the story of abigail & lucas

In ALL, FAVORITES, SNIPS & SNAILS, SUGAR & SPICE by Stephanie Klein50 Comments

I wasn’t afraid of feeling pain. I was afraid they were going to be pulled from my body, lifeless.  I wouldn’t hear them cry.  We’d all wait, in an inhale.  A technician would check a clock. They’d blink at a monitor, hoping for a blip on a flat line.  Their legs would be lifeless, hanging, bent to the memory of my body. I’d deliver dead children, small lifeless corpses, specimens pulled onto a sterile table.  They wouldn’t let me hold them. No one was with me.  How would I explain?

While I was pregnant, I’d spent so much time worrying about labor, fearing blood and needles, but in the moment, when they warned it would feel cold and scratchy then burn and sting, I didn’t care.  “Just tell me when it’s over.”  Before I even became a mother, I changed. I didn’t matter anymore. It’s what everyone says it is, living with fear and hope for someone else, little ones who weren’t even here yet.  You just don’t worry about your own pain when you’re that worried about their lives.

When I’d first arrived at Labor & Delivery at 6:30pm Thursday night, I walked calmly to the front desk and in a tone you’d use to ask where the ladies room is, I announced that my doctor had told me to come, my hand low on my stomach.   A freckled young nurse with a chipmunk face and mousy brown hair asked what brought me in.  “I guess I had a low dull ache, but I really always have a low dull ache, so I drank my water, stretched out on my left side, and emptied my bladder.”  Earlier that night, at 5:00pm, after peeing, I noticed a bit of mucus in my underwear.  It was tinged with a slight trace of brown blood.  I collected it with a piece of toilet paper and was now showing it to the nurse.  “That’s it?” she said while examining the sample, as if I were completely wasting her time.  “Well, yeah.  Maybe there was more,” I lied, “but this is all I brought.”  She made me feel like my being there was a ruse.

I’d had mucus before.  Two days earlier, at my regularly scheduled OBGYN appointment, I mentioned it to my doctor.  “Globs of it,” I had said.  He said it was normal, that it happens as the cervix thins.  I thought “mucus plug,” but I didn’t use those words because Phil always tells me not to try to diagnose myself to a doctor.  “Let them tell you what you have,” he says, “Don’t put an idea in their head.”  And when Phil says this to me, all I can think of is a psychic.  How you try to trick them, by not confirming anything, to see how good they really are.  My doctor measured my cervix and sent me on my way.  There was no talk of mucus plugs. Smiles were exchanged, and he joked that I should behave and not make his life difficult in the next two weeks, when I’d be at the 32-week mark, scheduled for our next appointment.  I was on my way.  Phil was on his way to New York.

When I phoned my doctor to tell him I’d found blood in my mucus, he said I’d need to go to the hospital.  “Really?”  I was certain it was an overly cautious request. “Really?”  I didn’t know where the hospital was, where my ID was, anything.  I began to laugh.  “Can you believe this shit?” I said from the car as I phoned my sister.  “I swear to God, if I go into real labor and have to fucking parallel park, Phil will never hear the end of this.”   I laughed until it began to hurt again.  My contractions were three minutes apart.   I cranked up Feliz Navidad and sang to my stomach.  “You can’t come now,” I said when the song ended, my hand on my stomach as I began to breathe the way I imagined women in labor did.  Slowly, deeply, with some magical motherly purpose.  I hadn’t packed a bag or picked out some fabulous hospital outfit.  I hadn’t showered or brushed my teeth.  All those things you plan for, hospital slippers, eye masks and your favorite cream, none of it mattered.  I wouldn’t be staying anyway.  “Man, if this is really it, my driving myself to the damn hospital, man, he’ll never live this down,” I said to Carol, my father’s wife.  “Do you want to speak with your father?”  “Nah, it’s probably nothing.  Just let him know I’m on my way and I’ll call when I know more.”  It was kind of exciting, the drama of it all.  Nothing would really happen, I thought.

The freckled nurse left the room to collect some monitoring bands that would track the heart rates of each baby and also chart my contractions.  Another young nurse named Jenny joined us and said that she’d be examining my cervix.  “I was at 2.75 in length two days ago,” I said as she applied pressure.  “Ouch.”  I’ve heard the stories of other women in labor, listening as they’ve said that they screamed so loud the whole hospital could hear. I’m never vocal about severe pain.  I’m so damn good at complaining when it doesn’t matter, but when I’m really in pain, I’m silent, trying to work through it in my head and breath, gripping down, guarding off the pain in silence.  I was surprised at my “ouch” and didn’t recognize it as my own.

