You can read the full version of their birth story in the link at the upper left (the last Storknet Pregnancy Journal entry is their full birth story).
On birthday mornings, we tell the story of their birth (unless they can't bear to wait and ask for it the night before).
I've had people look at me with heartbreak because they cannot imagine telling the story of their child's birth as a joyful thing. It was too traumatic, too sad, too much what they didn't dream for their child's start, too much what they didn't want for their own entrance to motherhood.
It's hard to explain when someone is still in the process of grieving that the story I tell isn't to do with the details. Their birth story is based in fact, but it is a mythology process more than a clinical one. It is their origin story, the way they became part of the family, how we look at them, how we want them to think of themselves. It is also how we want them to see us, how we want them to understand family, and friendship, and even how we want them to think of the process of giving birth. If I had ended up with a c-section, I would talk about the profound gift of sacrificing the wholeness of my body for the sake of my child. I could talk about not knowing, and learning, and trust, and dreams, and turn even disappointment and anger into a fighting truth worth telling.
Sunday was the first time Baba (their grandmother, my mom) had heard it done. Usually it is at home, but they were overnighting with her, so she was there.
The whole idea of telling them their personal creation story came from her, sort of - she told me the story of my birth over and over at my prompting, and I remember how the tale became ritualized, key elements highlighted - that she understood her body and trusted it, that she had choices even within the limitations of the hospitals back then - at minimum, she could choose to not comply, creatively, but she could always ask why, why not, will it hurt me? If I eat this chocolate bar because I'm hungry and waiting to be taken to the recovery room, will it hurt me? No? Then try to stop me.
She also told me, the way myths do, about human truth in her experience. That that labor was powerful, beautiful, uncontrollable, and unifying within oneself - all parts come together to do the work. She would glow with the memory of the drive to bring me forth. She would smile, laugh, scowl, become fierce as the story moved and wove from one theme to the next. I learned from her that birthing women were warriors, that they need not fear, that the process was theirs even as it wasn't theirs to choose every aspect. It was up to us to meet it with grace, power, passion, and love. No matter how it came out, no matter if the resident asking questions had no idea what he was doing, no matter if the child was born perfectly perfect, or imperfect but perfect all the same.
I grew up loving the idea of laboring and birthing, having grown into my body with those stories in my ears and heart. It was a pinnacle kind of thing - not the only pinnacle, but one of the great ones. Marriage, eh, middling. Childbirth, now that was a cool thing. Right up there with hiking down Mount Washington with a sprained ankle, or finding one's way in the dark in a canyon with no roads. A physical feat that comes with the unknown, and risk, but which must be met, and can be (even if that means calling in the troops to help you), and becomes triumph simply by walking out the other side with a child in your arms.
I grew up knowing that I was welcome, and loved, and beautiful, from that story. I understood myself - or one aspect of my identity - through that family mythology, my own personal mythology, retold and retold, picking out different aspects at different times. Each retelling added color or illuminated different facets in response to who I was now, this year, this time. Growing up with that, I knew it needed to be passed on - at least from my side. I'll know later if they needed it, too. I expect to some degree, we all need myths, and personal ones more than impersonal ones.
And so, our stories to them - of waiting, of knowing, of trusting, of joy, laughter, tears, and welcome.
I always start with Miss M, because she was first. But even in starting her story, it ties to the family - Mr G started the pattern, the night before they were born. He told me that it was okay for them to be born on my birthday. I responded that it wasn't up to me - that it was up to the babies. Tell them, not me. So he leaned over my belly and said, 'It's okay, you can be born on my birthday' - and so purely welcomed to share the day, they accepted the offer.
