First and Second Trimesters

I can’t say when it really set in that we were having twins.  I don’t think it has yet, and they are five months old now!  After the initial ultrasound, we obviously freaked out.  What were we going to to with five kids?  How would we make it work?  Would they be ok?  Where would they sleep?  How would we ever sleep again?

But life goes on, and we had to continue working and taking care of our existing family.  I was so exhausted all the time, and I had been having morning sickness all day, every day, basically since I found out I was pregnant.  My doctor prescribed some Zofran for me back when I was having my panic attack, but it barely kept me feeling normal.  I tried to eat vegetables and protein, but nothing seemed to make me feel great.  This feeling stuck around until sometime around the 18 week mark.  After that period, I could get some relief from the medication, but if I didn’t take it, I was sick again.

I started wearing my maternity clothes at about 8 weeks pregnant.  With multiples (and with any baby after your first), your belly can grow pretty quickly.

We saw the perinatologist (also known as a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist), Dr. MFM, in early June, at about 12 weeks along.  The due date was confirmed as Christmas Eve, and we hoped to keep the babies in until early December.  The ultrasound also confirmed that yes, there were twins, and yes, they were identical.  They had one placenta (monochorionic) and two amniotic sacs (diamniotic), our little Mo-Di babies.  Dr. MFM briefly mentioned that we would need to keep an eye out for Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), but said there wasn’t anything I could do to prevent it, and there weren’t any real signs to look for.

When we heard they were identical, my husband and I looked at each other and agreed, sadly, “obviously, these will be boys.”  My husband had three boys already, so we weren’t sure he could have anything else.  Not that there’s anything wrong with boys.  My toddler is the most amazing little boy in the whole world!  He’s smart, funny, loving, kind, and just lights up my life.  BUT — I always wanted a girl.  I had a girl’s name picked out (just one, though).  I was ready to have a sweet girl or two to go with my sweet son.

At Dr. MFM’s office, blood tests were performed which can detect genetic abnormalities and also determine gender.  Since our babies were obviously the same gender (identical twins cannot be different genders, unless the girl has a rare disease called Turner’s Syndrome), the blood test would be able to tell us if we were having two girls or two boys!  We were told results would take two long weeks.

After the appointment with Dr. MFM, on Father’s Day, 2014, we made the official Facebook announcement that twins were on their way to our family!  That Wednesday, I came back up to my office after talking to my boss downstairs, and I saw I had a missed call from Dr. MFM’s office.  They had my test results already!  I quickly called back and spoke with D, who said that all the genetic tests looked fine.  She asked if I wanted to know the genders, and I enthusiastically said, “YES!”

“It’s a girl!  Well, it’s TWO girls!”

“YES!  Yes!  Whoo hoo!  Yes!”  My coworkers heard my excitement and figured that I had just gotten word that I was having girls.  I ran (ok, ran is a strong word, but I hurried as fast as my pregnant ass would go) through the office to tell everyone the good news, and then I came back to my computer and sent my husband a message that we were having girls.  Yes, other people knew before he did.  I couldn’t hide my excitement!  I called my mom and my sister and sent text messages to a few close friends before finding the perfect picture to announce on Facebook that we were going to have twin girls!

I started to get excited, but I remained apprehensive because of all the risks.  Multiples have a higher chance of being born prematurely.  Dr. OB said that I would probably be on bed rest at some point and that I would no longer be able to drive an hour each way to work after about 24 weeks.

But life goes on, and we had a family vacation planned to visit my husband’s sisters in Maryland and Pennsylvania.  I would be about 15 weeks pregnant during the trip, but I hoped, however futile, that I would be past the morning sickness.  We decided that it would be “fun for the boys” to take the Amtrak auto train from Sanford, Florida to Lorton, Virginia (Orlando to Washington D.C.).  It was an overnight trip, but we would have our vehicle and not have to rent a car or deal with lugging the stroller and carseat on a plane.  We initially booked two two-person cabins (the toddler would hang out with me), but we were able to upgrade right before departure to a more spacious family bedroom with four bunks.

