As you have probably noticed from my lack of blog postings and a missing time period of almost six months, there have been some changes unfolding in my life. I started the year off determined to dedicate it to myself and taking chances on things that I always dreamed of doing, but could not have taken the risks necessary to live through it by how my life was situated before – it was a dramatic turning point for me. However, a few months into the new year and I was pregnant. Somewhere in my plans of big life moments, I always knew I would be pregnant or with my first child at the age of 30. I am now 29 and 30 is just around the corner in August.
My pregnancy was not as unexpected as it might have been – we were trying and at the same time not trying. We just let things happen as they were and indeed things did happen! Although becoming pregnant was a possibility, I was a bit taken aback by the words “Pregnant” that flashed up on the fancy digital pregnancy test that I purchased for fear of misreading the lines. The test even gave an estimate of the time of conception, mines was somewhere from 1 – 2 weeks ago. In the minutes that I glimpsed those words, I froze. My life was changing in another direction – forever. What have I just done?
Evidently, the road map that I laid out for the year was to be put on hold. Early doctors appointments soon followed. The most anticipated appointment was during my 9th week of pregnancy for the dating ultrasound. This would be the first time I would lay eyes on this little thing that was supposedly growing inside of me. In the weeks leading up to that appointment, I was always filled with concerns and as I now know, those feelings never cease. Anyhow, I arrived at the appointment alone (my sister had dropped me off before running errands and my man had work that he couldn’t put off – being a business owner) and laid myself down on the table in the dimly lit room. There was a screen mounted on the wall before me, where I got to see exactly what the ultrasound technician would see. The warmed gel was spread across my belly and I started to get anxious, nervous butterflies started flittering from deep within and then the screen lights up with images. The technician was silent as she continued to move the camera methodically around. A blurry, greyed-out image appeared on the screen and I see something beating – I’m sure it was the heart. There was my baby, almost indistinguishable to the untrained eye. Finally she spoke, telling me there were two babies inside of me. She proceeded to show me one with it’s heart beating strongly, moved the camera to the other side and showed me the other one with it’s own heart beat. I was having twins!
For the second time during this pregnancy, I was motionless and speechless. The only words, actually the only word I could mutter out was, “really?” I was only prepared for and expecting one baby, now there was two. The technician asked me if I was okay because I didn’t say much else during the remainder of the ultrasound. I reassured her that I was fine, but both my thoughts and feelings were disorganized. What was the appropriate response? Over the top joy? Delirious happiness? I didn’t exactly know how to feel as I laid there. Yes having twins can be exciting, it can be fun and also, yes having twins can be stressful, emotionally and financially. Even bigger changes were coming, more than what I was prepared for. I shared the news with my man via text message, still recovering from my brief moment of paralysis and not knowing exactly how he would take the news either. I think his feelings were the same as my own. The funny and sort of ironic thing was that he had joked around about the what if possibility of me having two growing inside of me instead of just one. I guess sometimes these sorts of things do come true! I would never have thought it.
It took a week or two for me – for us to adjust to this news, but we did come around to being excited about the turn of events for us. This is a unique experience that some say they dream of having and we were lucky enough to have it bestowed upon us – especially as first time parents (to human babies, of course…can’t forget about our furbabies – more on that later). Our twins, as we learned quickly after the first ultrasound, are identical boys and what the doctors call monochorionic-diamniotic twins. Put simply, this means that the babies share a placenta, but are in separate amniotic sacs. Immediately after finding out about the twins, we got bumped up to the status of high-risk pregnancy. Our regular doctors appointments and ultrasounds would become even more frequent – every two weeks. With the twins sharing a placenta, the first priority was to be monitored for something called Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), there was a chance that one baby would receive too much blood or nutrients and the other baby would receive too little. I was told that this occurs in about 15% of these types of pregnancies. Fortunately, we made it this far without any signs of it.
In the beginning, the extra ultrasounds and doctors appointments were enjoyable and offered comfort when everything checked out on schedule for the babies development, but soon enough this too became tiresome. I grew accustomed to hearing that everything was doing what it should and everything was going well. Then around 20 weeks came time for the detailed anatomy ultrasound where everything was measured in great detail for each of the babies. Here, is where at the end of the appointment, I didn’t get the encouraging statements that I expected to hear, instead there was something different about one of the twin’s hearts.
