It all started about a year ago when I quit unexpectedly found myself pregnant. We already had three children and hadn’t yet decided whether or not we wanted any more. Well, God had decided for us and the answer was that we wanted two more!
I didn’t discover that we were having twins until an ultrasound at 12 weeks. I remember watching the screen and think it odd that the baby kept flipping back and forth every time she moved the ultrasound wand. About then the ultrasound tech said, “Brace yourself, there’s two babies!” My first thought was “But I already have three children!” The initial shock quickly turned into excitement. I was filled with question for the tech. “Can you tell if they are identical or fraternal?” She explained that it appeared that they were identical since they were in the same sac. But that being in the same sac was not a good thing. She spent a very long time looking for a membrane between the two babies, but never found one. That was the first time I had heard about monoamniotic twins. She said it was very rare, so my twins most likely were not monoamniotic and that my doctor would refer me to a high risk OB to check more into this. I had no idea what it would mean to to be pregnant with that type of twins, so I wasn’t terrified, yet.
About a week later, my OB called me. She said she had just gotten my ultrasound results and wanted me to see a high risk OB right away. I got an appointment for the next week. By this time, I was 14 weeks along, the doctor at that appointment looked for a very long time for a membrane. She kept thinking she might have seen one, but wasn’t positive. She was able to determine that the babies looked very healthy and that she was pretty sure they were both boys! We were excited about that since our two oldest were girls and our youngest was a boy. We thought it would be great for Aidan to have younger siblings that were also boys.
At this point I started getting a bit more concerned about the whole monoamniotic thing. I started searching the web for information on this type of twins pregnancies. What I found was not encouraging. Some studies show that up to 50% or more of these pregnancies end up with the loss of one or both babies. With monoamniotic twins, both babies are in the same amniotic sac. The problem with this is the cord become entangled. Having entangled cords into an automatic death sentence for the babies. It is unavoidable with monoamniotic twins. But, having entangled cords that results in the cord becoming compressed dues cause the baby to die. And, if one baby dies, the other normally will die soon after as well. After learning all of this, I start getting more and more worried. However, I was still holding on to the hope that my babies were not actually monoamniotic. After all, one site said that as many as 40% of the women diagnosed with monoamniotic twins have twins that are not actually monoamniotic.
At my next visit I have a different doctor, one I soon came to dislike. He also could not find a membrane and started quoting the dire statistics to me. We see a loss of about 50% of these types of twins. If you make it to 26 weeks, we will want to put you in the hospital for continuous monitoring. We like to deliver these type of twins by 32 weeks. He acted like my babies were doomed! Needless to say, that was a very depressing visit. At least we did see that the babies were still doing well and growing great. And, I still had a small bit of hope that they were not monoamniotic after all.
Any hope I had of them not being monoamniotic evaporated at the next appointment when I saw for myself that the cords were all tangled up at the next ultrasound visit. It literally looked like a bunch of spaghetti between my two precious babies. This is probably when I started to become terrified of loosing my babies. It was such an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness to know that my babies were in danger and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. The only think I could do was pray. And I prayed a lot that my babies would be okay.
At the next appointment I met for the first time the doctor that would eventually deliver my babies. He has over twenty years of experience with high risk pregnancies and I would later found out, is one of the top OB is in the country. He laid out a plan of going into the hospital for constant monitoring at 28 weeks and then delivering the babies at 34 weeks. He did emphasis that most monoamniotic pregnancies never make it to the planned deliver date. Almost all of them have to have an emergency c-section to delivery the babies when problems are detected from the continuous monitoring.
I had been reading on one site that daily NST was one recommended method of managing monoamniotic pregnancies. This doctor was against that saying that something could happen five minutes after the NST and you wouldn’t know it till you came back the next day and found out the babies had died. It was a very hard decision to make. I did not want to spending weeks away from my other kids. My youngest was not even two yet and I had never left him for more than a few hours before. However, I knew that I would not be able to live with myself if I went with daily NST and then something happened to the babies. So, we decided to go with the continuous monitoring starting at 28 weeks.
Getting to the 28 week point seemed to take forever. Every minute of the day I was constantly trying to feel the babies moving. As long as they kept moving I knew they were still okay. At this point I was going to one doctor or the other every week. Being able to see and hear the heartbeats of the babies every week at those appointments was very reassuring.
I ended up going into the hospital on July 5. Watching fireworks with my family the night before had been very bittersweet. I hate so much having to leave my kids, but I knew it was something I had to do. I got checked into the hospital, they hooked me up to the monitors and put in an IV hep lock. That first night in the hospital was one of the longest in my life. Between the bed being uncomfortable and the babies nursing continually coming in to check vital signs or get the babies back on the monitors, I got very little sleep. The next day I was moved to a better room with a window and a regular hospital bed.
