This week we feature mother of twins Jennifer Erickson who shares her twin story of giving birth to twins naturally welcoming their twins into the world. Yes, a natural birth of twins is possible! Make sure you talk to your doctor about what is right for your twin pregnancy.
When I was 14 weeks along with our 4th baby, I noticed pain in the lower right quadrant of my stomach – right where the appendix is located. The intense pain persisted for three days. It was the weekend, and I was worried. So I called my doctor, my former midwife, and my sister who is a nurse, and they all suggested it was time to go to the emergency room. “Just to make sure,” they all said.
Turns out it wasn’t appendicitis. Nope. Just dehydration. And. . . twins!!!
The ER sonographer was the one who told my husband and I, “Well, the heartbeats look good. You’re having twins!” Silence from us.
“Did you know you were having twins?” Still silence. No, we did not know, thank you very much.
My husband’s jaw dropped open, and stayed that way.
I stared at the screen, feeling like I was watching a car wreck that I couldn’t avoid. I smiled. I cried. Then I reached over to close my husband’s gaping mouth.
The ER was abuzz with the news of twins. Five different employees came one by one, checking me for various things, poking me here and there. And each one of them entered the room with, “Well I heard you’re having twins! It’s not appendicitis! Congratulations!” They were overjoyed to have some good news to talk about.
“Because,” they said, “it’s usually sad news. We love having good news for once! Two healthy babies is excellent news around here.”
But as for us? We were the ones having twins – now our 4th and 5th babies within eight years. Boom! Our family catapulted to a family of seven. We weren’t as excited as they were. Yet.
(RELATED: The Twin Stroller Advisor helps you find the perfect double stroller for your family.)
Planning for a Natural Birth of Twins
We had planned to have the birth with a midwife at a birthing center near a hospital. I’d already had one baby in a hospital, one accidentally at home (don’t want to do that again), and one in a birthing center near a hospital.
The midwife and birthing center experience was my favorite. But with twins, good luck finding a birthing center that will take you.
So, back to the OB and a cold metal-gray hospital. I wasn’t excited about having to switch to an OB whose ideas are typically geared more towards c-sections and problem solving.
I have three doctors in my family, so I know very well they have the skills necessary to save our lives when problems arise. But with these twins, I wanted to know how to prevent problems.
The pain in my lower abdomen returned. I asked my doctor about it. He looked at the MRI and the sonogram, but there wasn’t a clear answer. How could they say the pain was from dehydration, when I was drinking 2-3 liters of water a day? Wasn’t I drinking enough? Was I eating enough? Was it possible to prevent bed rest, early delivery, c-section, and the NICU?
I turned to research and books about twins and multiples pregnancies. Well, it turns out, twins needed more. More water. More protein. More days with my feet up. More of everything. And it IS possible to give your twins a great head start while in utero. So I set out to do so.
For twin pregnancies, these are our favorite books:
1) Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins by Joe Rawlinson (no I wasn’t paid to say that, it is honestly the best book a Dad could read – short, simple, and sweet. We give it as gifts now. We loved it!)
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
2) When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads: Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Multiples Pregnancy by Dr. Barbara Luke, Tamara Eberlein, and Dr. Roger Newman
3) HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan, M. Ed., M. Hy. (for relaxation techniques)
Avoiding bed rest, early delivery, the NICU, and a c-section became my new top priorities.
Neither my OB nor the other OBs in his practice offered much guidance on how to do this. I started out at 118 lbs and I was 5’4” and had back problems my whole life.
With this pregnancy, I was at risk for diabetes, more debilitating back problems, early twin delivery, and depression. Therefore, Dr. Luke’s book quickly became my go-to guide.
I did everything my doctor said, but Dr. Luke’s book gave me MORE, much more guidance. Here are the things I did that made my twin pregnancy go swimmingly well:
- Drink 1 gallon of water or more a day
- Eat a minimum of 130g of protein daily
- Gain 25 lbs BEFORE week 20 (no matter what your BMI is; Dr. Luke explains why this is so important)
- Avoid sugar and carbs and sugar drinks
- No coffee, no alcohol, no smoking, no drugs
- Sleep 8-9 hours a day, even if it’s not consecutive
- Put your feet up when you notice swelling
- Eat more vegetables; treat fruit as a dessert
- For all you athletes out there (I’m one of them), lots of exercise is not always best for twin pregnancies. Be willing to let go and be a couch potato if your body needs it
- And. . .swimming!!! The weightlessness feels oh so good on a pregnant body.
