In March 2004, when I found out I was pregnant for the third time, I really thought nothing of it. This was the first time we actually “tried” to have a baby and now pregnancy seemed “old hat” to me. I thought nothing was out of the ordinary when I said goodbye to my husband and left for my first pregnancy check-up.
I got to the office that had now seemed so familiar to me and went through the normal pregnancy routine…blah…blah…blah. I really had no idea my life was about to change, dramatically.
Everything seemed fine. I was young, in good health, and my other two pregnancies had gone just smoothly. I couldn’t remember the date of my last menstrual period so my doctor decided to do an ultrasound. I found out I was seven weeks along, and while lying on the table, the technician asked me if twins ran in my family. “Twins? What are you talking about?” I was shocked when when the technician flipped the screen around to display two little heartbeats.
I felt my head swim, and began to wish I had asked my husband to accompany me to my doctor's visit. As I began to wrap my mind around becoming mom to two more babies, I noticed the technician got VERY quiet. She seemed to be searching for something. Was something wrong? She abruptly left the room and fetched my doctor. My doctor came in and didn’t speak a word. This unnerved me even more. What were they looking for? Dare I even ask?
After several minutes (they seemed like hours to me) of staring at the screen, my doctor said there was a problem. Both babies appeared to be in the same sac. Not being a medical professional, this didn’t mean much to me so I asked her about it. Instead of answering my question she responded, “It means you need to pray, and pray really hard.”
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Despite knowing her for years, my doctor had never mentioned God. I honestly didn’t think it was something most doctors talked about. I will never forget the grim expression on her face as she muttered the words. When I pressed her further, she rattled off the name of a condition, and advised me stay off the computer. They booked me another appointment and said we’d repeat an ultrasound in two weeks. Hopefully the next ultrasound would confirm she was wrong. I was told not to worry. Yeah right…
As I got to the car, I started the engine but wasn’t sure if I would make it home. Twins? Really? It was hard to get excited when something could be wrong, really wrong with my babies.
When asked how the appointment went I told my husband we were expecting twins. He’s a bit of a prankster and didn’t believe me at first. When I showed him the ultrasound pic, he went pale. After a while he got excited, but the idea of going from being parents of two children to four seemed more than a bit daunting.
Like a good mom, I went to the computer and did exactly what my doctor advised me not to do. I looked up “twin babies, same sac.” What I found online was NOT good. Mostly I found mortality rates--rates as high as 70-90%. I was heartbroken. It was with a heavy heart that I shared our news with our friends and family members.
My ultrasound day came and I was very nervous. What would they find? The doctor’s fears were confirmed; we had monoamniotic, monochrionic twins. This is really just a fancy term for saying that our twins shared the same placenta and the same sac. The placenta isn’t that much of a big deal, but with two active, little babies free-floating in the same amniotic sac, the odds were that they would get tangled up in one another’s cords, cutting off the blood supply of one or both babies. It was fatal, most of the time. This also meant our twins would be identical twins, as this particular issue only occurs in less than 1% of all identical twin pregnancies.
According to my doctor, the good news was that ultrasound showed they weren’t conjoined. (all conjoined twins are monoamniotic) Conjoined babies however, also weren’t able to move around like my babies would be able to. Neither situation sounded optimal to me.
I was given the name of a specialist and received the sympathy of all those in my doctor’s office. Dread now replaced the joy I had felt during my previous pregnancies. It was really hard to share the news with others. I will never forget my mother-in-law’s happiness over going to be a grandma of twins. I hated to be the bearer of bad news, but I wanted her to understand this really might not end well. I reluctantly gave her a copy of an article I printed with mortality rates, all I remember is her crying over it. This was so hard.
We met the specialist, Dr. Vlastos, a few weeks later. He pretty much resembled Richard Dreyfus from the movie “Jaws,” but with more of a “hippie” flair. Every medical professional I had met so far, had expressed their sympathy and set me at edge. Dr. Vlastos, however, was a breath of fresh air. He didn’t get overly excited about the situation but simply said, “If they are meant to be, they will be.”
Weekly doctor visits became a way of life. Two times a week I was in his office for testing. My husband took some time off work and I made the decision to quit my part-time job. We had weekly blood-flow studies to make things were flowing well. We had weekly ultrasounds to check for cord entanglements and life signs. The minutes right before the ultrasounds were the hardest. We're they still alive? I'd take a deep breath, and then my babies would appear on the screen alive and well.
The high-resolution ultrasounds were amazing! I was so surprised at how much a baby (or two babies in our case) could change week-by-week. The interaction between our twins was truly remarkable because unlike most twins, they could actually touch one another, as there was no membrane to separate the two. I witnessed many kicks to the face, general bumpings into, a yawn, and even an in utero-hug. I know the reason why I was getting the ultrasounds was a difficult one, but I thoroughly enjoyed my many months of my own personal “window into the womb.” Few people get to experience what I did in watching my babies grow.
Throughout my pregnancy, I tried to be cautiously optimistic. Of course I wanted my girls to live. (Did I tell you that at 13 weeks I found out we were having girls? Most moms have to wait until 20 weeks to find that out, but we got to “cheat” on our test a bit.) I know negativity wouldn’t help my girls, but I wanted to prepare myself for the worst while expecting the best. I remember bringing up funeral arrangements to my husband. We decided nothing because we just couldn’t talk about it—that conversation was just too hard to have.
I had found a great online support group for parents of Mono-Mono twins, as they are called for short. It helped to encourage me, but even the best statistics showed the odds were only about 50/50. We decided to call our friends and family members together to hold a prayer service for our girls. We believe in the power of prayer, and wanted our loved ones to pray with us for the health of our babies. We read scriptures, took turns praying, and then believed for a miracle.
My dad is also a man of few words. Anytime someone said something negative about the situation, he insisted the girls would be fine. I asked him how did he KNOW they’d be ok? He just assured me they would be, so I stopped arguing with him about it.
We were on most of the “prayer lists” of every person we knew. A friend would tell someone, and they’d tell someone else. It gave me courage to know that people around our city, our country, and even the world who were praying for our girls.