Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Place in the World: Grace and Zoe's Birth Story

I’m not sure where to start with Grace and Zoe’s birth story, so I shall start with the day when we discovered when they would be born (if that makes any sense). The doctors had already scheduled a C-section for the girls on July 27th at the end of my 38th week, since both were breech (feet down). However, when we went to an ultrasound appointment on July 3, we were in for a bit of a surprise. My bloodwork had come back elevated, showing signs of cholestasis of the pregnancy, a liver/gallbladder issue that could eventually affect the babies. Because of that, the doctors told us, they were moving up the day to July 16th. We suddenly had less than two weeks to go.

I remember calling parents and friends to relay the news. But the enormity of the date didn’t really hit me until that evening in bed. I would meet my girls in two weeks – it felt like I’d been waiting for this moment for years.

The Night Before

Leading up to the 16th, I had problems sleeping at night. I wasn’t worried; I was excited (and, let’s face it, I was huge and unable to move around in bed without much effort). On the 15th, our friends Nicole and Katy arrived for a visit. They would be staying at our house to take care of our cats while we were in the hospital. Their company and distraction was wonderful. Kate’s parents stopped by and we all had pizza. After they left, we chatted with Nicole and Katy and played Wii games. Before I knew it, it was time to go to bed. I sat in bed most of the night, wondering how things would go. I couldn’t believe how much my life would have changed by the next day. I agonized over the spinal block and the IV (yes, those were my worries!), but most of all, I worried about the girls. Would they be big enough? Would they be healthy? I felt my stomach constantly to ensure they were moving. It was bizarre to think it was our last night “together.”

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The Morning Of
Early morning arrived (not quickly), and I had slept very little. It took us little time to prepare –we had been packing our bags and getting ready for months. Now it was finally the big day. I said goodbye to the cats – the hardest part of the morning. Not sure if they understood that much would change for all of us. We said goodbye to Nicole and Katy, gathered our bags, and were off. The ride to the hospital went by amazingly quickly.

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We parked in the parking garage and just walked into the hospital – one of the most surreal moments of my life. When I pictured having children – in an abstract sense – I always pictured a panicked rush to and in the hospital, with labor pains and all that jazz. Instead, we walked right up to the Labor and Delivery unit of Martha Jefferson Hospital and announced we were here for a scheduled C-section.

Our nurse for the morning came up, introduced herself, and took us back to a post-partum room where we would prepare for the C-section and then settle after the procedure. Everything still felt surreal; I was nervous, but mainly about the medical aspects. I’d never even spent a night in the hospital. However, the nurse was friendly and walked us through what would happen that morning. She hooked up my IV (one part I’d been dreading – only took two tries) and got us all prepared. Of course, by then, we’d received the announcement that they were backed up in the OR. We’d be waiting a little bit longer. We turned on the TV to the Today show, which was featuring an interview with a woman who’d given birth to twins and then contracted a life threatening flesh-eating bacteria. Comforting.

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My Aunt Mare, who works at Martha Jefferson in Labor & Delivery, came by – she had generously offered and arranged to be in the OR with us during the C-section. Just knowing she would be there – for me and the babies – made me feel better. She talked with us and walked us through a few more things.

Before I knew it, it was time. We walked (well, I lumbered) down the lengthy corridors of MJ’s lovely Labor and Delivery Unit to the OR (seriously, their hospital is gorgeous ). Another extremely surreal moment. Once there, Kate was asked to wait outside for a bit while I was prepped. I was sad to leave her and grateful my aunt was there.

The OR
In the OR, I met the many nurses and doctors who would be helping with the girls’ birth. The anesthesiologist was a very calming woman who helped me feel more at ease, along with the other folks in the room – including the many nurses there for the girls, their pediatrician, and the doctor, Dr. Porter, who would be performing the procedure. I was prepped and given the spinal block – nothing I care to endure again – but less horrible than I expected. I immediately began to feel the effects of the anesthesia: talk about strange. The curtain was put up, Kate was brought in, and it was time to begin.

It was the most amazing and weird feeling to know the doctor was preparing to bring out our girls. Suddenly – and it seemed so quick to me – Dr. Porter was pulling out Grace. Someone held her up, and I couldn’t believe how big she was. People were saying she was nearly 7 lbs. She wasn’t crying until they put her in her little station to be checked. The doctors were laughing that she came out pooping. And then, almost immediately, they were holding up a crying Zoe (who also came out pooping), who looked smaller, but so cute.

Everything was a whirl then, as everyone started checking out the babies. They were so quick to reassure us that they were OK. Before I knew it, they were plopped down on my chest for me to see before they were whisked away to the nursery. It was the most magical moment to look into the eyes of my tiny little daughters. They seemed so small and yet so big. I remember Zoe’s little squished face and open, watchful eyes, and Grace’s amazing lips and sleepy eyes. I couldn’t believe how healthy and happy they seemed. I couldn’t believe they’d both fit inside me! We told the people in the rooms their first names – something that had been kept a secret for so long – and suddenly my daughters were here, being called by name, and present in this world. So amazing.