The babies have been labelled Twin A and Twin B from the outset and it was Twin A who was diagnosed with having something called a ‘Right Aortic Arch.’ This meant that his aorta arches to the right rather than left, as it normally should. With this diagnosis, there was also something called a ‘Vascular Ring’ that could possibly form around his esophagus and trachea, causing problems breathing or swallowing. This would be something that we would have to watch for when he is born. The cardiologist noted that if this was indeed the case, there is a straightforward surgery that could be performed to get rid of the ring by making an incision on the left side of Twin A’s chest, entering in between the ribs and the ligament, which was previously a blood vessel during his fetal development, is separated in order to open up the vascular ring. This was the first part of the dreadful news to hear. My baby hadn’t even been born yet and surgery was already something that he may have to experience.
The second part of the frightening news was that with the heart condition, there was a possibility of not just Twin A, but both twins having a chromosomal abnormality, most often what they call DiGeorge Syndrome or 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. This occurs when a small portion of chromosome 22 is missing (a microdeletion). The resulting symptoms and severity of this syndrome varies greatly from poor development of other bodily systems to delayed development with behavioural and emotional problems. With all this gloomy news suddenly forced upon us, we – both my man and I were a wreck. I was in tears trying to process all the information and felt like I failed somehow, not being able to help my babies grow normally.
It was extremely difficult, but my man and I discussed plans for what was to come after. We decided that we needed to know for certain whether or not the twins had the 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome and make the decision that was right for our family. I met with the Geneticist to further our knowledge on what our options were and what impact these scenarios could potentially have. That same afternoon, I had an amniocentesis done to confirm any chromosomal abnormalities. The wait for the results were torturous. Each day I awoke heavy with emotion for the babies. I couldn’t keep my mind or body distracted no matter how hard I tried. I tried to remain positive and optimistic, as the doctors said that there were no other obvious signs that pointed to chromosomal abnormalities and that Twin A’s heart condition was most likely just a variant of normal, but I also wanted to remain realistic in case the opposite was true. The best way that we thought to remain realistic about the outcomes were to distance ourselves from the twins, while we waited for the bad or good news. This was easier said than done. Some days I would feel normal, but out of the blue, especially in a moment of silence, my lips would start to quiver and the tears would start to fall again.
One. Two. Three weeks passed. I finally receive the call we were waiting for. As I answered, I had to remind myself that whatever the results were, I couldn’t change it. It will be what it will be. A brief conversation of small talk with the Genetic Counsellor, then the final results of the tests were confirmed as normal. Almost instantaneously, the weight and fear was no longer there. I could breathe again. I could be happy and excited again. I could appreciate the babies moving around again. They were growing stronger by the day and were getting harder to ignore.
Now, here we are, 25 weeks into my pregnancy. We surpassed an important milestone of the week of viability for the babies, but there is still so much more to go through. What I’ve steadfastly come to realize is that there is a steep learning curve going through a pregnancy, let alone with getting pregnant. There are, what it seems a million milestones to be reached and becoming a parent completely changes your perspective.
You know of morning sickness and nausea and the like, but it doesn’t mean anything until you live through it. Then with twins or multiple births, everything seems to be compounded from the regular symptoms, aches, growing pains to the check up appointments and issues to be monitored for. Being pregnant is not as glamorous as oftentimes it is portrayed to be. Personally, for me, it is one of the hardest life experiences that a woman can go through. Sure, it is worthwhile all in the end when you have a baby to love and you get to experience those special moments – feeling your baby move inside you for the first time, seeing them grow and change rapidly inside of you, but the changes your body endures are emotionally and physically demanding. Your body and even your mind is no longer your own. The changes that I have witnessed within myself include some things that I never even thought conceivable.
To end this prolonged update on what has taken up my life in the last six months, you may have noticed another furry baby present in the pictures. We had been waiting since last fall for another perfect furry baby to add to our family and we finally were able to bring her home about 8 weeks ago. Her name is Lilou and is almost 4 months old. Our household has grown rather quickly in the last year and our twin boys will be lovingly welcomed home by their furry big sisters Mila and Lilou.
I am so grateful to be surrounded by loved ones, both close friends and family to get through this pregnancy with.
If you have any pregnancy related stories, comments or tips that you are willing to share, I would really enjoy hearing about them. I will try my best to respond, in between puppy accidents and mustering up the energy to roll out out of bed.
Until next time,