Exeter, Devon & Southwest Birth Documentary Photographer
I first met Bronwen at her home when she was already heavily pregnant with Monochrionic twins, which means identical twins who share a placenta and have their own sacs. Instead of choosing the routine caesarean that is the norm in these cases, Bronwen wanted not only a vaginal birth but a beautiful and positive one. When she researched mono twin births she couldn't find any positive stories, films or image. So she decided to document her own experience and share it with other women planning a twin birth. And to my great pleasure, she contacted me and asked me to capture her story for her. And I'm so glad she did. With the constant and loving support of her partner, Sam and her doula, Patricia, she had the beautiful birth she dreamed of. Seeing her overcome every obstacle she faced and bring her babies to her babies so instinctively was such an incredible experience and one I will never forget.
So please make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up and enjoy this amazing story....
And if you know someone expecting twins, please share it with them too!
The full story in Brownen's own words...
Here is my birth story in all its rawness and wonder. I should probably tell you first I was expecting monochorionic diazygotic twins (identical twins that share a placenta but have their own sack. The most common set-up for identicals). This was my second pregnancy. My first labour was long, slow and hard but a healthy, active hospital birth with minimal intervention.
During my pregnancy (like all mothers expecting mono-di twins) I had regular fortnightly scans and meetings with doctors. I had the perfect, healthy twin pregnancy. I did get whooping cough but didn't effect babies in any way. I was quite active and ate super healthy food with lots of eggs, some fish and a bit of meat. I took floradix to help my iron levels and some magnesium.
So! Here we go.....
I convinced the concerned hospital team that it was safe and the best thing to delay induction another week, until 39 weeks. The next few days I started to really struggle physically. I couldn't walk without looking very strange, starting to have very little sleep but was so insistent that I wanted to go into natural labour. Despite the acupuncture and sex every couple of nights, it was still not happening. The last straw was developing piles. The pressure of two 7lbs babies, two sacks of fluid and a whopping placenta pressing down became too much. I decided in my head that I had put my body through enough and brought the induction date 2 days forward. I became excited and relieved. I relaxed as I had let go of trying to instigate natural labour and began packing little extras in the hospital bag, some loud speakers ( I was going to dance these babies out to awesome tunes!), more massage oils and coconut water.
Mum and I arrived at the hospital in the afternoon and it looked like she was moving house! A few hours later, the pessary was in and we were munching on hospital jacket potatoes, massagingand chatting away to the other staff and labouring ladies in the prenatal ward.
Sam came to swap with mum and we decided that after little action so far on the pessary front, I would stay in hospital on my own that night and he would stay at home with our eldest ( 2 1/2 yr old Zenna). So he tucked me in and kissed me goodnight.
I managed to sleep that night but by the morning I was starting to get light regular contractions that were getting a little stronger through the day when they took it out at 4 in the afternoon. My consultant popped in to check on me and promised me I could be in the labour ward that evening and we would get this show on the road!
My doula, Patricia came to give me some amazing massages before heading down to the labour ward and I was feeling increasingly confident and excited!
Mum, Sam and our little bean (now known as the big bean) packed up all of the 8 or so bags and headed down to the labour ward at about 5pm. The room was great, with extra comfy chairs and while Sam put on some tunes and cranked up the essential oil defuser mum was decorating my bed with party streamers and my daughter's paintings. I put on some make up and my birthing necklace and then kissed them all good bye (Sam came back once our daughter was in bed at 7) as I was keen to have my waters broken as soon as possible!
Breaking the waters was surprisingly awkward and quite painful. My cervix was still very high but I was excited when they told me I was 2cm dilated! It took me 3 intense days of contracting to get to this point for my first birth!
After the amazing relief of pressure and the fabulous gushing of waters everywhere I wedged a towel between my legs and the midwife left me to it. I turned up the music full blast and danced and sang my way into labour. Having those two hours completely on my own (apart from a smiling midwife popping her head in every now and again) was brilliant. Tears of joy and relief fell as I knew I was meeting my daughters very soon!
Sam soon turned up and the lovely midwife was very encouraging, pleased to see on the monitor that my contractions were getting stronger and closer together quite quickly. She said "maybe you won't need the syntocinon (hormone drip to bring on contractions) after all?"
I kept contracting like this for another hour and then the midwifes changed shifts at 8pm. I said goodbye to Caroline and hello to Jane who was equally lovely, chilled and friendly. After a little time Jane was keen to do an internal examination to decide whether I should have the syntocinon to step things up a notch.
To my disappointment I was only 3cm despite contractions coming on more frequently and stronger so I agreed to have the drip fitted.
I asked the midwife, "what is a usual rate of dilation? How long does it take on average?" To which she replied, "half a centimetre an hour. But that is for a first birth". What!!?? I looked at the clock feeling completely hopeless. Desperately trying to work out how many hours this went on for. Why did it feel so much harder than last time? Was I being a whimp?
The next hour was intense. The contractions were really beginning to hurt and I was vomiting. The gas and air did not have the same effect as my first birth and was making me feel very sick each time. I remember visualising a flower opening as well as my loud moaning and deep breathing which really helped. Mostly I was leaning over the bed rocking and doing my hip rotations. Swaying with every surge made me feel in control of each contraction like I was able to direct it and channel the pain.
