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The Big Push
Claire and Ian had just become used to life with one baby when they were blessed with not one but two new arrivals. Unfazed, the young couple prepared their nest for two new girls, and had firm ideas about how they wanted the birth to go.
Claire and Mya, aged 1
What support did you have? Was it sufficient?
Our pregnancy was viewed as high risk. We had a lot of ‘support’ from the hospital: scans and check ups and blood tests. But at the same time this contributed to unnecessary stress. Being pregnant with twins is really hard work so having Mya made life quite tough during the week when Ian was at work. I would have loved a bit more support but at the same time I like to do everything myself so I can't complain really.
What surprised you as a first time mum?
Heartburn! I'd never had it before but it was horrendous!
What was the best advice you got?
Hypnobirthing, without a doubt - I was in total control until the pushing stage of labour.
Enjoy the peace and quiet. The idea that you can stop yourself looking ahead to the birth is stupid. Even second time round, when you know how hard it's going to be, you just can't stop yourself wishing your pregnancy to end.
What were the biggest worries?
A horrible birth – involving C-Section, forceps, ventouse, episiotomy. I really wanted a natural delivery with no drugs. Luckily I escaped the first two, sadly I didn't escape the latter! But I did do it without drugs - I really wanted to experience the birth and not miss it by being numb or being not with it mentally.
What was your biggest misperception about pregnancy?
That it's all raging hormones, crying, being sick and exhausted. Having twins was more like that but being pregnant with one was relatively easy. Ian will tell you what a ‘delight’ I was with both - but really I felt quite healthy throughout.
What were the big unknowns?
Not sure - I read a lot during both pregnancies. I suppose the pain of child birth is the only thing you just have no idea about until you've been there, and even after you've had one, mother nature gives you this king of amnesia about the birth so after a few months you forget how it really felt (and then get pregnant again).
What mistakes did you make?
Not using contraception. Oh, I’m joking of course! I probably worried too much.
What had you learned from your first pregnancy?
To trust my body with my babies. The female body is designed to conceive, carry and deliver babies without interference if it is allowed to do so.
What were the major differences between your first and second pregnancies?
They were a world apart! With Mya I wouldn't have known I was pregnant. It was so easy, even at the start when you're supposed to be sick and tired. And at the end, when you're supposed to be huge and tired, I wasn't.
With the twins I was exhausted from start to finish (not helped by having a baby to care for). I also felt pretty rough for about three months and found it hard to eat anything but salad when I was supposed to be eating 3,000 calories a day. And I was huge - 47 inch waist the day before they were born. I also had a pregnancy related itching condition with the twins, which was hell.
“I was determined not to be pushed into anything this time and to do it my way. I was much better prepared this time and so was Ian so we weren't going to be pushed around by well-meaning medical staff ”
Talia and Sienna, a few hours old
How did you plan for the delivery?
We planned for a complicated delivery where the medical staff would try to interfere with everything. We employed a doula to help us to fend them off. In the end, she wasn't needed as Ian stood up for me when the doctors insisted I went on a drip to enhance my contractions. There isn't much you need in labour really - as nothing helps.
What were your biggest worries about the day?
Our main worries were the having to have a C-Section, forceps, ventouse, general interference, and pain. Also, we were worried about the girls - there are specific risks with identical twin deliveries and this was a constant concern for everyone.
I did need ventouse in the end but the main thing is that the girls were born perfectly healthy, and my ideas about ventouse and episiotomy were much worse in my head than in reality. The pain of the contractions weren't as bad as I'd remembered first time round (I probably just coped a bit better due to the hypnobirthing), but the pain of delivery itself was just as hideous, I just had to do it twice!
What mistakes did you make?
With hindsight, I would have allowed them to break my waters earlier. I also would have held Talia for longer and allowed her to feed before Sienna was born, if I'd have known it would take an hour and twenty minutes. But on the other hand I was concentrating on pushing, and it was hard work. I couldn't have known either of these things so I'm not beating myself up over it.
What had you learned from last time?
To calm down! That I wasn't going to die, and that it would end at some point. I spent a long time researching what could happen and what I would do in certain circumstances, and preparing mentally. Last time I was of the opinion that people gave birth every day and that it couldn't be that bad, what I now know is that people give birth every day but that their births are overly managed, particularly in the case of twins. I was determined not to be pushed into anything this time and to do it my way. I was much better prepared this time and so was Ian so we weren't going to be pushed around by well-meaning medical staff whose priorities may be getting me to give birth on their timescales and taking any course of action that wouldn't result in them being sued in the event of a bad outcome.
What were the surprises?
That it took 18 hours. Mya was born in nine hours, so we expected it to be even less this time. The last thing we expected was a slow labour.
How did you cope with the time, pain, stress and any other negatives?
I concentrated on breathing through the conractions and listened to a hypnobirthing CD that reminded me that ‘every contraction is brining me closer to my baby’. I have to say I coped really well with this. I didn't feel stressed, even when they couldn't find Sienna's heartbeat on the scan, I don't know why.
I struggled with the pushing stage. I had no natural desire to push but with twins I had to work to guidelines or they would have insisted on a section, so I had to push regardless. This was really hard work as without a desire to push it wasn't that effective so it went on for ages. I can't remember whether it was before Talia was born or in between them but I ended up sobbing with exhaustion as I really had had enough. I've never wanted to give up so much in my life, it was so hard.
I received lots of encouragement from the midwives, doctors, and Ian, and I felt it was important to the staff that I had a natural delivery and that really did keep me going as I didn't want to let them down, oddly.
The ventouse extraction, it was the single most painful thing I've ever felt in my life. I can't even describe it.
Talia's birth. It was so nice to see her finally and have my reward for all the hard work, and I was blissfully ignorant of how hard the next hour and a half were going to be!
Anything you wish you'd had with you?
Some films to watch on the laptop - the first 10 hours were really dull.
Read about Claire´s best and worst baby buys: See Claire´s Choices