by KYLE DOTY
“Is this your first ultrasound?” the technician asked my wife. It was our first one for this pregnancy, even though it was a few weeks after the customary twenty-week ultrasound. We didn’t have insurance, and we needed to make sure we had enough money to pay for each service. We were planning a homebirth with a midwife we knew and with whom we were comfortable.
Then the technician giggled, “I see three arms … hold on, we’re gonna be awhile.”
Our fourth child, as it turned out, was twins. In an instant we were going from three energetic, full-of-life children to five. Three to five. That’s what kept running through my head as I stood there in the dark room trying to make sense of the words that had tumbled out of the young woman’s mouth.
Back in August, the first week of school had started. My wife sent me a text message after class let out and my rambunctious seventh graders had gone home for the day. It was a picture of a positive pregnancy test with the following message: “I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.”
I laughed. Doubled over in my chair, I laughed until it hurt.
Then at breakfast one morning my wife cracked open an egg and discovered it contained double yolks. That was her second clue about what was going on in the secret place of her womb. The first clue came a few years back when she had a dream that she’d given birth to twin boys.
The days that followed our news were foggy. Although we were happy about having twins, we were daunted. I worried about the possible need for a larger home and the cost of food. How were people going to treat us? We already got looks of scorn from some while we perused the aisles of Target. What looks would people give us at the sight of two newborns plus three more?
My most pressing concern was insurance. Even with the Affordable Care Act firmly in place, my wife was without insurance. We didn’t feel like we could afford another monthly bill. I’d recently graduated from college, had begun teaching and we were just getting on our feet again. Now we didn’t know how we could not afford insurance. Friends of ours have twins who are now 21 years old, and they told us their hospital bill was over $70,000. I kept thinking: $70,000 twenty-one years ago! The price of a hospital birth could be triple in 2015 dollars. We found the cheapest plans could be found by calling a navigator. Our navigator was able to get my wife a fantastic plan for less than $150 per month. It covered pregnancy and had low co-pays and relatively low out-of-pocket costs.
Everything changes when it’s twins. I spent evenings looking up blogs about twins. I wanted to know what I needed two of and where we could get by with only one of an item. I was learning a whole new vocabulary, too. I learned that twinning is actually a word and that there’s a hashtag, #twinningiswinning.
Our fourth child, as it turned out, was twins. In an instant we were going from three energetic, full-of-life children to five.
As if gathering clothes and supplies isn’t priority enough with a singleton pregnancy, with twins it gets almost ridiculous. Almost daily people were arriving to drop off garbage bags full of clothes and baby gear. They came with questions that were impossible to answer. My favorite question was, “What are you going to do?” There’s no real answer to that question. You just shrug your shoulders and give a pat answer.
My wife has always had healthy, textbook pregnancies. She wasn’t expecting any complications because she’d never had any. However, carrying twins is not an easy task. While at one of her regular appointments with her doctor, he discovered that her cervix was short. He sent her to the hospital for more monitoring and he eventually admitted her. She spent a couple days in the hospital lying down while attentive nurses monitored her and the babies. Everyone was okay, but my wife’s cervix was thinning too soon. The doctor called it funneling—when the cervix takes the shape of the narrow part of a funnel. When this happens, the pressure it causes could cause the water to break.
Although it’s medically possible for babies to live at twenty-seven weeks, thirty-seven weeks is the preferred number for when it’s safe to give birth. At the hospital, the doctor ordered two shots of Betamethasone for my wife—a drug that helps stimulate lung growth in babies. This was in case my wife went into labor and medical staff couldn’t stop it, the babies would have a fair chance of survival. She never went into labor and was released after two days.
Then the doctor put her on bed rest. Bed rest, to me, sounded like a dream. However, bed rest is difficult and miserable. My wife is a very active woman and being told she had to stay at home in bed laying on her side as much of the time as possible was hard on her. It’s physically and emotionally draining. One day you’re a productive member of society and the next day you’re in bed and ordered not to leave it because it could be dangerous, even life threatening, to your babies. But my wife pressed through. She read books, kept a “Bed Rest Journal,” and caught up on countless hours of “Gilmore Girls” and “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix.
Thankfully, we had a support system. A friend from our house church came with a notebook and planned out the next several weeks of life for us. She set up meals and scheduled babysitters (volunteers) to come in and help with our other three homeschooled children. Our door was revolving—people coming in while others were going out. That was every day, minus weekends when I was home all day. My mother left her life in north Florida and stayed with us several times for ten days at a time. My wife’s mother, who works mostly nights, volunteered to take her to early morning appointments at the hospital for non-stress tests and ultrasounds at Maternal Fetal Medicine. My wife’s sister-in-law from Pennsylvania flew down for a week to help. We were humbled and astonished at the commitment of our friends and family. My wife was on bedrest for nearly eleven weeks. The support never wavered.
Labor started two days before her scheduled C-section. The boys, now named Ames and Eero, were both breech. Eero was “Frank breech”—head up and legs crossed. My wife’s desire for a natural birth was not going to happen. She’d never had surgery before, so having a C-section was a concern for us. Fortunately, the staff at the hospital was nothing short of amazing. If our friends and family were supportive, the nurses and our doctor at the hospital were just as constant. A gentle C-section, not offered by all hospitals, is a procedure in which the baby is not whisked away once delivered and mom is not put to sleep.
My wife went into labor early on a Wednesday morning but she wanted me to go on to work, because she thought it would take most of the day before she needed me home. Halfway through the first period at school my wife contacted me to come home. It was time.
I was able to leave work quickly. By the time I got home though, my wife was sitting in bed shaking her head. She was sure labor had stopped. She was only feeling cramps radiating from her back to her front and down her legs, and didn’t think it was strong enough labor to go to the hospital. We went in anyway, just to be sure. We’re glad we did. The nurse informed us my wife was five centimeters dilated. If she was going to have the gentle C-section our hospital offered, they were going to have to move fast.
The anesthesiologist prepared my wife for her C-section. The nurse called me in after the doctor had already begun the procedure. My wife looked great; she was comfortable and alert. She was smiling and excited to see our boys everyone had sacrificed so much to keep safe. The atmosphere was lighthearted and fun. In only a moment, we had Baby A (Eero). He was immediately placed on my wife’s chest and she began to nurse him. A minute later, Baby B (Ames) was placed on her chest to begin suckling. The babies were perfect. Eero weighed 6 pounds 3 ounces and Ames was 5 pounds 15 ounces.
Looking ahead, we’re excited about our not-so-little family. If we’d been asked nine years ago if we’d have five kids one day, we would have laughed. Had I been asked 11 years ago if I’d ever have one child, I would have flatly said no. However, our family of seven is just what my wife and I wanted (maybe even needed). There is something special about having a large family. It’s never boring and someone always has a playmate. Sure, we’re tired and it’s no easy task to get in the car to go to the grocery store or the playground. We’re happy though, and that’s all that counts in the end. We have five strong, healthy, and (at times) very lively children. My wife and I are committed to them for the long haul and cannot wait to see what the future holds for us.
KYLE DOTY is a teacher and father of five in Florida.