Finding a Twin-Friendly Birthing Center
Things were going along so well during pregnancy, that my OB remarked, “You’ll be my easiest twin delivery this year. I can already tell.” I took that as pure freedom to go find a birthing center.
At 24 weeks, I found one birthing center in Dallas, Texas that would accept me as their patient.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
There was a long checklist of pre-requisites a twin mama had to have, and I had fulfilled them all. Baby A was head down, another plus. I could see the hospital from the birth center, so I knew it was close if problems arose. And I happily transferred to their care.
Immediately, the midwives asked me many more questions than the doctor’s questionnaires ever did. It was a much more holistic approach.
The blood tests were administered the same way as an OB’s office, and so were the screenings and the sonograms. But they asked me more questions like:
- do you have a support system at home?
- how is your relationship with your partner?
- have you had post-partum depression before?
- are you drinking a gallon of water every day?
- will you please download the My Fitness Pal app, etc. so we can track your nutrition for the next 7 days?
- do you need or want a lactation consultant?
- do you want a home visit to help you get ready for the babies?
- have you tried this natural supplement for getting rid of cramps and constipation?
- have you looked into placenta encapsulation for avoiding post-partum depression (yes! I did it and it is amazing – no PPD here)?
Finally. My twins were getting the care they needed.
Choosing to have a natural birth, for me, simply meant that I was going to go along that path until I couldn’t. If I needed to transfer back to an OB at the end, no problem, I would do what is best for my babies.
But the midwives offered a special dose of care in preventing common problems that accompany twin pregnancies, and could at least help me lessen the risks.
I started gathering courage with their help. I wrote my new mantra down on a post-it note and hung it on the bathroom mirrow: Go to 38 weeks or have the biggest babies in the NICU!!
No doubt about it, I was determined to have blue-ribbon babies.
Along my journey, I became more serious about trying to calm my nerves and anxiety about having twins. I had used Marie Mongan’s HypnoBirthing book with some success before, so I decided to read it again. It’s full of teaching you had to have a positive outlook for pregnancy and birthing, and gives you new breathing techniques.
I listened to the hypnobirthing CD’s with soothing music, and their positive phrases every day. Pretty soon, I believed I could handle pregnancy and the changes in my body. Pretty soon, I believed my babies were growing and happy to be with me. Pretty soon, I believed I was awesome!!
Throughout this fourth pregnancy, I maintained my health and an uncharacteristically positive outlook. I didn’t complain much. Even my husband says I didn’t complain much. He kept wondering when I was gonna crack, like before, but here I was, still content. Although I was uncomfortably huge, felt nauseous at times, had major constipation other times, and had to go on bed rest for 2-3 weeks in those final months, I was happy.
Time for the Twins’ Birth
I passed 38 weeks, but I wanted to go longer. My three other children had summer activities, and the twins would just interrupt that. Ha! We weren’t quite willing to accept being a family with five kids yet, can you tell?
The midwives let me go to 39 weeks. Baby A and Baby B were both head down at this point, heart rates still looked good – praise the Lord, hallelujah!
Then at 39 weeks and 2 days, they convinced me to come in – it was time to get the babies out. But surprise! An unprecedented location change. The power was out at my chosen birthing center and nearly unusable from the week’s storm damage.
My husband and I needed to meet them at a different birthing center near Fort Worth. There, they would start the process by stripping the membranes. “Remember to bring your breast pump!” they said.
We had left the other three kiddos with babysitters. We brought our packed bags, food, snacks, power/energy drinks, candles, music, and we put our game faces on. The new birthing center we drove to looked like a little farmhouse in the country, but was still near a hospital. It had a circular driveway, lots of trees, and inside it had everything you need for a birth like IVs, medication for emergencies, beds, tubs, showers, bathrooms, trained nurses and midwives.
We took a little tour. The birthing room looked like a master bedroom tastefully decorated in the latest trends and fabrics. Outside in the back yard was a covered outdoor kitchen and a grill, in case we wanted to throw some burgers on, I guess, haha! And next to that. . . a swimming pool!
