Yes, Steve joked about it long before we were even married: “Twins would be great! Bam, we bang out two at once and then we’re done!” “Um, yah right,” I said, “I don’t think it’s quite that easy.” And probably not relevant, since twins did not run in my family, and isn’t that all that mattered? Apparently not!
As suggested by our doctor, we remained “cautiously optimistic” throughout the pregnancy. It was my first pregnancy, and I took to being pregnant very well with no complications. By week 27, everyone I met thought I must be at my due date for a singleton. At my shower, towards the end of my 28th week, I even had to tell friends, “Nope, 3 more months to go!” shocking them, but inside, I was wondering how I’d be able to make it, how my body would be able to manage.
That same night, I had some spotting and went to get examined at the hospital around midnight. “Well, everything looks fine from here – long and closed” said the doctor, “we’ll just wait for the result from one more test.” So I was left in the examining room with my husband and a nurse. A few minutes later, I started to feel strong pains – I didn’t really know what was going on, the notion that they were labor pains did not even cross my mind. The nurse was not helpful, to say the least. For some reason, she even left the room. Then, out of nowhere, I felt the need to push. My husband ran to the hall to get help, and while he was out, I felt a head coming through! I screamed for help like I have never had to scream before, pressing the panic button on the bed and just praying to God for Him to help us. It was all surreal, all so fast; was this really happening? “Looks like we’re having a baby” said the doctor when he had rushed back in with a team including neonatal intensive care staff. All I could do was pray, and I did, out loud, in Armenian – the nurses must have thought I was crazy or saying jibberish, because they just tried to get me to quiet and relax. Nope, I had to pray, and so I did. And good thing I did, as we were blessed by having relatively healthy preemies. Our Carina was born 2 lbs 5 ounces after a few (un-medicated) pushes by me. Thirteen minutes later, her sister Luciné 2 lbs 3 ounces came out by an emergency c-section (I was completely put under).
So what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life was shockingly the most traumatic. I fear their first birthday; I think I will only make it through that day if I am able to think of it as a celebration of their being alive rather than the moments that they came to life. I wish we could celebrate their homecoming day instead – June 10 –after 54 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Furthermore, I will always wonder if my bonds to them, or their bonds to us, would be stronger or even just different if we had been able to even hold them after they were born. Carrying life inside you for months, carrying all the hopes and dreams and joys inside you for months, and then abruptly dropping it all in a matter of minutes, leaving a hospital neither pregnant nor with a baby, never having touched your baby, leaves a mother with an intense sense of emptiness, loss and just the feeling that is nothing is right. I felt raw; I can only assume I felt half as raw as my little girls (who were so small that they did not look real – were they truly alive? Could they really recognize my voice as the nurses said? Poor things, they were not ready to come into the world, not ready for any of this).
Homecoming Day, June 10, 2008 (actual age: 7 weeks old; gestational age: 36 weeks)
Now, my girls look like newborns, like their adjusted age (about 6 weeks old), and people forget that they are preemies. Deep down, I’ll still be worrying about their cognitive and physical development given their preemie status, but I will continue what I did to get me through those NICU days – just live day by day, moment to moment.
When others ask if it is hard having twins, Steve and I have a simple answer, “Well, we don’t know any better since these are our first babies!” But it is hard, and we know it. It will take a toll on your health and marriage if you are not careful, and being careful is difficult when you are sleep-deprived. My mother has been a blessing to us. She comes almost daily very early in the morning, at which point Steve and I go back to sleep and are able to secure at least 3-4 hours of sleep. I hate to imagine what those mothers of multiples (MoMs) go through who don’t have helpful family or close friends who can actually take over caring, in good trust.
Moms of multiples need support, not just for the actual changing diapers and feeding, but also emotional support (such as given by the amazing MoMs on thenestbaby.com) and often financial support (do the math for diapers, foromula, cribs, car seats, etc.) for supplies and household help. Thankfully, I have come across many good-hearted MoMs in a circle where the standard is to reuse and recycle items for multiples by giving, rather than selling, to other MoMs. A good heart goes a long way, and makes a beautiful seamless circle.