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Double the magic: my experience with twins

Lisa Kearns
IVF twin mum

‘Did you have sex after your embryo transfer?’ were the first words from the nurse who was carrying out our pregnancy ultrasound at six weeks. It was an IVF pregnancy, where we had had one single embryo put back in, around five weeks previously.

‘No!’ we responded.

‘Well, I’m certain we have two heartbeats. I’ll need to get your doctor in to have a second look.’

My husband and I stared at one another, dumbfounded. We waited for the nurse to return with our doctor in tow - it was minutes, but it felt like hours. In fact, only a few days previously, our impatience had gotten the better of us and we had had a private scan, and only one heartbeat had been seen.

Sure enough, the doctor performed the ultrasound and confirmed that we had twins on board. He was the doctor who had performed the embryo transfer so knew with certainty that only one embryo had been transferred, and therefore that these twins were identical.

But the surprises didn’t stop there.

A week later I had a scan at the early pregnancy unit at our hospital, and they found a third heartbeat. However, Baby No. 3 was measuring slightly behind and the doctors were concerned that they might not catch up. We had a repeat scan a couple of days later, and then the following week returned to find out that Baby No. 3 had stopped developing. Whilst we were sad, we knew this probably made the pregnancy safer for our remaining two babies due to my history of cervical incompetence and preterm loss.

So, I was quickly propelled into the world of twins!

We learnt that our twins were monochorionic, diamniotic (MCDA), which meant that they shared a placenta, but there was a dividing membrane between them both. MCDA twins run the risk of twin-to-twin transfusion (TTTS), which is where one twin is absorbing too many nutrients from the placenta, and one twin isn’t getting enough, putting them both at risk. Because of this, I was given fortnightly scans by a foetal medicine consultant in between all of my other regular appointments.

Due to our history of loss, I was frightened about getting too excited in case something went wrong. But, as time passed, I accepted I couldn’t avoid looking into buying some of the essentials such as a pram, car seats, and first baby clothes.

Before we shared our news at around 20 weeks with our wider family and friends, I confided in some twin mum friends and joined some private twin parent groups on Facebook. It was great to speak to other mums about what we might need to prepare for. Yes, there are some things you need to buy two of, but not everything. There are also specific twin selling pages on Facebook, which are great. On top of this, there are support services such as the Twins Trust who offer specific courses for parents of multiples. We attended their online antenatal course and thought it was brilliant. It was also great to ‘meet’ other to-be twin parents to share some of our ideas and concerns.

Twin pregnancies are often higher risk than singleton pregnancies, and we did have other complications thrown into the mix. This meant we had lots of scans (which were the silver lining, we loved seeing our babies as often as we could!) As the pregnancy progressed it was harder to feel which baby was moving, so I was in hospital countless times for reduced movement. I was never made to feel silly and even the very best midwives would sometimes struggle to locate one of the babies straight away, so if you find yourself experiencing any reduced movement, ask to be checked.

Our babies Joshua and Charlie were eventually delivered at 34 weeks by C-section. It is common for twins to be born early and any birth before 36 weeks is likely to result in a NICU stay. Both Joshua and Charlie were in NICU for two and a half weeks before being discharged (at 36 weeks gestation!).

Bringing them home felt terrifying. Like any new parents, we worried about everything from their feeding to their temperatures. But as the weeks rolled on, we found our flow and started to learn about who the boys were as individuals rather than being ‘the twins’. Joshua prefers lots of cuddles and has a very loud cry. Charlie, on the other hand, gets very hangry (very quickly!) but when he’s not hungry is happy to sit, look around, and take in the world.

Any new mum needs support, but I found in particular it helped to speak to other twin mums. Days can often feel relentless if you have two unsettled babies. Joshua and Charlie still rarely nap at the same time. This makes it pretty hard to get on with things! But the great thing about this is that you actually get some one-to-one time with the awake one.

I also found excellent support through my local twins group, which I discovered on Facebook. There is also a weekly meet up at a local children’s centre for parents of multiples. The first time I went along, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to get the pram back into the car! I needn’t have worried as another twin mum had the same pram and was able to help me collapse mine back down! It was great to be around other mums who just got it, and also to see older twins running around and interacting with one another, knowing that soon enough Joshua and Charlie would share the same bond. Groups like these exist in different forms across the country and I would highly recommend to any multiple parents to see what is offered in your local area.

Practically, with double the demands and half the amount of time, I have been all about simplifying our lives wherever possible. Batch cooking and filling up the freezer with nutritious meals is essential, for example.

Along with this, I am quickly learning to put my pride aside and ask for help. For me, what this looks like is asking my mum or my mother-in-law to pop over for a couple of hours so I can just give the house a quick tidy, reply to some emails, change the bedsheets, or maybe wash my hair! These all sound like simple things but having the space to do them makes everything else feel easier and means that when my husband walks in from work we might stand a chance of having a conversation rather than having to run around the house doing housework!

However challenging it can be - and I am still in the thick of the early days with our boys - you really do get double the magic with twins. When Joshua gave his first smile, it was just wonderful… and knowing that Charlie’s would likely follow added to the excitement. Sure enough, a couple of days later Charlie gave us his big gummy grin!

To the twin mums out there: enjoy the magic, and regale in the fact you are now part of a very special club!