22nd October 2016 will go down as one of the most surreal days of my life! It’s the day we found out that I was pregnant with not one, but two babies! I can still remember watching the colour drain from Raj’s face as the sonographer spoke the following words. “Are there twins in the family?” “No!” I confidently replied, not for one second imagining what she might have seen on the screen. “Well…there are now!” she declared! One perk of being given that life altering news was that they let us have our scan pictures free of charge, to help make up for the shock!
Once we’d shared the news with family and friends it was time for us to try and get our heads round it. I’m not sure we’ve managed it yet! As it turned out we didn’t really have a lot of time to sit and process anything. Not only because life goes on; I was working, we still had Krish to care for, but also because right from the start this was labelled a high risk pregnancy. I knew it would be very different from my only other experience of being pregnant.
The hours after our scan were spent googling the whys and wherefores of identical twins. Our twins are MCDA which means they share a placenta but have their own amniotic sac. According to the NHS website, nobody know what causes women to fall pregnant with identical twins. Everybody has the same chance, about 1 in 250. Well lucky me!
There are many questions and myths surrounding twins and I found a lot of my answers on the following websites:-
Very swiftly we were referred to the Fetal Medicine Unit at St Michael’s in Bristol and were told we would need fortnightly appointments there, to measure amniotic fluid levels around each twin and to monitor growth. It got serious very quickly and the simplicity of my pregnancy and delivery with Krish became a painful reminder of how much more complex this pregnancy was becoming. After only a couple of routine appointments our consultant started to prepare us for the possibility that our twins had TTTS (twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome). He did not beat around the bush and told us there was a chance that we could lose one or both twins if this was the diagnosis and we chose to have treatment. In hindsight, I wish they hadn’t told us everything they did and that they could of painted a brighter picture, but I do understand that they have to be honest and prepare patients for all outcomes. Though this development was terrifying I couldn’t help feel privileged and down right lucky. We live close to one of only 9 hospitals that offer intrauterine laser ablation in the U.K. and we live in an age where something can be done. In 90% of cases where no intervention is made in cases of TTTS, both babies die and 10 years ago it was barely understood!
So our fortnightly appointments became weekly appointments and it became evident that we were playing a waiting game. Would the imbalance in the fluid levels get worse? Would any other TTTS symptoms arise? Every appointment started with the usual heartbeat check which became excruciating. My typically laidback view of life was tested to the core and inside I was ready to crumble. But thankfully, the heartbeats were always there and the fluid levels, though they teetered on the edge of stage one TTTS, never actually confirmed it and I had no other symptoms. As we crept closer to the magic 24 weeks where our pregnancy became viable and Doctors could and actually would deliver twins with TTTS, we started to feel some hope that maybe we might pull through this unscathed. More importantly the consultant reminded us that if TTTS hasn’t been confirmed by 24 weeks then it was unlikely to present at all. In fact he now told us that 50% of pre stage 1 TTTS symptoms turned out to be a result of an IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction)
With TTTS less of an issue our appointments returned to fortnightly and we became more interested in whether twin 2 was still growing. There was approximately a 30% difference between twin 1 & 2 which was significant. With an increased risk of still birth after 34 weeks where there is IUGR, the consultant said he would contact RUH to start the ball rolling. I didn’t really feel ready to meet the twins but equally I couldn’t wait for the scans and trips back and forth to be over! Little did I know there was plenty more yo-yo-ing to come. But that stories for the next post.
So I was booked in for a c-section with no clue what to expect. I’d spent so much time worrying about TTTS, IUGR and other pregnancy issues that I hadn’t even considered the c-section itself. All I knew is it would be polar opposites to my gas and air vaginal birth in a midwife led birthing centre.
I’ll continue this story next time, when I will talk about my c-section experience and the first few days as a mum of twins.
Before I sign off it would be unfair of me not to celebrate the outstanding care we received at St Michael’s. Our consultant Dr Mark Denbow, told it to us straight but made us feel at ease with his witty banter. Dr Sarah Newell who answered all our questions and welcomed us onto her research project. This allowed us to see some amazing images of our babies, including my first MRI scan. Unfortunately we never got a scan print out with both babies in the same image, which seems bad luck considering the amount of scans we had. http://www.thecapellafoundation.com/funding-medical-research/. Even down to the lady on the FMU desk who not once made us feel bad for arriving late and looked after my notes for me when I left them in the toilet!
Being pregnant with twins was tough in many ways, but now I just feel overwhelmingly grateful to have two healthy babies who have just turned 1! I actually wish I could have carried them longer and experienced being really enormous but I guess the novelty would have worn off pretty quickly. I also wish I could have had them naturally but we put our trust in the Doctors at every stage and now I am proud to have knowledge of both birthing scenarios.
Watch this space for the next post Rewind….life as a NICU Mum.
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