Now, if you are prone to motion sickness, you know that taking an overnight train ride is probably a bad idea.  If you’re prone to motion sickness and experiencing morning sickness, an overnight train ride is just downright excruciating.  I did not sleep at all.  Each time I thought I was drifting off, the train would jolt and jostle me back awake.  I spent a lot of time in the hallway, trying to catch a good signal so I could post about my misery and look at BuzzFeed.  I also read an entire book on my Kindle, and I vowed that I would never set foot on a train like that again.

The trip itself was ok.  I was pretty miserable, but I didn’t want to be a drag, so I went along with everything.  The worst was a day spent at the Philadelphia Zoo.  It was so hot, and I was so tired, hungry, and trying not to become dehydrated.  While it’s nice to take the kids to have fun somewhere, my heart and my body just weren’t cooperating that day.  We drove back to Florida in three days, and I have never been more excited to be home!

I remained tired and worn out through July.  After a trip to St. Petersburg for a deposition, I could barely move.  My body was just not happy with the long car trip.  Dr. OB wrote a note for my job, saying that I could only work 6 hours a day and was not allowed to travel (other than to go to work).

In August, I continued to be sick, tired, and worn-out.  By the end of the month, I was just about 24 weeks along, and Dr. OB wrote another note which said that I needed to work from home for the remainder of my pregnancy, however long that would be!  I was so glad that I no longer had to drive to work, and I started to get excited about being at the point where the babies would be viable if they were born prematurely.  Obviously, I did not want them to come early, but at least they would have a chance if they happened to arrive after this point.  I even started to get excited about my baby shower, which was scheduled for early October.  It was the first time in the pregnancy that I felt OK with everything and felt like I really might have two living, healthy babies.

To read about the rest of our TTTS journey, click here.

The Big News

The morning of April 14, 2014, I took a pregnancy test.  To my surprise, the control line didn’t even show up.  A dud.  We had been sort of, maybe, not really, trying for a while (as much as you can with a two-year old in your bed), and I thought there was a possibility that I might be pregnant.  I wanted to know for sure before I went to the doctor for my annual exam that day, because if I wasn’t, I had decided that we should stop trying.  Our toddler was just getting to that fun age where he could communicate and make us laugh, and as much as I initially wanted to give him a playmate, I thought he was a pretty great part-time only child.

When I got to my appointment, I told the medical assistant (“MA”) that I thought I could be pregnant.  She had me take a test right then.  When my OB/Gyn came in (“Dr. OB”), I told him that I took the test, and he went into the hallway to check with MA about the results.  She said, “Look, the line is barely visible.  It looks like when I take a pregnancy test.”  Dr. OB said, “Wait, so is this yours or hers?”  (Men.  Sigh.)

So there it was in faint pink and white.  I started to panic and told Dr. OB that my husband was probably going to have mixed feelings, as when his two older boys are with us, life can be very chaotic.  I relayed the story of the day we went strawberry picking in Orlando.  It was a great day: we picked strawberries, went to lunch, played at a park, and met up with our good friends for grilled cheese dinner and frozen yogurt.  On the way home, an hour-long drive, our toddler started to scream.  And scream.  And cry.  THEN, he threw up.  We were 20 minutes from home and just wanted to get there ASAP.  We asked the second-oldest (“Boy 2”) to help clean him up, while the oldest (“Boy 1”), who has Asperger’s, plugged his ears and stared out the window.  We quickly found that Boy 2 is a sympathy puker.  At this point, we were less than ten minutes from home.  Boy 2 and toddler were crying.  I kept pushing napkins to the backseat while husband continued driving in hopes that we would get home before everyone else started vomiting.

Right when we pulled off of the interstate to our exit for home, my husband said, “I’m getting a vasectomy tomorrow.”  Then, the song, “Happy,” (you know the one…”because I’m happyyyyyy”) came on the radio.  I started laughing and crying hysterically.  It was all so surreal.  The car clean-up was quite the ordeal, but my husband is the best, so the car didn’t even smell like rancid dairy vomit afterward.

