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I knew at the start of my pregnancy that I would have preemies. When we received the news that we were having twins at about 10 weeks we were in shock as it was, but any joy we had, was stolen from us quite rapidly. A few moments after we were told we had two babies, the ultrasound tech made an off-hand remark that he didn't see a membrane separating our little beans.
Let's just say, I don't recommend Googling in this situation.
This lack of membrane, separating a set of identical twins is known as a monoamniotic-monochorionic twin pregnancy. This is a rare condition where identical twins are sharing the same placenta and the same amniotic sac. They have skin-to-skin contact and their cords can entangle and compress. Before they make it to viability, they have a 50% shot of surviving. If they make it to viability the statistics improve, and you are hospitalized (in most places) to be monitored until you deliver. The standard of care for this type of pregnancy differs from hospital to hospital, doctor to doctor, and patient to patient - my hospital encouraged inpatient care at viability (24-26 weeks) - and I was thankful for that, even though it was so very difficult on our entire family.
In my case, I entered the hospital at 23 weeks for pre-term labor and was put on a brutal dose of medication to stop labor and keep it at bay. I then remained in that hospital, monitored nearly 24-hours per day until the twins delivered. The goal was to get them to 32 weeks because at that point, it would be safer for them to continue growing out of the womb.
But, there were no guarantees and each day, we were consistently reminded how grim the circumstances were.
As I sat in my hospital bed, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit team would come to us on a weekly basis and ask what kind of measures we would like them to take in the event of an emergency delivery. We knew we would deliver early, but, they wanted to know what our preferences were if we delivered earlier than early. The questions included unthinkable statistics and scenarios that no parent should have to face.
It was pure torture.
I would simply look at my husband, mouth agape, hands on my over-sized belly and have no idea how to respond to their questions. Most of the time, we didn't offer them answers. We couldn't. We just didn't know what we would do should we face these many scenarios which included, at worst, dying children. And so, we kept letting the days pass with that hope it would all be fine and we would somehow be lucky to make it to our 32 week mark where the statistics showed their survival chances improved greatly.
On December 24, 2009, our moment of truth came. I was 28 weeks and a few days. I came off my monitors for one hour for my daily shower. When I returned after the one hour, my Charlotte was in trouble. Her heart rate was dropping consistently, and sometimes to dangerous levels and not recovering as it should.
Before I knew it, I was being wheeled into delivery. It wasn't long, and our 2lb, 11oz and 2lb, 14oz twin girls arrived via emergency c-section.
We spent a total of 16 weeks in the hospital. Five weeks on bed rest for me, 11 weeks for the girls in the NICU. Let's just say, when you have a preemie you learn a lot about patience, grace under pressure, and living 'one day (sometimes one minute) at a time.'
The girls will be five this year, and they are full of piss and vinegar. I have no doubt this spirit plays a part in why they survived.
Knowing that we would face a premature birth from the first weeks of pregnancy was a daunting experience. It feels insurmountable to hear your children have a 50% chance of making it and if they do, they face many, many potential complications and lifelong challenges. Sometimes, in those moments, I felt like I couldn't breathe. I'm not quite sure how we made it through that time like we did - but I'm so thankful to be on the other side.
For more information about World Prematurity Day, click here.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.