A Multiple Birth
At the age of 35 I became pregnant with twins.
I’d suspected I was carrying more than one, because at just 8 weeks I could feel the fundus, which is the top end of the uterus, above my pubic bone. Having already had three children, I knew what to look for. Normally the fundus is not palpable until 12 weeks.
Midwives and doctors use the position of the fundus to chart how far on a pregnancy is, so when you get your tummy felt at the clinic, that is what they are looking for and measuring.
I’d also had a strange dream one night in early pregnancy – one of those silly mixed-up dreams that don’t make a lot of sense – that suggested to me there might be more than one baby.
Anyway, off I trot to the doctor for a check-up, and I mention my concerns. I explain I am certain of my dates, but that I thought I could feel the tip of the fundus. He kindly checked and agreed it was odd, but said nothing more.
Just one week later and I was attending the hospital for my first prenatal check, and ultrasound. When the technician pointed out two tiny heartbeats I was overjoyed and awed at the same time. Then I was warned not to expect them still to be there when they gave me a follow-up appointment in a month’s time. They explained that quite often one baby dies and that by the 12 week mark will have gone without trace.
They were preparing me, just in case.
As it turned out, both babies were still there the next time I went, and from then onwards that hospital took great care of me.
Antenatal care for a multiple pregnancy
I was seen every two weeks, instead of the normal 4 weeks for a single birth, and after 24 weeks I was seen weekly.
I’d never had the blood test done at 16 weeks to see if the baby had Down’s syndrome or spina bifida, because I am against abortion and would have kept the child anyway, so why go to the effort and the extra worry.
I don’t know how the hospital talked me into having it done this time, but they did. I’d pointed out I wouldn’t consider an abortion even in a worst case scenario, and they certainly wouldn’t be giving me an amniocentesis test where they withdraw fluid from the sac round the baby through an external needle. This confirms or denies suspicious blood test results predicting Down’s syndrome, but can also cause miscarriage.
I had the blood test taken, then a letter came through the post saying they suspected one or both of my babies of having spina bifida, and would I please phone them to make an appointment to have a detailed scan done?
As luck would have it, the letter arrived early Saturday morning, and the clinics were closed for the weekend, so I had to wait over what seemed like the longest weekend of my life to speak to someone about it. I was worried sick!
The following week, however, I had the detailed scan and everything was all right.
Diagram of how identical and non-identical twins develop in utero
At round about 6 months, the weight of the babies caused me to suffer from what they call a pubic symphysis separation.
The symphysis pubis is the ligaments that join and hold your pelvic girdle together at the front. They are normally rigid, but during pregnancy it loosens to make childbirth easier.
The pain was horrendous. Even turning in bed at night caused me agony, and walking was extremely difficult, although I was fine when sitting.
The hospital provided me with a sort of wide belt that supported my pelvis, and that was a big relief, but really from then on I was a bit of an invalid!
Still, it would all be worth it when I held those babies.
Breech or Normal Delivery
Babies need to be head down for a normal delivery.
If the baby is in a breech position, the midwife or doctor can quite often manually turn the baby into the correct position.
Breech births, where the baby is born either feet first or an arm first, are much more dangerous for both mother and child, and many doctors prefer to carry out a C-section instead of delivering a baby this way, as it is generally reckoned to be safer.
With twins however, even if either baby 1 or baby 2 is in the wrong position, they cannot be turned, as there simply isn’t the room for manipulation.
If baby 1 is in the wrong position, a C-section will be arranged.
However, if baby 1 is head down, and baby 2 isn’t, a C-section may be considered, else Mum may have to go through labour then deliver baby 2 by C-section.
I’ve never had a C-section, nor ever wanted one. The girls who went through one always seemed to be so much poorer health-wise after giving birth than us mums who did it naturally.
The thought of going through all the pain of childbirth, and THEN having to have a C-section is not a good one!
Picture of woman very pregnant with twins
Twins and Multiple Births Association
The whole pregnancy was an extremely worrying time. I joined the Twins and Multiple Births Association and they provided me with books to read up on everything to do with having twins. Of course, the more I read, the more worried I got!
There were so many things that could go wrong at any time of the pregnancy, and then at the actual birth itself.
However, I learned from the TAMBA that twins were twice as likely to naturally occur in older women than in women in their 20s, especially if there are twins in the family. My mother was a twin. The peak age for getting pregnant with fraternal twins is 35. How strange. I was 35 and under the mistaken belief that fertility dropped off as you got older.
An induced birth
By 37 weeks, I was a weeble!
60” round the waist, and 61” tall! Can you imagine it?
My doc said, “You have suffered enough, we are going to induce the babies”. Doc said 38 weeks was considered ‘term’ for a twin pregnancy anyway.
I don’t know what went wrong in that delivery room, but what really hurt was the drip in my arm! It was agony. That was the oxytocin drip and it stayed there the entire time. After about an hour they offered me pain relief which I gratefully took, not for the contractions which were relatively mild compared to the pain in my arm!
Baby 1 was in head down position and baby 2 was lying across the top, and so could turn either way when baby 1 was born.
After a few short hours, they administered an epidural anaesthetic, not because I needed it, but because I was then ready for surgery should it be required. As the birth drew near the room filled up.
There were two midwives with me at all times, and then 4 paediatric nurses appeared with two incubators between them. Then they brought in a technician with a portable scanner. Then all these other people came in - no idea who they were and to be honest I wasn’t terribly interested by then anyway, and baby 1 was born.
After a brief glimpse of her, she was placed in an incubator and rushed away. I was told she had breathing problems. She was gasping instead of breathing normally.
I didn’t have time to worry too much about her, because the portable scanner told the medics in attendance that baby 2 had turned breech and all attention was on her.
Just 20 minutes after baby 1 was born, baby 2 came bawling and screaming into the world, foot first. I was later told that the doctor carried out a very daring procedure. Rather than send me for a C-section, he had manually delivered my child safely. For that I am so grateful.
Later that night, Baby 1 joined baby 2 in a second cot hurriedly placed at the foot of my bed, much to the amazement of the other mums who had no idea that I’d given birth to twins. Both babies perfectly healthy – 6lbs 4 oz and 5lb 10oz respectively.
This might be of interest to any mum-to-be out there who is pregnant right now with twins, triplets or more babies. It is a difficult time, but a joyous one if all goes well. I have to honestly say that the first year of my twins' life was a breeze compared the worry I went through when carrying them, but that's another story!
If you are pregnant with twins or more, you may be interested in reading my article entitled Breastfeeding Twins.