By: Shannon Ralph
What have I been doing for the last five years of my life? Where has the time gone? What strange time warp have I been living in that days and weeks and months fly by in the blink of an eye? On June 18th, my twin babies, Sophie and Nicholas, will be turning five years old—an event that seems like an absolute impossibility to my feeble mind. Weren’t they just yesterday soiling their diapers and hurling strained sweet potatoes across my kitchen? Weren’t they just last week falling asleep in my arms?
With their fifth birthday looming on the horizon, I find myself thinking about the road I traveled to bring Sophie and Nicholas into this world. I so wanted to experience the “joy” of pregnancy. With our first son, Ruanita was an utterly glowing pregnant woman. She was calm and peaceful. Serene, even. She was truly the happiest she has ever been when she was pregnant. I was hoping for the same. I anticipated feeling the same sense of serenity and “rightness”. The same contentment. The same joy she experienced when growing a new life from scratch. Unfortunately, it was not to be for me.
I had a miserable pregnancy. Absolutely miserable. Practically from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I began throwing up. And I never stopped. I lost twenty pounds during a twin pregnancy—something I do not recommend. I was so incredibly sick that I could not eat anything. I survived on lemonade and lemon Italian ices. There was something about the tartness of lemons that allowed them to stay down. Everything else came up almost immediately. I had more than my share of IV fluids due to dehydration. I was prescribed every anti-nausea medicine known to humankind, some of which came in an exceedingly pleasant suppository form. I was constantly sick. Somewhere around the second month of my pregnancy, I quite suddenly quit my job (that I rather enjoyed) working in Dispute Resolution for a medical insurance company. I was missing more days of work than I was attending, or so it seemed. I was just mentally and physically exhausted and couldn’t keep up with the work. In a fit of hormone-induced tears one day, I simply walked out. Perhaps not the best decision I’ve ever made, but it all worked out in the end.
In addition to the exhaustion and weight loss, I had lovely acne erupting from every square inch of my face. I had acne worse than any fifteen-year-old boy I had ever seen. I also had an ugly pimply rash that covered my chest and shoulders and back. Suffice it to say that I was NOT an attractive pregnant woman. You’ve heard about the “glow” of pregnancy? The only thing glowing on me were the red zits that could probably be seen from outer space.
In my free time—between puking and signaling spaceships with my glowing pimples—I worried about the completely ludicrous and illogical things all pregnant women worry about. My oldest son was so incredibly beautiful. What if the fruits of my loins were hideously ugly? The type of babies that would make strangers cringe? What if I didn’t love them as much I loved Lucas? What if Ruanita didn’t love them as much as she loved Lucas? What if she stopped loving me? What if I couldn’t handle two babies and a three-year-old? Would my twins be born with life-altering deformities because I couldn’t step away from the damn Diet Pepsi? Would I completely freak out during childbirth? Tear out my IV, rip off the fetal monitor, and send my physician running for cover? Would my belly button remain an “outie” forever? If my boobs continued to grow at the rate they were growing, would I develop a hunchback and be forced to reside in a Cathedral bell tower? My worries ran the gamut from reasonable to downright asinine.
I spent the last three weeks of my pregnancy on bed rest in and out of the hospital. In for five days, out for one. In for six days, out for eight hours. In for another seven days before the twins were finally born seven weeks early. Ruanita was stuck with the unenviable task of trying to support me, take care of Lucas, and go to work every day. We had no clue when the twins would actually arrive, so she had to plug along at work every day to allow herself time to be home with us once they did arrive. She worked evenings at that time too, so she also had to find something to do with Lucas every single day from 2PM until 10:30PM while she worked. We had pulled him out of daycare when I quit my job. Luckily, my mom and sister were invaluable during the time. Add to everything else the frustration of listening to me do nothing but cry and puke for months on end. While the pregnancy was hell for me, I can only imagine it was that much tougher on Ruanita.
On the day the twins were born, my doctor came in to see me and announced that he was going to discharge me because they appeared to have effectively stopped my preterm labor for the time being. I was instructed, for the second time, on how to use the terbutaline pump I would be sent home with. However, prior to sending me home, the doctor wanted to re-check my blood work one more time. An hour or so later, he came back to inform me, to his obvious surprise, that the twins were going to be delivered immediately. My blood work showed that I had developed pre-eclampsia and my liver enzymes were ten times what they should have been. By that time, I had become accustomed to feeling crappy all day every day, so did not recognize the symptoms of pre-eclamsia.
The doctor, nurses, and anesthesiologist prepped me for an emergency c-section. The anesthesiologist, in his infinite wisdom, did not believe me when I told him I was allergic to morphine. He informed me that morphine can make some people nauseous in higher doses, but people really aren’t “allergic” to it. He told me that he would use a very low does of morphine in my epidural and that I shouldn’t react to it at all. Well, as my luck would have it, he was wrong. I began throwing up the minute my epidural was administered, and I continued to throw up during the entire c-section procedure. The nurse was at my head with an emesis basin and I felt quite certain that I would die right there on the operating table. When the twins were born and Ruanita proudly stood at my head to show them to me, I couldn’t even turn my head. I was incapable of looking at my babies. As a matter of fact, I did not see them at all until midnight that night—long after the rest of my family and friends had oohed and aahed over them—as I was being moved from recovery into my regular room. Sophie and Nicky were tiny. Exactly 3 lbs 14 oz each. However, they were strong and healthy. They were in the special care nursery at the hospital, but did not have to be in the NICU. They were so beautiful they literally took my breath away. They did not have that scrawny, furry, drowned-rat appearance that I expected from such small preemies. Rather, they were pink and plucky and full of life. I spent several days tube-feeding them, and they did lose a bit of weight in the hospital. However, they were strong and were able to go home after only twelve days in the hospital.
To this day, Sophie and Nicholas are the miracles of my life. There were countless instances during my pregnancy when things could have gone terribly wrong. I couldn’t eat, so how were they getting proper nourishment? Other women worry about eating a balanced diet during pregnancy. I worried about eating anything at all to nourish the tiny lives growing inside me. I began having preterm labor at a time when they most certainly would not have survived, but they hung in there until they could emerge strong and vital. I had complications that could have easily resulted in long-term consequences for my babies. However, through it all, they survived and thrived. They were amazing little creatures. They are amazing little creatures. As their fifth birthday approaches, I look back on everything I went through to have Sophie and Nicholas and I know wholeheartedly that I would not have changed a minute of it. They are my angels. My miracle babies.
Happy birthday to my tremendous twinnies!