With her hand still inside me she asked if my doctor had mentioned anything about my being dilated. “What?  No.  No.  I’m dilated?” I began to sit up.  “You’re at about a two.  I’m going to give you a steroid shot to mature the babies’ lungs.”  “Will it hurt?”  “I’m not going to lie to you.  It hurts like—“  “A motherfucker, right?”  “Well, yeah.”  I called Phil.  “I can’t believe this is happening.  I’m actually going into labor.”  I said the words, but I didn’t believe them.  Part of me was just saying it for dramatic effect.  There was no way I was having these babies yet.  It was too early.  It wasn’t happening now.  But then my doctor arrived and confirmed it.  “Phil?  Your wife is going into premature labor.”  There it was, the words strung together in a real band of panic.  I wasn’t just going into labor; it was premature labor, the kind with statistics and warnings; the kind where they send you to preventative specialists, weekly, to avoid.  And it was happening, now, with my husband and every bit of family across the country.  Jenny said she could wheel a cot into the room.  “Don’t you have anyone to come stay with you?”  I hated that question.  “No, I’m alone,” I said.  And if I weren’t so scared, I would have cried.

They gave me drugs, basically Botox for your uterus.  And while they made me sweat and feel as if my face were aflame, they were ineffective.  In ten minutes, I dilated to a 4.  My father was on the phone with me now.  “Holy shit.  I’m at 4 already.”  I didn’t know what this meant, only that at 10, babies come out.  “I’m so sorry, sweetie,” Jenny said as she changed my IV, “but these babies are coming.”  My doctor confirmed it.  “You’re kidding, right?  There’s nothing else you can do to stop this?”  No.  There was nothing else.  The kids were coming whether I liked it or not.  “But I was just instant messaging like an hour ago.  And Grey’s Anatomy is on soon.”  I tried to make light of it as the doctor spoke to Phil about my options for delivery.  I called my mother, who was trying to convince me they were Braxton Hicks contractions.  “I’m dilated to four, Mom!”  I was shouting. “I have to go,” I said, frustrated.  The second twin always does better, with premature babies, when delivered via c-section.  Less trauma and stress.  All the benefits of a vaginal birth wouldn’t apply with my children.  I wouldn’t be able to hold them or feed them.  The trauma of a vaginal birth could hurt one of them.  We couldn’t risk it, Phil and I agreed.  “I so can’t believe this is really happening.”  I imagined Phil at a bar, with his friends, stepping out onto the street so he could hear me better.  I never asked where he was.

An anesthesiologist came in to explain the epidural, saying something about Egypt, I was certain.  I couldn’t understand anything.  “Morphine,” he said. “What’s your name again?”  I didn’t know what was happening.  Everything fuzzed around me. And that fucking chipmunk nurse was at it again, rubbing my belly, searching for one of the babies’ heartbeats.  “One of them must have moved around, that’s all.”  There she was, combing my body for a fetal heartbeat while a masked anesthesiologist told me not to worry if I didn’t feel myself breathing.  “Sometimes you feel numb and might worry you’re not breathing, but you are.”  Then Jenny came over with a look of panic on her face.  That was it.  They couldn’t find the heartbeat because one of the babies had died.  I was sure and began to sit up.  I needed to leave.  Jenny told me some preemie nurses would be by to speak to me about what to expect.  Phil was on the phone.  “Phil?  Now I’m really scared,” I trembled.  “This is really happening.  This shouldn’t be happening.  I didn’t even do anything.  I sit on my fat ass all day long.  I didn’t go running or take step classes.  All I do is sit on my ass and watch you clean.  How can this be happening?”  It was my fault, I thought, and can’t help but still think it now.   They found the other heartbeat.

I don’t need to know everything.  I don’t need to prepare.  I need to just go through it and deal with things as they come.  I don’t like “if”s.   “Listen,” I said to the anesthesiologist, “I haven’t heard one word of anything you’ve said.”  I swear, I thought he was talking to me about mountains.  He mentioned some extended-release morphine, and I was certain he was telling me about the origin of the drug, as if he were talking about mountain-grown coffee beans from Colombia.  “So if you’re just telling me all of this because you legally have to, then fine, but do I need to understand anything you’ve just said?  Because I can’t focus on you when she’s on me searching for one of the babies’ heartbeats.  And please, don’t let any more people in here to tell me about warnings or expectations.  I don’t want to guess anything.  Let’s just do this already.”  I worried that because we chose to go ahead with the c-section that I was missing a chance for my body to stop everything.  If I’d chosen to have a vaginal birth, there would have been more time to see.  My doctor, though, assured me, it wouldn’t work that way.  “Stephanie, these babies are coming!”  And this is from a doctor who never speaks in exclamations. When I said we could go ahead with the cesarean births, I felt like I’d just said the correct answer to the question.  Jenny nodded her head.  It was the right decision.

