When Emma Parnell found out she was expecting twins, she assumed that would be the biggest surprise of her pregnancy. But what lay ahead was months of severe morning sickness, a bout of influenza, a fractured rib and anemia all topped off with the most unexpected birth she could have imagined.
Settle in for a wild ride, because this mumma of multiples is taking us through a most amazing pregnancy and birth journey.
An eventful pregnancy
Emma, a member of the Mum’s Grapevine Groups, was already mum to two-year-old Marlen, when she and her partner found out they were expecting. The pair weren’t trying for a baby, and bonus – they got two!
“Though the pregnancy was very much wanted once the shock of finding out about it, and then the fact that it was twins had worn off!” Emma told Mum’s Grapevine.
But Emma couldn’t have predicted the pregnancy that was to follow.
“Honestly, my pregnancy was horrendous! I had severe hyperemesis gravidarum for about 22 weeks, though the nausea and vomiting continued through the entire pregnancy. Being pregnant with my son, a single baby, started to get hard at around the 8.5 month mark. With my twins it started getting hard at around six months! You get much bigger, much more quickly (obviously) and it really puts a huge strain on your body and stores. I became anaemic (thanks to the HG and carrying two babies), though this was rectified by taking a good iron supplement.
“At 32 weeks I came down with a severe case of influenza, which saw me hospitalised in the ICU for a week. The day after my discharge I was straight back in again, thanks to an excruciating fractured rib (thanks to my constant coughing) and the concern that my illness may bring on pre-term labour. My rib fracture is still bothering me even now, at two weeks postpartum.”
As her pregnancy drew to a close, Emma turned her attention to the twins’ birth. She’d birthed her son naturally and drug-free, and wanted the same plan for her twins.
“I was told by my original obstetrician that this would not happen as all twin births needed to be supported by an epidural. This is a blanket ‘rule’ amongst obstetricians for twin births as often the second twin needs manual manipulation, which apparently very uncomfortable! I asked around and did some research and found another obstetrician who was willing to support a drug-free natural birth and switched providers halfway through my pregnancy.”
Turn, baby, turn
While Emma thought she had her birth planned, her babies had other ideas, with both twins turning to the breech position by 32 weeks.
“I tried acupuncture, chiro, headstands in the pool and spinning babies techniques. Nothing worked and when, by 37 weeks, the babies still hadn’t turned, everyone around me was talking cesarean section, something I wanted to avoid at all costs! Many obstetricians will support a breech twin birth if one twin (the second, non-presenting twin) is breech, though basically, NONE will support a vaginal birth if both twins are breech. Its considered too risky, though in reality, the risks associated with a natural breech birth aren’t statistically very different to the risks associated with having a c-section.
“My wonderful new obstetrician just happened to specialise in the field of breech births and explained to me the risks involved in both natural and breech deliveries. My mind was made up! I’d attempt a natural birth, supported by my obstetrician and his team of midwives. No epidural, no drugs, no intervention (or as intervention free as possible). My obstetrician has to be literally the one of the only ones in the entire country who would be willing to support such a birth!”
The decision was made, but there was still concern about the way each baby would present during the birth.
“The only issue in my way was baby A’s exact position. If he remained frank breech (legs up, bum down) I could attempt a natural birth. If he became footling breech (feet down) I’d definitely need a c-section. At 37+3, during my now daily check, the obstetrician noticed that baby A had put his foot down. He could literally feel his foot above my cervix! I was also 2 cm dilated and there was concern I might go into labour. I stayed in hospital that night for monitoring, the concern of an emergency c-section hovering above me. Luckily by morning, baby A seemed to have shifted his foot, so I was sent home.”
Birthing breech babies
At almost 38 weeks, Emma went for a hospital checkup, to see if twin A had moved his foot again, but he appeared to be bottom first – a big relief. Her obstetrician performed a stretch and sweep and with Emma already at three centimetres dilated she was sent to the prenatal suit for an overnight stay.
“Twins have a higher chance of stillbirth if delivered later than 38 weeks, and as such, the obstetricians plan was to break my waters and hope that I went into labour naturally. If I didn’t go into labour an induction was to be performed. I was taken down to the delivery suit and at 9am my waters were broken, followed shortly by my first contraction. Labour progressed quickly from that point, so no induction was needed!
“Over the next six hours, contractions became more and more frequent and more and more painful. As I’d opted for a completely drug-free birth, no gas, morphine or epidural was administered and the amazing midwives talked me through each contraction increased in intensity. I bounced on the fit ball with a stress ball in each hand, and afterwards moved down to a large padded mat on the floor, by which stage the contractions were excruciating!
“Labour lasted a total of six hours, much quicker than the 35 hour labour I’d had with my first baby. By the time it was ready to push, I had moved onto the birthing stool, to help gravity do its work. Five or six painful pushes later, twin A, our little boy Samson, was born, bum first into the world. The obstetrician held his body while I pushed and just before his head came out, he tilted his chin down so the head wouldn’t get stuck. I then moved up onto the hospital bed, just in case twin B needed some manipulation in order to get out. She didn’t and another four or five pushes later, our little girl, Amaris, emerged into the world, also bum first!
“Both babies latched on for a feed almost immediately. Luckily, I had no tears or scratches, so required no stitches. It was such a relief to finally have both babies in my arms and that both were prefect and healthy. My midwife and doula also felt the relief and began crying and hugging. I later found out that a birth like mine was extremely uncommon, hence their elation. Apparently, most midwives will go through their entire careers and never witness a natural, drug free breech/breech delivery of twins!”
Emma said she felt a sense of relief after the births, that the pregnancy was over and that she’d had the birth she had hoped for, with healthy babies in her arms.
“Recovery has been amazingly fast. One of the reasons I was so intent on having a natural, drug-free birth was that it’s much easier and faster to bounce back from. I honestly could have gone for a run half an hour after the birth! Both babies took to breastfeeding immediately, losing minimal weight in the first couple of days and then making huge gains in the following weeks. Luckily, I have a great milk supply which has helped this along!”
Life with twins
Emma says life with Samson and Amaris, which mean sun and moon, is chaotic – in a good way.
“The twins are extremely hard work and I am averaging about two hours sleep a night, so I’m constantly tired. Breastfeeding twins is hard work and I spend most of my days with either or both twins attached to my chest! Marlen is smitten with his babies and is always trying to ‘help’ with nappy changes and cuddles. It’s so true what they say, double the work double the love!”
We’re in awe of your strength Emma – what a rollercoaster pregnancy and birth!
Read more birth stories from real mums
- Birth Story: Mum freebirths surprise twins in the jungle
- Birth story: Identical twin sisters give birth just hours apart
- Birth Story: Twin’s touching moment with his brother’s ashes
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