A blog for all that goes on in our family.

Twinshock and Onward

(I realize most people reading this already know most of this story, but I’m using it like we use the rest of the site – mainly as a way to document what’s going on in our lives. And since I haven’t posted anything about this pregnancy yet, this will be very long!)

Waaaay back on Thursday, November 21, 2013, two little lines appeared and we celebrated that we were pregnant again! We were really excited and started sharing the news with family and close friends. Only about one week later (just short of 5 weeks pregnant), I remember mentioning to John that I wasn’t feeling great, and hoped it wasn’t a stomach bug. Yes, I knew I was pregnant, but with both girls I didn’t start feeling sick until around 9 or 10 weeks, so I didn’t really think it could be “morning” sickness. Of course, I was wrong – I didn’t feel great for a long time after that, although it did seem to get quite a bit worse around 9 or 10 weeks. Thankfully, although it was rough at the time, it wasn’t substantially worse than what I experienced with either Anna or Josie.

Although the nausea wasn’t much worse, I did feel much, much more tired than I ever remember feeling in any of my previous pregnancies. Most of you know that I am not usually much of a napper, but it was almost impossible for me to not nap when the girls went down in the afternoon, and I remember feeling guilty that I could barely drag myself off the couch, even in the mornings, when the girls wanted to play. Again, thankfully, this has not lasted the entire pregnancy and wore off around week 16 (at least to some extent… the naps did continue!).

And then came the BIG NEWS. We went in for an early ultrasound (after the miscarriages, we always have at least one around 7 or 8 weeks). John and even the girls were all in the tiny room as the technician started to look around my belly. Now, my first instinct in every single ultrasound (even now, late in pregnancy) is to look for the heartbeat. In fact, I get really anxious before every ultrasound and don’t relax until I see that the baby has a heartbeat or is moving around. I remember lying there during this particular ultrasound on December 17, 7.5  weeks pregnant, and when the image showed up on the screen, all I could think was, “I don’t know where to look.” Usually it’s pretty simple; there’s a little oval-ish shape that is the baby, and around the middle of it you can see the heartbeat. But this time, nothing registered in my mind. In about the span of two seconds, the sonographer said, “Do you see what I see?” And John said, “Uh… there are two.” And then I figured out why I didn’t understand what I was looking at – there were twins!

While I think John spent the rest of the ultrasound in shock, I kept alternating between tears and giggling. It was wonderful and terrifying at the exact same time. And this pretty much sums up the next few weeks of the pregnancy. I tend to think of it as pre-twins and post-twins; everything seemed to change when we found out there were two little munchkins in there. We were ready and wanting to have a third child running around… but a fourth, too??? This brought on a whole new world for us. We were excited, scared, nervous, happy; “overwhelmed” has never described anything better in my life. I heard later of the term “twinshock” and found it very appropriate, since the end of December and start of January all seems to be a big blur to me. It was odd to feel so excited and yet so worried at the same time. (For a hilarious version of another woman’s experience finding out she’s pregnant with twins, see this. I can relate, although I am glad I’m maybe not as outspoken!)

We spent that night and the next week calling our family and close friends to tell them the news. At this point, we weren’t doing it so much for their benefit as for ours; everyone else gets SO excited when they find out you’re expecting twins! That was what we needed at the time – our loved ones telling us that we could handle it and showing the enthusiasm that we wished we could display. Part of me really hates mentioning our feelings during this time, because it seems that we were ungrateful, when in reality we were just worried. John was worried more about the practical aspects, like finances and fitting two babies in our house and the stuff we’d need to get, and I was able to try to calm his fears about a lot of that while he also found some solace in a few blogs of parents of twins. On the other hand, I was terrified of the implications of carrying two babies for an entire pregnancy. Not only was I worried about miscarrying one baby, but now I was worried about the possibility of losing two. I was also nervous about what might happen later in pregnancy, when I’d already had two pretty small, relatively early babies. And of course it didn’t help that my hormones were already wreaking havoc on my emotions, and that didn’t seem to subside (somewhat) until around the third trimester. Thankfully, John was always so supportive and encouraging in these areas, like he always has been. It’s so great to see how God has worked in our marriage, balancing each other out!

During my thirteenth week of pregnancy I saw some spotting for over a week. While it pretty much drove me crazy, I did get to have another ultrasound and see that everything was going well. We also confirmed that the babies shared a placenta (which they had also done at the earlier ultrasound, but we weren’t sure we remembered correctly – twinshock!), which means they are most likely identical.

Somewhere around week 16 I started to lose some of the nausea and the exhaustion, which helped my nerves. John and I had also been able to sit down and hash out what kinds of things we’d need or want, and what the next year or two might look like for us. By now we were both really excited, even if the worry and nervousness never completely goes away. At my ultrasound that week we found out we were having BOYS. (Wait. What? Is that possible in our family? Are you SURE they are boys?) We are thrilled that we get to experience parenting boys, even if it means a lot more clothes are needed! And yes, the boy parts have been confirmed in at least six more ultrasounds since then, so they are definitely boys.

Everything between week 16 and 20 went really well for the babies and me, at least physically (I was still having a hard time emotionally). I do remember already being pretty uncomfortable and thinking that I had a looooong way to go! I had a few extra cervical ultrasounds to make sure nothing was changing there, since I had started noticing contractions pretty early on, and it looked great – still over 3 cm long at just shy of 20 weeks.

At 20 weeks and 6 days, on March 21, I had another full growth ultrasound as well as all the level II details (stomach, kidneys, etc.) that are normally done at this point in pregnancy. My sister Traci had joined me for this appointment, and it was so great to share it with her! Unfortunately, although the boys looked to be doing really well, my cervix had started to shorten (from 3 cm the week before to 2.1 cm during contractions). I was put on modified bed rest: no watching my nieces or doing any unnecessary lifting, but could still work because I sat at work and could lie down every so often.

