on her and then the anesthesiologist was pulling the curtain back to reveal our son and I could have fallen to my knees as my eyes filled with tears. His cries pierced the room with the strength of his lungs and I was in absolute awe that he was real, and he was beautiful, and the person I love most in the world, created another person I love most in the world. I told Aly what I saw, that he was beautiful and what a pair of lungs he had on him, and that she had made an absolutely perfect little boy. The curtain was raised again and I kissed Aly on her forehead and congratulated her on being a mommy. I reverently repeated that I loved her and then the curtain was pulled back again to reveal our gorgeous daughter. Aly asked why she wasn’t crying, and that seemed to trigger her, because her cries then filled the room along with her brothers, and our family was complete. I again told Aly how absolutely perfect she had made our children and how proud I was of her. 

I was given the opportunity to greet our latkes as they had their Apgar assessed, which they passed with flying colors and watched in awe and the little humans we had made with our love. I looked at their little feet and their little hands. I listened to their very well developed lungs, and thanked God that they passed all their tests with flying colors and didn’t need to go to NICU. I reported back to Aly how perfect they really were and then we were meeting them as a family. We were both in love. With each other, with them, individually and as a pair. All of us. It was, I know now, the defining moment of my life, the moment Aly made me a mama. 

Aly’s Point of View

The Miracle of Birth

We always hear that term- it’s the miracle of birth. There are miraculous moments in my birth journey with our twins. It’s a miracle that we all ended up safe. It’s a miracle that both babies entered this world healthy at 35 weeks and 5 days, without either needing any NICU time. It’s a miracle that my wife and I were blessed with these 2 little perfect beings and that our family is complete. It’s a miracle that we all got to go home together. You may be saying to yourself that it seems like a whole lot of miracles happened there and you would be right. But from my point of view, it feels more like the trauma of birth than the miracle of birth. 

Birth trauma is a real thing. It happens to lots of women. It has now happened to me. It doesn’t get talked about often. Culturally, birth is not supposed to be viewed as traumatic. Birth is beautiful, or at least it can be, but I can tell you that I feel robbed of my birth experience. I didn’t expect to be a pregnancy unicorn and have everything go perfectly, but I never thought it would be as scary as it was. When I talk about it now, I can’t talk about it without crying. Reliving the rollercoaster of pain, confusion, lack of awareness, and instability is still a bit raw. 

That morning, my blood pressure spiked at 4am. A few minutes later, I was told that I would be induced for my safety and for the safety of the babies. They would treat my blood pressure with a cocktail of medications and supplements going through my IV and it wasn’t long after that I was being transported to labor and delivery. To their surprise, I was already 4cm dilated and 70% effaced. They suspected that I was actually already in labor and that could have resulted in the huge spike in blood pressure in just a few hours. 

Labor and Delivery

While in labor and delivery, I was being prepped for vaginal birth while they monitored my and the babies’ vitals continuously. Things were stabilizing and I was getting myself mentally prepped for what was to come. I remember looking at my wife and thinking that she looked really nervous. I told her that I was feeling great and that we should be excited to see our babies soon. I didn’t want her to worry, though I knew she would. 

Things seemed to go well while getting an epidural a couple hours later, once the contractions became too intense to bear. I was working on my breathing and resting in between each one. As soon as the epidural was given and the catheter was placed in my spine, I was told to move myself down to the front of the bed a bit. As I did, the room started to spin. I instantly felt cold sweats and intensely weak. I laid there in a bit of shock as I whispered “something is wrong. I don’t feel well.” I felt like I was in a dream-like state. There was a rush of people and commotion in the room. My bed was surrounded as my blood pressure bottomed out. I was in and out. Medications were being pushed in my IV on my left side. I had a second IV on my right side that was already in use. Near my head to my right, I saw my wife patting me with a wet washcloth. She was white as a ghost and had a familiar face on. I knew that face; she was praying. I tried to smile at her reassuringly through the chaos and the oxygen mask that somehow made it on my face. I have no idea if I actually made the smile. I felt agonizing pain then as the doctor did something with his arm up inside me to stabilize the twins. I screamed through it, which my wife has later revealed that I never actually made a noise. The screaming must have been in my head, though I could have sworn it was out loud. 

Suddenly, I was stabilized. Whatever they did worked and shortly after they told me it was time to start pushing. Pushing was not painful thanks to the epidural, but it was exhausting. I slept in between contractions, trying to find the strength. Two and a half hours later, the doctor stated that only little progress had been made and that Arabella was starting to have decreased heart tones. It was time now for a c-section. 

There was a new mental state to prepare for now. I was exhausted and feeling desperate for me and the twins to make it out ok. Another group of people emerged. It was time for shift change and these strangers were surrounding me preparing me for what was now to come during this major surgery. 

