Twin Pregnancy--What the Books Don't Tell You
When the midwife announced that we were expecting twins, we got plenty of pats on the back and statements about how awesome this was.
This pretty much sums up what we truly knew about a twin pregnancy at that time:
It would be a little riskier than a single pregnancy. But if everything went well, we would have two babies. Awwww!
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So, today I will share what I learned after being pregnant with twins, including a lot of stuff that nobody warns you about at first:
Do Deeper Research
Most popular pregnancy books gloss over twin pregnancy. They tell you that you will "gain a bit more weight", you "might be a bit more uncomfortable" or that "you might have a few more appointments and can eat more calories".
After that little extra dab of trouble, you get two babies. Awww!"
So naturally, things were going to be cool. We just needed to know the important stuff:
- Girls or boys?
- Identical or fraternal?
- What would we name twins?
- Where would they sleep?
- What did we need to buy in duplicate?
- Did we need a bigger car?
- Should we tell people or let it be a surprise?
To counterbalance our naive optimism, the first articles we found online were slightly more apocalyptic. We learned that at any minute I could:
- Lose a baby.
- Lose both babies
- Suffer some extreme health condition (like liver failure!)
- Have premature babies that would need months of specialized care
- Need a cerclage (they sew what shut??)
- Be exiled to bedrest for eternity
- Die in several horrific ways during either the pregnancy, the birth or the first days postpartum.
The stuff that could happen to the babies was even longer and scarier. Like, what if they absorbed each other, or one twin used up all the other twin's food?
Because nothing makes you feel all warm and fuzzy like worrying that your babies might be trying to cannibalize each other while you sleep. :O
Cheerful, huh? And I'm not saying that bad stuff doesn't happen, and that it's not incredibly sad, but some of that information will have you thinking that being pregnant with twins is like swallowing two grenades.
Everyone should be aware of all the possibilities. But there was a lot of stuff that was less serious, but still very important that they didn't bother to tell me about!
In spite of all the questions we asked, and all of our independent research, these are the only things we knew for sure by week 20:
- We were having fraternal twin girls
- We would need two carseats
- I would probably have a C-Section
- My maternity clothes would be needed a lot sooner. (16 weeks!)
- I had a softball-sized ovarian cyst that was inconveniently in the way (plus several smaller ones).
- Twin pregnancy actually sucked a little bit.
Everyday, some new issue would pop up that wasn't common knowledge. By 25 weeks, I was convinced that twin pregnancies should come with warning labels, because:
Your Hormones Go Apeshit!
Hormones are what make the whole pregnancy thing work. Naturally, when there are two babies, you will need twice as many hormones to make sure that everything works correctly.
But when you have twice the hormones, you can have double the pregnancy symptoms. As in, you don't just get a bit "queasy"...you get nausea that is so bad that the color of your carpet or the thought of licking an envelope flap can make you puke. And then puking will make you puke.
Along with nausea you can get your other normal symptoms supersized too. How about migraines so bad you get nosebleeds? (which will make you puke).
Lucky me, they told me that I had some of the highest hormone levels they had ever seen in a twin pregnancy. This actually led to a lot of complications. And way more than "a dab of discomfort".
More about weird symptoms later...first, the most obvious side effect of a twin pregnancy:
You Gain a "Bit More Weight" With Twins!
Well, of course you will. You are carrying TWO babies after all. And sometimes two sacs of water and two placentas too. (It also feels like you might be carrying two futons, two televisions, and two mini-refrigerators in there too.)
They recommend a pound a week approximately, for a grand total of 35 to 60 pounds.
And really, that's not so bad, right? It's easy to gain weight. Except when you can't eat anything.
Whether or not you gain weight, you will gain size.
One night while I was asleep, this enormous belly appeared out of nowhere.
Halfway through the pregnancy, I measured MORE than a full term single pregnancy. (At the end, I was 63 inches tall and 59 inches around. I was a sexy bubble beast.)
For anyone who has been pregnant with ONE baby, if you remember what you felt like in at 40 weeks, then that is what twin moms are feelin' around 20-23 weeks. Stuff like:
- Inability to lean forward to tie your shoes
- Inability to roll over in bed
- Aching, swayed back
- Swollen legs
- No chance of breathing
- Having to be pushed or pulled into or out of vehicles...
And other fun stuff like that. You also lose your mind, somewhat. All normal concerns are pushed aside so that your brain can focus on two burning questions:
1. What has to rip apart so that those babies have room to grow 10-20 more weeks?
2. What happens when you really can't breathe anymore????
Your Previous Maternity Clothes Miiiiight Not Fit
I thought I was soooo smart and frugal for saving my maternity clothes from my first pregnancy. And for a whole two weeks, they were useful.
In theory, you should be able to run out and buy a new wardrobe and look totally adorable like the models on Pinterest.
In reality I couldn't find any maternity clothes that fit.
Everything was skinny jeans, and I got screwed out of that money because skinny jeans and pregnancy swelling do not mix. After a couple of weeks, I could not get the skinny legs over my not-so-skinny ankles.
Hopefully, you will have better luck being a pregnant fashionista. I ended up wearing a lot of baggy 2x men's clothes and shoes that were two sizes bigger than normal.
(I went to most of my appointments wearing one of these Caterpillar man-sized hoodies. Yes. The heavy equipment brand. They should have paid me for that ginormous advertising space. Ugh.)
My twin pregnancy tip: buy your maternity clothes a few at a time as you grow!
You May Have Weird Symptoms, Such as Itching
Lots of women suffer from itchy skin while pregnant. It's a combination of all that weight gain, stretching and estrogen. When you can actually measure your belly growing between morning and nightfall, the skin is severely taxed. And it itches. A lot. As in, you would love to rip it from your body and rub it on a cheese grater.
