I didn’t consider or plan a natural birth (it was both my choice and was recommended). So when my waters broke on the way to the bathroom on the morning of Sunday 25th July, I was freaking out. I was 34 weeks and 6 days pregnant with the twins and had my c-section date confirmed to me just two days prior which I was stressing about all week. I was desperate to know my date (their date). In hindsight maybe the stress of waiting for the date made me go into early labour which is quite ironic……
It’s actually not as common as you think for your waters to break before contractions start. According to the NHS, this happens in about 1 in 12 pregnancies (about 8%) and is known as pre-labour rupture of membranes. At first, I was thought I had wet myself as this is unfortunately a common habit in pregnancy (I sneezed, I peed, I coughed I peed, I laughed I peed). But this time I couldn’t hold it or stop myself, and something just felt different (it’s a weird instinct that’s hard to explain). This led to two options; I had in fact peed myself or I was one of the 8%….. I had no idea what it would be like for waters to break and I hadn’t ever googled it or asked my midwife what it was like. I never contemplated that I could go into labour when I was already planning to have them a month early via c section. The water breaking itself felt like it was a popping sensation, like a water balloon has popped. I had put this feeling down to one of the babies kicking me in the bladder which made me feel like I needed to pee and go to the bathroom in the first place. After ticking the other boxes of what breaking waters felt like (according to google) and a chat with the maternity ward, off to the hospital we went.
I was seen straight away after arriving at the Maternity Daycare ward. As they knew it was twins sharing a placenta and 5 weeks early, they were already waiting for me, but Ryan had to stay in the car whilst I was being examined. This wasn’t new for him as all the scans from 12 weeks onwards was done this way. Luckily he was able to make the 12 week NHS scan before the rules changed resulting in the mother-to-be going alone. I had more scans (every other week) being higher risk which made it all the more scary for me and more worrying for him. He had to sometimes wait an hour (or two) before knowing everything was okay with me and the babies. Pubs and restaurants were back open during my third trimester which meant he could go to the pub with me without a mask and come into contact with other people, but not to an important appointment/examination for his unborn children with a mask and the staff wearing PPE. I understand why the rule came in but it’s ridiculous that the rules for socialising can be so relaxed but not for soon to be parents. This was one of many negative parts of being pregnant in a pandemic that I am sure other pregnant mothers and their partners will experience.
After my obs were done they performed two tests to check if my waters had indeed broken. The first test is internal and to be honest was not nice, (think smear test but more uncomfortable). I had to cough so they could check for clear fluid (amniotic fluid) and take a swab which is part of the second test to check for a particular protein (I think) that you only get in amniotic fluid. I passed both tests with flying colours which confirmed that I did not pee myself. I cried ugly tears.
I cried because for the first time I was really scared.
I cried because it was Sunday and I wanted to spend it in bed.
I cried because I hadn’t washed my hair, done my nails or shaved like I planned.
I cried because I hadn’t had the steroid injections yet to build up the babies lungs.
I cried because it was too early.
I cried because I wanted Ryan there with me but instead I was alone in an examination room with just the sounds of my babies heartbeats on the monitor reminding me that shit was getting real – my babies was coming.
After a nasty Covid test up the nose and down my throat (which I would’ve had in advance before my operation anyway) a quick jab to thigh of steroids part one, I was admitted to the main ward for observations not knowing what would happen next. Would my contractions start? What would they feel like? Would they rush me into the operating theatre for an emergency c section? What I did know was that I wasn’t leaving the hospital now without my babies. I felt REALLY unprepared.
Ryan was able to meet me outside Maternity Daycare to go to the main labour ward, but we knew come 8pm he had to go home and was only allowed back if they the babies had to come or it was 8am the next day. The next twelve hours was a rollercoaster of emotions. They pumped me with antibiotics to stop any infections and I had the second steroid injection at midnight. I had some contractions but they weren’t strong at all (more like period pains) and they went away the next day.
I was told that the c section was going to be the next morning so we mentally prepared for this and got excited before being told actually they wanted the steroids to have more time to work. Queue more ugly cries. My hormones were going crazy. One minute I was crying because it was happening earlier than I wanted, then I was crying because they wanted to delay it another day. I didn’t know what I wanted except whatever was best. I was also starving because I was told to be nil by mouth that morning. This was someone that had to have cereal at 4am during pregnancy then go back to sleep because I was so hungry.
Sunday and now Monday had been and gone and Tuesday I woke up hopeful but not as excited just in case I was told to wait another day. A bedside scan was done the night before showing that there was still some amniotic fluid meaning they were okay to be in there a little longer. I was still leaking fluid which apparently is normal until birth. Up until then I had constant observations and by 9am I had already been visited by the anaesthetist, surgeon and main midwife that would be looking after me. It suddenly became real when they brought in the scrubs for us to wear and of course our masks that had to stay on at all times except when we was in our room. We thought we would have a few hours to wait as the prebooked c sections had to take place first, but was surprised to be whisked down to theatre just an hour later.