After four days, they took out the IV hep lock and wanted to move it to another location. I decided that I just could not have that in for weeks and weeks and refused to let them do another one. My doctor eventually agreed to let me go without. Some of the nurses agreed that I didn’t need it, but several were pretty nervous about me not having it. They ended up leaving all the stuff needed for an IV in the room so they would have it near by in an emergency.
After that I settled into a routine of tv watching and computer surfing that pretty much filled up my day. Having a regular routine helped a lot. Finding out I could order off the menu and get other food that I actually liked, helped a bunch too. I also become obsessed with watching the babies heart rates on the monitor. I was constantly checking the monitor to make sure they were still okay. When they moved off the monitor, I usually could get them back myself.
I had lots of visitors while I was there, which were very welcomed. One of my friends was very good about bringing me meals from the outside about once a week. My husband’s aunt also came to visit very frequently and also brought me several meals. My husband brought the kids to visit everyday, which helped a lot. But it still was very hard sitting in that hospital room day after day.
After being there about three weeks I was going very stir crazy. After talking with the doctor, they agreed that I could go for a walk and be off the monitors once a day for about a half hour. That day when my family came, I was able to go for a walk outside with them. It felt so good to be able to walk around outside for a while. After that, we regularly went for walks. Most of the time we stopped by the newborn nursery so the kids could see the babies.
After I had been in the hospital about a month, my parents came to visit from El Paso. They hoped to be there when the babies were born. At this point I was 32 weeks and we were all thrilled to have made it this far. All the nurses commented how healthy the babies looked. My doctor decided that he would deliver the babies on Aug. 14, which would be the 34 week point. But first he wanted to do an amnio to check the babies lungs.
They did the amnio the morning of Aug. 14. That was probably one of the most painful experiences of my life! The spot where they needle went in hurt for several days. The amnio indicated that the babies lungs were not developed, so my doctor decided to wait till the next week to deliver them. Unfortunately for my parents, that meant they wouldn’t be able to be here for the delivery. I was very upset that I had to wait another week. I was so sick of being in the hospital and I just wanted this whole ordeal to be over.
Two days before the babies were scheduled to be born, I got a visit from the PR director at the hospital. He asked me if we wanted to have the babies birth being on a show called Life Moments. I talked it over with my husband and we agreed. The producer of the show came to the hospital the next day and did interviews with me and my husband. They also video taped a visit with the kids and my husband with the kids at home.
I could barely sleep the night before the delivery. I was so excited to finally see my babies. All monoamniotic babies have to be delivered by c-section. It is just to dangerous for the babies otherwise. The delivery room was quit crowded! Between all the doctors, nurses and the video crew, there was not much room left in the room. (You can see pictures in this post: http://cindy.minear.name/?p=881 Everything went well and my babies were born at 6:51 am and 6:52 am. They both came out screaming! After they were born, my doctor lowered the drape and let me see the cords. I could not believe how much they were tangled up. There was a knot at the bottom and they were wrapped all around each other all the way up to the top. It is truly a miracle that they made it to 35 weeks without having any problems.
We named our babies Jared Michael and Riley Gabriel. Their middle names are after the archangels in honor of the guardian angles that worked so hard to keep them safe before they were born. Jared weighed 5 lbs 12 oz and was 19 inches long. Riley weighed 6 lbs 8 oz and was 20 inches long. They were huge for 35 weekers! Both ended up needing some oxygen and were moved to NICU.
After I got out of recovery and moved to my room, the first thing I wanted to do was go and see my babies. So, six hours after surgery I was wheeled over to NICU. I had to stand for 3 minutes to scrub. That was probably the longest 3 minutes of my life! After scrubbing and scrubbing for what seemed like hours, the light finally went off indicating the 3 minutes was up and I was able to go see my babies. They both looked so tiny in the incubators. They had wires hooked up all over, but they were healthy and were going to be just fine.
Jared only need the oxygen for 24 hours. Riley went off it then also, but had to then go back on it for three more days. They both developed a bad case of jaundice and had to be on the lights. When they were four days old, I had to leave the hospital without them. It was so hard to walk out of the hospital with my babies still there. By this point, I had been there for 7 1/2 weeks and very much wanted to go home. At the same time, I hated not being with my babies.
It was so nice to be back home and be able to move around and go where ever I wanted! I was so used to being hooked up to monitors all the time that the first few days home, I would look for the wires whenever I got up to go to the bathroom at night. We went up to the hospital every afternoon to be with the twins until both babies were home.
Jared was in NICU for 9 days and came home on my younger daughters birthday. Riley stayed there for two weeks. He had some breathing issues and was put on some medication and came home with a monitor. He is still on the monitor, but should go off it next month. Given everything that could have gone wrong, we are so blessed to have two healthy thriving babies. I am sure that all the prayers of all the people all around the world had a lot to do with the outcome. We are so happy to have our two little miracles and thank God everyday for giving them to us.