I have always loved babies, and so I was thrilled when, after 6 years together, my husband agreed we were ready to have one of our own!
After a fairly uneventful pregnancy, and a fast but fantastic water birth, we were blessed with a beautiful boy – Hudson. Delicious, fun-loving, bright, adventurous child – and thus a good advertisement to sell hubby on the idea of having more! I promptly started to hint that another child would complete our family. As we also had a 13 year old daughter from my previous relationship, a new baby would make 3, so it would be a bit of an adjustment…but we wanted Hudson to grow up with a sibling close to his age…and hopefully a daughter so Adam would have a son and daughter of his own.
Not one to leave things to chance, I followed my cycle with a vengeance. I ate all the stuff to “make a girl”, we took all our zinc and folate and everything else that was recommended…..then New Years Eve…a few drinks and a fun night out and…Success! A positive test 8 days after ovulation! We could hardly believe it. was soon tired and nauseous, but we were thrilled and excited.
After a nasty bout of the flu at 10 weeks, I dropped in to see my Ob before my first scheduled appointment – just to check all was okay.
“Let’s just listen to the heartbeat and check there is only one” he joked. I laughed absently.
As I lay on the bed looking at the blob on the screen, I couldn’t understand why the Dr was giving me the peace sign with his fingers.
“There’s 2.” he repeated.
“What?” I was confused.
Well that moment changed our lives forever!
As I lay there gob-smacked and freaking out, the Dr went on to tell me that the babies were Monoamniotic / Monochorionic identical twins, due to the egg splitting 8-13 days after fertilization. So I had known I was pregnant before they even became twins! Splitting just one day later could have meant conjoined/siamese twins. He continued explaining they have no dividing membrane – they share the same amniotic fluid – and are given a 50-70% chance of surviving the cord entanglement they create by twisting and turning around one another. Only 1% of all identical twins are MoMo. As they grow, it gets more and more dangerous, as the larger the baby the less room there is, and thus they can actually compress each others cords and cut off the vital supply of blood and nutrients from the umbilical cord. They also have a much higher rate of defects and anomalies. Thus we would have all the risks of a normal twin pregnancy… and much much more.
The Ob declared I should probably not tell anyone I was pregnant and wait for nature to take its course – a likely miscarriage. Needless to say I decided he was not the right doctor for me.
On shaky legs I left the clinic and phoned my husband – his first day at a new job. A memorable day for sure! We weren’t sure if we should rejoice or cry. We did a bit of both.
We started seeing a maternal fetal specialist, with fortnightly ultrasounds. There were so many decisions to make – how much monitoring, when to deliver, when to start steroids for their lungs etc.. There is so little research on these twins – they are so rare, making studies hard to conduct. Through the one support group in the world (www.monoamniotic.org) we learnt of the most successful treatment plan – and we fought for it every step of the way. Our new specialist agreed to allow us to be part of the decision-making process. She was wonderful, compassionate and positive; a pioneer in her field and world-renowned. In a tragic twist of events, she took her own life when I was 19 weeks pregnant. We were saddened and bewildered.
Assigned a new specialist, we fought all the battles again, and a plan was roughly laid out: weekly scans from 24 weeks, then by 28 weeks to be inpatient at the hospital to be monitored daily. Then if all went well we would deliver by c-section at 32 weeks (a vaginal delivery was out of the question due to the danger created by the cord entanglement, as well as the risk of cord prolapse). We were given the option of termination due to the stressful nature of the pregnancy, and the uncertain outcome and risks…but we had already fallen in love with our little blobs!
When MoMo’s survive they are known to be the closest twins of all as they have been in physical contact since conception, they have been seen holding hands and sleeping forehead to forehead in the womb…. and then similarly once born. Some of the ultrasound pics are amazing. 2 little bodies wrapped around one another in a tight cuddle……2 faces looking eye to eye at one another…..we couldn’t wait to see our girls share this bond. Through our 31 ultrasounds we were indeed witness to much cuddling and spooning – and some kicking and poking!
The weeks slowly pass – my concerns allayed with frequent MFM appointments, and a home hand- held Doppler for reassurance.
At 28 weeks I became a resident on the maternity wing. I cried for days – missing my children, my husband and my home. Frightened for my babies and daunted at what lay ahead. My poor husband had the task of running the household, cooking, cleaning, working full-time, taking kids to school and day care etc etc .…as well as making sure he visited me every day without fail! He was a true hero – my rock. My wonderful mother brought Hudson in twice a week to spend time with me, and my daughter Xani often came after school and sat on my bed and kept me company.
We were told not to set up a nursery as it would make it too hard if we lost one or both the twins, so I spent time pouring over catalogues wondering what if anything I might need. We discussed what car to buy to accommodate our large family…and we discussed whether we would get the same car if only one baby survived. We discussed whether we would want to try for another baby if they both died. We could hardly believe the things we were discussing…
I had CTGs 3 times a day to check their heartbeats, an ultrasound every second day to monitor the cord entanglement (which was evident from 12 weeks), and steroid injections weekly to prepare their tiny lungs for their early arrival.
Finally my 5-week stay in hospital was coming to an end – we had reached 32 weeks with few scares, only to be told the NICU was full and we would have to wait another day. After a sleepless night, we awoke to again be told all of Brisbane was full, and we would be flown elsewhere – to just await the announcement.
As we ate breakfast suddenly midwives arrived with a gown and the news 2 beds were now free and we were to deliver our babies immediately.
I was terrified, so the lack of time to ponder what was about to happen was probably just what I needed; as well as some expert hand-holding and brow-stroking from Adam. I had previously had 2 natural drug-free, full term births – so this premmie, high-risk c-section was daunting to say the least!
In no time at all our 2 tiny girls were born within minutes of each other – the girls screamed as they entered the world, and continued to breathe on their own! Harper 1.9kg and Cleo 1.5kg – tiny but perfect. They got an 8 and a 9 on their apgar scores. They never needed oxygen, or any meds at all. They were even brought straight to us (after a quick once over) for a cuddle….I cried and cried as I never expected to see their little faces before they were covered in tubes, and put in humidicribs. I really had never let myself believe they would make it…. It was an incredible moment!
As the cords were examined a shocked silence fell over the room. The girls had survived horrific entanglement, with a true knot at one point. We delivered them just in time…..they were truly our miracle MoMos.
They were in NICU overnight, then much to everyone’s amazement moved straight to Special Care. They had gastro tubes for feeding…but breastfed from 33 weeks once a day…by 34 weeks it was twice a day… I pumped hourly to increase my milk supply….day and night. Let-down was so hard to achieve without my babies…often I wondered if I had even had babies as I rarely held them, there was no nursery for them and I hardly fed them. But we were lucky – we saw many other families facing much harder journeys in the nursery. Still, the Special Care experience can hardly be described…it is an exhausting rollercoaster ride, of guilt and worry. But for us it was a strange relief to see them in the crib with their monitors and tubes! This to us was the best possible outcome of a treacherous pregnancy.
After only 30 days in hospital, Cleo and Harper came home and have never looked back.
After two previous singleton, natural, yoga-filled, water-birthed pregnancies and babies, this fully monitored, medically overdosed, terrifyingly uncertain pregnancy with a caesarean and long term hospital stay, plus NICU and SCN for our premmie babies….sure was a test on our marriage, our strength , our positivity, our emotions, and our ability to look beyond and into the future.
We made it and will be forever grateful we were lucky enough to be blessed with our miracle twins.