So much has changed since that initial ultrasound appointment. It was fairly early in the pregnancy to be having an ultrasound, but I wasn’t going to say no to the visual confirmation. The husband and the current baby were with me in the room and, of course, we were both very excited. And a whole bunch of nonsense was floating through my head (because people are judgmental and say things they really should not) but I was focusing on the screen in front of me.
Almost immediately, the doctor let out a little sigh and blurted out that their were two pregnancy sacs. I swear, I stopped breathing in the moment and for a fleeting moment a burst of ‘holy crap’ swept through my system. But almost immediately after, she added that one sac was empty.
While pregnant with numero uno last year, I spent a lot of time online reading everything about pregnancy and following mommy blogs. I knew what an empty sac meant. It means that pregnancy had begun, but for some reason, did not continue. Now when there is just one sac and it is empty, it is a miscarriage, and the body will usually expel the sac on its own. When there are two sacs, and one is empty, it is called a vanishing twin, and while sometimes the body will expel the sac, more often it is reabsorbed. In both cases, miscarriages and vanishing twins, there is no way to tell what happened or what went wrong. And it sucks. Unfortunately for all, nothing can be done.
I will admit that in that moment I felt a little bit devastated. For some reason, a second pregnancy had begun, but did not continue. Of course, as these conflicting emotions are going through my head, the doctor is describing the yolk sac (what will be the placenta) and the fetal pole (the beginnings of the baby) from the other sac, and I’m a little upset at myself because she is describing the start of a perfectly healthy pregnancy in the other sac. At this point I plastered the smile on my face and paid attention to the screen.
A moment later she called Mike over to get a closer look as he was sitting across the room with the wee little love baby on his lap. She’s checking for the heartbeat and blurts out (yes, this is a common for her) that she thinks she hears two heartbeats.
I’m lost. Completely. One sac has a baby, and one is empty. Well, as it turns out, the sac that wasn’t empty had two babies in it.
Two thoughts ran through my head at this moment. 1. Holy crap, we are having twins. And, 2. Holy balls, we could have had triplets.
I’m pretty sure I was grinning ear to ear at this point, not even thinking about our little one being a year old and then having two newborns, or how to possibly pay for day care or food.
Then the doctor told us, without mincing words, that this wasn’t good news.
She told us that this appeared to be a case of mono/mono twins, or momo twins. Monoamniotic because they share a sac and monochorionic because they will share a placenta. This type of twin pregnancy accounts for 1% of twin pregnancies overall and the survival rate is 50%. She said it is rare and exceedingly high risk.
She mentioned a few other notes in passing, such as an early c-section, a lot of monitoring and a high risk specialist but I really wasn’t listening. I’m pretty sure I cried most of the way home, right onto my laptop, and onto the Internet.
Not many people (until this post, obviously) knew about the pregnancy. We kept it under wraps as long as we could because of the high risk situation. But already I’ve heard the same question at least a dozen times; do twins run in the family?
Argh stop asking this question!!!
So here is the deal on twins since it is apparently not common knowledge. The are two types: fraternal and identical.
Fraternal twins can be boy/boy, boy/girl or girl/girl and share resemblances only as much as normal siblings do. A woman will have fraternal twins because of two main reasons: her body released two eggs (or more) at the same time and two were fertilized, or she had some type of hormone/infertility treatment. The first type can be hereditary. Meaning, sometimes the releasing of multiple eggs at a time is something that affects numerous women in a family. The second, obviously, is not.
Identical twins are a fluke of nature, are not hereditary (do not run in families) and happen when an egg splits. If an egg splits early each baby will be in his or her own sac. Fraternal twins are always in their own sac so in cases like this it’s not easy to tell until the birth if you have fraternal or identical. If an egg splits late (rare) the babies will be in the same sac. If the egg splits very very late, (very rare) you end up with conjoined twins.
Our babies are in the same sac which means we know with 100% certainty that they will be identical. And yes, of course I’m thinking about mixing them up so I’ll probably buy them bracelets or something. The point being, we have no twins in our family. But that doesn’t signify anything because identical twins don’t run in families. Got it? Good.
Being past the halfway mark, we have had plenty of time digest the news while the little ones grow. Everything is on track and at last check, these little gals (yes, two more girls) were weighing in larger than the average single baby at the same week of development, which is great news. Having seen multiple doctors at this point, we are better prepared. We know that at week 24, which is the mark of viability when most babies born this early can still survive, will be the start of intensive monitoring, which will be every single day, including weekends and holidays. The goal for these short monitoring sessions (20-40 minutes, at the pre-natal diagnostic center) is to make sure that everything is going smoothly and the heart rates are normal. I will have a scheduled c-section date at 34 weeks (end of Feb 2016), and if all is well, the monitoring will continue until that point. If there is any distress or complications, I’m in immediately for an emergency c-section.
To wrap up, I wanted to ask everyone reading this to be more conscious of what you say to pregnant women and expectant fathers. I’ve read a lot online from other moms of twins and have started to experience some of the same angst. Your curiosity does not take precedence over someone’s personal or private situation and we have been put in many an awkward place by some of the questions we have been asked. We are still fielding impertinent questions and it is a little sickening. Some people just don’t understand boundaries and it’s hard to for us to respond to certain inquiries. Asking about our emotional or financial state is rude, as is asking us about breastfeeding. personal commentary on what you think is good for our family is also out of line. Also, we personally don’t care what your opinions are about us having kids so close together and don’t care to share my fears for the future. We don’t have all the answers. We are happy and feel very blessed to bring these two new little ones into the world.
And to those of you that genuinely care and just don’t know what to say, here is my advice on how you can be awesome. Offer to stop by with a meal when we all come home from the hospital. Tell us a day/time that we could rely on you if one of us just needs a time out (or a shower). Ask us what size diapers we would like or offer us some hand me downs to help us get started. Offer to pick up baby number one from day care when we are home dealing with two newborns, or take her out for a little adventure while we get our bearings. Offer to listen to our fears without judgment.
Knowing that there are people willing to help us out will make all the difference in the world. Because seriously, we are pretty terrified.