I was separated from Tiffany for a bit and was terrified. I needed to have her there to hold my hand. It was incredibly reassuring to have her with me once they brought her into the OR. I felt confused and hazed as all the medications and the stress were taking over me, while I laid behind and beneath this blue curtain that shielded me from all the work they were doing to bring our babies into the world. 

I started off only feeling pressure. Just some tugging and movement. Then, I started to feel pain, definitely more than pressure. I could feel actual pain and burning as they used the cauterizer on me. I pleaded with the nurse anesthetist through moans and she told me that she couldn’t give me anything else until the babies were out. She kept reassuring me that they were almost out. Then I heard it, I heard Bennett scream. I could see him being lifted and moved to one of the two NICU teams waiting to assess him. I cried and I looked at my wife. She was crying too. Here was our son that we waited so long for. His entrance gave me the courage to calm down, even through the pain, not that I had a choice, knowing that my daughter was on her way too. They lifted a shield from the blue curtain to reveal a small clear window where I could see Arabella emerge into the world. The room started to spin for me. Everything felt muffled. I asked my wife if Arabella was crying and she told me she was. I felt a sense of relief as the NICU teams told us that both babies looked healthy. Our twins were born. 

The Haze 

It was around this point where they heavily medicated me. What I remember from the rest of the next two days is just a bunch of snapshots. Tiny moments of time that scatter like a deck of cards trying to come together but instead they fall to the floor in a bit of a jumble. I don’t remember so many things. I don’t remember holding my babies for the first time. I don’t remember feeding them for the first time. I didn’t get to have this moment of “wow, I’m a mom. These are my babies” as the reality hit me. I was heavily medicated to keep me safe, but it robbed me of what I had waited my entire life for…the moment you look at your children for the first time and realize they are yours and that you’re a parent. Being a parent is made up of so much more than that first moment where you see and hold your child for the first time. I am aware of this, but I can’t help but feel like I missed out on a major milestone. 

I do remember that I stayed on the OR table being put back together for a long time. My wife and babies- I don’t know where they went. I know I kept moaning asking for the pain to stop before they would hit me with another round of meds that would knock me out again.

I don’t know how I got into the recovery room. I know that I was supposed to be in there for around 1 hour and ended up there for 8. My blood pressure was a yo-yo. High and low. High and low. Repeatedly. Each time starting some clock for protocol that kept me there longer. 

The memories are just snapshots of random moments. A flash- my wife in the corner holding one of the babies. A flash- two bassinets with babies laying next to me. I reach my hand out to touch them, but they’re too far. A flash- more meds being pushed. A flash- a new room and new nurse. I’m in postpartum recovery. A flash- I fell asleep with a baby in my arms. Tiffany is watching my every move to let me hold them, but also keep the babies safe. A flash- I have to move and feel like I’m being ripped apart from the inside out. I tell Tiffany that I think my guts are hanging out and that’s my incision must be open. She needs to check to see if I am ok. A flash- they take me off the meds. A flash- a nurse takes my babies vitals and they scream. I worry. 

I know I texted people. I acted like everything was fine. I’m not sure I was aware yet how not fine things had been. I think I might have posted things on social media. I have zero memory. It’s all gone. The birth I waited for, the moments I became a mom are gone. I mourn the loss of the experience, while also knowing that all the memories I make as a parent matter more. I mourn the pain I felt and the trauma of all the happened, especially after already spending 2 weeks in the hospital, while also looking at my babies and feeling lucky. I mourn feelings of the uncertainty of all that happened, as I spew a never ending list of questions and rely on my wife to fill in the gaps during our conversations in the car to and from follow up appointments. 

Good job, Mommy. Good job, Mama.

Once I came to and the world looked more whole again, I realized that my wife had been essentially parenting twins for two days on her own. I felt weak and in pain, but I wanted to try. I wanted to parent and every second not parenting them felt like an eternity too long. I let her two days of experience guide me on what she had already learned about each baby’s feeding, diapering, and cuddling needs. She knew them already, but I was still holding strangers in my arms. 

The doctors and nurses all suggested that I take Percocet. They reminded me that my pain was real and that I should consider it. For me, I knew that I had already been in a medicated haze and had missed my children’s first two days of life. I didn’t know what they liked or what was bothering them yet, but my wife did. I wasn’t going to miss out on more. Physical pain sounded better than the emotional pain of missing more of their lives. 

At the end of my first really coherent day, I was able to comfort the babies during a time where they felt discomfort. My wife, my constant during all of this, looked at me and said “Good job, mommy.” Three words that really undid me. Three really simple words, but they had me break down. Three words that validated me as a parent and let me know I was on the right path now. I would experience them. I would love them. I could do this with my wife by my side. 

These three words are now a staple during the hard moments. Each time one of us has a parenting win over the next couple of weeks, we have looked at each other and said “Good job, mommy” or “Good job, mama” to the respective parent. These words will continue to bring us through the new part of our journey together. They are a small, but major reminder that we will be each other’s cheerleaders and support through all the unexpected that is yet to come.

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