The birth of twins | Winston & Lucas
There is nothing as changeable as the upcoming birth of twins. You’ll realize that as you read this story. I went round the bend from all the different plans being made and changed and I wasn’t the one growing two babies in her belly! But I think that these babies chose their father and mother for a reason, because Gerrie, the mother of the twins, is one of the most relaxed, no-nonsense mothers I’ve ever met. She isn’t easily bothered! But before we get to the day the twins were born, we need to go back in time, to the day that Gerrie first emailed me.
My eyes scanned the words in the email, “pregnant with twins, maternity shoot, birth photography, due date is the 4th of August.” Wow, this is something I’ve wanted to do for so long, it makes me really happy! Until I read: “they’ll probably induce me at 37 weeks.” I start calculating and realize that that would put the birth RIGHT in the middle of my holiday in July. Oh no! 🙁 I mail her back that I’d love to do it, but that if they do want to induce at 37 weeks, I can’t do it. Gerrie mails back immediately to say that she thinks that would be a real pity and that she really wants me to be there. I decide to be a bit cheeky and ask why the doctors are already saying that they’ll want to have the twins birthed at 37 weeks? Do they share a placenta? That’s not the case, so I say that I think it’s strange that they’re so sure they have to be born at 37 weeks. I know twins often do come early and that it can be necessary, but maybe the pregnancy will go really well. I have heard of twins born at full term, it’s definitely possible. It all makes Gerrie start thinking and she mails back that she’ll discuss it with them at her next appointment.
A couple of days later Gerrie phones me. She’s been unable to sleep, thinking about everything. She sounds enthusiastic and spontaneous on the phone and says, “I want you to be there, so I’m going to keep them inside until you’re back from your holiday!” Wow! That’s amazing! We make a plan to meet up, along with her husband Edgar and their two daughters, Kim (then 3 years old) and Sophie (2 years old), for a maternity shoot when she’s around 32 weeks pregnant. At that time she’ll also probably know more and if it turns out to just be the maternity shoot, then that’s just the way it is. If not then we’ll discuss all the details at that time. She hasn’t spoken to the doctors yet, but she is brimming with confidence. That’s confidence is infectious and I’m so excited about this! My first twin birth and even better: if possible she’ll have them vaginally! Woohoo!
Not long after that I get an email that she’s had her next doctor’s appointment and they’ve confirmed that if everything is going well they won’t induce her at 37 weeks. The protocol is 38 weeks and she’ll be 38 weeks on the first Monday after my holiday, so that’s possible! From now on we hold thumbs – we’re aiming for the 21st of July!
At the end of May the whole family comes to Zeeland. Gerrie is 29 weeks pregnant and she’s exactly like she is on the phone – positive, happy and full of energy! Two little girls at home, but she’s not complaining! I don’t hear a negative word from her. She’s not tired, it’s not hard, she has no pain or pregnancy complaints: she’s just enjoying it! She keeps saying, “I’m keeping them inside until you’re back from your holiday!” I’m starting to believe it too! The maternity shoot is also wonderful. Soon she’s going to the hospital to discuss the birth. She still really wants a natural (vaginal) birth, but it does depend on the position of the babies in her belly. She’ll keep me up to date!
On the 30th of June, Gerrie goes for another check-up and they discuss the options for the birth. They’re hoping for a natural birth. The first baby is breech, but the doctors don’t expect this to be a problem. She was told to take into account that they may come early, but Gerrie’s not willing to hear it! If they come early, she writes, then it’ll have to be before the holiday! 🙂 She needs to go back to the doctors in 2 weeks and at that point they’ll discuss setting a date for induction in the week following. When she’s 38 weeks, the 21st of July, would be perfect. I am looking forward to it!
