It was the middle of the night. Of course- do women ever go into labor at a convenient time? But it was too early; I was barely thirty five weeks pregnant and the doctor had already stopped labor once a month ago. This time felt different and I knew he would not be able to stop these babies from coming. We rushed to the the University of Arizona hospital across town and went through the usual check-in procedures. I was not yet in hard labor but things were progressing pretty rapidly. I had little time to think about how my life was about to change forever.
The doctor came in and checked on me and went away again. Poor bedside manner; I seemed to bore him. He appeared so old to my twenty-six year old eyes, but he was probably all of late-50’s. I dozed off and on as the labor progressed. After eight or nine hours things kicked in to high gear. I refused the epidural offered, as I wanted to do this as naturally as possible, cavewoman that I am. The doctor came in and ordered one anyway, but the technician stabbed me in the back several times with no luck finding the sweet spot. When the birth started happening for real, the doctor was nowhere to be found. It took a half hour to locate him, hiding out in a lounge and watching a football game. He seemed pretty annoyed to be disturbed.
Due to the fact that I was having twins, and that one was presenting breach, I was wheeled into the OR and prepared for possible surgery. Hubby bravely held my hand and did everything we had learned in Lamaze classes. The first baby came pretty quickly and was held up: a pink, beautiful but tiny five-pound baby girl. Girl! I laughed out loud- we had no idea we would have a girl. I was the only female in my family, and on hubby’s side there was one girl and four boys. We had not even discussed girl names! I was beyond delighted.
Then the doctor became very serious and the feeling in the room changed. The breach twin was not cooperating. The doctor tried exterior manipulation but it was not working. The doctor told the nurse to prepare for surgery as my blood pressure hit the roof and the baby’s vitals were dropping. Then he did something that I was later told no other doctor in the hospital would have done. He went in and grabbed that baby by the feet and yanked that newborn out of me. He held up the second baby: a tiny, beautiful girl! I started to laugh out loud again until I realized she was not breathing and she was not pink, but a milky white color. I had never felt so terrified in my life as they whisked that second infant girl away and I yelled at hubby to follow that baby. He was gone for the longest fifteen minutes of my life, while the doctor attended to me. By the time he returned to say she was breathing and fine, I was hysterical and called him a liar. I demanded to see my babies.
The doctor, annoyed again at me, ordered morphine. I yelled at him: now you want to give me morphine?? I threatened to get of the table and go hunting the entire hospital until I found them. With an aggravated sigh, he told the nurse to wheel me to to neonatal nursery, and he went back to his football game.
At the nursery, I found my cousin, a nurse who just happened to work at that hospital and who just happened to be on duty that night, tending to my girls. I never knew such emotions existed as I felt during that twenty four hours. To this day, I am happy that she was there as I knew they were in the best hands possible.
Back at the hospital room, I asked hubby (poor man-what a saint) to get me a Kippy’s burger with mushrooms and onions. Kippy’s was known for grinding the burgers to order and I had not eaten in a long time. When he came back, I was ravenous and raving. I tore open the package, took two huge bites and pushed it away, full. Then I fell into a dead sleep…
…until two hours later when the lactate nurse came in for the first feeding. She taught me how to feed the babies, with her strong Asian accent causing quite a confusion: Tlin A first light blest last time? Tlin B first left bleast this time? I guess it mattered who went where when. She actually pinned little signs on my hospital gown over my chest to make sure.
After several days we came home and the routine of feeding and caring for babies made a blur of the first month. It took a while for the new normal to take shape. And now, twenty five years have gone by, and I look at pictures of those two amazing baby girls as they have grown into women I am proud to call my daughters, and I get a bit teary-eyed. Happy birthday, wonderful girls.