Hi! I’m Crystal. I married my super amazing husband John in December 2008 while we were both still in college. We’ve since graduated, started jobs, lived in 5 different houses, 3 different cities, and have built a family together. When talking about children, John and I knew we wanted to have our babies close together. Our firstborn, Ian, came in May 2012. Very quickly, Naomi followed in September 2013, and Abigail in November 2015. We couldn’t leave Abigail alone, so we decided to try for one more baby. At the time, we were living in Austin, TX and far away from family. In October 2016, we decided to move to Winchester, VA in April 2017 to be near John’s mom and cousins. In December, I found out I was pregnant with an August 15th due date. This would allow us to move during the second trimester, when things aren’t as crazy. After all, the previous pregnancies had proved to be mostly routine, and the three births roughly the same. I had fast labors, small babies, and always made it to the birth center’s tub in time for 3 water births. This would be the same, right? We could handle a move during the second trimester.
At 21 weeks, 3 weeks before our move, we took the whole family to the routine anatomy ultrasound. The older children were excited to see the new baby! I got comfortable, and the tech began her work. Her exact words are rather hazy, but she asked us if we knew there were two babies. TWO BABIES!!! No, we had no idea. Not a clue. Doesn’t run in the family. Looking back, I had extra fatigue and began showing rather quickly, things I attributed to this being my fourth pregnancy. This was the first and last time we ever saw their heads together on an ultrasound. Even two days later, Baby A had flipped around.
Things changed after that. Many, many things. Most of my careful planning flew out the window. I could no longer go to my intended birth center, as they don’t deliver twins. There were no other midwives in Winchester who would take that risk. I began care in Winchester at an OB office. Ironically, I’d never seen an OB before, even though this was my 4th pregnancy. What questions do I ask? What are normal procedures? How would I be cared for? I quickly discovered a clinical, standardized model of care that was drastically different than my previous experiences. I found that, after 3 birth center births with a midwifery model of care, I could not stand going to an OB. Not when I knew how personal and intentional prenatal care could be. I did try. I had a few prenatal visits, but it didn’t work. I knew it was not a good situation when I would leave crying, and did not want to go to an appointment without my husband. I began my search anew. Originally, I had crossed Brookhaven off my list, since they were so far south. However, they were the closest place that would accept twins. I attended a tour and felt like I was coming home, especially after visiting the doctor’s office. They were not only excited about twins, but eager to work with me. Since my labor pattern involved extremely short labors, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it the hour(ish) drive to the birth center. We decided on a home birth.
This pregnancy was fraught with some minor and major issues. I failed the first gestational diabetes test, necessitating the longer test, which I passed. All the ultrasounds were showing Baby B head down and Baby A breech, which is not ideal for a vaginal delivery. I was GBS+. My pubic symphysis was wreaking havoc on my entire pelvic region. As the end approached, I was done carrying the twins, both emotionally and physically. My feet began swelling. I could not roll over in bed. I could barely walk up the stairs. I had heart burn. I had Braxton-Hicks contractions for the first time. Sleep was a thing of the past. We kept trying to get Baby A to flip. The mental stress due to the uncertainty of childbirth was doing me in. It was very tough.
Thursday, July 27th. At 37 weeks & 2 days, I woke up feeling physically out of sorts. There was no clear labor pattern, but something was happening. Since I had an appointment later that day, I called to see if I could head down there early and spend the day hanging out at the birth center. They encouraged me to come whenever I wanted. The older three were being well taken care of by their Grammy, so John and I left for the day.
11:00 am. I arrived at the birth center and Misty checked me. She found that I was 6 cm dilated and very soft. She could feel the bag of waters, and she could feel a foot. Of all the presentations for a breech baby, a footling Baby A breech carries the most risk. We collectively made the decision to continue to attempt to turn Baby A until 3 pm, and then make the call to go to the hospital for a c-section. The uncertainty, my history of fast labors, and my worn-out body made it clear that the babies needed to come today, one way or another.
3:00 pm. Baby A was still breech. The agonizing decision that had been put off for weeks and hours was made. I would transfer to Winchester Medical Center for a c-section with the hospitalist OB. My doula, Jessica, would be my support person, so Misty would stay in Harrisonburg as only one other person can be in the OR with me. Gut-drenching sobs ran through me, as this was not what I wanted. But I’ve always said that hospitals are there for a reason and it was time for me to put my words into action.
6:30 pm. After major traffic delays, we met with Jessica to talk about what we wanted, and how we could make the surgery align more closely to our desires for birth. We checked in, and I got hooked up to two fetal heart monitors and a contraction monitor. It turns out that I was having contractions every 2 minutes, lasting for approximately 20 seconds each! To me, they simply felt like the Braxton-Hicks I’d been having for the last month.
The nurse began prepping me for surgery, which couldn’t begin until 11:00 pm as I’d eaten around 5:00 pm. Dr. Lane came in with an ultrasound machine to verify presentation. Baby A was indeed still breech with a foot sticking down. He mentioned, almost in passing, that he had done breech babies before. I latched onto that though, and asked if we could try Pitocin to see if I could still have the babies vaginally. He said the risk of cord prolapse was still there, and if that happened, it would necessitate an emergency c-section where I would be knocked out. That was a risk I was willing to take.
8:00 pm. Pitocin drip started. Contractions are still about 2 minutes apart. I’m still not feeling them very much. I labor standing next to the hospital bed, talking and joking with John and Jessica.
10:00 pm. I was now tired of standing on my feet. I got into the bed with it in a sitting position, and suddenly my water broke. I sat there for a little bit, then stood up on the other side of the bed so they could remove the wet sheets. Annnddd then the contractions hit me like a freight train. I went from feeling pretty good to holding onto my husband for dear life. They were one after another after another. It was similar to my previous labors, but ratcheted up a notch.
10:30 pm. I was back on the bed, laying on my back with my knees up. My hands had a death grip on the bed rails. They were my anchor. John was right there where I could see him, where I could see his encouragement. Dr. Lane checked me, and told me I could try pushing whenever I wanted to. I didn’t yet feel there, so a few contractions passed. Then I felt the need to bear down.
10:42 pm. A few pushes later, and a round bottom appeared, followed very quickly by the rest of the body. We had a baby girl! She lay there for a bit, the cord was cut, and she was passed to me. She was perfect. Dr. Lane broke the other water bag and reminded me that I wasn’t done yet. Contractions came again. I focused and began pushing.
10:50 pm. With my daughter on my chest, I focused on bearing down and pushing once more. This time, the smooth head appeared and my son popped out. I even got to be the one to cut his cord! Two babies. Two tiny, perfect little beings were now out in the world.
After all the uncertainty, the worry, and the stress, we had our birth. It definitely didn’t follow any prescribed pregnancy or birth plan, but every decision along the way was made to fully utilize our resources. Twins born vaginally, with a breech Baby A, is a medical anomaly in today’s world, but it shows how powerful and capable women can be when properly informed, willing to bend, and trusted to make their own decisions. I am truly grateful to both Misty & Emily for sticking with me, as well as Dr. Lane for facilitating their birth.
Minutes old. Lily in the back, Isaac in the front.
Seven weeks old. Isaac on the left, Lily on the right.