Hi again Friend!
I've been reflecting a lot about myself lately. While I don't think it's good to think about yourself all the time I also don't think it's good to never think about yourself either. I'm sure that there are quite a few of you fellow twin mom's who are going to be able to relate to what I'm about to say.
Hello Again Friend!
This is a very important blog post in my mind for any new parent. But I think it's extra challenging for twin parents. I call it the newborn twin timewarp. It's something I wish someone could have tried to explain to me BEFORE I had the twins and then reassured me about it once they were born and we were in the thick of it. And I read books and articles and I feel like even they didn't touch on this...
Since it's cold and flu season I though I'd do a post about sickness. With twins it's double the fun!
*Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor or any sort of medical professional. If your child is sick please seek medical assistance. This post is simply my experiences and thoughts and is not meant to substitute for medical care.
So for the most part my twins have been pretty healthy. They had a minor cold around 7 months and then they had a few fevers/viral things. That's what I want to talk about first.
At just one year old my little E got a pretty decent fever. It lasted a few days. We took her to the doctor and he said well, these things happen - keep an eye on her and if she stops taking fluids bring her into the ER. Well, she did stop taking fluids and her fever continued so I brought her in while Dad stayed with twin L - who was still healthy at home. It was a long, miserable 7 hour wait as we were seen and triaged and then told to wait and then seen and told to wait.
I just had to share with you about this. I look back on those years and I have to laugh at how we often got around and how it changed from year to year. They all had their stresses and their convenient parts too. I'm sure it's quite different than it would have been here in the US had I had car seats and a car to transport them. It was certainly an adventure and a challenge every time we went out that door!
Now at the time we became pregnant with twins we lived in a village house which is a three story building with typically an apartment or flat on every level. They are all 700 sq usually and mostly 2-3 bedrooms. No closets and tiny kitchens. The top level has a "rooftop" which meant a patio of sorts on top of the roof. That was a lot of stairs to climb so when our lease was up we decided to look for a flat with a ramp and an elevator. Village houses are typically a bit cheaper and not right on the train line. But we managed to find a flat in a new complex not far from the school campuses we worked at. We were on the 7th floor which was really the third level up with a ramp and an elevator right to our door. It was called Oceanaire or in Chinese it was pronounced "Teen You Hoy." It was perfect!
You must understand that Hong Kong is a very densely populated place and as such the public transportation is the primary way to go and is usually very efficient. It's very expensive to have a car in Hong Kong (I'll get to that) and so we mostly all took public transportation. When our twins were born our friend (who did have a car) took us home from the hospital with our newborns in our arms (gasp! but when in Rome...)
In the beginning they both lay flat in a single stroller someone had given us. It was summer and hot but I still wanted them covered so we did the fan and light blanket thing.
Can I talk to you about this issue? I can only relate from the lense of my own experience but I know the post-partum belly affects people in different ways.
As I began to grow at about 12 weeks I was excited and still in disbelief. By 20 weeks I had a nice round bump. Knowing I was carrying twins I'd slather the Bio Oil on after every shower in the attempt to not be too disfigured. Now, can I share something unique with you? In the flat we were living in during my pregnancy - in Hong Kong - in the master shower was a large mirror. Yes, you read that right - inside the shower! Throughout my pregnancy I would marvel at my belly and now I look back at that as a gift during that time period. But, I also cautioned myself about what that same tummy would look like in the mirror once they came out.
I made it all the way until 38 weeks and then had the girls by c-section (read my birth story). I suffered minimal stretch marks only really around my belly button area which got stretched so thin my husband thought maybe they'd poke through! My c-section scar is nice and neat and small and barely noticeable. But my belly button - destroyed. I mean wow. I have diastasis recti (where your abdominal muscles separate down the middle), and an umbilical hernia (where my intestine is poking through said separated muscle). It's knarly to me folks and something that hasn't improved with time. Probably surgery to fix it and remove some excess skin could be in order but I still need to lose a little weight.