Don’t you worry. We were prepared. We had packed our swimsuits.
One midwife, Janie, told me it was time to strip my membranes. I grabbed my husband’s hand, looked at him wide-eyed and we went in to the master-bedroom, and she proceeded. It kinda hurt, but she was done soon enough.
Right after that, I was told to use my breast pump and double pump for 10 minutes. The goal was to start contractions naturally.
We did three rounds of this – the combination of stripping membranes followed by 10 minutes of double breast pumping. The contractions would start, and I’d put my ear buds in, my relaxation music on, and my honey would wrap his arms around me. He was my rock.
Together, he and I walked. Outside. Inside. I was told to squat into one of my deep yoga squats. The contractions continued but weren’t strong enough to get the baby out yet. So I got my swimsuit on, and waded into the wonderful bath-water feeling pool. It was heaven! Hubby jumped in with me.
Then, I looked down at my fingernails and remembered I had wanted to paint my fingernails pink and purple. Pink for Twin A Baby Girl and purple for Twin B Baby Girl. I mean, I couldn’t have naked nails for birthing, you know.
So my hubby went to the car, brought me the nail polish, I got out of the pool. I set up my nail painting station at the table there, and instead of sitting, I chose to squat. There was still time to get the baby out and the contractions weren’t intense yet. So there I was – squatting and painting my nails.
My water broke.
I finished up my nail painting – alternating pink, then purple – while my husband went inside to get one of the midwives.
Lacy came out with her kit to test if I had leaked urine or if it was truly my water breaking. She swiped the liquid with her cotton swab – and yep! Time to have those babies!
Two hours later of contractions, moving, walking, hanging onto my husband’s neck, at 8:25 pm, I had my sweet baby girl Kayla. They put her on my chest and she had a slimy body and beautiful dark hair on her head. She sucked for a bit.
But very quickly one of the midwives said it was time to get Twin B out. Baby B’s heart rate was dropping.
She was hanging out too long already in the birth canal. I locked eyes with my husband. He looked a bit scared but ready to rock. He had already helped catch Kayla and he was ready for the next one, all while holding my hand and prompting me to use my breathing techniques.
“Push, Jen, it’s time to push,” said my midwife Lacy. But I was still using my relaxation techniques and taking my sweet time trying to dull the pain.
Then I heard shouting. “Alright, you need to get this baby out! Push NOW!!!! PUSH!!!!!” I tried. I was so tired. Didn’t they know I needed to rest?
Baby B’s heart rate was dropping more, but not yet in the red zone of needing to transfer to a hospital. Pushing the baby out now would prevent a hospital transfer and a c-section or worse, death.
The energy level in the room rose. A nurse put on an oxygen mask on my face, and another midwife standing at my feet made fierce eye contact with me and yelled, “PUUUUUUUUUUSH!!! NOW!!!! Give it all you got!!!
I pushed because our lives depended on it, and I pushed fast and hard one more time. Baby B slid out so fast I hardly felt the pain. I thought all that had gotten past the opening was the head, but there she was, in Daddy’s arms, and one second later on my chest.
I soothed her, talked to her, cuddled her, helping her get her heart rate back up. The urgency had passed. My sweet baby Cheyenne had been born eleven minutes later at 8:36pm, a slimy body, and no hair. We had fraternal twins!
I had worked hard to gain 50 lbs for these babies, and now at 39 weeks and 2 days, Kayla weighed 6 lbs 15 ounces and Cheyenne weighed 7 lbs 3 ounces. Holy moly! Seven pound babies!
I got to bring my two babies home 10 hours after birth. I could rest in the comfort of my own home, my own pillow, and my own bed, and sleep while the babies sleep without being poked and prodded. We would see a pediatrician the following day. But for now, we would rest. We were happy parents.
The girls are three months old now, breastfed, and each 12 lbs. I followed a gentle sleep training routine, and they sleep peacefully from 10pm – 5am every night. Their birth weight helped give them an incredible head start to a good night’s sleep.
Family and friends ask me how am I feeling, how are the babies, what’s your birth story, what was your pregnancy like, etc.
“Well,” I tell them, “the twins have rocked our world. But I smile. “I got to swim during labor!”