It wasn't excitement, I'll tell you that. The first appointment was one of the most stressful, crazy-feeling times of my life. I remember being at work earlier that morning and frantically googling things about the first appointment and what I should expect. I came across several stories from couples who had lost their babies before their first visit, and though there had been no prior symptoms, no heartbeat was found during the exam. I immediately began to feel short of breath. I tried to keep the negative thoughts out of my mind during the long subway trip to the doctor's office, but tears crept into my eyes and a giant lump of anticipation settled in my throat. When I met Louis, he was excited and had not yet been robbed of hopefulness - he doesn't frequent google the way I do. Right before we went in I told him about the things that I'd read, clouding his mind with scary, but realistic thoughts and concerns.
Louis sat in the corner of the room with his sunglasses on as he gets super squeemish at any sort of doctor visit. A young pretty doctor came in and began the ultrasound. A strange look quickly appeared on her face and she said, "Well, there is a pregnancy." I knew my dreaded fears had come true. What does that even mean, "there is a pregnancy."? I closed my eyes and lay as still as possible waiting for her to say something more. "And there is a healthy heartbeat, and another healthy heartbeat." I looked over at Louis not sure what to make of this news, and then realized the doctor still had a look of concern on her face. "There are two babies here, but I'm not seeing a membrane separating them. I need to call someone in here for a second opinion." She left the room. After what felt like an eternity she came back in with another, more upbeat doctor who I had seen before. I was grateful for the familiar, comforting face. Quickly she confirmed that they could not see a membrane dividing our babies.
A membrane dividing our babies? Twins? Neither of us had any idea what this meant. I knew when we were considering Invitro that twins were a possibility, but I never thought much about it. It was taking awhile to get pregnant with one baby, what were the odds that I'd actually get pregnant with two babies at once? But then we didn't do Invitro, we didn't do IUI, we stopped all of the drugs and did nothing. Now two babies on our own. Classified as a spontaneous pregnancy. Okay. But the membrane?
The rigid doctor began explaining our situation. There are different types of twins:
- Fraternal, which are the lowest risk of all twins. They have a separate amniotic sac and separate placenta. Like neighbors. Of course we didn't have fraternal.
- Identical, high risk, but not the highest risk. They share a placenta, but have a membrane dividing them. Like roommates sharing an apartment but each having their own room.
- Monoamniotic, or Mono-Mono twins. Extremely rare (about 1 in 60,000 pregnancies), and the highest risk pregnancy for all twins. They share a placenta and share an amniotic sac with no dividing membrane. Like roommates who actually share a bedroom.
So we are pregnant with Mono-Mono twins. What's so high risk? Since there is no membrane, these babies are always at risk of cord entanglement. Meaning in addition to lots of other scary twin things that could potentially happen, there is a really big risk of their cords getting tangled which could cause death to either or both babies at any time. They continued on with details, like typically mothers have to be admitted to the hospital around 24-26 weeks (if they even make it that long) and be monitored all the time as they could potentially have to deliver at any second. This is when the babies are viable, though there would likely be severe issues if they were to be delivered this early. Depending how bad the cord entanglement was prior to 24 weeks, if either one was cut off from nutrients and blood flow, we would most likely lose at least one baby. If we lost one baby, the risk of losing the other, or the other having severe issues would be high.
We asked if were supposed to be excited about the news of our twins. "Cautiously excited," she said. She never gets excited until she actually delivers a baby.
Our next step was the high risk doctor who would officially confirm whether or not there was a membrane and then let us know all of our options so we could decide if we wanted to continue the pregnancy. Another very strange and unexpected thing to hear.
As we walked to the train I had no idea how to feel. At that point we hadn't told any of our parents we were pregnant because we had hoped to do some kind of cute and creative announcement during the holidays when we saw them in person. We decided we needed all the prayers and support we could get. We quickly sent them an announcement photo, followed by a phone call - "we are pregnant, with twins, and cautiously excited."
The next few weeks were the hardest. I think we had 3-4 weeks until the high risk doctor would see us, during which we had a trip to California planned. Not only was I starting to feel nauseous all the time, but I was constantly sick at the thought of our terrifying situation. The days became longer than ever, and we found ourselves going to bed at 8pm every night, just to get to the next day a little bit sooner. I felt a lot of things, but mainly disconnected from what was happening in my body. This wasn't what I had wanted when I prayed to become pregnant and it wasn't how I always imagined this experience would be.
We finally made it to our appointment at the high risk doctor. As we walked back to the ultrasound room I was hopeful for good news, but expecting the worst. Would they even still be alive? Maybe there will be a membrane? The tech began the ultrasound and Louis and I waited and waited for her to say something. She quietly typed things in the computer and continued looking at my empty-feeling insides. Louis finally told her that we were extremely nervous and would appreciate anything she could tell us - "Are there two heartbeats??" She quickly confirmed that yes there were two heartbeats - we had actually already heard both heartbeats at that point but were too scared to realize it. She continued the exam and then told us the best news I've ever heard - "and here is the dividing membrane." As she went to confirm with the doctor that there was in fact a membrane, I was the happiest and most grateful that I've ever been in my life that she had found that tiny little line dividing our babies.
We then met with the doctor who we have seen every two weeks and now weekly since then. She was happy that the membrane was there, but also had to let us know of the risks that are still associated with having identical twins. My heart was so happy at that point that nothing she said sounded like anything we couldn't handle. Nothing sounded as scary as what I thought we were going to be facing. I promised myself I wouldn't let my mind get caught up on any of the risks until they were a reality because we were just so blessed to have been given an easier pregnancy journey.
Tomorrow our babies reach the 35 week mark. I never imagined that we would make it this far. We had so many stresses early on - including suddenly having to move and the long process of losing our sweet Lucy, something from which I'm not sure I'll ever fully recover. The past few weeks have zipped by giving my head little time to catch up with our soon to be reality. I constantly remember things I want to research, things I need to buy, and last minute errands I need to send Louis on to get ready for our boys who arrive so very soon. I wonder what they'll look like, how they're going to be, what our life is going to be like. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that in one short week, or less, there will be two tiny new people who will be a part of our family. It's such a strange thing preparing and waiting for them to get here. So much goes into it and they don't even have any idea about this life.