If you would have told me a few years ago that I would have twins, I wouldn’t have believed it. If you had told me that I’d have two sets of twins in two years, I’d have said that was impossible! If you would have told me that I’d be a homebirthing, cloth diapering mom, I would have thought you were crazy. Now you could tell me anything and I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve had 6 kids in 5 years and lived to tell about it!
My oldest son, Matthew, was born 6 years ago when my husband and I were living in the Washington, DC area. We were both born and raised in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia. Matthew was just a few weeks old when my husband, Jason, decided to join the Army. I went back to work and Jason stayed at home to care for Matthew until the time came for him to leave. In 2003 Jason left for Basic Training.
Shortly before Matthew’s first birthday I became pregnant with our second child. I took the pregnancy test the day before my husband left. A few short months later, I drove myself and Matthew across the country to Monterey, California. That cross-country trip would be the first of many. Such is the military life! Visions of twins consumed me as my pregnancy progressed and I kept having dreams of twin girls. I would find two yolks in my egg or two fortune cookies stuck inside the same plastic wrapper. As my belly grew bigger and bigger I started to wonder if there really could be two babies in there but an ultrasound confirmed the presence of just one large (11 lb, 1 oz) baby. In 2004, my son Joshua was born.
We moved from California to Texas in 2005 and I suffered an early miscarriage just a few weeks before we were to move again. In the middle of our next move to Georgia, I took a pregnancy test on a whim and found out that I was pregnant again! My pregnancy was different than the first two had been and I suffered from a lot of morning sickness. I was planning a homebirth with a midwife but had no idea that things were about to get complicated. I was 21 weeks pregnant when my midwife noticed that I had suddenly grown much bigger seemingly overnight. She used her hands to feel for the position of the baby and was surprised to feel not one, but two heads. Although she had never felt twins in the womb, she suspected that I was carrying two babies. I left the appointment feeling terrified and anxious. I could hardly sleep that night as I waited for my ultrasound appointment the next day.
I spent the afternoon of my birthday laying on an ultrasound exam table. As soon as the technician touched the wand to my belly she smiled. “You’re having twins,” she said. I cried and asked her to tell me the genders. I was excited to learn that I was carrying two baby girls. My husband was waiting outside the room with Matthew and Joshua during the lengthy exam. When I finally emerged from the room he asked what we were having and I held up 2 fingers and said “girls!” I wasn’t even out of the hospital doors before I called my mother to tell her the news.
My pregnancy was uneventful except for the usual twin-related complications. I had severe pubic pain and a lot of swelling. I gained almost 90 pounds and was very uncomfortable. My midwife could no longer attend my birth and I had to search for a new midwife while seeing a local OB for backup care and monitoring. Because I was 22 weeks pregnant when the twins were discovered, we did not know whether they shared a chorion. The doctor assumed that they didn’t. At 39 weeks and 1 day my water exploded in the middle of the night. I was drenched from knees to neck as I lay in bed. Even my hair got wet! I phoned the midwife who had offered to attend my birth. We were supposed to meet the next day for our first appointment. As it turned out, she attended my birth before we had ever met face to face.
I labored by myself for 7 hours. I rocked quietly on the couch until the dawn broke and then I retreated to my bedroom while my husband cared for Matthew and Joshua. I took hot showers and paced the floor. My boys came in and rubbed my back and 3-year old Matthew told me I was doing a good job. The midwife arrived with her friend, another experienced midwife. They supported me, fed me, set up the room for the birth, and encouraged me. Soon I was on my knees, leaning over the bed and pushing my first daughter, Leila, out into my own hands. The midwives helped me wipe her off and cut the cord. Just 14 minutes later I gave birth to Sarah. I climbed up into my bed and spent the next 2 days there, just nursing my twin daughters and enjoying them.
When my twin girls were a year old I got pregnant again and immediately suspected that something wasn’t right. At first, I just feared another miscarriage. Then, the morning sickness hit and I knew that I must be having twins again. Everyone told me that I was crazy! Identical twins are supposed to be a random occurrence so there was no way it would happen again. Right? An early ultrasound confirmed that I was in fact carrying a second set of identical twins. After an exhausting pregnancy, my homebirth plans went out the window when some complications necessitated an emergency cesarean under general anesthesia. My recovery was terrible and my emotions were raw, but I had two more healthy, beautiful babies. Nathan and Ryan were born in September of 2008.
I try to live my life as naturally as possible and trust my instincts. Breastfeeding my babies has been challenging, but it was the natural thing to do. We have had some major struggles to overcome, but breastfeeding has been extremely rewarding. In fact, nursing twins has been an amazing experience and having the honor of nursing two sets of twins simultaneously has been incredible! I have relied on my own motherly instincts and the support of other experienced mothers. My fellow La Leche League Leaders have taught me so much about the challenges of breastfeeding and I have thrived with their support.
One of the reasons I have survived caring for newborn twins (twice!) is that we cosleep. When my twin girls were born I attached a Co-sleeper to the bed and was able to have my babies near me throughout the night. This allowed me to feed them as needed and still roll over and go back to sleep. I never had to get out of bed and neither baby had to cry and wake anyone else. I was close enough to hear them as they started to wake and could feed them before they made any noise. My babies have been happy and I’m getting more sleep so it feels like the right choice for our family.
It should come as no surprise that we also use cloth diapers. I was introduced to cloth diapers when my oldest child was 4 months old and we have used them exclusively ever since then. I wash my own diapers and of course have a huge quantity of them since I have had 5 in diapers at the same time. I would estimate that I’ve saved several thousand dollars over the last 6 years because we don’t purchase anything disposable. I use cloth baby wipes too. It has actually been quite easy to use cloth diapers and the routine is so normal to me now that I can’t imagine it any other way. I even opened my own natural parenting store in 2004 so that I could help teach other moms about the benefits of cloth diapering.
Strangers who meet my family are immediately focused on our family size and the fact that we have 2 sets of identical twins. They think I’m an oddity just from the first glance! Once people hear that I use cloth diapers or that I’m nursing 4 children, they think I’m just insane. Maybe they’re right, but it feels “normal” to me. I’m just doing the best that I can and trying to trust in myself and my children. Living naturally is important to me and I’m teaching my children important lessons as well. There’s nothing crazy about that!
Like Heather’s family photos? They were taken by Joslyn Place Photography. Check out their site for more details!
Thanks again to Heather for a great post! Have a great weekend everyone!