It had already been an emotional start to the year for my partner Kevin and me, with a miscarriage at 11 weeks in March. I fell pregnant again in May and when I started to get abdominal pains at only eight weeks’ pregnant, we were convinced it had all gone wrong again. Was it ectopic or just another miscarriage? So when the doctor scanning us said he’d found a heartbeat and then a couple of minutes later found a second one, we were elated. The midwife, Kevin and I just hugged each other and cried. Two tiny blobs on a screen told us we were having twins and we couldn’t have been happier.
The 12-week scan date arrived and we were incredibly nervous but also very excited to see our babies. We could now also ask all the questions we had bubbling inside us. The scan detected I only had one placenta, so we were told I was expecting identical twins. We were also advised that we were likely to have more scans later in the pregnancy and to speak to my midwife regarding any health concerns.
With this milestone completed, I now felt it was time for me to get on and start enjoying being pregnant. Somehow I’d managed to hide my ever-growing bump fairly well from work colleagues and friends. I’d also become an accomplished white liar to my netball team as to why I wasn’t able to play each week. They were all ecstatic when they heard our news. I think being a pregnant mum of twins makes you an instant celebrity and a constant topic of conversation, which I loved!
With no morning sickness, eating healthily (I wasn’t missing wine too much) and watching my beautiful bump grow, I couldn’t have been happier. In truth there were still days where I got nervous about the impending birth and the double cost of everything, but having a close family and large network of friends to share those difficult days kept me sane.
Two little girls
At our 20-week scan we found out we were having identical girls. No wonder we couldn’t have predicted twins; identical twins aren’t hereditary as they happen when one sperm splits one egg. Kevin was chuffed to think he had ‘super sperm’!
As the pregnancy progressed, I wanted to know more about having twins and be able to chat to other women in my situation. I also had a fantastic midwife who gave me honest and accurate advice during my appointments or over the phone if I needed.
After a bit of a scare with a growth scan at 24 weeks, I was told I needed to be scanned every two weeks going forward as a precaution. We didn’t mind too much as seeing our babies regularly was amazing. I’d decided to finish work at 27 weeks as I was starting to feel very uncomfortable sitting all day in the office. I also thought it would be nice to get at least seven weeks at home preparing for our girls. Well, that was the plan!
Three weeks later I had a routine midwife appointment. After taking my blood pressure twice and a urine sample, she diagnosed pre-eclampsia and called for an ambulance. I knew I’d been uncomfortable for a week or so and not sleeping well, but had no idea my blood pressure was so high. All I could think about on the journey into hospital was that it was too early to have my babies. Even though we were prepared for them coming a little prematurely, we were praying to get to 36 weeks. I called Kevin at work and soon he was by my side and holding my hand.
I spent the next three weeks (although it seemed like much longer!) on the antenatal ward where my blood pressure was monitored every two hours. Without my fellow ‘lifers’ on the ward I think I would have gone slightly mad, but they were great company whenever things got too much. One week before Christmas, after the morning rounds had been done, I was told that although my babies were fine, I was still poorly and the decision had been made to deliver my babies. There was silence from Kevin when I called to say our girls were going to be born on Christmas Eve, by caesarean at 34 weeks.
At lunchtime on Christmas Eve listening to Eva Cassidy, our beautiful girls Ciara and Clodagh were born weighing 2.2 kilos (4lb 14oz) and 1.8 kilos (3lb 15oz). They were small but just perfect; I had a feeling of such unconditional love I can’t describe. Even though they were six weeks early, their weights were good – this meant after only one night in the high dependency unit, Ciara and Clodagh were put into normal cots on Christmas Day.
The next three weeks in Special Care was a trying time for everyone but with the love and dedication of the staff we got through it. Breastfeeding was going really well during the day, while expressed milk and a top-up of formula was given through a tube by staff at night. The hardest and most upsetting thing I’ve ever had to cope with was the day I was discharged from hospital. I was elated to be going home to be with Kevin but devastated to be leaving my babies behind every night, but we knew they were in safe hands.
Bringing the girls home
On 11 January we all came home and were soon inundated with friends and family. We loved showing off our adorable girls and never turned down any offer of help… in fact we still don’t!
I managed five weeks breastfeeding, which I was so pleased with. I would have liked to continue but I wasn’t producing enough milk for both babies and having to top up with a bottle of formula afterwards, so each feed was taking over two hours. Saying that, nothing gets done quickly when you have twins!
Coping day-to-day is hard work. It’s the small things like the military exercise involved when leaving the house, manoeuvring a double pushchair around narrow shopping aisles without taking half their contents with you and having to swap my handbag for an industrial-sized rucksack! I also add an additional hour to every trip as people constantly want to stop and talk to us… some even jump in front of the pushchair!
Having an extra pair of hands would be a dream come true but I’ve learnt to be more organised, realised how important routine is and never arrange to go anywhere before midday. My girls are amazing and growing well. We’re so fascinated with how they’re changing and learning every day. Now at nearly five months, they’re sleeping through the night and have started to giggle and smile at each other. We’re so excited to see what the future holds and look forward to experiencing everything two times (except maybe teething and potty training!).