There's next the interweaving of Miss R into Miss M's story - because throughout pregnancy, Miss R had been 'Baby A' - the baby expected to deliver first. She was at the bottom, oblique transverse - that is, diagonally across the cervix, head slightly up, bottom down, legs across. That makes her sound like a line or perhaps an angle, but the two of them usually formed a circle, Miss R a crescent encircling the one side as Miss M curled in an uneven ball on the other. Someone tried to convince me that this meant that they were going to be in conflict - they already were. But I saw it as a protection, and an intersection of their relationships. It also suggests a dynamic of personalities that is true in their relationship now - Miss M is her own thing, her own person, and while she relates, she doesn't have a need to relate. She is a sphere into herself, even if not a perfect one. Gibbous moon child. Miss R always relates, and is more her own person when she is doing so, defining herself by her boundaries, the spaces she fills and the spaces she reaches for are both part of her. She's also the invisible child, the one I can't read, can't see into, can't discern her shape - the dark crescent. And in the birthing, Miss R was also first in line, but ... well, you can't be born diagonally. We asked her to move - either flip to head-down, or skooch out of the way. I tend to note that she skooched out of the way, but she actually did both - both let her sister become Baby A, and lined up head-down. By the time I was 5 cm dilated, and they were checking position, they were both 'cephalic' - head down. Miss M in the lead, but Miss R right there, lined up perfectly, stacked and waiting.
Then there is the process unfolding - Labor as the universal influence in the story, the cadence through the process. Their labor was strong, and work, but not painful at all. Hypnobirthing and I get along really well. At 3 AM or so, Miss M's water broke. I felt the strength of the contractions and knew them to be the real thing. We woke up, we called in all the family supports and our friend (also doula and hypnobirthing instructor). Went to the hospital... hmm, I neglected to mention the tone of the hospital to them. I'll have to do that next time. Next year. But it was a good hospital, and the staff are full of faith and joy, rather than fear and dread.
So, labor, easy, pleasant, calm. I chatted sometimes during contractions, other times I closed my eyes and was in my body during them, feeling their power, lettting them roll. I definitely felt Miss M's head start to descend into my pelvis. I felt the back of her head hit my spine, and the runnel of nerve reaction head up my back in a spreading V. Back labor, I told Miss M - it felt like it was going to be uncomfortable. You were sunny side up, face up, back of your head banging on my spine.
But then, Miss M, then you decided you didn't like how that felt, either. So you wiggled and squirmed around to get into a better position. Two minutes later, the next contraction was so much more comfortable! Miss M grinned, and hugged my side, cuddled up against me on her bunk bed, shy at the focus on her, even among family.
And so the story went on, shifting to humor after the personal focus. See, then I had to pee. Because no story is complete without some kind of bathroom giggles. So I got up, on my clocked schedule, to trundle to the bathroom. Three steps across the floor, I went through transition and into crowning your bag of waters. You were still inside the bag, but the bag was starting to bulge out. I felt the slight burn of the crowning, and instinctively grabbed to keep the baby from falling. It wasn't baby, but a water balloon. Everyone sprang to action - doula, my mom (who was also there), leapt into gear, calling the nurses while I carried on to the bathroom - I still needed to pee. Awkwardly, at that point.
Another change in gear, too - because now things were moving. The pace picks up, and I leaned forward to tell the kids about the nurses calmly coming in, thinking nothing much could have changed in the 30 minutes since I'd been 5 cm dilated. But with one look, she knew we only had moments to spare - they broke down the bed, threw scrubs to the support team, raced me down the hall, careening into doorways, into the OR, and ...
And my OB wasn't there yet. So strangers came in, all to help. They move me over to the gurney, the OB complains that it is the c-section table, not the vaginal one, but it is too late to get another in the room. I'm laughing. I have a picture to prove it, too.
The drama increases with the pace - the OB looks, and says, 'either that's not a head, or your baby is really bald.' I reply, 'my babies tend to be bald.' She eyes me with a slightly skeptical look, and then says, rather dryly, 'that's not a head. It's a butt. And a foot.' Fortunately, the bag of waters is still intact around the first baby (who we remind the listeners is a gender we don't yet know). The OB gets to work - lines up the foot with the baby's body, and pops the bag of waters, and rotates, pulls, and wiggles that baby until just her head is inside. With one small push from me, Miss M's head is clear. And she's a she. We have a daughter. We're stunned, surprised, but happy.
