I had just made it to the magic 13 week mark when a man came to see me in my hospital room. He . told me he was a genetic counsellor. My whole body filled with dread.
It seems that our risk factors for one of the worse genetic abnormalities, Trisomy 13, was all too high in our results. The fact that the twins were identical meant they would both be affected. We spent the next few days speaking to specialists who advised us the best thing to do was an amniocentisis. This was the safest for our twins and we would have conclusive results within 72 hours of the test providing everything went to plan.
We knew that I would be 16 weeks when I had the test and once the results came back and if we had to make a decision about termination we would be half way through the pregnancy. I knew in my heart of hearts regardless of the outcome I couldn’t terminate.
At 16 weeks my belly was huge and the babies were very active. This of course made things difficult for the Professor who had to perform the amniocentesis. The needle that needed to be inserted into my tummy was quite large and I couldn’t watch. Instead I watched my babies moving around on the ultrasound screen. The Professor who performed the test questioned if the twins were already displaying signs of TTTS due to their size. We were told at our next appointment our Dr would discuss this with us.
Once the needle was inserted and the fluid removed the Professor immediately told us that we would no longer be able to get the results in 72 hours. The fluid is supposed to come out clear and of course our fluid came out brown. The hemmorage that I had in the placenta early in the pregnancy was the cause of this. Our wait for results was now two weeks.
Those two weeks were emotionally and physically exhausting for me. I would a rollercoaster of thoughts and fears for my babies.
Finally the genetic counsellor called me when I was 18 and a half weeks and advised us that they tested for over thirty different abnormalities and all of them came back clear.
The relief that I felt on this phone call I can still feel today. Finally I could enjoy my pregnancy and look forward to the arrival of my babies. I got off the phone and burst into tears.
My darling husband told me to go out and buy whatever stuff we needed for the twins. Until that point I was so concerned for their well being that I was too scared to buy a thing. I purchased two capsules, a second cot, and lots of little summer clothes for our babies. I remember buying lots of green and blues because I really believed the twins were boys. In my heart of hearts I wanted girls because I knew that girls are much stronger premature babies but something was telling me it was two little boys. We finally decided on two boys names and two girls names.
Just after my results came in it was time for another ultrasound with my gorgeous obstetrician Sarah. From around thirteen weeks I was looked after by the “High Risk Obstetric Clinic” but they decided I was even too high risk for that clinic as I had numerous unexpected complications. I was then moved to the clinic known as “Maternal Feotal Medicine” or MFM as it is affectionately known. There are two Professors who head up this unit and they look after the most complicated pregnancy patients. I instantly loved my Dr, Sarah. She too was pregnant with her fourth baby. She was due in December and I was due in February. I told her that I was certain my babies would be born before hers. She laughed nervously and told me she was concerned my instinct was correct.
My previous history concerned the Dr’s. In Orlando’s pregnancy he stopped growing at 26 weeks and then continued to try to get an early exit from 30 weeks. At 35 weeks he was successful. Born a tiny 2.1kgs and unlike other 35 weekers he struggled to breathe on his own. At only 12 hours old we were told to prepare for the worst. Luckily for us he turned a corner four days later and after only two weeks in special care he came home to us.
Indiana took two and a half years of unsuccessful IVF and finally when we gave up she graced us with her presence a month later. Her pregnancy was just as dramatic. At 23 weeks I had a massive amniotic fluid leak and regular contractions and was told that until 24 weeks they do not intervene. I was distraught. Somehow we managed to keep her in even though she relentlessly caused contractions and I was in and out of hospital. Finally at 37 weeks my obstetrician couldn’t take the stress anymore and my biggest and only full term baby at 2.6kgs arrived pink and healthy.
So, at 19 weeks I was now scheduled for fortnightly ultrasounds. Sarah didn’t believe the twins were showing any signs of TTTS at their sizes were pretty much on par with eachother. Again I sighed with relief.
As the twins got bigger, I got much slower and found sleeping, walking, eating and breathing all a bit of a challenge. I loved the way my body was changing to accommodate my two little people and by 23 weeks they were firmly engaged. Twin one on my left side and Twin two on my right side. They would relentlessly kick me at 9pm each evening for at least two hours. I would laugh and watch them with amazement as my belly moved so suddenly.
