My birth story. It was November 12th. After an amazing dinner, something felt off. Heartburn, I thought. My friend – an ophthalmologist – “Are you sure you’re ok? Why don’t you lie down? Your eyes look a little…”
We left. My husband called my OB and drove straight to the hospital. I remember seeing what I now know was fear, thinking, he’s driving too fast. He knew too much, being a doctor himself. We survived the night.
November 13th. Even after hours of being poked and prodded with regular visits from nurses and doctors, I did not realize the severity of my situation. I was exactly 24 weeks and knew it was too early. My twins needed more time in my belly.
By early afternoon, my water broke. And then it was all a blur. Panic struck. The next thing I remember was being wheeled away fast – wanting my husband. I was in an operating room. Everything was moving so quickly. Blur. I wanted my husband. He wanted to come in. They wouldn’t allow it. We never had a birth plan. We never got that far. But THIS wasn’t how it was supposed to be. A team of more than 16 people in one room. It’s strangely quiet, but the energy feels like fire. My body was on fire.
Don’t push, she said. It went against the grain of what my body wanted to do. I tried to stop. But I could feel his head. Someone yelled in the softest way possible…curl up like a cat. Arch your back like a cat. The epidural I think. I don’t know. A blur. Where is my husband…I need him. He’s my doctor. He’s my rock. It’s going to be ok. Right? Somebody. Tell me. Please.
It’s 4:02pm. Twin A. I hear a faint cry. There was a cry. Minutes before someone whispered, “you will not hear cries. They are too little.” Everyone hears my cries.
But then I heard my sweet Jai cry a faint cry; I knew it was going to be ok. It’s 4:03pm. Twin B, no cry. No cry. I cried. My sweet baby Kush. Tears flowing. Where is Hitesh? I need my husband. My rock. There wasn’t that reassuring cry that every momma hopes to hear. At that moment, I was completely shattered.
Stitched back up. But still not really ‘there’. I didn’t yet understand the gravity of what had just happened, but I could feel the fear in that room. I could see my husband through my hazy, exhausted gaze. Tears streaming down. Head in his hands. I’ve seen it only occasionally. I don’t know what words we exchanged, but I know I felt safe again. I did not have a clue about the long, scary road ahead.
Into the NICU, a place I’ve never been before, I was pushed in a wheelchair. We stopped beside two incubators side by side. It was all so surreal, and even though I was intimidated, surrounded by so much equipment, people and noises, I just wanted to see my babies. I stood up through the pain – both in my heart and my now empty belly to ‘meet’ my babies. My babies are covered in wires and tubes. Their translucent skin is so delicate. I took a deep breath, tears streaming down my face. I cried tears of joy and pain all at once.
The fact that Kush never cried. It has replayed in my head more than a million times now. I knew. My momma heart knew. He passed five days later.
I was so happy to begin my new life as a mother, as we graduated from the NICU 125 days later, but I struggled to shake the anxiety that lingered. I replayed in my head what I could remember over and over again daily – I wanted to know every detail of my birth story and everything after. I suffered from amnesia so I couldn’t. It was almost sickening that I would do that to myself and cry in the shower harboring so much guilt never knowing why this happened, but always somehow still feeling it was my fault.
I worried for some time after we left that NICU, that I would forever connect one of the best things that ever happened in my life with one of the worst things that ever happened in my life.
What my experience taught me is that our birth stories and all our stories in motherhood are so so important. It’s part of the reason I wanted to start Chai Momma’s with my friends in the first place. As I’ve shared my story with whoever will listen, received therapy and over the years in this space, I’ve found healing and peace. The more we tell our stories, the more we share…the easier it becomes for those of us who are suffering to be compassionate to ourselves too.