I was a day late getting off the boat, I was supposed to get off on Thursday, but crew change was postponed until Friday. I was pretty bummed because I was hoping to be home for our first ultrasound with our second pregnancy. We knew what to expect with the process because our oldest was 11 months old when we found out we were pregnant with our second. Our oldest was born at Toronto East General and we had our first ultrasound at 11 weeks, it was now 19 weeks 5 days and so far we were not impressed with the Newfoundland healthcare system. My wife had known there was something off, her grandmother had 3 sets of twins and we always knew it was a possibility. We were really concerned about twins but every time we asked our family doctor to get an early ultrasound, he would say that we would find out at our 19 week ultrasound.
I was in the middle of handovers with my relief when my phone rang, I told my wife to call with any news as soon as she was out of the ultrasound. “hello”………. silence………”hello”…….. silence………… crackle……….”two”……………”babies” ……. crackle…….. “two”…… silence……… hangup. I looked at my relief and told him I think I am having twins. A few minutes later when my wife calls back she tells me she was getting out of the elevator when she called. She said it looks like there are twins and there may be complications, they did not see a sac wall between them and we would have to go back Monday for another ultrasound with the radiologist. They told her there is a slight chance the twins may be Monoamionotic Monochorionic but not to worry yet, the wall may just be so slight its may just be hard to see. They will know more Monday.
Needless to say the entire flight from Halifax to St. John’s I was white as a ghost, I dont know if I was more excited or scared, but my mind was anywhere but where I was. After what seemed an eternity I finally made it home and got to hold my wife in my arms. After some talking and crying we did what any 21st century couple would do……. we googled it, and that was by far the worst thing we could have done because the suggestion “not to worry about it” went out the window and we began to freak when we started to read the stats and what monoamionotic really was.
According to Wikipedia Monoamniotic twins are identical twins that share same amniotic sac within their mother’s uterus. Monoamniotic twins are always identical, and always monochorionic as well (sharing the same placenta), and are sometimes termed Monoamniotic-Monochorionic (“MoMo”) twins. They also share the placenta, but have two separate umbilical cords. Monoamniotic twins develop when an embryo does not split until after formation of the amniotic sac, at about 9 days after fertilization. So basically there is only one placenta and one amniotic sac between the two, this is what the ultrasound tech was looking for, the wall where the two sacs met. The problem is what we read next, the survival rate of MoMo twins are less than 50% and this could be caused by cord entanglement, cord compression or twin to twin transfer syndrome (TTTS). Of course the more we read the worst it seemed, all the news we read was all the doom and gloom, so we were quite upset.
After a very long weekend we went into the Health Science Center and after a whole lot of looking, by several radiology techs and radiologists it was official, there was no walls to be seen, we were going to have MoMo twins.
5 weeks to change our lives
The day we found out we were first going to have twins, my wifes first thought was……. “we are going to need a minivan”. During the succession of doctors appointments and more ultrasounds and more follow-ups we were informed of the protocol for Mono-Mono twins, basically the twins will be born 8 weeks early and my wife will have to go into the hospital for observation 8 weeks before that. Sounds so simple doesn’t it. So as it worked out my wife would have to go into hospital 5 weeks and 1 day after we found out. The first (and hardest) decision we had to make during the pregnancy was whether or not we were going to have an amniocentesis, basically a needle poked into my wifes belly to test the fluid and see if there was a chance of any chromosome disorders (if one twin had a chromosome disorder, both would). The doctor gave us two days to make up our mind, being so late in the pregnancy (thanks to the doctor who would not get my wife in for an earlier ultrasound), this is all the time we had to decide whether we wanted this test and to decide what we wanted to do if the test indicated positive for chromosome disorders, the problem is that this test increases the risk of problems with the babies if the needle pricked them (and they were both squirming around a lot is that small sac). So up until the last moment till the next ultrasound we were not sure, but decided not to at the last minute, the twins had a hard enough challenge ahead of them with everything they had going against them and we were not going to add to the risk.
