Birth Stories: What It's Really Like to Be Pregnant with Twins
Twin births have increased 70 percent in the past three decades. Here, three moms of multiples share their pregnancy and birth experiences.
"I was excited, but I knew that increased risk came with carrying more than one baby." – Jennifer Busk, Chicago
I found out I was having twins when I was eight weeks pregnant. I was excited, but also scared because there are always risks with multiple births. At 14 weeks, an ultrasound revealed that the babies could be identical twins, which can sometimes carry an additional risk, so I was referred to a high-risk maternal fetal practice. (The babies shared a placenta, but are fraternal.) Plus, throughout the entire pregnancy I knew that bed rest could come at any time. My husband, James, and I operated on an accelerated timeline to prepare for the arrival of the babies because I wasn't certain I would be able to go to term with twins.
Overall, I had an almost flawless pregnancy. My nausea subsided at 12 weeks and I worked until 10 days before I delivered. But, at 35 weeks an ultrasound showed that one of the babies wasn't growing very much. The doctor was concerned that it could be a sign that my placenta was getting old. I wasn't dilated at all, but he suggested that I be induced at 37 weeks. When they induced me, I was planning to have a vaginal delivery, but after laboring for over 24 hours with little progress, I opted for a Cesarean section. I had two goals when I found out I was having twins: I wanted to make it to 37 weeks and I wanted my girls to be over five pounds each. Even though I ended up having a C-section, because I realized my goals, I considered my pregnancy a success.
"I didn't know what to expect with one baby. So the fact that I was going to be having two really threw me for a loop." – Janella Gaylord, Cobleskill, N.Y.
I discovered I was having twins at 12 weeks. My husband, Mark, and I were completely shocked. I decided to switch to an Ob-Gyn who specializes in twin pregnancies because I was older (I gave birth at age 37) and I thought I would be better taken care of at a practice that catered to mothers expecting multiples. I was nauseous until 14 weeks, but found that keeping food in my stomach helped. In my second trimester, I felt really good, but I got big really fast. (I stopped looking at the scale after I gained 30 pounds.) Toward the end of my second trimester, I started feeling very uncomfortable. Because of the size of my belly, it was hard to sleep. In my third trimester, it was summertime and I had a lot of swelling.
I wasn't anticipating going to full term because I was told that it was unlikely with twins, but my weekly ultrasounds showed that my cervix was not dilating. I wasn't put on bed rest, but by 35 weeks I was lying down much of the time. I decided to have a scheduled Cesarean section at 38 weeks. I was in recovery for four days and ended up back in the hospital a week later because I was still bleeding. It turns out that part of the placenta was still attached and had to be removed. My advice for moms-to-be of multiples: Don't feel guilty about taking a nap or time for yourself. Being pregnant with twins is hard work.
"My sons, Max and Luca, were so small when they were born at 31 weeks, I was scared to pick them up." – Desiree Mannino, Union City,N.J.
My husband, Anthony, and I tried for two years to get pregnant. I underwent one round of Clomid, three rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and three rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) before a fourth try finally worked. I was five weeks along when I discovered I was having twins.
I had a rough pregnancy. I started spotting at six weeks and that lasted until 12 weeks. At 20 weeks, my hands and feet started to itch and I was diagnosed with cholestasis of pregnancy, a liver condition that can increase the risk for preterm birth and stillbirth. I was immediately put on medication and, in the weeks following, the babies had their heart rates monitored twice a week. At 24 weeks, I was one centimeter dilated and my doctor recommended that I modify my work schedule so I could stay off my feet, which I did. But, at 28 weeks, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. I was admitted to the hospital and put on bed rest.
In the hospital, I wasn't sleeping. I was overwhelmed because I was having twins and didn't feel mentally prepared to become a mother. And, I was worried about the babies. At 31 weeks, my water broke, and I had a Cesarean section. My sons, Max and Luca, were 3 pounds 2 ounces and 3 pounds, respectively. The amazing thing was that as soon as I gave birth, my blood pressure went back to normal and the itchiness subsided. I felt like myself, except for the pain of the C-section. It was hard to see my babies with all those tubes in the neonatal intensive care unit, but as the tubes were removed, I started to feel more confident as a mom. Max and Luca came home after five weeks in the hospital, and now they are as healthy as can be.
- RELATED: Tips for Pregnancy with Multiples
"The day I delivered my babies is both completely blurry and seared indelibly into memory." – Alesandra Dubin
After a long, surreal lead-up to my scheduled C-section, there was nothing left to do but deliver some twins. On July 22, at 38 weeks, we were actually sleeping when the alarm sounded at 4 a.m. For the last time, I peeled my enormously pregnant body from the bed and got in the shower, following with my full hair and makeup routine. My husband, David, couldn't understand why I would bother, but of course I knew 1) there would be pictures! And 2) it might be a very long time before I managed such a feat again.
