In the beginning…

I feels like a million years ago since I last read my old posts about my pregnancy and birth. It feels even longer since they actually happened. For the sake of completeness, and to make HoT 2.0 more useful to people going through, or about to experience the weird and wonderful world of multiples, I’ve reposted the stories here.

Note: the orginal posts were written when we still believed we had non-identical twins. I haven’t changed this in the text. I have, however, made some small grammatical changes.

The day I found out I was pregnant

Thursday 12th April 2007. Got up as usual at 6.30am and got ready for work. At 7.30am I went to the loo and took the pregnancy test. I was four days late and had needed the loo a lot. A line appeared confirming that I’d done the test correctly. Over the next 60 seconds another, fainter line appeared. ‘Bloody hell!’ I thought to myself and took the test into the bedroom to show dh. He was sleeping in after doing a late shift so I had to wake him. I showed him the stick and he said ‘Oh my God’.

I recall spending the rest of the day in a daze. Inwardly I felt different but outwardly I was still just me. I took the afternoon off work to spend it with dh and we went to the park to discuss what would happen next. We weren’t expecting it to happen so soon, if at all. I have polycystic ovaries and I was advised to try for a year and seek further help if nothing happened in that time. This was only our second month of ‘trying’ (I hate that term) and I’d got a big fat positive. Well, a weeny thin positive really but there’s no such thing as a false positive.

Of course, at that point we had no idea what was in store for us and the twin news was still to come but I wrote the following pros and cons list in a notebook on the day I found out I was pregnant and have replicated it here:

Pros
• Broodiness – internal feelings
• We have lots of love and care to give a child
• Makes dh and his family happy
• It should be fun
• Big life change = new opportunities
• Easier to have a child and a career these days e.g. flexible working practices
• Really exciting!

Cons
• We don’t have anywhere to live (not big enough)
• My career may end
• I don’t want to give up my life and ambitions
• Money constraints
• My health and wellbeing
• Fear of getting it wrong
• Not being able to cope with responsibility
• Loss of freedom
• Changes to relationship with dh

The thing that strikes me about the list is that the cons list includes some solvable problems and quite a lot of selfish thoughts. The pros list is also interesting. I think it shows that you can be practical about some things but you can’t fight feelings. I’m not sure that the daily grind is exactly fun or exciting but it is certainly different. I think the list shows how naïve I was about the realities of being pregnant or having a baby. However, I think we’re all naïve until we actually go through it.

The day we found out there were two

On 11th June 2007, at 12 weeks and 5 days pregnant I went for my nuchal scan.

The night before, I had a dream (my first really whacky pregnancy dream) that I went for the scan and the sonographer couldn’t find anything. As they showed me the blank screen, I wondered why I had been feeling so sick and tired and felt really stupid. The receptionist told me off for wasting their time. I woke up in a confused state and dragged myself out of bed.

First stop, bathroom. I was in the throes of incredibly bad morning sickness. The magic 13 week milestone was drawing nearer yet I felt terrible. As it turned out I would get worse before the sickness eased but I wasn’t to know that at the time. I felt extremely apprehensive, as if I were about to take my Law A-level exam again. Luckily I had a 9am appointment so I didn’t have to spend the whole day building up to it.

I recall that it was a warm and dry, if rather cloudy day. For some reason (probably the fear of an internal) I decided it was absolutely essential that I shave my legs and so I wore a skirt and top and wondered how long I would still fit in them. I vividly recall throwing up all over my skirt on our way to the hospital as the bus lurched over a speed bump. I tried in vain to sponge off the worst of the sick in the hospital toilet but the stains remained and I was very aware that I carried a strong whiff of vomit with me.

I anticipated a long wait but we were called in by the sonographer pretty quickly. We sat down and went through the standard questions: confirming name and date of birth, yes this is my first pregnancy, no previous miscarriages. Formalities over, the scan began. The screen was positioned so we could both see it. I remember seeing two blobs on the screen and thinking ‘My baby has a really big arse!’. Then the four words:

“It’s a twin pregnancy”

I felt my body tense up. “W-WHAT?” I stammered. “It’s a twin pregnancy – two babies”. The sonographer spoke as if we already knew. “Oh my GOD”. I felt the tears start. I looked over at dh, who was now holding my hand a little tighter than when the scan began. I vocalised my next thought: “Are they ok?”. The sonographer said they looked fine, but he had to do lots of checks and measurements so it would take a while and not to worry.

