31 weeks pregnant with MoMo twins, 1 week before delivery.
We found out we were carrying twins at just 9 weeks following an ectopic pregnancy scare and instead of feeling worried about how we would cope with a two year old and newborn twins we felt excited and actually calm. How we would afford it, how we would manage, how the hell I would carry twins for 9 months, none of that was certain but what was certain was we would have three beautiful children, our family would be complete and we were delighted.
At our 16 week consultant appointment we were told our twins were Monochronic Monoamniotic, MCMA or MoMo as they are also known, meaning they shared a placenta and amniotic sac with no dividing membrane. Knowing nothing about twin pregnancies we weren’t sure what this all really meant but as the consultant started to explain the risks and as she broke the news the babies would be delivered by c-section no later than 32 weeks we started to realise that this was no normal twin pregnancy and nothing was certain anymore.
The main complication with MoMo twins is that as they grow and move around in the womb their umbilical cords become twisted and knotted together so as they get bigger the pressure on the cords can decrease and stop the blood flow to one or indeed both babies at any moment. Official figures say the chance of MoMo twins surviving inside the womb is just 50% and there is no possible medical intervention other than monitoring.
As the realisation of what could happen began to hit us we started a journey through several phases of acceptance.
I read medical papers and scientific studies, I joined support groups, I contacted NICE and I even wrote to the hospital pleading with them to monitor my babies more frequently. “There must be something that can be done, it’s the 21st century they can’t just leave us to wait and see if our babies live or die!” I put all of my energy into finding a solution that would protect my children and deliver them to me safe and sound so when I realised there really was nothing that could be done and I had no power over the situation I felt helpless and as though I had failed my babies.
We tried to explain to family and friends what could happen and what we were living through but there is no possible way anyone could truly understand. My anger at the situation manifested itself in anger at those who love me “they don’t get it, they don’t care, why don’t they cry like me, why aren’t they scared, why don’t they ask more questions” of course I know now that they were trying to stay strong, to support me and my husband but at the time nothing they did or said was right.
I had a conversation with my father whom I love dearly and he said “there’s nothing you can do, nature will take its course and I know you don’t want to hear that but it’s true, it’s all up to nature now”. I couldn’t bear to hear that I felt like he didn’t understand and his words cut through to my sole. I was so full of anger that I couldn’t see the truth.
In the end my husband and I cocooned ourselves in one another, in our fear, our grief for what could be and the pregnancy we were missing out on, in our overwhelming love for our babies and each other and in our living hell. We cut ourselves off from all but a handful of friends and we spent every evening on our support group reading MoMo success stories and asking questions to the families across the world living through the same thing.
It was only with one another that we felt understood, that we felt a glimmer of hope and only with one another that we could be truly honest about the fears we had for our unborn children.
At some point between anger and sadness I finally accepted there was nothing I could do, there was no way to protect my babies, no way to make everything OK. My father had been right when he said with love that nature would decide. I realised that sometimes things are out of our control and as human beings used to influencing so much in our lives this is a hard thing to accept. Bizarrely this thought now brought me some comfort as I could stop fighting, stop being angry at what I could not change and instead I could focus on surviving the hell we were living so that I was ready for the journey through neo natal with my tiny miracle babies.
We took the decision to find out we were having boys and we named them, we told our friends and family their names so that if we were to lose them they were people, real in everyone’s eyes and not just ours. We brought clothes and nursery furniture, a pram and car seats because having those things around me brought some normality to the situation, this wouldn’t be everyone’s approach but in a small way it helped.
Our self-isolation allowed us to embrace our sadness and let go of the anger. I carried two of the most precious things in the world to us inside of me and I was powerless to protect them. From the moment our babies were conceived I loved them, they were children to me as real as my little boy who was growing so fast and was so excited to be a big brother. I would die for them just as I would him and not being able to keep them safe was torture. With every movement I felt comforted as I knew they were still alive, yet every kick also brought with it the fear that they were becoming more entangled and knotted in their cords. Every second of every day was a mental hurdle that was physically and emotionally exhausting.
On particularly dark days when I allowed my mind to wonder into the realm of ‘what if’, I found myself sat at the grave side of my beautiful babies and I would weep for a loss that had not yet been but could at any moment become a reality. Sadness and grief for what could be and what we had lost in terms of the delight of pregnancy and the assumption of holding your babies at the end of it became part of my daily existence. Slowly I became a shell of who I had been but we kept moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other wishing away the days until the boys would be born and they would be safe.
Finally after an agonising pregnancy our boys arrived by emergency c-section at 31+2 weeks. Their cords were a ball of twists and knots and we were told if I had not gone into early labour and we had waited until 32 weeks we may have lost twin one. As I lay on the operating table catching a glimpse of my tiny miracles for the first time I was overwhelmed with relief and happiness. Neo natal held no fear for us and we would overcome whatever their early arrival meant in the long term, all that mattered was they had survived the time bomb of my womb and their one amniotic sac. I threw my head back and screamed “they’re safe, it’s over, it’s over, IT’S OVER!” and looking at my husband only we knew and would ever know what we had endured and what a precious miracle and gift our sons were.
There is no moral to this blog post, no nice bow I can tie it up in or advice I can give to help someone else cope. High risk pregnancy can be a painful process with an uncertain outcome but as with all of my blog posts I simply hope that my honesty can help others know that what they are feeling is normal and that they are not alone. The human spirit and love is an immensely powerful thing, it will pull you through the darkest of times and heal the deepest of scars.