Even though it seems that multiple births are more common these days, with the use of fertility treatments and people waiting longer to have kids, being the mother of twins is something pretty special. Everywhere we go, there’s always at least one person who has to come over and ask all about them. “Are they twins? Are they identical or the other kind? I know so-and-so who has twins. You’re so lucky!” As annoying as this can sometimes be, it is a constant reminder that I get to experience something that is still pretty rare and I do feel very lucky.
When I found out I was carrying two babies, I laughed, cried and went into complete shock. The adrenaline rush caused me to shake uncontrollably as the ultrasound tech struggled to take measurements of the babies. I should have known the news was coming. My belly was expanding at a much faster rate than my first pregnancy and I was exhausted all the time. Friends, coworkers, and even my husband joked that it might be twins. “Not a chance, there are no twins in my family,” was always my reply. Little did I know, I’d have to eat those words! I went from feeling completely relaxed about having a second baby, to feeling panicked about all the “things” we would now need. New car, second crib, double stroller, double of everything! The list began streaming through my head as I laid their shaking through that ultrasound. My husband was my rock. He was the one that kept reminding me that everything would work out fine and we should be excited about this. He was right.
After the shock wore off, I started reviewing my pregnancy books and websites for info on twin pregnancies and deliveries. Some resources barely touched on the subject. Others seemed to be filled with nothing but bad news. Everything focused on the “risks” of multiple births. I then went searching for twin websites which led me to stories posted by other twin moms. There I found more negative information which only made me worry more. Pre-term labor, emergency c-sections, long stays in the NICU… it was getting difficult to find anyone who had a positive experience delivering twins. My worst fear was a double whammy; delivering the first twin naturally and needing an emergency c-section to deliver the second. I had actually seen this happen on one of those daytime baby shows on the Discovery channel. I think out of all the stories I read and twin deliveries I watched on TV, I only came across two stories, where the pregnancy, labor and delivery were uncomplicated. Somehow, I got lucky. Because of this, I felt I should share my positive experience with others. Having a baby can be scary, but having multiples can be much more so. I hope that sharing my experience will help other future twin moms out there see that not all twin births are so scary.
My pregnancy went pretty well, although the last two months or so were a bit trying. It was mainly because of the weight. I had fraternal twins, which meant two babies, two sacs, two placentas. That was a lot to fit on my normally thin frame. I had to buy a belly belt that helped to lift and center the weight a bit better. It helped, but itched like crazy on my rapidly stretching skin. I gained about 45 lbs. and it was ALL belly. Carrying twins also meant a LOT more trips to the doctor. More checkups, routine ultrasounds, non-stress tests, and the like. I can’t complain about the extra ultrasounds though. It was fun getting to peek at the boys every few weeks and see how much they had grown. At my 33 week appointment, however, it turned out that I was dilated 1cm and my doctor ordered me on bedrest to try and stay pregnant as long as possible. No one, including my doctor, thought that my body could carry twins full term. For three weeks after that, I kept talking to my boys, telling them I needed them to stay put just a little bit longer. “Please make it to 36 weeks!” I begged them. Thirty six weeks meant little chance of time in the NICU and healthy babies who would be able to come home. Thanksgiving was approaching and my doctor was going on vacation. She was certain she’d read about my delivery in an email during her time off. She was wondering why no one gave her an update. The day after Thanksgiving, at 38.5 weeks, I showed up at the hospital, ready for my scheduled induction. When my doctor arrived I said, “Didn’t think you’d see me today, did you?” In her usual humorous manner, she replied “Want to go home and see how long you can last?” “No. I’m done.” After 5.5 weeks of laying on my couch watching bad TV, I was more than ready to meet my baby boys.
Inductions are a tricky thing. You never really know how one’s body will respond. Some inductions take two days to bring on labor. I was ready for a long day. I had several DVD’s packed in my bag for the “waiting” period. Originally the plan was to break my water, see if that started labor and if not, start the Pitocin drip. Before my doctor arrived, the resident assigned to me and my nurse, both were unsuccessful in this attempt due to some funky positioning of my cervix. So, the pitocin drip was started at 9:00am. When my doctor arrived to survey the situation, she had no trouble breaking my water at all. In fact, it broke with such force that her pink sweater and denim skirt were soaked. She hadn’t bothered to put on a lab coat or change into scrubs yet since she figured it would be a while before I delivered. She thought about heading home for a bit, then decided to just sit quietly in her office with the knitting she had brought to occupy the time. After that, the contractions hit me. They were fairly strong, but not unbearable. I’d been through it before and knew I could handle it. After about an hour or so, I was a couple centimeters dilated and the nurse insisted I get my epidural (required for twin deliveries since emergency c-sections are so common). I insisted that I was doing just fine and could wait a while yet before I needed relief. Refief wasn’t the reason she wanted me to get that epidural so soon. I never thought that my labor would progress as quickly as it did. During the half hour or so that it took to put the epidural in (by a supervised intern) my contractions had started to get pretty uncomfortable so I was glad when suddenly I couldn’t feel them. By then it was around 11:30, so I sat back and relaxed, figuring it would be a while yet. The nurse came back to check my progress at 12:30. “You’re fully dilated. It’s time to go.” “What?!” my husband and I said in unison. I had felt a little pressure without realizing what it was. Turns out it was Samuel’s head moving into position. The nurse got on the phone and the circus began.