For the last time as a family of two, we left the house with our bags packed. It was a warm, beautiful early morning, and we snapped a picture of the moon over our house. Minutes later, we arrived at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where we had our pick of prime parking spaces at 5 a.m. – a dream for a Los Angeleno, and an auspicious beginning to a big day! I noticed a sign that advertised discounted parking at a weekly rate, and as I shuffled into the hospital, I asked the parking attendant how to get the weekly pass, which would save us $10 over the course of our four-day stay. David couldn't believe I found the energy to focus on such a pursuit, but I reminded him that every dollar counts with two babies on the way! And I'm nothing if not a hustler for a great bargain.
We made our way inside to check in for labor and delivery, at the same desk we had seen on our maternity ward tour when the reality of this day seemed infinitely far off – as if it were actually on another planet instead of just weeks away. This time, it was we who were checking into the hospital to deliver babies, and it was still too enormous to process.
We met our wonderful nurse, Griselda, who would be with us for 14 hours that day. She got us all prepared, running my IV line and strapping on two fetal monitors, one in blue and one in pink. She'd be my guardian angel – among many – during our stay.
Eventually, it was off to the operating room, where TLC's "No Scrubs" was playing; the anesthesiologist had apparently honored my preference for '90s hip-hop when he selected the Pandora station. I remember registering the neat play on hospital scrubs as the terror set in. I was most worried about this part of the day: David would have to stay outside in the hall as the team administered my spinal. It was the only time we'd have to be separated. As I sat sideways on the operating table with my legs dangling and my back exposed, Griselda squeezed my hands as she leaned into me, forehead to forehead. I'll always remember her caring support.
Soon, the anesthesia began to take effect, and I didn't like the feeling one bit – the feeling that my body had vanished from the boobs down, and there was no guarantee I'd be able to feel it again. I panicked.
The team let David come in early, and they also ran Propofol into my IV for the anxiety. David used the tools in his tool box to calm me: He rattled off a list of words that corresponded to my favorite images and memories. "Our first dance... Bora Bora honeymoon... scuba diving Belize... the beach in Rio..." He named as many of my favorite things he could think of in the moment, before, owing to his own nerves, he just repeated the list.
I heard my obstetrician say, "We're down to the uterus now," but I was less concerned about the progress of the surgery and more eager to feel my body again. Soon, I heard the cry: My son was out in the world. David's face was hovering just over mine, and though his mouth was covered with a green hospital mask, I could see that his eyes exploded with emotion. Our son.
Someone announced the weight: six pounds, six ounces. Then another cry and another weight: five pounds, 12 ounces. My daughter was on the outside too. Both were whisked to the other side of what felt like a very big room for their initial medical attention. I heard someone tell David, "...other than that, she's great." I called out to try to understand what that meant. It turned out my daughter's body temperature was low, but she was quickly warmed up. And beyond that, they were perfect. I felt rhythmic tugging as the doc stitched me all up. And then someone (was it David?) brought the babies over to my chest so I could hold them for the first time, one nestled under each arm. We're a family of four now -- imagine that.
From the operating room, we moved to the post-op recovery room, where my parents came with pink and blue balloons and held the babes. We shared their names for the first time: Maya Zoe and Jordan Oscar. Jordan was platinum blonde like me at birth, and Maya had dark hair – something she got from her dad that I never expected. They were devastating in their sweetness, too precious for words. How improbable and magical that we actually made them and I carried them inside!
From there, we moved to what was supposed to be our room for the next four days. It turned out, we'd move again.
As the team of nurses was transferring me from the gurney to the hospital bed, I noticed a lot of blood. I said, "That's normal, right...?" There was some focused silence and then a second nurse said to Griselda, "It's just that I've never seen a clot that big." Quickly, the babies vanished out of the room on their way to the nursery, and our tiny room filled with people. David said he counted nine in addition to us. One of the doctors was really young and I called him Doogie Howser. I was high on Propofol. And I was hemmorhaging: My uterus had been so distended from carrying 12 pounds and two ounces of baby to full term that, like an overstretched rubber band, it could not contract.
In another far-off era, or in another part of the world, that might have been the end of me. But with access to such quality health care and thanks to modern medicine, I didn't worry about my mortality. I did however, feel anxious for the team to resolve the situation, and I thought the thermometer bouncing up and down in my mouth was a physical manifestation of my anxiety. In reality, I'd later learn, the shaking was just a standard side effect of narcotic drugs.
Griselda pressed repeatedly on my post-op stomach; it's not the relaxing spa-like treatment I'd pictured when she'd said she was going to periodically "massage the uterus." Doogie Howser administered a bunch of drugs including Pitocin. And within a few tense hours, my bleeding issue was resolved.
For the first night, we moved to an acute care wing of the hospital, instead of the standard labor and delivery ward, and the babies rejoined us, sleeping serenely most of that first day – hazy, as it was, for all of us. Apparently, my situation warranted some attention, with the head nurse coming to check on me as the first stop on her shift later that evening. I told her she was stunning and looked like Nia Long because I was still high on Morphine and Propofol, and was, apparently, without filters. (And because she was and did.)
Outside the window, I could see that night was finally falling on what was, without any question, the most intense and wondrous and magical day of my life: the day my twin miracles came into the world.