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Before I knew it, they were gone, along with Kate, to the nursery, while I was “fixed back up.” My Aunt Mare was there to hold my hand. People came back in to tell me how big the girls were and that they were doing amazing, with great Apgar scores (9 for both). Grace weighed 6 lbs, 14 oz (20 inches long) and Zoe weighed 5 lbs, 11 oz (19.5 inches long). It was such a comforting feeling – all I had ever wanted was for them to be healthy. Aunt Mare headed off to tell the family everything was okay and then returned. Soon, all was done, and I was headed to the recovery room.

Recovery Room
The main thing I remember from the recovery room was how happy everyone was. When Kate finally came back, she was beaming. Aunt Mare was also beaming. All the nurses were so happy and telling me how healthy the twins were. Suddenly, they were wheeled back, and there they were – my girls. I couldn’t believe they came from me, that I had helped make them. They were beautiful little miracles.

The nurses helped me and Kate figure out how to nurse the girls and before I knew it, they were both nursing simultaneously (tandem nursing). The nurses were aflutter at how rare this was. I just couldn’t believe it – I felt like I was getting everything I’d ever wanted. I was also able to drink a little water and ginger ale – I had been parched since last night! I kept willing my legs to move and for the anesthesia to wear off so I could return to my post-partum room and introduce our family to the babies. It seemed to take forever, but soon, it was time. We were on the way to the next phase of our life.

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Once back in our room with the babies, the family was told they could come back. The grandparents arrived first – my Mom, my Dad and stepmom, and Kate’s parents. They were introduced to the girls for the first time and told their names – Grace Butler Hamilton and Zoe Katrina Hamilton. Grace was named after my Dad’s mom, one of the most peaceful and kind souls I’ve ever met, while her middle name is a family name in Kate’s mom’s family. Zoe was a name we simply liked, picked out once we knew we were having twin girls. We chose it randomly and never deviated – she was Zoe immediately, even in the womb. Her middle name, Katrina, was chosen after my dear cousin, Trina, who passed away in 2006 and was one of my best friends.

Watching my parents and Kate’s parents interact with the babies was one of the best moments of my life. No one had known the names, and I loved watching their reactions. I had always feared I would miss this moment while in the recovery room or OR, but Mare and my whole family helped make it possible that I was there for it. Each of their faces was filled with joy and amazement. I couldn’t help but watch my Mom closely, my dear Mom, who was a first (and second) time Gram on this day. My Mom, who retired from her job just to help care for these girls. It was wonderful. I felt so blessed.

Soon Nicole could come back, along with my Uncle John, and the room was filled with family and friends. Later, my Aunt Peg and Uncle Len would visit as well. It was clear that these little girls’ lives would be filled with love forever.

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The Rest of the Day
The rest of the day would take a sudden turn, when I realized that I felt like I was bleeding profusely. The room was filled with happy family members and friends, and I was scared to upset anyone. I caught the eye of my Aunt Mare and called her over. Before I knew it, the room was emptied of people. Nurses descended on me. It would turn out that I was having terrible post-partum hemorrhaging. It was such an awful feeling. I remember feeling covered in sweat, with my hearing going out, and fearing the worst. The doctor was running worse case scenarios with me, and I was completely panicked. I kept looking up at my daughters and worrying, yet drawing comfort from their sleepy faces.

But, I was lucky to be in the hands of amazing doctors and nurses. My uterus – stretched to its max by two babies – was having problems contracting back down, and as a result, I was passing blood and clots. I was given medicine to help the contracting, along with other things. I remember the doctors continually feeling my uterus – stomach area – to see what it was doing and experiencing the worst pain ever. It was agony. Much of the rest of that day was a blur.

As a result of the blood loss, I was weaker than after a usual C-section and unable to get out of bed, and as a result, my vision for things after my daughters were born changed dramatically. I would be able to nurse them, but that was about it. My poor, dear, amazing wife was the one getting up to change the diapers, fetch the babies, and care for them. Eventually, in the days to come, she would be the one to help me slowly around the room. I don’t know what I would have done without her quiet calm and amazing caregiving abilities. I drew my strength from her and the girls…

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And there you go. July 16th: the day my life changed forever—but only for the better. It was a long time coming, but they were worth every bit of the wait.

I love you, Grace and Zoe. Mama is so glad you’re here.


  1. What a great birth story and congratulations on the birth of your twins! We're in Cville I think we've made the email acquaintance of Kate. Small world! Here's to a smooth next few months!

    1. Thank you for your comment! Small world indeed. Perhaps we will see you at a Cville event!

    2. Thank you for your comment! Small world indeed. Perhaps we will see you at a Cville event!

  2. Awww how amazing!!! What a wonderful idea to write this, and your daughters can read it and have it forever. Had a few tears with this one :) Soo happy for you! They are very lucky girls to have such a wonderful family.

  3. I'm crying tears of joy for you, Kate, and the girls! Thank you for sharing their birth story -- what a great way to capture the feelings of such a special day! You are all surrounded by so much love!!