Updated: Dec 2, 2019
Written By: Amy Towarnicki
Have you ever had a moment of shock where your heart stops, your breath catches, you maybe even feel like you’re going to pass out?
That’s the feeling I had when the ultrasound tech said “its twins!” with a big grin.
If she was expecting cries of joy, she was disappointed. I looked at my husband blankly and said “am I in a dream right now?” He didn’t even respond, just stared at me for what felt like 5 minutes until the tech said she would give us a few minutes and fled the room.
Our son had just turned 2, and the life plan was two kids total. We had a tiny old three bedroom house, and a car that comfortably seated four. It’s no wonder the first thing my husband finally blurted out was “We need a bigger vehicle!” The universe had thrown us a curve ball, and we were about to take a wild ride into the world of twins.
In hindsight, I don’t know why we were so surprised. We had conceived with the help of fertility treatments, and twins run in my family – two factors that greatly increase the chance of twins. But I couldn’t help feelings of panic and fear welling up inside of me. I had had a rough time with my first son – a long labour ending in a c-section, medical issues, a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, a long recovery, followed by postpartum anxiety. I knew just how difficult handling a newborn baby was, and I couldn’t even wrap my head around how I was going to handle two newborns at the same time, with a two year old thrown on top. And the more I started reading about twin pregnancy, the more my fears increased.
For starters, more than half of twins are born early. My due date was the first week of January, but I quickly learned that a mid-December birthday was the likely reality for our little babes – just in time for the crazy holiday season. We chose to have a planned C-section due to the issues I’d had in my first pregnancy, and it was set for 37 weeks pregnant. From my research and talking to other twin moms, I knew that my main goal would be to do everything in my power to keep the babies inside until then. Pre-term births are a very real fear for twins and multiples, and can result in medical problems like low birth weights, breathing issues, and time spent in hospital. This meant taking it easy and accepting my own limitations, and putting aside the guilt that goes along with doing less. And we all know how easy it is to just let go of that mom guilt right?
Not being able to pick up my toddler, keep the house clean, or play with my family – basically spending most of the time lying on the couch – left me feeling so guilty. In the last month before the twins were born, I couldn’t even drive (couldn’t fit my stomach behind the steering wheel and still reach the pedals)! My mom had to come every morning and take my son to daycare for me. My husband had to take on most of the housework and cooking. I just kept telling myself that my main goal was keeping those babies safe inside where they belonged for as long as possible. When I look back now, I laugh at how guilty I felt about all the help. If I only knew then how much I would be relying on other people once the babies actually arrived, I would have kicked back and relaxed and not stressed so much!
By about 30 weeks pregnant I was measuring full term, and could barely sit in my office chair for one hour, let alone eight. The pressure and weight of two babies on my pelvis made sitting excruciating, not to mention the completely numb right hand from pregnancy-related carpal tunnel. The fatigue was unbelievable. I was napping for every lunch hour, and often napping again as soon as work was done, and going to bed as soon as my toddler did. I was off work by 31 weeks, which I learned is fairly common for twin moms. Leaving my work team at a busy time of year left me feeling (you guessed it) guilty, but I quickly realized it was necessary.
A twin pregnancy isn’t necessarily considered “high risk” by most OB’s. In fact, I had the type of twin pregnancy with the lowest risk where my babies each had their own placenta and amniotic sack (dichorionic/diamniotic or “di-di” twins). But having twins in general increases the risk of so many issues, both for mother and babies; pre-term birth, lower birth weights, possible twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome for identical twins, higher chances of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, among many others. All of this means that OBs keep a very close eye on their twin mom patients. That’s why, when I casually mentioned to my OB at 32 weeks that my carpal tunnel was making my hand itchy, she told me I would have to go the hospital right away for special blood tests. It turns out I had cholestasis of pregnancy, a condition affecting my liver which weirdly causes hands and feet to be itchy, and is much more common in twin pregnancies because of the increased hormones. Not very dangerous to me, but can be life threatening to the babies. So I started my twice weekly visits to the hospital for blood tests, non-stress tests, and ultrasounds to make sure the babies were okay and my liver was still functioning well. It was a good thing I was already off work, because it began to feel like going to the hospital was my new job!
When my water broke at 3am at exactly 36 weeks, I tried realllllllly hard to convince myself and my husband that I was only peeing myself – I had been so sure I would make it to my planned C-section date. My husband finally convinced me to call my mom and finish packing my hospital bag (which of course wasn’t done yet). As I stood there packing my bag slowly soaking the towel I was standing on, I finally admitted that it wasn’t just pee. Off to the hospital, where I chose to wait until my own OB arrived that day to do my C-section. My babies were born at 12:01 and 12:02pm. Henry arrived first weighing 5 lbs 11oz, and Zoe second weighing 6 lbs even. I was thrilled with their weights, as the last ultrasound I’d had showed Henry being much smaller. I knew that higher weights meant less chance for complications, and less chance that we would spend time in the NICU.
We were incredibly lucky – our babies needed no time in the NICU, and we only spent 3 nights in the hospital. This is not the norm, and I thank my lucky stars that we needed so little medical help once the twins arrived. And I was so so so incredibly happy to NOT be pregnant anymore! Our twins were here and safe, and now came the fun part of figuring out how to take care of our two beautiful little babies.
Being pregnant with twins is definitely stressful, but there are ways to make it easier. One of the best things I did during my pregnancy was to join some online twin groups. It was there that I found out that I wasn’t the only one who had been less than thrilled to find out they were having twins. Knowing that others had felt the same way and overcome it helped decrease my guilt about those feelings and set me on the path to acceptance and feeling more excited. Other twin moms were also the best source of practical, real-life advice for what to expect during the pregnancy and birth, how to prepare, and how to survive once the babies arrived.
Another thing that makes a twin pregnancy easier is realizing that you will need help, asking for it, and getting rid of any guilt you have in accepting it. If someone offers help, take it! A twin mom’s goal is to keep those babies in for as long as possible, and that sometimes looks like a lot of resting. Letting extended family babysit your other children, letting your friends come to you for visits and helping with cleaning, talking to your work about reduced hours or going off early, and asking your partner take on more of the household chores will go a long way in helping you. Let go of the guilt, because you’ll be busy over here growing two new humans – you deserve the rest!
Last of all, often twins will come early or have complications no matter how much rest you get. Some twin moms end up on bedrest at home or in the hospital, some twins have issues in utero that require an early birth, some moms have medical issues that become so serious they need to give birth early and sometimes labour just starts early with twins for some reason. These are things that just can’t be controlled. Having a support system in place and everyone prepared for these possibilities makes it easier. And again, let go of any guilt. Twin pregnancy is a wild ride and any mom who goes through it becomes part of a special twin mom club, no matter how your birth unfolds. And all that support will come in handy with the next part of the story – bringing home two babies and figuring out how to take care of them!
Stay tuned for the next article – Newborn Twins – for all the details.