Though I couldn't quite articulate it, I knew on some level that it was imperative that I experience some healing before I wrote the last chapter. I've peeled back layer after layer of guilt and shame for having such big, unwieldy feelings about their birth and our six day stay at Oklahoma Children's Hospital. Essentially, it was incredibly hard to reconcile how traumatic their birth and the days following were for me with the fact that we came home with two beautifully healthy, happy, thriving babies.
I've been working closely with Jen Hoffman - my friend, yoga-teacher-from-afar, and (unintentional) life coach - and she has been a gentle guide for me in the process. She gave me permission to say out loud and accept that the twins' birth was a form of body trauma, and in that moment of acceptance, she helped me unlock the secret to recovering. She has taught me how to accept my own feelings without judging them, to just feel them for what they are without feeling like I must immediately rectify any negative feelings I have about this birth experience.
It's a process, and I'm still working through it. However, I do finally feel like I am in a place where I can just tell you about our hospital stay and how difficult it was for me without the burden of worrying about how you will receive this part of my life's story. There is no universal standard for trauma. What is life-changingly difficult for one person might be a small bump in the road for another. In the end, it is no small thing to be story-tellers and story-listeners, learning from each other in the pages of chapters we feel we need to read out loud.
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I left off in part 2 by telling you that my post-birth giddiness was quickly overshadowed by the heartbreak of seeing my babies connected to tubes, being warmed by lamps and lights and not by me. Though they were only one floor above me, they felt miles away. I was struck by how empty I suddenly felt without them.
I also felt hungry. Very, very hungry.
I had only eaten a small bag of peanuts that morning, not knowing that by evening, I would be getting prepped for surgery. We were scheduled to go in at 5:00ish, but it was 9:00 PM before the babies were born.
My very wonderful, kind nurse asked if I was sure my tummy felt okay to eat. I had never gotten sick before after a c-section, and I didn't feel the slightest bit nauseated. She brought me a sandwich from the patient all-hours kitchen, and I devoured it.
And then, I started throwing up.
And if you've never vomited within a few hours of major abdominal surgery, LET ME TELL YOU WHAT. You are missing out! Missing out on a brilliantly AWFUL experience! I'll let your imagination fill in the details.
The anesthesia hadn't quite worn off when I first got sick, and the first round of it came as such as surprise that I didn't have time to call the nurse for something to throw up into, so I actually had to grab the container my sandwich came in and puke into that. Gross. I felt so sorry for my sweet nurse. There is just nothing like giving birth to force you into abject humiliation.
Between the late-evening surgery and then being up through the night vomiting, I was pretty wiped out on Friday. I vaguely remember being wheeled up to the NICU to see the boys. I was crushed they were both started on formula. On a logical level, I understood. On a heart level, however, it broke my heart.
And it actually didn't make matters any better that a well-meaning and very enthusiastic lactation consultant pounced on me when she learned I planned to breastfeed the boys. She scheduled a time for me to return later in the afternoon to start the babies nursing. I don't know if it was just a clash of personalities or the fact that I was already so wrung out or what, but the LC was not helpful to me. She was hyper and insistent and overwhelming, and I am saying that as someone who is 1000% pro-breastfeeding.
When I returned to my room, my daytime nurse informed me that time was ticking away for me to be able to pee. If I wasn't able to pee by 4:00 that afternoon, I might have to have the catheter re-inserted. Four o'clock was when I was supposed to return to the NICU to try to feed the babies. I remember trying as often as I could to pee, but nothing was happening.
The same panic I had felt during the babies' birth returned. I don't remember many details of those first few days very clearly, but I distinctly remember sitting on the toilet, hoping and praying that I would be able to pee as the phone in my room began ringing, the reminder from upstairs that I was supposed to be up there, trying to feed the babies.
I remember just sitting there crying, feeling so helpless and like everything was just so, so wrong. My babies weren't supposed to be a floor above me. My babies weren't supposed to have gotten a bottle before the breast. My body wasn't supposed to be resisting the bathroom. I wasn't supposed to have an LC breathing down my neck the first time I tried to nurse the boys. I have already nursed two babies, dammit! I remember thinking. But I wasn't supposed to push back against the LC's enthusiasm. She was doing exactly what I thought LC's were supposed to do - advocate and educate and facilitate.
I didn't want to be facilitated. I wanted to take my babies home to my own bed where I could do what I already knew how to do and just be left alone by all these strangers and their good intentions.
That was not meant to be, however, and so someone wheeled me up to the NICU where I was coached on how to encourage a good latch, but it was futile. Neither of them were interested, and so I was wheeled back downstairs. I did have a great pump provided for me, and so I got to work on that and was relieved to discover that in the midst of all of the wrongness of the moment, something somewhere in my body knew what to do:
That night, the babies were released from NICU, and everything began to feel a little more normal. We decided to wait until the next day - Saturday - to introduce them to their sisters, so Friday evening Kyle and I had them all to ourselves. It was, without a doubt, the most magical few hours of the entire experience. We held our long-awaited sons, so healthy, so snuggly, and marveled over it all.
I'll wrap up the story tomorrow. I promise! I'm so grateful for your patience and grace.