From the very beginning, this pregnancy felt different. There was more nausea, more pelvic pressure and more belly. I had a job working from home until I was well into my second trimester, which was a good thing. Many days were a struggle, with low energy and a general “blah” feeling. I tried to press on, thinking it must be a combination of my “advancing maternal age” (34) and perhaps I was having a girl.
It wasn’t until close to 20 weeks, when we received the shocking news that we were actually having twin boys, that the fog started to lift. The second trimester is often referred to as the “honeymoon phase” of pregnancy, and for me this was also the case – despite the fact mine was technically considered a high risk pregnancy, as all twin pregnancies are. My energy returned, I felt motivated at my new job, and I enjoyed special moments with my toddler, who was growing up so fast. I beamed whenever I told someone we were having twins. I was ecstatic and embracing the challenge that lay ahead.
It all came to a smashing halt when, at one of my weekly medical appointments, my obstetrician warned that I had a “short cervix,” and ordered an internal ultrasound. This meant Baby A, Leo, was pushing down, narrowing the cushion of space that protects a baby from the birth canal. I was 28 weeks pregnant and suddenly terrified my babies would arrive early. That same day, we had a pre-arranged tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and I trembled with fear.
It’s very common for twins to arrive early. In fact, more than half of all twins are born premature, or earlier than 37 weeks, according to the March of Dimes. But until this point, I was blissfully optimistic that ours would be perfectly full-term, arriving at 38 weeks, the general maximum for twins. Now I was imagining my tiny babies in incubators for weeks, and I was terrified. So was my husband.
I was told to take it easy and go on modified bed rest. This also meant taking an early leave from work. This was very upsetting to me, especially since other than a lot of heaviness in my belly and pelvis, I felt great. In hindsight though, I am so happy that I followed the advice of my doctors, giving our boys the best chance at a safe and healthy arrival.
Not long after going on sick leave, the real discomfort of twin pregnancy set in. I could no longer sleep. I couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit, stand or lay down. I was so easily exhausted. Tending to my three-year-old was increasingly difficult. I felt trapped in my home, sending my husband out for groceries and my son to daycare. I busied myself with projects like making photo albums and organizing my bookshelf and old computer files. My mother-in-law cleaned my house.
At 32 weeks, I had dilated by 2 cm. Although this didn’t necessarily mean labour was imminent, my doctor ordered a steroid shot to my hip to prepare the babies’ lungs in case of premature birth. I spent the rest of that day curled up in bed, teary, Googling things like ‘is backache a sign of premature labour.’
We had weekly appointments at my OB and well as the fetal assessment clinic, where nurses took my blood pressure, monitored the babies’ heartbeats. Their thumping hearts were music to our ears (Baby B, Callum, was also on the wild side, fitting his personality!). The fetal assessment nurse also performed a weekly ultrasound and always assured us our babies looked “perfect” and “beautiful.” Every three weeks I saw a fetal maternal specialist who performed a more detailed ultrasound to estimate their weights and keep an eye on my shortening cervix, which never got to the danger zone less than 2 cm in length.
By 35 weeks, I was no longer freaked out by the changes of giving birth early. I knew the babies were big enough to have a healthy delivery. I was no longer on bed rest but still took it easy because I had no other choice. I was extremely uncomfortable and couldn’t do much.
It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to have two little humans growing inside of you. The kicks and rolls from each baby were very distinct. Baby B, Callum, was higher and on my left side. Baby A, Leo, whose big head was pushing down for most of the pregnancy, was a little more subdued, and still is as a newborn.
I felt pressure on my lungs, my stomach and my bladder. My back hurt, my hips hurt. I felt numb under my chest, all the time. When I walked, I felt like a baby might just fall out on the ground. I was so, so physically tired. This was harder than any marathon. My body was pushed to its limit!
At 37 weeks and one day, my OB did a cervical sweep, which releases hormones to kick-start labour. I opted for the sweep so labour would have the chance to happen on its own. Although we were now confident our babies would be born strong and healthy, the reality of bringing home two infants to join our rambunctious three-year-old set in. Between medical appointments the day of the sweep, my husband and I visited a nearby beach and talked about our mutual hopes and fears. We both worried about how we would do it. But all we could do was wait, and hope for the best.
The following two days were a struggle for me. I was crampy and down, wondering why I had agreed to the sweep (which guarantees discomfort but not labour) when I already had an induction date scheduled for a few days later. I worried about how “life would never be the same,” especially for our son Silas. I was tired and knew it was only the beginning of the extreme fatigue to come.
On Sept. 16, I was itching to get out of the house, so I went with my husband for a drive to my in-laws to visit Silas, who was spending the weekend there. I missed him immensely and although he normally adores sleepovers with his grandparents, he wanted to come home, too. After a quick stop at the grocery store to pick-up ingredients for a steak dinner (when I ended up chasing my child through the aisles), we went home for what would be our last night together as a family of three.
That evening, I thought I felt some contractions but I couldn’t be sure. They were faint and sporadic. I went to bed, and for the first time in weeks I slept soundly, through the night.
The morning of Sept. 17, a day before I was to be induced, I started timing those contractions. They were still faint cramps, and exactly 10 minutes apart. This felt nothing like the extreme agony of labour with my first son. Still, I called the hospital’s Labour and Delivery Unit and asked if it made sense to come in and get checked. They advised we were welcome to come, but not to worry… there would still likely be a long way to go.
After calling Mark’s mother to come stay with Silas during what we expected to be a quick trip to the hospital on a Sunday morning, we left home and rode the elevator to baby land.
“You weren’t supposed to come till tomorrow,” the nurse said with a smile. I guess everyone knew about the the impending arrival of our twins.
Turns out I was already 5 cm dilated. We were there to stay.