I only gained about 25 lbs in my pregnancy (I swear they took everything I had and I was trying to gain weight in the end). But to this day I still carry that extra 25 lbs and try as I might I can't lose them. I'd say half of that resides in my tummy area. Can we say mummy tummy? It's a real thing. Do I envy those women who pop out a nice tiny baby and bounce right back like nothing happened? A bit. But I had a good pregnancy and I grew two new lives. I'm thankful for the experience of having twins and everything it took to get there (see my fertility journey) and I'll take the mummy tummy if it means I got my sweet girls.
In the beginning, right after you have your twins you will feel like a tiny supermodel but look like the average 6-7 month pregnant woman. With all that weight and bulge gone you'll feel so light and slim. But looking back at pictures I'm like whoa nelly - look at that belly! Oh, and cramping as that overly distended uterus comes back down to a more normal size - worse than my c-section that's for sure. So be prepared for that!
Maybe you'll be like that friend I knew who had twins and waltzed into our moms group all tiny and put together and fashionable with her newborn twins and sat and nursed them and didn't miss a beat (see my breastfeeding journey). Maybe you'll bounce back like that! I however was a hot mess most days, flabby and barely dressed. It's ok, just go with it. You're keeping two tiny humans alive. Something that may help is a compression band. Something to help support those weak and stretched out muscles as they heal and come back together. Especially after the c-section. I wish i had gotten myself a band from Belly Bandit or something like that. Maybe it would have helped. One thing I know is that my back continued to ache because I had no core at all and I was carrying babies around in a carrier or just in my arms. Support would have been good. my-breastfeeding-journey.html
That being said - I'm always on the quest for improving myself and I continue to work on it. Embrace where you are and love yourself and what your body has done because having kids changes you. But don't ever give up on yourself.
I hope you find this letter encouraging. I'm going to be completely transparent and vulnerable with you here. I want to share with you my story because maybe it will resonate with your experience or help you avoid some of the things I struggled with.
Can I just start by saying that having twins has made me put many of my ideals and thoughts of what I would and wouldn’t ever do out the window in the name of exhaustion and survival…this is my breast feeding story….
After my first trimester my pregnancy was pretty easy (see previous post Finding Out). I got some nausea. I didn’t actually throw-up at any point in time but smells would really get to me and Hong Kong has no lack of weird smells! That was fun! At around 16 weeks I started having what’s called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. Basically it can happen in pregnancy and it causes excessive movement of the pubic bones. I think because all of those pregnancy hormones that carrying twins produced loosened me up too much and I walked everywhere I went in Hong Kong. The only time it really gave me trouble though was when picking up my legs to go upstairs or get pants on. Otherwise it wasn’t too bad.
At 20 weeks (I can remember it so well because it was over Christmas break and specifically Christmas day) I experienced extremely low blood pressure. Another thing that can be common that you don’t expect. I can remember going to a Christmas get-together and having to lay down on the couch on my left side feeling extremely dizzy and weak. I eventually was able to sit up and eat but I can remember over that break eating an entire large bag of Lays Salt and Vinegar chips. They were so salty and apparently that’s what I needed! And I figured it was ok since I had been craving salads and oranges and had been eating pretty healthy. I was lucky I wasn’t in the US surrounded by all the yummy tempting fast food choices. I’m going to save pregnancy nutrition for a different post but your nutrition IS important to how your child(ren) develops so…I wouldn’t suggest eating a huge bag of chips very often!
Every two weeks I went in for an ultrasound and check up to monitor my progress. The plan was that if I went into labor naturally by or before 38 weeks we’d let it go and see how I did. The girls were pretty much head down the whole pregnancy (I think they just got stuck that way) and things looked good. Although he did caution me that I could deliver one and then the other could flip and it could become necessary to then perform a c-section for the second one. But he was such a nice and understanding doctor and very open to letting it happen naturally. At 38 weeks we’d see how they were room-wise and if needed we’d have a c-section. I was happy as long as my girls were healthy and however that had to happen I was ok with. Yes, a vaginal birth is always preferred but sometimes that doesn’t always go to plan and I was ok with whatever had to happen. Can I just say that having a birth plan is important but also being flexible (carrying and delivering twins is a feat in itself) is very important as well. You'll save yourself a lot of grief that way.