So yeah, that was the state of our family planning at that time.  Dr. OB and MA thought it was a funny story, and it is.  Dr. OB sent me for an HCG blood test to really confirm, and I started to become excited.  My husband and I had lunch together, where we discussed our excitement and apprehension (yes, you can feel both at the same time).  I got the call later that day that my HCG number was 35, which is fairly low.  Dr. OB wanted me to go back in two days to make sure that my HCG at least doubled.  It was 100-something two days later, which seemed like a great sign.   Although the additional increase could mean multiples, I never even considered that it might.

That weekend, we put the toddler in a “Big Bro” shirt and went to my parents’ house for Easter.  It took ten minutes for my parents to even notice the shirt, and that only happened when my husband said, “Look at his shirt.”  It still wasn’t obvious.  My mom said she didn’t know if the shirt was a hand-me-down from Boy 1 or 2.

Later that week, on Thursday, I woke up around 3 a.m. with severe anxiety and blood pressure spikes.  I thought for sure something was wrong with the pregnancy.  Husband took me to Dr. OB, and my blood pressure was normal.  He said, “I think you’re experiencing anxiety about having another baby.  It probably has something to do with a car full of kids vomiting while the ‘Happy’ song plays.”  Yep.  I started taking anti-anxiety medication that day.

We had my official first pregnancy appointment about a week and a half later.  Typical stuff, just going over paperwork and discussing delivery.  Yes, I’d be having another cesarean section, and YES, I wanted a tubal ligation.  Four kids is a lot, and we already knew that handling three was a challenge.  My first ultrasound was scheduled for that Friday.

I took off work that Friday, because I needed to get more blood work done, and I had an appointment with the allergist on top of the ultrasound.  My husband met me at the Radiology center, and we went back for what was the longest appointment ever.  About 45 minutes in, I saw my husband’s face change.  The technician said, “Let me ask you a question.  Do twins run in your family?”

“NO!  Oh my God, NO!  What the fuck, no!”

OK, so I didn’t react favorably.  The tech called in another, more experienced, tech, who said that we might have identical twins, because she didn’t see a membrane.  We had no idea what that meant at the time, but we supposed it was exciting.

I had a lot of phone calls to make.  One of my sweet friends said, “that’s exciting!  It’s like getting a bonus baby!”  I started to get excited about having two babies.  Maybe we’d have two girls?  We tried to wrap our heads around becoming a family of seven.  We’d need a mini-van and another crib…and we’d need a whole lot more, mentally.

To read about the rest of our TTTS journey, click here.

Well, Hello There!

In 2014, I found out I was pregnant with monochorionic-diamniotic (“mo-di”) twins.  Monochorionic twins share a placenta and are definitely identical.  The twin news was a shock, to say the very least.  Twins do not run in my family (and I have since learned that identical twins have nothing to do with heredity — it’s just like you won the baby lottery and got a bonus baby!), and we were kind of shaky about having one more kid, let alone two!

We quickly found out that mo-di pregnancies can come with a host of issues, as the babies share a placenta (they have separate amniotic sacs), and accordingly, their blood flows back and forth between each other through the placenta.  We were told that around 15% of mo-di pregnancies can develop Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, or TTTS, and that we would be monitored with ultrasounds to keep a close eye on the babies.

In September, we received our TTTS diagnosis, went to Miami for intrauterine surgery to correct the condition, and waited patiently for our girls to arrive.  Until they were born, we thought that the only possible issues we would face were kidney issues in our donor twin.  When our baby B was born, we were told that she has microcephaly and brain damage as a result of the TTTS.  Her kidneys are monitored monthly, and we do not yet know if she will require dialysis or a kidney transplant.  Baby A does not have any issues of which we are aware.

Life is unfair, as we all know; but seeing what our baby B could and should look like and be is our constant, heartbreaking reminder of everything we went through.  She’s still beautiful, and she’s still amazing, but she will face so many challenges that her twin will never know.

This blog is my way of sharing our story about our journey and our new normal.  I will go back to some of those toughest days and share the present days’ stories as well.  I am not a medical professional, and this blog is not meant to share any medical advice.  Although I am an attorney, this blog is also not meant to impart any legal advice or create any attorney-client relationships.