Then it is back to Miss R while Miss M is being checked over, rubbed down, examined. This is another place where I edit for the mythology - the neonatologists were rather rough with the rubdown, perhaps because the girls were born so peacefully, they mistook their calm for being sedated - after all, they rarely see a natural twin birth. That still makes me angry, that they entered the world so smoothly, and then were promptly flipped around and rubbed and jiggled and jounced, enought that my mom was disturbed by the coarse treatment. It bothers me. I don't mention it, not now. Maybe for another time or purpose. But it is the intent that is mentioned - they wanted to make sure you were safe, okay, healthy, so they rubbed you down and checked you over. Their intentions were for safety (and I'll just not mention - yet - that they kind of skipped over respectful and kind).
The story line changes again - all this time, Miss R has been waiting, following, not acting. But now... Miss R, where did your sister go? She grinned at me, and I got up and moved over to her bunk to carry on with the story. Miss R, you flipped around, wiggled, pushed, turned. Like you were saying, What's going on here? Why do I have all this room? Where is that other person? Miss R laughed when I said I held my hands on either side of her to keep her pointed the right way, but she still didn't stop moving around.
The OB called for the ultrasound to get a picture of where the next baby was. Which was relatively useless, since Miss R was still moving around. More giggles. I mention that they were worried she might end up sideways, and need a surgical birth, and nobody wanted that. So the OB ended up reaching up inside me to grab that second twin by the feet for a second breech birth. She wasn't happy with that, either, but we eyeballed each other, she sighed, and went for it. One foot. Pop the bag of waters, hook the other foot, pull.
Miss R clutched her blanket on the bed beside me and huddled next to me, eyes big. And then, out came Miss R. You were bigger than your sister, but like Miss M, it was just one small push for your head, and you were all the way out. Another girl! Wow, we have two daughters. Then she was off to the doctor that was there just for her, to be checked and rubbed down and looked over.
The placentas next, while they were being checked out, and Miss M was making a small sweet cry. The placentas, joined and shaped like a figure eight, the longest placenta of the kids, between the two of them. They think it is cool that each birth had a very different placenta - Mr G's was large, but not majorly thick. Mr B's was small in diameter, but immensely thick, all things considered. And the girls, theirs, joined made a different shape, and long. We didn't talk about the huge diameter of their umbilical cords this time, but I mention it from time to time. Miss R's belly button is huge, in part because her cord was so big, I suspect.
And then joy, two babies in my arms, back in the bed to be trundled down to the recovery room. Two girls. Two daughters. Two daughters without names, and another mythology - their naming. Miss R was R from the start - we looked at her and just knew, both of us. It was right. She was the dark light, and there were only so many names that meant that.
Miss M, though, there were two that would fit, two white bright lights, either would probably work. So it was a matter of saying and saying, ep holding her, him walking back and forth trying out the names. Her name alone, her name with her sister, her name with all. It took a few minutes to be sure, but then we were sure - M it was.
For both, a name that was theirs alone in our family. For both, a middle name that looped backwards in time to an ancestress. R back to the recent past, M back to the ancient past. R taking the paternal line, M taking the maternal. Each name full of meaning and history, both.
Before they were an hour old, Mr G was there to greet them, too. Mr B was sick with bronchitis, so had to wait, but that was okay, too. He got to see them soon enough, and welcome them when he was feeling better. Even that has merit. Sometimes, you have to wait for your welcome, but you get it just the same.
Quite a solid mythology, I think. Full of drama and wonder, mystery, just a little danger ... struggle, success, humor, surprises. It makes their entry into our family weighty, mysterious, powerful, and important.
No matter the technical and clinical details, the myth has the truth of it.