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A Matter of More Than One

(Our Journey Through Twins Pregnancy & Birth)
“Get it Together!” Convenient, In-Home Prenatal Consulting for Families Expecting Twins, Triplets or More.

“What’s it like, having twins?” or some derivation thereof is a question we often get when we’re out and about with our mono-zygotic (that means identical) twin boys, Alex and Simon. This may be a particularly poignant query if you yourselves are expecting twins or more. And perhaps the most effective way to shed some light on the whole affair of twins is to share with you some of the highlights of our own journey through these often challenging and always exciting waters.

Let me begin with the admission that in fact my husband and I were not planning to have children at all. Let me also tell you that our now-three-year-old boys are the greatest joys of our lives, and that many, many doors have been opened to us in parenthood that we could not even begin to imagine B.C. (“Before Children”)

So, back to the beginning, and that strange sensation we women all experience at the onset of pregnancy that perhaps something is not quite as it ought to be… For me, the first indicator was my inability to lose weight. I had just begun to work out again, and after losing a few pounds hit a block. I got tired more easily, and it seemed no matter how hard I pushed myself, I couldn’t seem to lose those last few pounds to get back in shape. Strange, I thought. And then the “morning sickness” began. At first, it was a general feeling of unwellness that basically lingered throughout the day. This was followed by the telltale “late period”, and finally, at the urging of several friends and colleagues from work, I succumbed to a home pregnancy test (“I can’t possibly be pregnant”, I had assured them, and was just taking the test to prove them all wrong). The instructions told me I might have to wait up to two minutes after peeing on the stick to see if it turned blue, but I had my answer within seconds— apparently I was very, very pregnant! In a daze, I stumbled downstairs to tell my best friend she had won the bet and my husband that he was going to be a father. Wow.

Then I got really sick. Whoever coined the term “morning sickness” clearly never had multiples! I was throwing up morning, day and night, and when I wasn’t kneeling before a toilet, I was nervously looking around for the nearest bathroom in case I had to make a speedy exit. Mashed potatoes and other low-nutrition, high-carb comfort foods were in great demand, though even those were often rejected by my rapidly changing body. Why was I so terribly sick, I wondered as we waited for an opening in our local midwives clinic… surely, I thought, this degree of morning sickness was not normal? As I was soon to discover, severe morning sickness—often the result of drastically increased hormones—is in fact quite normal (and common) in a pregnancy where more than one fetus is developing!

Our relationship with the midwife was a short one: After finally getting an appointment at nearly 12 weeks, we sat expectantly in her office, awaiting her brilliant referral of some miracle herb that would cure this miserable morning sickness so that I could begin eating well for my growing little girl. (We had already decided on a name for our unborn child, and I had begun my epic “Letters to Miia!”.) The midwife took one look at me in all my nauseous glory, and asked me if I was sure of my dates (apparently my fundus was larger than normal for 12 weeks, another indicator—as I would later find out—of a multiple pregnancy). I assured her I was quite certain, and she looked at her apprentice with a knowing smile as she placed the stethoscope to my tummy to have a listen. After eavesdropping on the activity going on in my apparently very busy womb, the midwife called her apprentice over to listen as well, then she had one more listen herself before sitting up and turning to my husband. “I don’t mean to alarm you”, she began, “but I’m pretty sure I am hearing two heartbeats in there.”

Now it was my husband’s turn to be nauseous. “Are you sure?” He asked, meekly. An ultrasound 48 l-o-o-o-n-g hours later confirmed that there were indeed two tiny babies growing in my tummy (Miia and… ?), and further, it appeared that they were sharing a placenta, placing us in a high-risk category for twins. Thus ended our relationship with our wonderful midwife, as she transferred our care to an OB-GYN and the twins clinic at a hospital downtown.

The remaining months of the pregnancy were a blur of bi-weekly ultrasounds (one of which established that in fact there was no Miia at all, as I was carrying two boys!), diminishing nausea but increasing heartburn and shopping and reorganizing our lives and our home to prepare for life with two little babies. My rapidly growing belly was a big hit at work, as people marvelled at how much protrusion a twins pregnancy could cause. (A woman pregnant with twins is as large at 21 weeks as most singleton moms-to-be are at the end of their third trimester!)

People are often surprised to learn that twins are not an automatic C-section (triplets and higher are), and that we planned for a vaginal delivery, if possible. (In the end I did have a Caesarean, but not until Alex and Simon were 37+ weeks and both over six pounds.) Other questions people have when they find out they are expecting twins include: Can we use cloth diapers with multiple babies? (absolutely!) Can we breastfeed two at a time? (why not?) Should we dress them alike? (rarely.) And, once the little darlings finally arrive, Will we ever get out life back? (eventually!)

Without trying to be cynical, it is imperative to note that the first weeks/months with twins are, in the words of one of my prenatal clients, “full-on, fast-paced and the toughest thing we have ever done”. That being said, perhaps one of the most important things expectant parents can do for themselves and their unborn children is to connect with other POMs (“Parents of Multiples”), and set up their post-natal support network pre-natally (you won’t have time once the babies arrive!) This is even more important if you are carrying triplets or higherorder multiples. The many questions that arise with a multiples pregnancy can often be answered by other parents who have “been there”.

Some practical measures you can take as soon as you discover your twins pregnancy are joining an organization like Toronto Parents of Multiple Births (www.tpomba.org) or Multiple Births Canada (www.multiplebirthscanada.org). I also cannot impress upon you enough how vital it is to sign up for a twins-specific prenatal class. Managing a multiples pregnancy and preparing in advance for more than one baby is vastly different from the average singleton birth, and there are many useful things you can do early on to set yourself up for success later in the pregnancy and once the babies arrive. Any money you spend on a high-quality prenatal class—preferably taught by an instructor who is him- or herself a parent of multiples—is a very wise investment, though you may not realise this fact until after the babies are born. Both organizations and multiples- specific prenatal classes can give you life-saving practical advice and insights into how to effectively meet the many demands of multiples so that you can more readily get to the part where you get to experience the joys of more than one at a time!

Being parents of twins has exposed us to exciting new adventures, and as we struggle along the constantly-evolving path of parenting two at a time we’ve met some remarkable people, including an immigrant family with quadruplets (they breastfed for eight months, by the way!) and the “Twins/Triplets Family”, as we call our fast friends who have six-year-old twin boys and 18-month-old triplet boys. Our growing relationships with these unique parents, as well as others who “just have twins”, have taught us to take the challenges in stride and appreciate the many, many delightful moments of wonder that are part of the package of raising two babies and now toddlers at a time. I wish you all the best as you embark on your own journey with multiples!

Vera C. Teschow is a full-time teacher, and the mother of Alex and Simon. She also runs “Get It Together!” a pre- and post-natal consulting service for families with multiples. Visit her online at www.verateschow.com

 

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