Can I write to you about my experiences as a first time twin momma, who had tried for years to get pregnant? No specialists could seem to figure out the problem…they couldn’t find anything really wrong…but that’s a tale for another letter (see the post My Fertility Journey). Maybe you can relate? Maybe you’ve tried for a long time too?
During the “two week wait” after my embryo implantation I googled everything I could find about early pregnancy signs and symptoms. I was on heavy progesterone suppositories so that can cause a lot of the symptoms and so it was really impossible to tell and that soon. I felt a little crampy on and off (which was scary). One night, I can remember talking long distance – very long distance (I was in Hong Kong) with my best friend and I felt these weird pulling sensations in my lower abdomen. I'd never felt that before. It was then that I thought – this could be it! I could really be pregnant. But that old protective wall I’d built with brick by brick of disappointments – held firm and I needed proof. Still, there were a few cracks of hope breaking through it.
It happened in the middle of the night after that looooong two week wait. Why we can’t know immediately when we’re pregnant I’ll never know! I had planned to test that next morning because I had read you needed first morning pee for the best results and after what we had been through…I wasn’t taking any chances! I woke up having to go to the bathroom really bad and looked at the clock. 2 am…ok well, I guess that’s first morning pee! I went into the bathroom, peed on the test, set it on the counter and finished my business. Then I took a deep breath, bolstering up all my courage and peeking over that metaphorical wall I’d built over the years. How many negative tests had I stared at? Why would this be any different? But I couldn’t believe it when I looked! Two VERY distinct lines! I had to look again. I had assumed it wouldn’t show anything because, well, why would it after all we’d been through?
I was in such shock (and it was 2 am) that I actually went back to bed! Yeah,even I wouldn't have expected that reaction. But, I did. That was the early morning of October 5, 2012. When my husband and I both got up that next morning I told him – we’re pregnant! He didn’t believe me even though the test showed it. "I’ll wait to hear what the doctor says tomorrow” he responded – afraid to let down that fragile guard we’d both built up regarding our fertility and ability to be pregnant. But I knew it was finally true. I'll never know how I got through work that day.
The next morning I tested again and got a darker line! Then we were off to our doctor’s office. It was the two week testing day. I thought they’d take my blood but no – they had me pee on a test. And it came up with an even darker line! “Congratulations you’re pregnant!” they said. My husband and I just lost it. We were really pregnant!!!!!
Now the big question – with one or with two???
They told me I was considered 4 weeks along. And just like that my pregnancy journey began. Only I didn’t know it was a twin pregnancy journey.
I was a kindergarten teacher at an international school in Hong Kong. Each morning and each afternoon session we’d do the calendar time – day of the week and month of the year and I’d watch as the days slipped away one by one – counting the days until my next appointment…
One morning, when I was 6 weeks along, I got up to use the bathroom and there was some spotting. Not much and no cramping but I was so freaked out! I was still considered a patient at the IVF clinic and they got me right in. By the time I reached the office it had stopped and I had to wait a bit to be seen so my husband went on to work.
They finally called me in and did a vaginal ultrasound and the nurse said “congratulations, there are two heartbeats – twins!” Wait, what? Really? Two babies???? And they’re ok? “Yes, see this is one heart beat” she replied pointing to the screen “and this is the other.” And so the one appointment in the WHOLE entire process my husband wasn’t there for - IVF to birth - was the one we found out that there were two. From not expecting it to work at all to having two. Wow. It was deemed that they were fine and at that point there was no cause for concern and I went on my merry way. More like shocked way!
At 7 weeks we were released to the care of an OBGYN and were awaiting our first appointment with him. A parent of one of my students who was a doctor also and who’d played a large part in our IVF journey recommended her doctor friend and we got set up but I wasn’t to see him until 11 weeks.
Then one quiet unassuming afternoon I was working in the break room for my once a month prep work time as a sub taught my class. I got up to go use the bathroom as normal. I remember so clearly walking through the large multipurpose area where we did indoor PE and held our Christmas concert on the little stage. The room was full of chairs and prospective parents and the principal was giving them a power point presentation. It was a part of the weekly tour of the school. Some moments just get etched in your mind.