My body wouldn’t stop shivering.  They covered me in blankets.  “I’m not cold,” I said as I shivered uncontrollably.  “I think I’m just scared.”  It’s normal, they said.  And then we waited for me to numb out behind a sheet.  “The doctor just poked the hell out of you, and you didn’t feel it, so we’re ready now, okay?”  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  I began to sweat, and then said aloud, “Is it okay that I’m sweating like a whore in church right now?”

When the doctor pulled out “Baby A,” he said, “Okay, the first baby is out, and he looks just like his dad.”  I had a son and was convinced he had a brother. A team of five people was assigned to him, rushing him beneath lights, cleaning him off; I could see him and hear his faint lamb cry. A minute later: “Okay, and here’s the second baby, and it looks…”  I had another son. “Just like you.  You have a daughter.”

I squealed.  “Really?  Oh my God, really?  My head lifted up.  I wanted to be closer to it all, to see her.  “Really?  Oh my God.  A boy and a girl?  Oh my God!!!  I really have a daughter?  I began to laugh and cry, then gasped for air.  “Oh my God.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Can we call Phil?”  Jenny handed me the phone.  “Oh my God, Honey, we have a son.  And… we have a daughter!  Can you believe it?”  “Really?”  “Oh my God, I love you so much.”  “How are you?”  “I’m okay.  They’re sewing me up now.  There are like twenty people in here.  Each of the babies has a staff.”  “Wait, they’re sewing you up now, with me on the phone?”  “Yeah.”  “Cool.”  “And I get to name them whatever I want because you’re not here.”  Then we both laughed.  “How about Beckett for his middle name?” I said.  And Philip agreed. “Lucas Beckett Klein,” I said.  “Wanna just cut my balls off right now?”  “Lucas Beckett Beer,” we agreed.  But as long as they’re in the hospital, they’re “the Klein babies,” because I’m Stephanie Klein, their mother, and they’re mine.  And when my husband Philip Steven Beer calls the hospital for an update on their progress, he announces, “Yes, this is Mr. Klein, calling about the Klein babies,” and I giggle each and every time.

Comments

  1. You describe motherhood perfectly. It's no longer about you – it's all about the babies. That's how nature intended it. Go with your instincts and don't let anyone argue with you. There are too many opinions out there.

    Best of luck to you all.

  2. Oh my god Stephanie, this was so riveting and so intense, I cannot imagine what you must have felt actually going through everything you described! You are an amazing, inspirational woman and I really tip my hat to you.

    You are blessed and those babies know what a wonderful mama they have for what you did and went through.
    Biggest hugs ever xoxo

  3. A boy and a girl – sorta like one stop shopping!! I am so happy for the two of you and the two of them. What wonderful presents you have given one another.

  4. “Is it okay that I’m sweating like a whore in church right now?” – I bet that is one they haven't heard often at the hospital in Austin!

    Up here in Massachusetts visiting and happened to check your blog. I'm so excited and surprised to read this post already! It sounds like you are getting a chance to reflect already – with all that you've gone through and continue to go through, I can only imagine. Your son and daughter are over a week old now! Wow!

    You continue to surprise me with how you handle things – with the Stephanie brand of strength and humor I've got to know through reading your book. Although, I should not be surprised.

    Can't wait to see more pictures. I'm so happy and excited for you.

  5. No words. You are one of the bravest people I know. Congratulations on your beautiful children.

  6. WOW!! Thank you for sharing your amazing story. You are so incredibly brave, and Lucas and Abigail are lucky to have you. Isn't it wild how something in you just takes over and suddenly it's not about you anymore? That maternal instinct is so real and so strong. People can tell you about it until they're blue in the face, but you won't be able to truly understand it until you're actually a mother. And, now you are. You've been through so much to get where you are today. Enjoy every minute of it. You deserve it!

  7. This story is too cute for words. Reading it, I could almost picture you reciting it out loud to your youngins at bedtime (minus the expletives of course ;o)

  8. I can't imagine going through all of that alone. Hope the babies are continuing to do well. The pics thus far are adorable.

  9. Loved it. Every word. Hope the babies are well – can't wait to see more photos.

    And I agree. You really should remind Phil about having to parallel park during labour…every chance you get. :)

  10. Stephanie.

    Your babies are beautiful. It's horrible that you had to go through it alone, but at least you have this amazing story to tell them when they get older. Hope you, Lucas, and Abigail are doing great. You're all in my prayers.

  11. you are my hero. i am currently lying in a hospital bed trying to hold off labor for at least 33 more days. (i'm just 27 weeks and would like to get to 32, cervix is at .8 cm and i'm 1 cm dilated). you made me cry and laugh and know that it will be ok. you are blessed stephanie and a brave strong amazing woman and mother. congratulations on your family.