The walk down to the theatre was a blur. The only thing I remember was the staff watching me as I waddled down the corridor, scrubs on and looking very nervous. You could tell they were all smiling from under the masks knowing you were going to return as parents. We entered the big, white sterile smelling room with lots of people dressed in different colours looking extremely busy. You could tell they had done it hundreds of times before and I couldn’t believe they were all there for me. What followed next is sitting on the bed hugging a cushion to your chest whilst they insert the epidural into the spine. It was awkward but fine, just a bit jumpy. The epidural works fairly quickly and soon you are numb all the way to your chest. Suddenly it’s all happening, various things were being pumped through my canula, a screen had gone up in front of me with loads of people surrounding us with of course Ryan at my left side. The anaesthetist and nurse behind us gave us a play by play of what was happening. Of course you can’t feel any pain but I could feel a lot of tugging and pushing until twin 1 (Amelie) was out at 11.11am. They let down the screen to show her to us, she was tiny but was crying which was a massive relief to us. The lungs are one of the last to develop fully so can be a cause for concern when they are premature which is why the steroids had to be administered.
Two minutes later at 11.13am twin 2 (Avery) was born. Two minutes doesn’t sound long, but for me it felt like forever. She was tucked up high and seemed a bit stuck and we knew why after they finally got her out…… she was still in her amniotic sac! This is quite rare in caesareans for the baby to come out this way which caused everyone in the room to have a good look in awe. They even lowered the screen so we could look too just in time before it popped and she also started to cry. We figured out later that when my waters broke on the Sunday morning it must’ve been Amelie’s that broke and not Avery’s. (They are in one sac but have their own membrane that can break simultaneously). They were then taken away to get weighed and returned to us in a towel. The nurse that brought Avery to Ryan was actually a close friend of ours who made the time to be there to weigh them which made it even more special and relieved. We held one each and she took photos because we were too stunned to think of doing it. It was all so overwhelming I didn’t even process it enough to cry. I was holding Amelie who was looking at me frowning!
Ryan wheeled them off to get their vitamin D injections whilst they stitched me up. This was when I began to feel a bit woozy. I remember a nurse walking over to a phone on the wall to make a call and within minutes a doctor rushed in to assist my surgeon. Apparently, the bag that the catheter led to was full of blood, so they assumed that the bladder was nicked somehow. I could feel more pushing and lifting and my anaesthetist was pushing more concoctions into my cannula. No one seemed to know what was going on and the longer this went on the more blood I was losing. Someone, not sure who, said to check the position of catheter. Things seem to calm down after that when the doctor who came in to assist introduced herself to me and said she was called to repair the bladder but the good news was it didn’t need repairing, the bad news was my catheter wasn’t inserted properly, so instead of filling up with urine it was filling up with blood and because they spent time trying to find the source of the bleed I had lost over two and half litres of blood (which is quite a bit!)
When I was wheeled into recovery to finally be reunited with Ryan and my babies, they took my haemoglobin levels which was low at 85, this would lower again the next day to 72 which initiated two blood transfusions. I hesitated at first because I knew that once I had the transfusions, I wouldn’t be able to donate blood again. I’m just glad that I’ve spent the last few years donating blood so someone in situation could receive blood.
I wasn’t concerned about myself though, I was of course more worried about my babies. But I didn’t need to worry as they were absolutely fine and didn’t need any special care. I was warned a lot when I was pregnant that it would be very possible that one or both may need special care with breathing or feeding. As their breathing was fine, our mission before we was discharged was to get them feeding and maintaining their weights which at the moment was 4lb 5ozs and 4lb 7ozs. So we focussed on this over the next few days. My milk had only started to come in and the babies struggled a lot feeding this way (they got so tired and gave up) so we did a bit of breastfeeding and formula feeds. We asked the hospital again if Ryan could stay overnight and unfortunately he wasn’t allowed (even though i had just had major surgery and had two very small babies next to me to feed every 2 hours!) Of course this was upsetting (and bloody scary) but the midwives were amazing and was always there when I needed them. They checked on me often, doing mine and the babies obs every 2 hours and helped me feed them.
The next few days sleep was non existent. The babies themselves slept a lot when they wasn’t feeding and didn’t cry at all. I couldn’t sleep because all I could do was look at them and check they were breathing. I was in pain when I moved, but happily took the strong pain relief because it was great stuff! I was extremely weak from the blood loss and had to have the catheter in for longer because of the impending blood transfusion. I had daily blood tests and the babies had them too plus sugar level tests. They passed everything except a small bout of jaundice on the second night which resulted in twelve hours of light therapy but they could do this in my room so they never left me.
After my blood transfusion, I asked for my catheter to be removed so I can force myself to get out of bed and start walking around. I could sense that the midwives were busy and I needed to start doing things by myself. Getting out of bed was really, really hard but it got easier.
We stayed four more nights before we were all finally allowed home. The doctors discharged the babies before they discharged me as they were waiting for my haemoglobin levels go back up to ‘normal’. The length of stay can vary when you have had a c-section, but due to Covid, some were being discharged the next day. My stay after the surgery was four nights with a total of six nights from when my waters broke.
It was a crazy six days and six nights and four months on we still talk about how surreal it was. People do this every day and it’s just amazing. We were lucky to walk away in just under a week with two small healthy babies born 5 weeks early that didn’t need any special care.
Birth is amazing, scary, nerve racking and unpredictable. I never did a birth plan because I didn’t feel the need to do one, and it didn’t go to plan anyway. Did I feel unprepared? Yes. Could I have prepared better. I honestly don’t think so because it might not have made a difference. I knew I had to put my trust into the professionals as I was completely out my depth. Being pregnant and becoming a mother was new to me and continues to surprise me!
Thanks for reading!