Our twin birth story

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Callum and Leo

When we arrived at the Saint John Regional Hospital in labour on the morning of Sept. 17, 2017, I was very calm. My labour pains were far apart and not very intense. It felt like something you would see on TV, breathing through each contraction — and nothing like the horrific pain I felt with my first labour, when contractions had me doubled over for hours until I gave in and got an epidural.

This time, I had no qualms about getting an epidural when and if necessary. But at first it seemed like things would progress quickly on their own. I was already 5 cm. Nurses hooked me up to a monitor and I breathed through each contraction every 10 to 15 minutes. After an hour or two, there wasn’t much progress. Dr. Sheppard, the on-call obstetrician, told me they would manually break my water if it didn’t happen on its own. He suggested that if I wanted an epidural — something they highly recommend with twins in case of emergency c-section — I should do it sooner rather than later, when the anesthesiologist was available.

I agreed, and the doctor soon arrived to administer the epidural, which involves getting a needle in your spine — not a pleasant experience, but not really painful either (especially compared to the pain of contractions). After I got the epidural, I had only dilated another centimetre or so, so Dr. Sheppard decided to go ahead and break the water of our Baby A, Leo. It was a weird experience, and kind of felt like a little poke inside, then wetting the bed.

From that point, my labour progressed almost immediately. I felt the contractions much more consistently and they actually hurt, even with the epidural. To any woman who has never given birth, I compare contractions to extremely intense menstrual cramps that radiate through your back (with Silas it felt like someone was hitting my back with a hammer). I remember the anesthesiologist asking if I wanted to increase the dosage of the epidural and I said, “naw, I can handle this.” My husband looked at me and narrowed his eyes. “Don’t be a hero, April.” I quickly agreed, kind of like when someone suggests to go for ice cream.

Within the span of about an hour, Leo was ready to be born. Dr. Sheppard checked me and suggested we try a push to ensure Leo was facing down, rather than “sunny side up.” It felt like a long, hard pregnancy and a short day of waiting had led to the moment of truth. Feelings of excitement and fear washed over me.

On the next contraction, I pushed, only a little, and Leo was “right there,” and facing the right direction.

Suddenly there was a rush as the medical team prepared me to be wheeled into the operating room, which is normal procedure for twin births, just in case of any issues with Twin B. Someone gave Mark a set of scrubs to put on. Nurses wheeled me down the hall and I waited in the OR, legs spread-eagle and shivering — partly because I was cold and excited/nervous and partly because of the epidural. Then I saw it: bassinets with marked “Baby A” and “Baby B.” For some reason, this is what put me over the edge. I started to cry, realizing I would soon have two more children, and my family would be complete. I would meet our baby boys in a matter of minutes!

During twin births, there are always many health professionals in the room — one set for each baby. Nurses, respiratory therapists, the anesthesiologist, the obstetrician and in my case, a resident. The twins and I were in excellent hands. I wasn’t worried at all. With both babies head-down, I had every confidence an emergency c-section wouldn’t be necessary, but even if it was, I knew everything would be OK.

When everyone was set up — and it didn’t take long — I started looking for Mark. He was the last person to enter the room. He waited next to my left ear, and my delivery nurse, Rachel, guided me through the process. She kept reassuring me every step of the way, and I often think about how wonderful she was.

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On the next contraction, I pushed two or three times, and Leo was born. Just like that! It felt like I had lost 100 pounds, a massive relief. I had felt so much pressure there for so long. He looked wonderful, pink and healthy, and my heart swelled and my tears flowed. I kissed him, then Mark held him while I readied myself to give birth — again!

There were actually close to 25 minutes between the births of Leo and Callum, but to me, it felt like no time at all. It took a few more pushes and contractions, but Callum was on his way. Earlier, I had asked the doctor if they would need to break Callum’s water too, and the doctor said it would happen on its own.

Sure enough, while I was pushing Callum, there came a huge gush of water that seemed to burst across the room. “My shoes!” Dr. Sheppard said.

Then, the doctor and nurses started talking about Callum’s heart rate, which was dropping. At the time, I thought they just couldn’t hear it on the Doppler. I’m glad I didn’t realize what was going on or I may have panicked. Rachel kept me focused and calm.

Dr. Sheppard helped Callum move down the birth canal with a vaccuum. He was born just after 7 p.m. and again, a feeling of relief and joy washed over me.

This was such an incredible experience. Two healthy babies and I was fine, too. When the nurses weighed them and shouted out their weights: 6 lbs, 5 oz and 6 lbs 15 oz, Mark and I were shocked and elated. Big babies for twins! We were so pleased. This would mean no time in the NICU.

I feel incredibly grateful and fortunate that everything went as smoothly as it did. For a few days I guess we were known as the rockstar twin parents, because our delivery was so flawless. We even got it done before the 7:30 pm shift change.

Holding two babies in my arms was incredible. They felt heavy and awkward but I had all the love in the world on my chest. I just loved the whole experience, and it was even better and less scary the second time. Each baby latched on with no issues, and I was so confident feeding would go more smoothly than it did with my first child.

I was on top of the world. We were up much of the night, feeding, changing, doting on those babies. The whole next day was beautiful, too, as Silas got to meet his brothers. But night number two was when things started going downhill. Or, rather, I went downhill. My hormones dropped, oh so fast, as did my confidence as a new twin mom.

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Twin FAQs

Q: Are you having identical or fraternal twins?

This was one of our first questions too, and it is surprisingly difficult to answer. Since we only discovered there were two babies at 20 weeks, apparently we will never be totally sure unless we have a DNA test done on the babies after they are born.

What we do know is that the babies each have their own amniotic sac and what appears to be one fused placenta. This means they are likely fraternal (dizygotic), or formed from two fertilized eggs. This is the most common kind of twin pregnancy. We are happy with this news because it generally lessens the risks associated with being pregnant with multiples.

Identical twins (monozygotic), who form from one fertilized egg that splits, generally grow in one sac and share a placenta. This can lead to risks such as Twin to Twin Transfusion. But identical twins can sometimes have their own sacs and placentas if they separate in the very early days of conception.

Clear as mud? Suffice it to say, we think they are probably fraternal, but we are not totally sure!

Q: Do twins run in your family?

Twins are all throughout Mark’s family tree. Mark’s siblings are twins, his mother is one of two sets of twins in her family, and his cousins are twins. In my family, twins are a less frequent: I have second cousins who are twins, but that’s about it.

Fraternal twins can run in families, and identical twins don’t.

This is because fraternal twins come from “hyper-ovulation,” or the release of more than one egg in a cycle, which is a trait that can only be passed down from the mother’s family. So even though the twin gene runs strong in Mark’s family, it has no link to our pregnancy!

Hyper-ovulation can also be caused by advancing maternal age, and I am 34 years old. It can also just be a random occurrence!

Put simply, we won the baby lottery, because the chances of having twins are 1 in 67. How lucky are we?