  12. Soooo glad to hear from you! This is a baby journal unlike any other baby journal – and it's a treasure for time and eternity. Thank you for sharing – made my whole night.

    Hugs to mom, dad and babies.

  13. You are hilarious and heatbreakingly moving…all at the same time! What a blessing & a joy they have you for a mom!

  14. Congrats! What a wonderful "early" Christmas present! You are truly blessed.

    Merry Christmas!

  15. They are beautiful. Welcome to parenting and losing #1 status ;) They are so worth it. Delighted you had one of each. Twins are so special and wonderful to watch grow up. I am so happy for you and your husband!

  16. I can't believe you're actually finding time (or making time) to sit at a computer. But I bet you probably want to document it all while the emotions are still fresh in your heart. Beautifully told. I can feel the love you and Phil have for each other through your writing, which means your children will have a wonderful example of love to witness. Best wishes.

  17. Beautiful. Truly. The story, sure. But the babies, definitely. Can we hear more about their details, soon?

    This stranger is proud of you, and your family.

  18. I just got home from work, 12:30 am in Toronto, Canada, and as tired as I am from a long ass day at the office, when I saw you had a new entry, I got ready for bed and curled up by my laptop and devoured your tale of love. Wow, I believe that was your most beautiful and definitely most riveting blog yet. I commend you on how you handled that situation and I send my love and blessings to the little ones! I am so excited for your new life, and I definitely cannot wait to grow up and have my own!

  19. I love that you giggle at that. It's wonderful that you're keeping your sense of humour when faced with this kind of stress. Again, mazel. You're doing beautifully!

  20. fair deal about you picking the names….
    the names are beautiful…Lucas and Abigail :)
    wish them all the happiness…

  21. You are so incredibly strong and brave! Thank you for sharing your story with everyone. Congrats again on your beautiful babies!

  22. You are so strong and I'm impressed that you kept your focus *and* kept your humor about you. I hope the little ones are doing well!!

  23. god you are sooo lucky, I can not stop bawling my eyes out over what has happened to you. Ive been reading your blog since before it was famous.I love those pictures of the babies…..and you, I would love to see and artist draw them in black and white, with a coal pencil…..you touch me, and I envy the love you and phil have. You are strong and I am sorry you had to go through labor alone…but you know you werent alone, you had a boy and a girl with you the whole time.

  24. Hi Steph,

    Glad that your babies are fine. Dont worry, they are going to be fine. I have a premature niece too.. a 3 pounds baby. She stayed in ICU for a month before she was discharged. Now, she can run, talk and even fight with both her grandparent ;)

  25. ahh you described it in so much detail, but that is pretty much how I felt except my husband got to be there. It was all fuzzy and your right it stops being about your pain and all about thier safety. I'm glad you are all ok. And you got a son and a daughter, now you can pass on the Barbies.

  26. Welcome to the world Lucas and Abigail and congratulations to Mom and Dad!

    Thank you for sharing all of this – beautifully written! You do realize that you are making people like me ("not ready for kids yet") broody?
    Wonder how many of your readers get pregnant in the next few months?!

    You're an inspiraton in so many ways.

    Best wishes to all of you.

  27. I wanted to say you captured beautifully what most of us preemie mom's go thru when the moment comes and it's real. My Twins were 32 weekers and they will be 3 in a few weeks they are perfect and healthy now. Your will be too. It's hard having them in the NICU I know but it will be ok. ALSO please PLEASE don't blame yourself for them coming early. You did all you could to keep them in. Twins is a heavey burden on a mothers body and most of them do arrive early. They will be fine and you are VERY blessed. Boy/girl twins are the most fun! Our little duo are best friends they have such a good time together.

  28. Your writing is incredible.
    So honest, so true.
    You're a brave woman, Stephanie, and your babes are just beautiful.

  29. OK, I totally laughed, got goosebumps, felt your anguish, and your joy.

    That "fucking chipmunk nurse" is probably not too thrilled with your name for her! Ha.

    When my second child was born a year and a half after her brother, she was so swollen down there when she came out, I thought she had a set of balls, and I didn't care that I had two boys now, I was just glad to have her out since it was a VBAC. Then, when the doctor announced: "INDOOR PLUMBING–It's a girl" I lost it.

    Every mom wants a daughter, I think. But yes, healthy babies are the priority, and I'm glad yours are doing well.

    MORE PHOTOS and updates on the Klein-Beer babies (he had something to do with it, not much ; ) but they wouldn't be here without him)!

  30. Very edge of the seat read, even though I knew it ended well. Your description of hearing about "mountains" and "Egypt" as doctors tried to get your consent sounded almost like writing from the fog of war. Fascinating.

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