On the 6th of July (I leave on holiday in the 10th) I get a WhatsApp message from Gerrie, in which she writes, “Felt a first real contraction at 22:06, but nothing after that. Have been having Braxton-Hicks all day.” Oh no – the 21st of July suddenly seems very far away! I get all my equipment ready, just in case and head to bed. The next morning my alarm wakes me up and I immediately WhatsApp to ask how things are going. She sends a message back saying that until 3am she had one contraction per hour, but nothing since then. The Braxton-Hicks have also stopped, so it seems like it’ll be a quiet day. But those baby boys have other ideas! In the evening Gerrie calls me to say she’s having contractions and she’s headed to the hospital (AMC). I’m not sure what to do, because they could just be ‘practice’ contractions. They’re still quite spread out, so I decide to wait and see what they say at the hospital. She’s exactly 36 weeks pregnant today. A little while later I get a message saying that she’s not dilated at all and the contractions have stopped again. She’s disappointed, because she really thought this was it. Your body really can fool you sometimes!
At this point, Gerrie’s not sure about wanting a natural birth. She hears different things at each check-up and someone told her that the second baby can get ‘caught’ behind the first baby and the idea scares her. Of course! It looks like she’ll be having a caesarean section once the contractions start. Because I’m just about to leave on holiday, I phone my back-up photographer. If I’m not able to be there, at least there will be another photographer there. I hope it won’t come to that, but with the contractions coming and going, they really could be born at any time now. Gerrie promises to stay in bed and keep calm the whole time that I’m on holiday, haha! When I leave on the 10th of July, the boys are still in her belly…
I send a message every now and then from Croatia. On the 14th of July she has a checkup and we’ll know when they want to do the induction or C-section. Gerrie can make a last-minute decision about what she wants. In the afternoon I get a sad little message that they don’t want to set a date yet – they’re waiting until 39 weeks! Wow, we didn’t see that coming! I’m a big fan of natural birth and letting babies come when they’re ready, but it has a big psychological impact when the date you’ve been working towards in your head for months suddenly gets changed. I can understand that this makes Gerrie sad. 39 weeks is a long time! Gerrie’s sister-in-law says she should clean the house from top to bottom on the day that she’s 37 weeks and 6 days and then the contractions will start by themselves and the babies will still be born on the 21st of July! Hahaha!
Finally, on the 18th of July I’m home and the boys are still in Gerrie’s belly! On the 20th they decide that because of the way the boys are positioned, they’re going to do a C-section, although Gerrie can decide what she wants until that time. It’ll be on the 1st of August, when she’s 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. However, the hospital is working the dates out differently and the due date has been changed. According to them she’s then 39 weeks pregnant. Whatever the exact numbers are… it’s still a week and half away. There are surprises like this all the time. I ask whether she’s coping with all these surprises and she writes back that she doesn’t like that fact that the 1st of August is so far away. She really hopes they’ll come sooner. The next problem is whether I’ll be allowed to be there. She has an appointment with the anesthesiologist tomorrow and she says she’ll do her very best to convince him. I believe her! 🙂 We’ve come so far now; it would be a real disappointment if I couldn’t be there with her. We wait and see.
That same night Gerrie phones me. She’s having contractions and she and Edgar are going to the AMC! Could I please come too? I jump into my car and get there at 5am, but when I get there I can already tell what the nurses are thinking – they’re not labor contractions yet. I walk into the room and see that Gerrie is not having strong contractions any more. They’re easing up. She’s upset and says, “I want this far too much.” It’s the 21st of July. She is 38 weeks pregnant now and at 7 o’clock they’re sent home and I go home too. Because of all the excitement, they forget to ask the anesthesiologist whether I can be in the room for the C-section, so I’m still a bit nervous about that too.