I went into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet. I can remember hearing the principal speaking and looking down to see red, red blood just dripping profusely into the toilet. The whole world got dim and I clearly remember thinking not after all this! My breathing got shallow and I just sat there not knowing what to think or do. I felt fine. I had no cramping. But so much bright red blood was dripping out that there had to be a problem! I finally got myself together and white faced went back to the classrooms where I got my team mate next door. The whole kindergarten had walked this journey with me and were so supportive. By then the principal had finished and had come back to her office. They had me lay on her couch and by then the bleeding had stopped. My friend and teammate called the Doctors office for me and had them get me in. They got me a taxi and my friend rode with me. We called my husband and he met me there where my friend passed me off into his care. This was my first time meeting this doctor and under these circumstances. I was nervous and scared and numb. He got me right in and did an ultrasound. There were still two strong heartbeats. They were okay! Shock and relief flooded through me and I was so weak with fading adrenaline and gratefulness I just lay there limply.
Thankfully that was the last of the bleeding issues. We never knew for sure what had caused it….some say it can be a fibroid. Some say it's the two embryos. Some say hormones. But there was no cramping and strong heartbeats.
When I was almost 12 weeks we were scheduled for the chromosomal ultrasound. I’m not sure if it’s the same in the US but they do a blood test and an ultrasound to determine the risk of Downs Syndrome. I’ll never forget my amazement when they put the wand on my stomach and a whole baby appeared on the screen! It was so real at that moment - alive and moving around with all it's parts. I was in absolute awe. At that moment the wall of fear and disappointment crumbled down. First they scanned one, then the other. Both so perfect and amazing and alive!
One morning when I was 14 weeks I was lying in bed after I woke up just imagining what the “nursery” would look like and how I’d go to the crib and greet my babies happily smiling in the morning. Remember – first time mom here. And then all of a sudden I could feel what felt like little bubbles popping in the same spot on my left side. I know now it was my little Lily and her first kicks. A few weeks later I felt the other baby – my little Emma. Such amazing miracles!
I’m so happy to be able to share this personal story with you. I hope you find encouragement in my journey to become a parent as you walk whatever path you find yourself on.
Since we are just getting to know each other I’ll start at the beginning - my quest to start a family really began when my husband and I met in 1999. We decided in short order that we wanted to get married. He’s 10 years older than I am but in our many discussions while we were dating we talked about how starting a family was really important to both of us. I was really quite a youngster when we got married – only 23. My plan was to enjoy a few years of married life and then have my first child at 25/26. I’m ever the optimistic planner…and everything went according to plan until month after month we weren’t getting pregnant.
I started to research and learn all I could about fertility. I learned about things such as taking your basal body temperature, charting your cycle and timing ovulation (feel free to check out the resource section of this site for more info about that). I bought the tests, the charts, I started reading about everything I could, timing our “time together” and I was fairly sure that I was ovulating and on time but month after month nothing happened. Side note - it really amazed me how much I didn't know. I grew up thinking if I had unprotected sex I'd get pregnant and that was that. But in a lot of cases that's just not so. Did you know a healthy, fertile couple only has a 20% chance each cycle to get pregnant?
Now I have to tell you friend, my period has been like clock-work since December of my 13th year. They tell you when you’re a teenager that you might be irregular your first few cycles or even years. Yeah, not me. On the dot every month. So I always thought that when it was time to have babies I’d have no problem. My best friend growing up was always irregular and I thought she’d struggle to have kids and turns out she was fertile myrtle. Go figure! Apparently its all much more complicated than I thought.
At this time my husband was an insurance adjuster and I was a graphic designer but we weren’t feeling called to those fields anymore, so we went back to school to become teachers. We kind of shelved the fertility discussion for a time while we focused on school, but it was constantly in the back of our minds. We decided we wouldn’t do anything to prevent it and still, month after month nothing.
