Sixteen Candles

Ingalls WagonI wrote this last year. I’m not sure why I didn’t post it. The ladies have passed drivers education, now, and are juniors in high school. Seventeen years ago today I was told that the baby I was going to have was two babies.  

I am going to try to tell this story. Parts if it I have told so many times, but I want to get back to the feelings of those days more so than the happenings. It is blurry, but only because it all happened so fast and the days following it were a haze.

On January 31, 1997 I was very pregnant. I was working at the lumber yard in accounts payable and I was taking two classes in my masters program at Northwestern. I had this idea that this was the lightest quarter. I was taking a Design of Learning Environments where the professor routinely pitted the education students against the learning sciences students, and I was taking a class called Socializing Contexts and Institutions where my discussion section included a football player soon to be winningest coach in NU’s history.

I was big. I had to get to class early so that in one class I could sit between the lefty and the righty desk and at the the other get the one table with a chair. I no longer fit in a desk. I was miserable. My skin was stretched over my pregnant belly, and it Itched. Since Christmas I had not gone out much. My stomach was the topic of conversation wherever I went. The grocery store where the lady at the fish counter told me my stomach “didn’t look real” to the drive through at Wendy’s. I was tired of talking about my stomach.

At forty one weeks gestation, Dr. F (my obstetrician) wanted me to have a fluid check. Emily my eldest went to 41 weeks, so I didn’t think it was odd. There had been few concerns with the pregnancy. I was feeling good, I had wicked heartburn, I gained only 17 pounds, and I was borderline gestationally diabetic. But I had energy, and I agreed to the fluid check and stress test because it would be no big deal.

Friday arrived and Mom was staying with us. She was here for the arrival of the baby, and she had fallen at Christmas and shattered her wrist. The hand surgeon had reconstructed her with an external fixiture and a titanium plate, and she was here for the six week check in. Sam picked me up at the lumberyard and Mom was home chillin’ with Em. We were to get Mom to the hand surgeon at 3:30 and we headed off to my 1:30 fluid check at the hospital.

I was feeling great. I’d been having titanic Braxton Hicks contractions, but there was no indication that anything was unusual. We arrived at the hospital on time, and things were quiet in the sonogram department. We chatted and laughed as I got the explanation and the gown.

The lovely white haired tech explained, “We will take four images, one from each quadrant.” She put the wand on my belly and then moved it up. “I’ll start up here.” Okay, cool. I was lying on the table/bed in the dim light, joking with Sam. And we got quieter and quieter as more and more pictures came out of the machine.

“Is there a problem?” Sam asked.
“Oh, no. Everything looks great. Let me show you what I’m doing. See that triangle there? I am measuring the spaces to see how much fluid there is. That line,” she said, running her finger down the center of the screen, “that is the line that separates one from the other.”

Now for a fleeting second I thought that she meant the line that separates me from the baby, but I’m slow sometimes though not stupid.
“One from the other what?” I asked. The look on her face was priceless. She went pale, (matched her hair) and she just stared at me. “Do not tell me at forty one weeks I’m having twins…” I felt like I was Lucy or Laura Petrie or some other sitcom mom. This was not real, right?
“You didn’t know? I just thought it was a scheduling mix up. We always schedule twice as long for twins.”
Do I look like I knew?
Now she started to flutter. She started moving the wand around on my belly and then collected herself. “Let me just finish up.”
“Do you want to know the sexes?” she asked, unable to really concentrate.
“I think that I have had enough surprises. Tell me everything you can,” I insisted.
And the details she could provide included position (head down), gender (girls), relative size (equal), fluid status (all good).
“This means that the tech that is doing your non-stress test doesn’t know you are having twins.”
Yes, as I just found out. So to make the next test more efficient she marked where the girls’ heart tones were on my stomach WITH A SHARPIE.
Did you all forget about Mom chillin’ at home with Emily (age three)? Well I hadn’t. I am watching the clock, and I know it will be tight, but we will still get her to the orthopedic surgeon.
Stress test passed. Babies responded to stimuli with strong heart beats. Nothing to worry about. So we waddle back to the car, laughing a little too loud, just trying to figure out what the what…

Cut to us, pulling up outside our house, not ten minutes later. Mom had become worried when she hadn’t heard from us. I know she was concerned about me, but her immediate issue was the hand surgeon. She had called my sister because she thought she would be late, and my sister drove the 30-45 to our house so that Mom would get to the doctor. We would have made it, but Mom was standing with her coat on, looking out the window for Liz.

I don’t know what the plan was for Em, but Mom was itching to go. She stepped out on the stoop, and I burst into tears. I tried explaining as best I could why we were late, how one baby had morphed into two, and then we needed to leave. My sister drove up to the curb and saw me in tears, gesturing madly. She thought I was mad at Mom for calling her (actually I was a little bit, but that hadn’t registered yet). When she finally heard the news, she swept Mom off to the doctor where they promptly cooled their heels for an hour.

The two girls arrived about 34 hours later.

Between those two events there are at least two more posts: supply triage and labor and delivery. This one is long enough.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. liz says:

    That was a day! Mom was frantic about you. She was convinced that you were being admitted. We weighed the prospects of her taking a cab, but she was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the doctor while watching Emily. After the second or third call, I drove. Our intent was to take Emily with us to the Dr. We thought we could make an adventure of it.

    When I pulled up. You were crying and Sam is grinning from ear to ear, smiling like it was his job. He kept flashing me a peace sign, or a V for Victory. I could not for the life of me figure out what he was trying to tell me Who would imagine it meant 2?.

    We left your house and drove to the medical building. I don’t know how we got there. I just remember sitting in the waiting room. We kept looking at each other and saying, “she is having twins.” We must have said it 100 times.

    What an amazing 17 years that have followed! All good!

    1. Kate Tabor says:

      Well, you did make an adventure of the next day!

      It was a crazy day, and I just can’t believe that it’s been 17 years.

      Thanks for everything then, now, and in the past 17 years. You are the best!

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