After two textbook pregnancies I expected my third to be much the same. At the start it was: I had no morning sickness, no bleeding and no early complications. Then we went to our 12 week scan and discovered we had twins on board, which complicated things a little. But despite the warnings, the next few weeks continued to be easy, and I couldn’t wait for more regular scans to watch them grow.
Then things got serious
At 22 weeks, the sonographer started measuring more complex things like the blood flow from the placenta to each baby’s umbilical cord. I remember her taking ages to measure one of them, and it made me wonder whether everything was okay in there.
After the scan two doctors came over with my file and asked me to come into a little consultation room with them. I’d been watching the doctors take patients into this little room, with its comfortable couch and a table with a box of tissues on it. This was no ordinary consulting room. This was a room where they told people bad news.
I started shaking
Instinctively, I started to shake as I walked into the room, sitting on the couch while the two doctors looked at me with serious faces. Then they explained that they’d found something unusual in the way my placenta was feeding my babies.
One twin seemed to be receiving everything he needed, but the other was getting an abnormal flow, that shunted backwards and forwards instead of in one direction. This could lead to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, where one twin receives too much from the placenta and the other doesn’t receive enough, and could be disastrous for both of them. I tried take it all in, while still shivering uncontrollably.
They didn’t know for sure what would happen, but I’d need to have regular scans and prepare for early delivery. I left the little room shaken and anxious, wondering what was going to happen to my babies. I was told that treatment for TTFS had great success … for one baby. In other words, if this condition developed then one of my twins would be likely to die.
As I tried to process all this over the next week, I really started falling apart. I was referred to a different obstetrician who turned out to be the head honcho at the public hospital, specialising in risky pregnancies and anxious women.
I could have kissed him
The new obstetrician was a godsend. He scanned me personally and sat me down, drawing out little graphs to explain what was going on and reframed things as positively as he could. Reassuringly, he told me there was every reason to think my babies would continue growing okay based on how they had been progressing.
I walked out of there feeling a lot more positive, although I still needed to prepare for my babies early arrival which would be dictated by my weekly scans. I became obsessed with getting my twins to the ‘safe zone’ for premature delivery, which is from about 28 weeks, where I was told the odds are good for healthy babies.
Pregnancy was slow
At 24 weeks I felt really really far from 28 weeks, and no matter how hard I willed it to the pregnancy didn’t move any faster. I was forced to take it week by week, and as each scan continued to be positive I slowly began to breathe a little easier. I was feeling proud of my little twins for moving around and looking healthy in my womb.
Finally, we hit 28 weeks, and then 29 … then 30. My obstetrician said I’d done an amazing job and wanted me to deliver my twins at 32 weeks. This was considered the safest time to bring my babies into the world. This way they could finish their growing in a safe, controlled environment, and there would be minimal risks to their health.
As our delivery date drew closer I relished every moment of my bump, knowing it would be my last one. While I loved feeling my twins move inside me, I knew it was for the best that they came out eight weeks early. The placenta can strain in the late weeks of a twin pregnancy — and we’d already dodged so many bullets so far.
On the day of our c-section I felt calm and in control — finally. I’d made it! The surgeons got to work as soon as the anaesthetic took effect, and when they pulled out my first baby they brought him over to me and announced he was a boy. Little Alfie screamed brilliantly and raised his fist in the air; I was amazed at his strength for a 32-week-old baby. From my awkward horizontal position, I exclaimed, ‘Oh my god, he’s so beautiful!’ and began to cry, from joy but also from sheer relief.
They whisked him away while the surgeons continued working on twin number two: my little guy with the blood flow issue. He was wedged firmly inside me, and when he finally emerged, he lay small and limp in the doctor’s arms, so different from his brother. My eyes didn’t leave his little body as the neonatal team gathered around him and worked on getting him breathing properly.
Weirdly, I wasn’t that anxious. He’d been a little fighter all through the pregnancy, and I‘d heard his heartbeat just moments before the delivery – this baby was going to be okay. Between me and his twin brother – who I’m sure was helping him out in utero, Jimmy was going to make it.
The most grateful mum on the ward
And make it he did! Once stabilised, my two little soldiers were whisked off to the NICU with my husband following close behind. I was left behind in surgery, being stitched up and feeling very empty. It was awful and weird to suddenly be without my babies. They weren’t in my belly or in my arms, the two places tiny babies belong. Although this was my third pregnancy I felt closer to these babies than I had with my other two, probably because I’d seen them so often during scans and spent crazy amounts of time talking to them and praying that they’d be okay.
But at the same time, I was happy to no longer be carrying them. I’d spent weeks and weeks worrying and now they were out. I knew we were out of the woods. I could finally breathe.
I was the proud mum of twin babies who’d made it into the world despite all the concerns and fears. I might have been lonely without them in that moment, but I was the most grateful woman in the ward that day.