- Definitely Not a Home Water Birth: 83 Days Awaiting Twins on an Antenatal Unit
After being hospitalized for 83 days, I was under general anesthesia when my twin sons were delivered at 34 weeks, 1 day. As a Midwestern woman whose family members had historically borne babies with ease, I had hoped for a home water birth, expecting pregnancy and birth to be healthy, natural processes. However, as my delivery foreshadows, I had a high risk, medicalized pregnancy and birth experience that affected my partner, extended family and me. Our ordeal was fraught with fear, challenges, and a compassionate, although extremely direct, warning: “Amanda, you need to adjust to the idea that you may not leave the hospital with live babies.”
As a psychologist who now teaches undergraduates about the fallibility of memory, I’m open to the likelihood that my wonderful obstetrician (OB) did not deliver her warning exactly like that. However, what is clear during my pregnancy and delivery is: A) that there were many difficult decisions to be made, and B) I had to actively work to maintain my personal dignity and mood as it felt easy to be overwhelmed by fear and depression.
At that time of my pregnancy, I was a doctoral student. For five years in graduate school, I worked at an academic cancer center doing research and helping patients and families cope, thrive as survivors, or have a good death. Here I was, roles reversed, not the helper but the patient. I was confined to a hospital bed and could not even walk to the bathroom. I hoped to make it to a viable delivery date, drawing on everything I had learned in the classroom and the realities of what my patients had taught me.
Having worked with patients who are hospitalized for months with painful symptoms and uncertain outcomes, I recognize that my experience was easier when compared with what others manage. However, I believe all of our personal experiences are valid. And simply put, those 83 days were a tough time for me. Placenta previa had led to a significant bleed, and I subsequently bled daily. Additionally, I was anticoagulated for a blood clot, had a subchorionic bleed that affected Baby A’s growth, developed gestational diabetes, was constantly nauseous and vomited frequently, had to eat six meals/day when I had no interest in food, received multiple shots per day and had the ugly bruises to show for them, developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, and struggled with poor concentration that reduced me to watching reruns of The Golden Girls and Frasier. Besides my weekly “outing” to get an ultrasound, I was confined to my bed and never saw another patient. I spent long stretches of time by myself. I often felt lonely and useless.
I share these details not to complain or sound heroic. The reality is, what other choice did I have? Like others managing similar situations or much worse, we do what we have to do. Most of the time, I never questioned the ‘why’ of my situation but was able to adopt a mindset of acceptance that helped me cope. I share these intimate details to humanize me and hopefully other patients, to remind us all what it feels like to be a patient living with fear, indignity and isolation.
I had an outstanding medical team, and they usually excelled in helping me make decisions. One of the earliest decisions my partner and I [End Page 205] faced was when and to what extent did we want to resuscitate should the babies arrive early. I was hospitalized when they were 21 weeks, so they were not viable at that stage. My OB and the hospital physicians were clear with us about the stark decisions that needed to be made. Knowing my decision making style, I requested a medical textbook to learn more, and with support from the medical team, I helped arrange a meeting with the hospital chaplain for my partner who was guided by religious beliefs. Weekly, until the babies were about 28 weeks, we met at my bedside with a multidisciplinary NICU team for a meeting to answer our questions, discuss...