Suddenly there were people everywhere, running in all directions. I had to be moved to the OR for the delivery, Brian had to change into scrubs, and swarms of people had to go with us. My OB/GYN, another OB/GYN for backup, the anesthesiologist, nurses, neonatologists and nurses for each baby, residents, interns, and med students all piled into the room. I was delivering in a teaching hospital and twin deliveries are a special opportunity to learn things! There was a good chance that Joshua would be a breech delivery, so rarely performed these days. He was laying sideways above Samuel and was the smaller of the two. My doctor made a safe bet that she’d be pulling him out feet first. As I was wheeled to the operating room, moved onto the table, and surrounded, I was all smiles. It was so surreal how quickly everything was happening. The swirl of activity around me was almost comical. The nurse almost forgot to fetch Brian from the room where he changed clothes. He made it to the OR just in time. My doctor was making jokes the whole time and telling the rest of the crowd not to be so surprised by how calm I was, as I was an easy-going gal. I’m not sure that it was calm, so much as it felt like it wasn’t really happening. Everything was set, and it was time to push. I pushed through six contractions and Samuel arrived at 1:06pm. Thanks to the epidural, I felt no pain, just pressure. He was rushed to his warming table to be evaluated. Brian was able to go over and see him and take pictures. Half the people in the room were focused on Sam, the other half intently focused on me. I was told it could take over an hour before Joshua would arrive. They increased my epidural expecting the breech extraction to occur and the ultrasound machine was wheeled over to check Joshua’s position. Lo and behold he moved down head first and I suddenly felt the pressure of his head and the returning contractions. After pushing through only two contractions, Joshua followed his brother by just six minutes.
It was a whirlwind. It had only been four hours, and suddenly I had two beautiful, healthy baby boys. Samuel weighed in at 6lbs. 13oz. and little Joshua was 5lbs. 11oz. Both were healthy and strong and ready to move up to the post-partum suite soon after delivery. My plan was to breastfeed both boys as long as I could handle it. Because Josh was so small, he needed to supplement with a little formula. It took a lot of help and practice in the beginning, but eventually I was able to work out a good system that allowed me to nurse both boys at the same time. It took a stack of carefully positioned pillows to prop them up high enough where I could hold their little heads in each hand and not wrench my back by leaning forward too much. After two days of getting used to the idea of taking two babies home, it was time to leave.
The first few weeks with twins are tough. It’s really difficult to divide your attention, especially when you also have a two year old daughter vying for her share. Sleep was hard to come by and it was easy to forget things. So there were a few tips and tricks I picked up along the way to make life a little easier. Before the boys were born, I printed up a stack of spreadsheets to help me keep track of everything they were doing so I wouldn’t get confused. I’m so glad I did this. The first few months, I tracked every feeding and every diaper change. What time they ate, if they breastfed or bottle-fed, time spent nursing or ounces consumed, what time their diapers were changed and what was in them. If I hadn’t written everything down like that, I never would have been able to keep track in my head. The endless string of feedings and lack of sleep made it impossible for me to remember. I nursed both boys simultaneously for about 5.5 weeks. By then, it was getting difficult to keep their rapidly growing and more wiggly bodies in place on my mountain of pillows. At that point I switched to feeding one a bottle of formula while breastfeeding the other. This helped my sanity a bit and also allowed for more one-on-one time with each of the boys. They both had no trouble switching between bottle and breast, which is tough for many babies. I guess I got lucky again in that respect. Another thing that helped a lot was purchasing Bottle Bundles. This allowed for hands-free bottle feeding without trying to find some creative way to prop their bottles. I heard about them from another twin mom at a Mothers of Twins club meeting that I visited while still pregnant. It was nice to be able to snuggle and nurse one baby, while the other could drink a bottle with little or no help. They worked wonderfully as the boys got older too. When I switched to all formula feeding at about 8.5 months, I could let the boys hold their own bottles or use the Bottle Bundles when they were sleepy. It was so nice to have the freedom to do other things or spend time with my daughter while the boys were eating.
Overall the boys were very easygoing, happy, healthy babies. They spent a lot of time in their bouncers and on the floor, observing their older sister and the dog and eventually taking notice of each other. Most people were very surprised at how laid back they were and how little they needed to be held. I think that came out of necessity. When you’re alone all day with two babies and a toddler, you can’t carry anyone around, or the other two will be left alone. I’d seen moms on TV carrying both twins at the same time, but I really couldn’t do it. They were so wobbly and wiggly, I was afraid I’d drop them. I really didn’t even attempt it until they were both steady sitters. It’s much easier to do now that they’re 15 months old, even though their combined weight is over 40 lbs. They are still very happy little boys, although now they have entered toddler-hood with it’s occasional meltdowns and mischief. Sam is happily walking all over the place and “da” is his word for everything. Josh is still just crawling, but he can say “uh oh”, “all done”, and tries very hard to say “shoe” and “hello”. They started out looking a lot alike (even my husband couldn’t tell them apart at times), but now they are obviously quite different. That goes for their personalities as well. Sam is the tough guy with a big heart; the strong silent type who can be a bully at times, but also loves to snuggle and gives the best hugs. Josh is the smart, funny one, who will spend his day giggling, making silly faces and surprising you with the things he figures out. Having these two amazing little boys has been an unbelievably rewarding experience, and I can’t wait to see how they grow and change in the years to come.