I went back one week later, on March 28, and my cervix had shortened further (down to 1.6 cm, if I remember correctly). According to our doctors, if the cervix gets to be less than 1.5 cm, there are higher risks of infection getting in to the uterus, and therefore causing water to break, babies to get sick, or – most likely – labor to progress. However, they don’t like to do a cerclage (stitch the cervix shut) after 23 weeks, and I was getting very close to that. So I was put on full bed rest (only up for the bathroom and meals), and we set up an appointment for the following Tuesday, April 1, with the hopes that nothing would change.

Unfortunately, my cervix continued to shorten to 1.2 cm and had also started thinning on both ends; up to this point it had only been on the uterus side that things were changing. In other words, my cervix was now less than 1 cm thick. It had shortened over 2 centimeters in less than two weeks. That morning was rough; John and I had to decide whether the cerclage was worth it to be put in place. While discussing it with our doctor (who did not pressure us one way or the other, which in fact made it harder for me to make a decision), we learned that if I had been carrying one baby, the benefits of a cerclage are clear in this case, due to the amount of research and data available. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of a twin pregnancy. Some studies show that it makes a good difference, some show a negative difference, and some show no difference at all on the length of the pregnancy. Ultimately, for us, it came down to the fact that we wanted to know we had been proactive and tried our options. If I had not had the cerclage and had gone into labor in one week, I would still not have been even 24 weeks along, which is the point at which babies have a 50 percent chance of surviving. If I had the cerclage and then had gone into labor, I would have less guilt over whether or not we had tried our best. As for the cerclage itself, the risks were minimal, and the doctor performing the procedure explained everything very carefully so we knew exactly what they do at this particular hospital to minimize any potential hazards.

That afternoon I was started on magnesium sulfate to help reduce the number of contractions I was having, and that evening around 6 pm I had the procedure to place the cerclage. I was totally awake and had just a spinal for anesthesia, and let me tell you, being awake for something like that is a really weird experience! Thankfully everything went really well. The only downsides of the whole experience were the discomfort that night (Tylenol, and apparently even Percocet with it’s extra oxycodone, doesn’t really work for me – at all) and the nauseousness and weakness I experienced after being on the magnesium sulfate for around 24 hours. They kept me on it, but they reduced the amount going into my IV, which helped me feel like a whole new person!

That Thursday afternoon I was able to come home, just in time for Josie’s birthday the next day. I was kept on bed rest and scheduled to come in the following week for a follow-up. I went in on April 10 and 18 for ultrasounds, and the babies continued to look good while my cervix stayed at roughly 2 cm thick. Contractions were still happening around one every 10 to 20 minutes.

Early on the morning of Thursday, April 24, I woke up because of my contractions. It was about 3:30 am. I took the nifedipine that my original doctor had prescribed to me to take only when I felt the contractions getting more frequent or stronger. And then I waited for about an hour and a half… with no change. I was having contractions around five minutes apart, pretty consistently, and something told me that I should call the office and see what the on-call doctor thought. I was told to come to labor and delivery immediately, where they checked me and found that I was dilated 2 cm. (This is when the tears started – I did not want these babies delivered at 26 weeks!) They started me on the magnesium sulfate again, and a NICU fellow came to discuss what it would be like if I were to deliver early. That night I was transferred from L&D to a floor designated mainly for bed rest pregnancies, and throughout the next week I was switched between a few different medications to help limit the contractions. That Tuesday I was put on magnesium yet again, this time just for 12 hours, which is how long it takes to get the babies’ what they need (magnesium sulfate, if given close to birth, can reduce the chances of neurological disorders – and it also has the added benefit of relaxing the mama’s body to hopefully stop contractions). I was put on the highest dose possible of nifedipine that Friday, and for some reason that has managed to keep my contractions in check for the last few weeks.

Being apart from John and the girls for two weeks was hard. It was much harder on me than I expected it to be at first, but it was made somewhat easier knowing that they had a lot of help at home, even though they were getting the short end of the stick (I could watch TV all day, if I wanted to!). Thankfully it was only two weeks (15 days, to be exact), and not longer.

May 9 was a big day for us! I had another growth ultrasound that showed the boys were right around 2.5 pounds each, which meant I was carrying more weight than I did with either girl. It also meant they were right on track for development and were staying healthy, which was WONDERFUL news. I was 28 weeks, which was a great milestone to hit (much fewer developmental delays and a higher survival rate for babies born at this point). And when they checked my cervix, they found that it had not dilated any further! Yippee! This meant it was time to go home!

Being home has been wonderful, with the minor exception that I had a strain in part of my lung that caused a ridiculous amount of pain the first few days I was home… ask me about it and I’ll tell you more. 🙂 It is so good to be together with my husband so we can support each other, and of course being around the girls is so great. Their snuggles and “I love you’s” and “I’m glad you’re home, Mommy’s” are the best thing in the world right now. Not to mention that the highlight of this pregnancy has been Anna feeling the babies’ kicks; watching her face light up is priceless!

I still have between 4 to 8 contractions an hour, and sometimes they’re even more frequent, but not strong enough (at least not consistently) to make me think I’m actually in labor. I’ve made it to 30 weeks, so we’ll see if I can make it to 37!

We are so, so beyond grateful by all of the generosity people have shown to us, especially our parents, siblings, and friends who have helped us with child care for the past 8 weeks, and all of the meals we have received. God has truly shown us that He provides when we need it. This whole pregnancy has increased our reliance on Him and our trust in His providence, no matter what happens now. We are thankful for every person He’s put in our lives, especially these two little boys, who we hope to meet face-to-face in a few more weeks! We are so excited!

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