I recall watching the two little creatures on the screen as if I were watching myself from above. Twin 2 (on my right) was clearly an early bird and waved its arms and legs around as if to say ‘Hello, I’m here and everything’s fine”. Twin 1 (on my left) was completely still. The sonographer tapped my stomach with the wand to make it move. Nothing. He banged a little harder. A tiny twitch? He banged a third time, quite hard. Finally Twin 1 decided to wake up and make some little movements. I realised I had been holding my breath and thought it might be a good idea to breathe out.

Then, the magic bit. The sonographer turned the sound on and we heard our babies’(!) heartbeats for the first time, galloping like horses in the Grand National. It was the most amazing noise I had ever heard. They were ok. They were really ok.

The sonographer said he was fairly sure they were non-identical twins but wanted to get a senior person in to make sure. My Dad (it was all his fault!) is a non-identical twin, so I was in no doubt. He came back with his colleague, who stuck her head round the door, glanced at the screen and said “Separate sacs, definitely non-identical” and disappeared.

That was it. I could have sat and watched the tiny creatures on the screen for hours but our time was up. The scheduled 20 minute appointment had taken nearly an hour. The poor sonographer would probably be behind with his appointments for the rest of the day.

We walked to the reception desk to book the next scan clutching a yellow piece of paper with the babies measurements and the black and white scan pictures and experienced our first ‘Twin conversation’: “Ooh Christmas twins! Do they run in your family?” the receptionist smiled. Recovered from my tears, I smiled broadly and told her about my Dad, as if I had been practising for this moment for years.

As we walked out of the hospital, I burst into giggles which turned into hysterical laughter. I looked at dh: “Bloody hell!” and we just smiled at each other. I realised that he had been incredibly calm throughout but I didn’t question it at the time. Afterwards he told me that he was more concerned by my reaction to the news rather than the news itself.

We switched our mobiles on and I rang my Mum. She didn’t answer (she’d popped out) so I took it as a sign that my Dad should know first and rang him. I told him the news and he had what I can only describe as ‘The vapours’: “Oh my gawd, bloody hell, Christ, etc etc”. Not exactly the calm reassurance I badly needed at that moment! I informed him (semi seriously) that it was all his fault and left him to his fretting. I got through to Mum and she burst out laughing when I told her! Then we went through the process of telling everyone else via phone calls, text messages and Facebook, naturally.

Later, dh went to work and I sat alone in our tiny flat wondering where on earth we would put two babies and all their stuff. Another thought struck me. I picked up the phone and dialled:
“Mum, how on earth do I breastfeed twins?!”

The day we found out they were girls

We already knew that I was having twins and so it was just a case of checking that both babies were healthy and finding out what combination of sexes we were going to have.
I think that everyone who finds out they are expecting non-identical twins hopes for a boy or girl because it signals completeness. Any couple that discusses the names they are going to give their children, in that heady time when they decide to have a family, chooses a name for a boy and a name for a girl. Little girls playing with dollies and prams invariably talk about a girl baby and a boy baby. I didn’t – my dollies were named after my grandmothers so I had a Mabel and a Winifred but that’s another story.

Before we found out what we were having, I had a strict wish-list. Number one was the classic boy/girl combination. Number two was boys. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, but having two girls was last on my preference list. Dh and I both have younger sisters and although we love them very much they were both extremely hard work. We had visions of a little girl like J and a little girl like D. We would never be bored but boy, would our lives be turned upside-down.

There were signs that I was expecting girls: the old wives tales say that being ill in the first trimester is a sure sign of a girl. It’s all rubbish of course but I was as sick as a dog. At the first scan, their heartbeats were measured at 153 and 155bpm. The theory goes that girls in utero have faster heartbeats than boys. I reckon it’s because girls are industrious and boys are very lazy! This also proved to be correct for us. The biggest sign of all was that we couldn’t agree on names for girls. R and G didn’t even have middle names until a month before they were born, when I had finally worn dh down. We had the boys names pretty much straight away so obviously we were destined to have girls.

Although he didn’t say too much beforehand, I know that dh badly wanted one of the babies to be a boy. He’s a very pragmatic person though and reasoned that if they were the same sex they could at least share a room.

During the scan, I asked the sonographer if we could find out the sexes. He ran the wand over the right side of my (rapidly expanding) tummy. “It looks like a little girl”. I looked at dh and he smiled. Inwardly, I prayed for the other baby to be a boy. The songrapher moved the wand over to the right hand side of my bump. “Another little girl”. I looked at dh. He had gone slightly pale.