The days pass by and slowly the 1st of August gets closer. But things are happening and on the 24th of July, Gerrie loses her mucous plug. She’s had another appointment with the gynecologist and she’s once again (or still?) indecisive about wanting a C-section or a natural birth. On the 1st of August they will definitely do a C-section, but if labor starts before then, she can choose, but once dilation has progressed past a certain point it has to be a vaginal birth. She really doesn’t know what to do and I can’t give her any advice: she has to decide this for herself. I remind her of this: “Don’t let other people influence you too much: your babies, your belly, your decision.” Her conclusion is: “I’ll just let things happen as they happen and we’ll see.” That seems like the best idea to me, since everything keeps changing anyway. 🙂
On Friday morning, the 25th of July, I get good news: I can join them in the operation room. The anesthetist didn’t have to be convinced at all – he suggested it himself! What a wonderful hospital. 🙂 They need to be there at 7am and at 8am they’ll do the C-section. It’s definite now. One more week to go and then it’ll all happen. With a scheduled C-section there’s also no way I can be there too late. We’re going for the 1st of August! I think that I’ve never exchanged this many WhatsApp messages with a pregnant mom before! Haha!
On Monday 27 July Gerrie is 39 weeks pregnant it’s unbelievable! What a milestone! I’m really starting to believe that we’ll make it to the 1st of August. In my head I’m already imagining the shoot. For example, that we’ll meet up at the hospital and I’ll follow them from there with the camera. I’m looking forward to this!
But then, of course, everything changes again….
On Tuesday 29 July at midnight, my phone rings. I was asleep and it takes me a while to wake up. It’s Gerrie and she says, “I’m in the AMC and they’re going to get the twins out, NOW.” What?! I understand from her that she started leaking amniotic fluid in the morning. She had that with Sophie too, so she wasn’t worried (I’m sure now you have a good idea of what Gerrie is like, haha!) . The whole day nothing really changed. No contractions or anything like that. In the evening she decided to call the AMC and they told her to come by. She specifically asked, “Is there a good chance I’ll be sent home again?” and was told that yes, there was a good chance of that. Considering they’d already arranged babysitters and everything else twice, for nothing, she decided to just head to the hospital on her own this time, so that Edgar could stay with the girls. Can you picture her in the car? 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant with twins and leaking amniotic fluid? Hahahaha! Very brave! Once in the hospital they check her and it is indeed amniotic fluid. After consulting with the gynecologist they decide to operate and get the twins out now. This is the moment at which Gerrie calls Edgar and me. Just 10 minutes after the call, I’m in the car and on my way and receive a message that it will be a different surgical team and they need to once again ask permission for me to be in the theatre with them. I send a message back saying they’ll also have to wait a bit with preparing the OR, because otherwise I won’t make it in time.
Maybe you can feel it coming already. Gerrie and Edgar sweet-talk the team and I get permission to join them in the OR, but waiting a bit longer… they’re not willing to do that. I. Cannot. Believe. It! After all these weeks of message and phone calls, all the possible scenarios discussed, the babies look good on the monitor and they would only have to wait 45 minutes till I’m there, but no. They start the surgery and I race there at 140km per hour in the middle of the night on the highway. This can’t be true! How disappointing!
Luckily we do have a back-up plan. Gerrie is also a photographer and we’ve discussed camera settings and lenses etc. in advance and I’ll process the photos so that it all becomes one fluid package of photos. And of course, the priority is the healthy and safe birth of the twins. But still, after all the energy and effort we put in, it’s very disappointing. I really wanted to be there.
In the meantime I’m continuing to race along the highway and I hope to take lots of beautiful photos once I’m there!