We kept getting the “When are you two gonna make us grandparents?” question from our families. People assume that if you’re married a year or two you should get on it. Which just gets painful and awkward because you’re trying and it’s complicated and you don’t want to launch into the whole long story of what you’re really going through and trying. And besides – what if we didn’t want kids? Why were we expected to have them right away (well, our families knew we wanted to) but still! So many times I felt ashamed, embarrassed, tried to laugh it off but I really felt awful inside. I hated wanting something so much and not having any say in it.
Oh friend, time moves forward so fast and the years were starting to tick by! We were finally newly employed teachers with health insurance. This allowed me to see a doctor that specializes in reproduction. They performed all the tests they could do (some more uncomfortable than others), put me on Clomid (a medication that causes your ovaries to produce more eggs) with all the disclaimers of possible multiples. I did several IUI’s (where they inject the semen into your womb therefore bypassing the cervix and eliminating any issues with the sperm surviving the journey). Still…nothing. Negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. It was so discouraging. And it was expensive. The IUI’s weren’t covered by our insurance. So finally we stopped. We needed a break both mentally and physically.
One thing led to another and we decided to jump on the opportunity to teach overseas and we accepted an offer to move to Hong Kong to teach at an international school. All the preparation to leave life as we knew if for what we thought would be two years consumed us and gave us the break we needed.
After we were in Hong Kong for a while we made friends with another couple who had seen a doctor specializing in fertility. So we made an appointment. Again the tests and the mental and emotional struggle of wanting to conceive and no-one knowing why we weren’t. It was determined that I had a large fibroid outside my uterus so I had laparoscopic surgery to remove the fibroid and “clean up” my insides. Still no luck.
Have you been there too friend? I desperately hope you can’t relate but if you can you’re not alone. I used to ride the train to and from work every day in Hong Kong and just listen to fertility podcasts and pray and ask why….
And then we thought we were maybe being called to adopt. The adoption process in Hong Kong was supposedly very cheap and fairly easy. So we decided to give it a try. I can remember dressing up for the appointment to meet our case worker – a very important meeting as they are the ones who advocate for you when you get in the matching pool (you don’t want to get on their bad side) – and on the way there I was feeling pretty rotten physically but determined not to miss the appointment. I think I was even getting a fever. It was always exhausting going anywhere in Hong Kong with the walking and long stretches of standing on the train (in boots with high heels nonetheless) but I pressed through it. Our case worker was really nice and a Christian which surprised us because we were as well and what were the odds in a non-Christian country? This was a confirmation I thought and we felt sure this was our path.
We filled out the paperwork and had the meetings and jumped through all the proverbial hoops. We were so excited because we were getting to the final stages before they put us in the matching pool and fairly quickly! Our caseworker felt very good about it and it seemed like a done deal. I would look at the sweet little Chinese babies on the train and imagine what our little one would be like.
For spring break we went to a teaching conference in Bangkok Thailand. Then after the conference we flew down to Phuket for the rest of the break. It was beautiful there and our room got upgraded to a suite. We were lounging on the bed just enjoying the time away when my husband checked his email. (Never check your email on vacation). Our casework said that we didn’t have enough disposable income and that we’d have to both work and hire a helper (an Indonesian or Philipino woman who lives with you 24/7 – cooks, cleans, provides childcare because there weren’t daycare facilities). She meant to catch that earlier but had forgotten. The rub there was we were really arbitrary with the numbers as it wasn’t deemed important – we qualified. We could have changed the numbers slightly and it would have been fine but at that point it was too late. Again devastated. If I adopted a baby I wanted to be the one to take care of it and bond with it. Not just pass it off to a stranger (not only a stranger but a stranger from yet another country with culturally different practices than our family) that then had to live with us in our 700 sq ft apartment (as most of the housing is in Hong Kong). I wasn’t opposed to help but it’s just not how we saw our journey unfolding.
I can remember going for a walk along the beach alone and asking God why? I’ll admit I was angry at him. It seemed like he was leading us down these paths and then slamming the door in our faces. I know that wasn’t true but the feelings were very real. Have you felt that way as well?
