Two years ago today, my heart swelled to the size of the moon when I delivered my two sons, Leonardo and Rocco, into this wondrous world. Maria and I wanted them more than we could ever explain, and our journey to pregnancy was peppered with challenges but ultimately we triumphed in becoming mothers.
Carrying twins is not for wimps, and though I’ve always been impressed with the human body in general, I developed a massive amount of respect for my own body during my 36 weeks and five days of pregnancy. I experienced the usual suspects of issues associated with most pregnancies, from backaches to heartburn that required about half a bottle of Mylanta a day to an insane appetite that would rival any high school soccer team. But I really never was bothered by any of this. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I reveled in my pregnancy. I was practically euphoric knowing these darling little lives were growing inside of me, cradled in a little cocoon that my body made for them, and that soon my two sons would enter the world, our family and our home. I was giddy with anticipation. When I was laid off at 8 months pregnant from my metropolitan newspaper editorial position, I was worried sick about insurance until my company offered to keep me insured until after I gave birth. And I was able to get back to my toe-tapping excitement.
Twelve days before I gave birth, and one day after my 33rd birthday, my specialist OB (a maternal fetal medicine doctor assigned specifically to high-risk pregnancies) sent me to the hospital because of high blood pressure, spotty vision and protein in my urine. I had developed a potentially fatal condition called preeclampsia. I laid in an emergency room bed with multiple monitors attached to me for a couple of hours, my concerned wife holding my hand, until finally the doctors decided to admit me for hospitalized bed rest.
My closest friends and family members were worried about my comfort and boredom during this time, but I really didn’t mind because I would do whatever it took to keep our bambinos safe. My only sadness was caused by the fact that we weren’t going to have the “it’s time” moment that other parents get. You know, the one where you rustle your partner awake in the middle of the night and they get so mixed up trying to run around gathering your suitcase and your pillow and your meditation CD and the camera and whatever else you have ticked off in that screaming instant.
After laying in a fairly comfortable bed, away from the cozy home I shared with my wife and our dogs, for 11 long days filled with visits from friends, family, and crazy amounts of doctor and nurse checks, I woke up on the 12th day feeling different deep down in my soul. I waddled the short distance to the bathroom–the only trip I was allowed to take–and lo and behold, my water broke. It was a shocking rush of ohmygodohmygodohmygod this is really happening! And the best part? My wife had spent the night on that ungodly sliver of plastic cushion decoy (we’re pretty sure it was a slab of cement beneath) so she could be present for an early morning ultrasound. I was able to tiptoe in my hippopotamus-like state over to my sweet wife, rustle her awake, grin at her like a kid in a massive candy store, and say, “It’s time.”
If labor begins when your water breaks, then I was in labor from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., when the more “active” labor began. Before this time, everything from the horrifyingly painful epidurals (the doctor hit a vein the first time and had to redo it) to the bed-rail-clenching waves of knife-stabbing contractions was clinical and made for a hard day of waiting. When it came time to push (the classic 10-centimeter signal), the lights went bright, as if my wife and I had stepped out to center stage on Broadway, and teams of militant baby generals marched in, pushing big, tall carts made for baby warming, washing, weighing and measuring. They were ready for us. For Leo and Rocco.
But just as suddenly as the lights had shone into my eyes, they dimmed to a softer, more subdued level of brightness. I was encircled with a team of women, two nurses and my OB and Maria, my wife. The hospital moment had transformed into what felt like a home birth with female power and love and goodness and encouragement. I felt like a warrior goddess in the bed, curling my head toward my stomach (not a far distance with that small Mini Cooper growing from my midsection), gripping my thighs, listening to various women’s voices coach me with pep, love, cheering and maybe a little militant direction, too. Before that last push for baby A, my eyes filled with tears as I knew what was on the horizon: I was about to be united with this sweet darling who had been bouncing on my bladder, I was about to meet my son, face to face. With one last push of the unknown (I pushed as hard as I could, but I blessedly and tragically couldn’t feel a darn thing below my waist), Leonardo Vincent Palladino was out of my body and into the world at 11:31 p.m. on March 14, 2011, weighing in at 4 pounds 15 ounces. He was blitzed over to his assigned warming station before we could even blink, because I had another child to deliver whose life hung in the balance. Six concentrated pushes later, Rocco Bruce Palladino arrived at 11:38 p.m., weighing in at 6 pounds 9 ounces. With both boys safely delivered and the knowledge that they were healthy and we’d not have any NICU time, we were able to allow the euphoric rush of bliss and raw heart-thumping emotion to overwhelm us. Maria was invited to cut Rocco’s cord, and cameras were whipped out, phone calls were made, and our lives took on a new form that we will forever be grateful for.
There’s no role I love more than being a mother, and I love my children more than I love myself. I believe that I was made for Leo and Rocco, that they are the perfect culmination of my loving relationship with Maria, and that they make life make more sense than ever was possible before they arrived.