Appointment after appointment was what followed, and we needed some down time badly, so we decided to head across the island to the Cabin. On the way across we stopped into Angela’s brothers for a night in Gander, and meeting us in the driveway was a minivan to test-drive. Easiest way to buy a van, test drive on way to cabin, sign papers and drive home on way back from cabin. We were now the proud owners of the Loser-Cruiser… lol.
The rest seems a blur right now, we came back from the cabin, more appointments, more ultrasounds, and then I headed off to sea for the next five weeks. Angela’s parents came in to take care of Jillian while Angela was in hospital and I was away at work, and Jillian had fun with Nanny and Poppy visiting mommy my every day and helping the nurses. We were so fortunate that Nanny and Poppy Higgins could stay, and there is no way we could thank them enough.
Angela had to be hooked up to the duel heartbeat monitor twice a day and the nurses woke her up to listen to the girls heartbeats every two hours, and she never complained once. The first week she was on the ward, so in between the two-hours sleep she was getting she was constantly woke up by all the people coming and going to visit expecting and new Mom’s, the next seven weeks she was in the quarantine room, a room to her own, with is probably what saved her sanity, but still I never heard her complain once.
I came home after my five weeks at sea and Angela’s parents had to go back to Corner Brook for a week, to get ready to come back for another long trip and help with the babies when they were born, so it was me and Jillian for a week, our routine was usually to go see Mom in the morning, then go explore at Topsail beach or park for the afternoon. Angela’s parents came back and soon the day arrived.
Welcome to our family
Up to now, everything was going well, stressful but well, there were no complications other than the usual technical difficulties of spending hours to get the duel heartbeat monitor to work, everything else was good. The day before the twins were born I spent the entire day at the hospital with Angela, and at the house waiting for the girlies to arrive was Nanny and Poppy Higgins, Nanny Forward, Uncle Kevin and Auntie T and Uncle Chris. The next morning started early, Uncle Kevin and myself went in to have breakfast with Angela and to wait until our time.
We went down to the prep room, where they wheeled Angela into the operation room and I got my scrubs on, I was told they would come out and get me in 15 minutes. I heard Angela talking with the nurses and doctors at first, but after about 20 minutes that trailed off, and then I waited another half hour, the longest 50 minutes of my life (there was a multitude of nurses that passed that could not tell me what was taking so long, and quite a few “suits” that went in as well). I was finally allowed to go in with Angela, where I found out that her bloodpressure dropped dramatically, and they spent the last 50 minutes trying to regulate it. I sat next to Angela and the “drug man”, there are two surgeon’s and someone taking pictures of the procedure, two full crash teams of 2-3 nurses for each baby, about 4-5 nurses around the room, a couple suits, a couple of medical students and the drug man (or thats how I remember it, we knew there would be a lot of people, but everyone else didn’t matter, I just wanted to be here with Angela). We were told that we may not hear the girls cry before they were whisked away by the crash teams, but soon enough we heard the happiest sound ever, before each girl was taken to the crash room we heard each let out a loud cry, so happy.
Clara Jane was born first at 3lbs, 1 oz and Ashley Grace was born shortly after at 3lbs, 6oz. And we were very fortunate that they were very healthy. The protocol for Mo-Mo twins is to have them stay in the NIC-U for 5 weeks so that their lungs and bodies could get stronger, but they were very healthy and very happy. It was hard at first to see them with all the monitoring equipment on and oxygen masks, staring at the numbers on the screen, but every other day a new milestone/challenge was overcome. The nurses at the NIC-U were amazing, they did so much for our girls (and for us) there is no way we could ever thank them enough.
And that is the story of the twins. When we were “googling” MoMo twins after our first ultrasound, we never read any good news story’s, and everything we read was quite disturbing, but the twins are now 2 1/2 years old and are still doing great. It was a fun/interesting ride and my advice to all expectant Mo-Mo Dad’s is to take it all in strides, dont worry so much and take all the advice from the doctors, they are the experts (The doctors/nurses at the Janeway here in Newfoundland were absolutely amazing). You wont have time to think too much about what is happening because it happens so fast and changes everyday. When the Radiology Techs are patiently waiting for them to stop jumping around so much and playing so they can get the measurements, believe me 2 1/2 years later you will have the biggest smile on your face when you see them rolling around the couch playing and you cant tell who’s limbs belong to who.