At about the same time I had a parent of one of my students who was a doctor and knew our story, really encouraging us to meet with a doctor friend of hers – a professor. He specialized in cases just like ours and did IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization). I had told her we weren’t interested at that time because we were in the process of adopting. Then she had emailed me again that same day saying that she could get us in to see him the Saturday we got back. A wonderful Chinese woman full of the Lord and to this day I’m so thankful that she didn’t give up on us. So I thought – well what do we have to lose? Ok, we'll see him.
Fast forward to our appointment. We walk into this Chinese hospital and up to the fertility clinic. We were then ushered back to the office of a tall Australian Professor. We met for about 10 min and gave him the brief synopsis of our story. He said right away (and I’ll never forget because he was right) you have a fertilization problem. For whatever reason your sperm isn’t able to penetrate the egg. You are perfect candidates for the ICSI procedure where they harvest your eggs and collect some sperm and inject the sperm into the eggs (that’s the short version). I sat there stunned because no one had ever suggested this before. Out of all the tests and procedures could it be that simple?
That was in April of 2012. We got a print out of the costs (which are like 1/3 or less of the cost of IVF in the US) and said we’d be back in the fall. We were finishing the school year and then we had tickets to go back to the US for the summer.
We had a grand time going back to the US and when we got back to Hong Kong and got settled we began the process. We had another consultation and then it all depended on my cycle. When doing an ultrasound he found that one ovary wasn’t really producing follicles so we were down to one and that one had a large chocolate cyst. It was a long shot at that point. Clinging to what little hope we had left we proceeded. I had to call the office when I started my period and come pick up these shots. Then my husband gave me a shot every day (because I just couldn't bring myself to do it) for so many days (the needles were tiny and didn’t hurt going into my stomach but I had a slight layer of chubb to help that out…) and I also had to go into the clinic every few days to get other shots. I was on one of the strongest protocols to allow me to have enough follicles to harvest enough eggs to make it worthwhile. It’s really a numbers game at that point.
I can remember so many anxious times throughout the process. Will the medicine work? Then the ultrasounds to monitor my follicles – not many but maybe enough. Then the egg harvest. You go under general anesthesia and they go through your cervix. Did they get enough? Are any of them viable? Then they fertilize them. Waiting for that call was soooooo hard. I can remember my students were working and my assistant was in the room during that time (I shared her) and I got a call from the clinic saying to come in for the implantation. Wait –what? So we have embryos? How many? She didn’t have that information over the phone but we knew we must have at least one. Ok, so far so good. But a big part of me was waiting for that door to slam shut again. It was almost too hard to pray.
Then came the big implantation day! I can remember every minute of that appointment so clearly. How we met with the Professor and told us we had two of the best embryos he’d ever seen quality-wise. How that didn’t guarantee it would work but that it was a good thing. How we needed to make the decision to do both or one at a time. My husband and I looked at each other and we were both thinking the same thing. We both didn’t expect it to work. Both at once we said. I really think we couldn’t stand to prolong the process. Either it was going to work or it wasn’t. Then I got taken back to a room where the chair tilted back so I was laying almost upside down and the stirrups came out. The embryos were placed in my womb and I had to lay down for an hour after. I was excited and scared and I had to pee!! I called my mom in the US while we waited for me to be able to get up. I can remember running to the bathroom when they finally let me up.
We went home and I had taken the next two weeks off of work to rest and paint, be creative, pray and basically not be around any stress. I googled every single early pregnancy symptom I could find but I was on progesterone suppositories so the symptoms could have been from that. I bought my pregnancy test to be ready. I can remember talking to my best friend long distance from Hong Kong one night and I kept feeling what I can only describe as a pulling feeling in my womb and looking back that’s when I knew. But I couldn’t let myself believe it. It seemed too much of a long shot. Well, friend, this letter has gotten a bit long and I’m a tired mama. Read my next letter “Finding Out” to learn the next part of our story. Until next time, rest well my dear friend.
Hi! I'm a mom of 5 year-old fraternal twin girls. While I'm by no means an expert - I do have stories to tell and ideas to share.