Twenty three weeks was a difficult one. One of the television stations was advertising a documentary about appropriate viable gestations for intervening in micro premmie babies. A family member in particular watched this show and encouraged me to watch it so I would understand why if the babies came early I shouldn’t intervene. I was repulsed by the documentary which was filmed in the UK. Australia’s laws are 23 weeks but their preference is 24 weeks and above. Some Drs will tell you that 26 weeks and above have the best outcomes.
I knew without a doubt in my mind if my babies came now I would ensure the medical staff did everything in their power to keep our children alive.
Because we knew it was likely our babies would arrive before 32 weeks my husband and I discussed what we would do in relation to visitors. We agreed that no-one except us could visit until the babies were strong enough because of the risk of germs and infection. We were solid on this. Down the track this was a cause of fractured relationships with family and friends and if I had to make that same decision all over again knowing the outcome today, I’d do it all over again. The health of our children is the most important.
Thankfully I made it through 23 weeks without any issues and at 24 weeks I watched the hideous documentary that made me sob.
At 25.5 weeks I had the most amazing ultrasound. Both the babies were so very active and putting on a little performance. We got fabulous photos of their little faces which still today are on the front of our fridge. Every time one baby moved away from the ultrasound the other baby moved and snuggled close to it’s sibling. I actually cried at this ultrasound because it was once again so evident how dependent on each other the babies were. They were truly inseparable. The scan went very well and the babies measured at 750gram and 770grams. There was no sign of TTTS. I left the hospital happy that day and excited. We were getting closer to the magic number.
The magic number is 28 weeks. That is the start of the third trimester and a number the Neonatal Dr’s preferred. The numbers 28 weeks and below are considered “Micro Premmies” and your risk factors for infection, cerebal palsy, blindness, deafness and a myriad of other problems including death are high at this point. I had it in my head that we were going to make it to 28 weeks if it killed me.
At 26 weeks I went to the zoo with my parents and our two big kids. I had been feeling really exhausted and my feet were starting to swell. We’d had this planned for some time and I really wanted to go. I asked my Dr what she thought and she said I was in no immediate danger and if I felt well to go with my gut.
I had a fabulous day with the kids and I remember telling the twins in my belly that their next trip to the zoo would be when they were walking. This was what we’d always done with the other kids.
When we go home I was really tired but thankful I’d been. The twins had kicked and rolled around in my belly all day.
In my 26 week I was still at work. I was the Executive Assistant to the Managing Director of a large organisation. Our Vice President was coming to Australia from the Netherlands on the Thursday and I had a very busy week ahead.
On the Wednesday it was a really hot day and when I got home I realised that I hadn’t really felt the babies move much. I had an ice block and a cold drink and even went for a swim in the ocean to wake them up a little. I received a few kicks from them but nothing huge. I was beginning to think that they were getting quiet in preparation for their arrival.
I had a terribly restless sleep, I was worried and I kept waking to see if I could feel them being active. I woke up exhausted and waited for them to perform their morning routine dance in my belly. It didn’t come.
Twin one who was on my left side was having a very little dance but Twin two was fast asleep. If I poked Twin two enough I got a reaction but not much.
I went into work and was in an offsite meeting when I started having contractions. Thirty minutes into my meeting I realised my contractions were five minutes apart and beginning to hurt.
I asked my colleague to drive me back to the office and holding back tears I started cleaning up my desk and arranging the final things for the Vice Presidents arrival.
I sat down at my desk and called Dr Sarah. I explained what had been happening and as expected she advised to drop everything and come in immediately.
With tears rolling down my face I walked into my bosses office and said “I’m so sorry to disturb you but it seems I’m in labour so I’ll be heading off to hospital right now”
He went white and then I think the panic set in. I had so many offers to drive me to hospital but I needed that twenty minutes to myself to gather my thoughts and prepare myself for what was to come.
I called my husband and he arranged to meet me at the hospital.
I was 26 weeks and 4 days. Every moment counts …………………