I was sent to the loo to empty my bladder for a quick internal scan. I went in, locked the door and suddenly, without any warning jumped up and down in the air shaking my first with joy, with a big smile on my face. “YEEEEEES! YEEEEEEEEEEEEES!” I bellowed. I was so happy that 1. The babies were completely healthy and 2. I had got my girls. The people sitting outside must have wondered what was going on. I composed myself and went back in for the rest of the scan.

The day I gave birth

It was decided at my 35 week check-up that I would have a caesarean section. The girls had been transverse at the previous scan a week before (having been breech before that) and were still extremely active so a section seemed a sensible option. I was booked for 39 weeks exactly and insisted on going in for monitoring every other day for the final two weeks.
I had a session on pain relief with an anaesthetist a couple of weeks beforehand, where I was advised to have an epidural. I also had a pre-op appointment the week before, where I was weighed, blood samples were taken and I was given two tablets to take, one the night before the section and one in the morning. I had to sign loads of forms and was warned that one of the babies might get a cut on the head or bottom, depending on how they were lying.

At 7am on 12th December 2007 we arrived at the hospital and were shown to my bed. The head anaesthetist came to see me and said that he would give me a spinal block (one-off pain relief) rather than an epidural (which can be topped up if necessary), which I was happy with although it meant the previous consultation had been pointless. The midwife who would look after me during the section came to see us and checked the position of the babies (one was head down, the other transverse) and my ‘shaving’. I cringe about it now, but I asked her if I had to remove my knickers for the op!!!

I was scheduled to be the second op of the day, at 10.30am but an emergency section took place just before mine so I went down to theatre just after midday. I was already dressed in my gown and no knickers!! Dh and I were parted at the door to theatre (he was looked after by another midwife) and I went in for my spinal block and he got changed into his scrubs.
I had watched lots of birth programmes on TV and the administering of the spinal block looked unbearably painful but it actually wasn’t too bad. There seemed to be about 20 people in theatre as there was a full team of medical professionals for each baby. I had agreed to some students being present and they were excited because they hadn’t seen a planned twin section before. They chatted to me while the drips were put in and the spinal block applied and helped to take my mind off the pain.

I was prepped for the op (drips in, wired up and laid back) and as they erected the screen, dh was led in. He looked very dashing in his scrubs but looked very pale and frightened. By this time, the drugs had kicked in and I was finding everything hysterically funny. I told the two (barking mad, one short and German, one incredibly tall and skinny) anaesthetists that they reminded me of Guy Secretan from Green Wing. Behind the screen, I could hear the medical students hooting with laughter!

Suddenly, I felt quite nauseous. I must have gone pale because the incredibly tall anaesthetist leaned over and asked if I was feeling sick. He flicked a switch on his control panel (apparently it looked like something from a sci-fi film) and I felt better so I assume I was administered something to ease the nausea.

I was told that the operation had begun but as I was awake it all felt very surreal. I didn’t feel any pain but I did feel a sort of rummaging sensation in my stomach area. Apparently the bed was moving around rather violently as they were trying to prise the girls out! In no time at all, I heard a baby cry, then a second one. Within a couple of seconds dh was presented with Twin 2 – Ruth (6lb 7oz), wrapped in a towel with a woolly hat jammed on her head. All we could see was her tiny round face peeping out. I have absolutely no idea why we were given her first. Twin 1 – Grace (6lb 5oz) had a tiny cut on her head so perhaps they were sorting that out. Ruth was taken away for further checks and dh was given Grace to hold. We couldn’t get over how perfect they looked and didn’t quite believe they were ours.
Once I had been sewn up, dh’s midwife led him back out of theatre and he resisted the urge to look back and see the carnage. My consultant appeared and said he was happy with the procedure and the girls were in perfect health. The girls were given their vitamin k injections while I was taken into recovery. I was only in recovery for a couple of minutes before the girls were wheeled in. The midwife appeared, lifted the girls out of the travel incubator and I tandem breast-fed them. About half an hour later, all three of us were wheeled back to the ward, where dh was waiting.

I don’t remember very much about the next few hours. I recall feeling nauseous, being sick and bursting my stitches. I was also given a dose of morphine in a syringe that I had to squirt into my mouth. The midwife came to see us and gave the girls a top and tail bath and dressed them in the bodysuits and sleepsuits we had bought in for them. I remember feeling very happy (the drugs!) and that the girls were very sleepy.

Looking back, I think it was a good birth. I found the whole thing curiously relaxing, after so much build-up and anticipation. We knew that I was going to have the section beforehand and could therefore prepare for it. I was incredibly lucky to have such a long pregnancy and that the girls were so big and healthy.

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