I now began to feel really tired. I was suddenly aware that my arms and legs were wobbling so I lay down on my side on the bed and closed my eyes. I was scared of what a contraction lying down might feel like but I clutched the gas and air dispenser and took a small puff before each one. Amazingly, I was able to drift off into a doze between each contraction despite them being incredibly intense and 20 or so contractions later I jumped back up and onto the floor and was rocking away. I barely noticed my birth Photographer, Gaby slip into the room and begin working her magic.
I agreed to have the syntocinon drip cranked up again as I had had what looked like a little lull on the monitor. Within a few minutes I hit what I can only describe as 'birthing overload'. Massive contraction, vomit, shit on the floor, another massive contraction and the same again. I started to freak out. I felt like I had lost all control. I decided I could NOT do birthing like this! I was going to have an epidural. The very thing I had planned so well to avoid. I deserved it. I had carried these 7lb babies until 39 weeks! I had hemeroids and I had to push TWO babies out! I knew Sam and Patricia would try and convince me not to, reminding me of my birth plan but I didn't care I was having it!
I started ordering everybody around trying to get some control back. "Turn that cyntocinon down! Turn it down again! Where is the anaesthetist? Sam clean up this shit on the floor! I'm going to be sick again"
(In hindsight this was classic 'transition' behaviour but no one noticed as we all assumed I was about 4cm dialated! I had progressed to 10cm in an hour and a half! Patricia, my doula was the first to clock something was a bit odd!)
The exhersion of being sick made me do a little push and I thought I needed to poo again. I was scared to do any kind of push as I was only 4cm (or so well thought!). Somewhere in the room I could faintly hear Patricia say to the midwife "I think something's changed. Look at the monitor". Simultaniously, I let myself do another push that I couldn't hold back. I did it silently, terrified I might be trying to push a baby out a 4cm cervix!
Patricia leaned over me and hugged me. I whispered to her "I feel like I need to push. Is it safe?"
To which she replied, "If you really need to push, you push!"
That was all I needed to hear. I sat down on the birthing stool and pushed! "Ow!!" I shouted. The realisation dawned on me I wasn't getting my epidural. Damn it! I was going to push this baby out now. My disappointment became excitement. It was happening right now. Not in the 6 hours I had calculated. Right now. Feeling like the stool was not right, I climbed up onto the bed and let it go. I roared like a lion and let the push go on and on.
Another push later the head was out. The one after that, so was the rest of her!
I couldn't believe it as I sat shaking, holding her as she let out her fantastic wail. Sam and I just leant over her as time stood still. Tears of joy, relief and shock came down my face. I barely noticed the drip had popped out of my hand and was being held by the midwife to stop me loosing too much blood.
It wasn't until I felt a rumbling surge again that I was snapped back into reality. Her sister was coming already.
"Sam you'll have to take her I've got a contraction coming" I said as I steadied myself on all fours again.
A contraction later and her legs and bum were out still kicking away in the embryonic sack.
We all waited eagerly for the next contraction. (*This was not the usual fashion the hospital liked to deliver a breech baby. I was doing it the way I had learnt best from my research. Active and on all fours).
Time passed. What seemed like forever but no contraction came. I had no syntocinon going into my body anymore so we were all relying on my body to make its own contraction.
"You're gonna have to push. If you lie down we can help you" said the matron.
"No! don't touch her I can do this!" I said and mustered the biggest empty push I could. Still no contraction. I did two more pushes and I felt something very painful happening. Patricia leant over me "The doctor is trying to get the arms out. Is this what you want?". Realising that a contraction may never come I said "yes, get the arms out!".
Skilfully he reached in as carefully as he could pulling out the arms one at a time. This was probably the most uncomfortable part of the pushing phase. I let out some strange mooing, shouty noises. Then I felt a rumbling. "There's one coming" I growled, and with everything I had I pushed out Aria's head.
Collapsing forward on the bed with my head in my hands I waited for her cry. Silence. More silence. I could only hear the bustle of people moving around the end of the bed. "We need to cut the chord now" said the midwife with urgency. "Yes" I mumbled. Out of the corner of my eye I saw them whisk her over to the resusitairs table. I didn't look. I don't know why. I knew she'd be ok.
"Is she ok?" I asked. After a pause the midwife said, "her heartbeat is strong".After what seemed like and eternity (was actually 3 minutes) I heard her let out a big loud cry and they brought her to me.
I lay back in the bed in a dream holding these two magical beings in my arms. I had done it. Just the way I wanted to. They gave me some more syntocinon to birth the placenta and another contraction later the monster flopped out. It was literally the size of a bowling ball. Unfortunately, after this I bled a lot. So much so I needed a blood transfusion a few hours later, narrowly avoiding theatre. On the plus side; I didn't tear! Just a little graze. The doctor that delivered Aria's arms had very skillful hands!
I am still shocked at how my birth went. I can't get past the point when everyone thought (including myself) I was 4cm and I was having an epidural. So incrediblydetermined I was having one. All in all I had the twin birth I had dreamt of and all of this magical experience documented beautifully for us to treasure forever and share. Minor details could have made things easier in some ways, but for a hospitalised, induced labour, I couldn't have wished for more!
Home now with two healthy beans. Recovery is very slow this time and feeding is intense but happy and smiling all the way... ️
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this story. Please feel free to leave a comment for this lovely family...