When I get to the hospital, my scrub suit is lying ironically on the counter, waiting for me. It’s exactly 2am. I hear that the boys were born half an hour ago (just half an hour – pff!) and that everything went well (yay!). They’re now lying skin-to-skin with their father and Gerrie is in the OR being stitched. They take me to Edgar. And there he is, on his own in a room with a little light above his head and two adorable baby boys trying to latch onto his chest! It’s almost surreal, in the middle of the night like this. Almost like it’s not really happening, but there they are. Just perfect. Winston, the oldest and smallest was born at 1:32am and weighs 2800g and Lucas, the second born and the biggest was born at 1:33am and weighs 3015g. They are very alert and are continuously searching for a breast to latch on to. Edgar sweetly says, “Daddy’s got you now. We’ll go to mommy soon for some food.” Some blood is taken from Winston. He’s a little smaller than the guidelines allow and so in the next hours they’ll keep checking his blood glucose levels to check whether they’re ok. If not, he’ll need supplemental feeding. Luckily his first check is fine and I am sure that he’ll have a chance to breastfeed soon. He is so busy searching for that breast and in the meantime he’s found his own fist and is sucking on it voraciously. At 2:30 we can go to Gerrie and I’m curious about how she’s doing, but I think I can guess, knowing her…
And yes, of course, she’s sitting in bed with a huge smile on her face. “How are you?” I ask. “Super! It wasn’t that bad!” She stretches out her arms to take Winston first. The nurse helps her to get him latched on, but she doesn’t really need any help. He latches and doesn’t want to let go again! Now it’s Lucas’s turn, on the other breast. He’s not in as good a position and it takes a little longer, but he also finds his way. His head seems to disappear into the breast and you’d think he wouldn’t be able to breathe, but we can hear him drinking greedily. Every now and then he lets go, as if to take a deep breath and then carries on drinking. Nature is amazing! They drink for around half an hour and then they lie comfortably on Gerrie’s chest. What a beautiful sight!
Gerrie needs to be able to move her legs before they will let her go back to the ward. She’s not quite there yet and at 4:00 Edgar and the babies go back to get the little ones dressed. Gerrie will come afterwards. Once at the room, Edgar gets started. It’s been a while since he’s had to dress such a tiny baby, but he hasn’t forgotten how to do it – he’s really good at it! He dresses them both, first Lucas and then Winston. Then we take a few photos for their birth announcement card. Then I take a photo of Edgar with his sons. His head keeps going from left to right, as if he’s thinking, “There’s two of them! There’s two of them!” Afterwards they can go back to bed. I want to help with one of the boys, but I joke that he needs to practice getting them into bed without help. He looks at me and says, “That’s true,” and immediately tries it! He manages it just fine, except that Winston is now upside down in his bed, with his name label by his feet. But what grumbler would pay attention to details like that? 😉
At 4:30, Gerrie is back in the room. I put the beds in such a way that she can see her boys. I ask whether she’s slept, but she says she’s wide-awake. She and Edgar talk about whether they’re going to get the girls and decide to do so. At 5am, Edgar drives home to get them. I suggest to Gerrie that she may want to get some rest, because the boys are asleep now, but it’s not going to happen. 🙂 She just keeps looking at them happily. Slowly it starts to get light outside and somehow it’s a little magical. We don’t say much to eachother, she’s just looking at her boys. I always have difficulty imagining that a newborn baby was in a belly, but with two of them it’s a really strange idea!
At 6:15 Edgar sends a message to say he’s nearly at the hospital. I get the boys out of bed and give them to Gerrie. Just after that, the girls come in. Their hair is loose, just the way it was when they rolled out of their beds. They’re a bit nervous and stare at the baby’s in mommy’s arms with big eyes. At first from a distance, but Sophie is the first one who wants to come closer. She stands on a chair next to the bed and her hand quickly goes to one of the babies to stroke him. Now Kim is also brave enough to come and take a look. It’s so sweet to watch. They’re not sure what to think. 🙂 Kim gives her cuddly toy, Duck, to one of the boys and finally she wants to hold one of them. Three minutes and it’s enough. 🙂 I take a photo of the whole family and the girls go and play.
It’s difficult to stop taking photos, especially with two adorable babies like this! But at 7am I pack up my stuff.
Dear Gerrie, Edgar, Kim and Sophie: I wish you much happiness with your boys!
PS. Something fun to know: Just 2,5 days after the C-section, Gerrie is bored and is allowed to go home with Winston and Lucas! 🙂
Photos above are made by the dad and the staff of the hospital (AMC) and postprocessed by me. Photos below are made by me from the moment I arrived (you can read the story for details)