Use lotion...they tell you. It will help! Yeah...not so much. That stretching is going on much deeper in your body than mere lotion can permeate.
What lotion does do, however, is give you an excuse to scratch...er...I mean rub your tummy to relieve the itch. (softly, with steel wool and a cheese grater).
Then, I started itching all over. I couldn't do anything for the itching. I had no idea this was a "thing". But when the midwife saw all the scratch marks, I got (more) blood drawn and a bunch of concerned faces.
They thought I had, cholestasis (liver issues) but luckily I didn't. Instead, I had those godawful high levels of hormones.
TIP: If you itch, and it doesn't seem to be dry skin, and it's not just on your belly, tell your doctor! Even if it is nothing serious they can give you medication so you can get some relief.
(Special note: you will "donate" a lot of blood while pregnant with twins. No matter what symptom you have, a blood draw is apparently the only solution.)
Restless Legs Suck
This one really hurts to admit, because I sorta scoffed the first time I heard a commercial for the mysterious illness "Restless Legs Syndrome".
I had to change my tune after I got with my husband, since it is a side effect of his diabetes and often leaves him sleepless and in agony. Just to keep me humble, I got my own case of it in my first pregnancy.
It was exacerbated greatly in both pregnancies by the fact that I also had severe SPD and had to be on partial bed rest. The first time, they would only hurt at night and I could stretch my legs and tap my feet for relief.
With a twin pregnancy, the "restless legs" didn't wait til bedtime. It never stopped.
And "restless" sounds so light and cheery. Like your legs just want to tap dance a bit or something. It doesn't sum up the bone-deep aching, the jerking, the cramps, or the itching.
Starting at the end of the first trimester, they never stopped aching, jerking, or cramping. Sleep was impossible. When I sat at my desk to work, it looked like my legs were possessed and had a mind of their own.
Tip: Epsom salts baths helped immensely.
Stuff Swells. Stuff You Didn't Know Could Swell
Swollen feet and ankles are a common pregnancy symptoms in the last few weeks. Especially if you are on your feet a lot.
In twin pregnancy, it happens before 20 weeks, and it is due to the fact that there is up to twice as much blood volume as normal! (Even with all the blood draws.)
Not to mention all that extra pressure.
With so much extra liquid being pumped through your body, swelling isn't really alleviated by lying down and propping up the feet. Besides, it is too difficult to lie down after the first trimester.
What if you can't get back up?
By the way, everything swells:
I'm not sure, but I think even your hair swells.
And you can get varicose veins in places you really didn't know they could happen.
Hey, What's That Sound?
Since we are on the subject of blood...
All those extra pints have to go somewhere right? They do! They pump through the old blood vessels and heart just like before. You might notice those varicose veins popping up right about now.
But that's not the disturbing symptom. What about that persistent noise in your head? It is really common for moms pregnant with multiples to hear their pulse in their ears.
Since their heart rate increases to keep up with all that extra blood flow, the pulse will sound much louder, much faster, and much scarier than usual.
You might think it is going to drive you insane before the pregnancy is over. It is like having a metronome stuck in your head, and yes...it does get loud enough to interfere with your hearing.
Good news though. It only does it when you are engaging in a particularly strenuous activity. When you are pregnant with twins, ''strenuous'' can be defined as:
- Walking to the bathroom
- Standing up
- Reaching for the remote.
Luckily, this is just annoying, not dangerous.
Eating Becomes an Act of War
In the first trimester, when even the smell of water can send you running for the toilet, they tell you to eat up to 3000 calories a day.
But of course, that is 3000 calories from very low fat, high protein meals like fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, etc. And tons of vegetables and fruits.
Then they tell you to divide that into small, easily digestible meals. Baked chicken and broccoli don't have a lot of calories. I did the math. It would take about a dumptruck full of vegetables and fruit and lean chicken to make 3000 calories.
Waaaaay more than you can probably eat during that time.
Well, maybe you can eat. I just let the twins eat my body until my appetite (sorta) returned (thanks to medication).
Then, suddenly, the babies are too big, and even if you are hungry, you will have no room left in there for a dumptruck full of food.
Get used to eating by the tablespoon.
Then fall in love (haha) with the inevitable heartburn. Little fire demons develop in your chest and spend all day tattooing your esophagus using fiery needles. Whatever you send down to squelch them, they boil it and send it right backatcha.
But guess what? Growing two babies uses about 3 gazillion calories a second, so if you don't eat every two minutes, your blood sugar can crash through the floor, leaving you too queasy and dizzy to lug your now completely spherical self to the fridge for tablespoon of yogurt.
My Tip: Wear large pockets where you can stash small snacks. Also, get one of these weighted exercise balls. They make rolling yourself around the house look more intentional (Oh, look! I'm exercising!) . Plus, they help immensely with the aches.
You Will Get Stuck. Somewhere
There may come a day when you realize you can't get up. Maybe you will get stuck in bed, or maybe in the bathtub. Or you could get wedged in a narrow doorway, lodged behind your steering wheel, or left beached and stranded on an exam table (me).
Whatever you do, don't get down on the floor. Just don't.
You Won't Be Able to Reach Things
Some things will be pretty much unreachable until about a year postpartum, (okay, maybe a little sooner), such as your feet.
Did you know you there will come a time in your twin pregancy when you won't be able to get clothes out of the bottom of the washing machine? Or reach anything that's in a deep bin at the grocery store?
You just stand there and pitifully grasp at the frozen turkeys that are just out of reach.
You can't even push a damn shopping cart easily. You go through the store with your cart at arm's link, then bobble like an idiot over the edge of a freezer hoping the food will magically fall into your hand.
You will also stand sideways to wash dishes or chop food. And they wonder why pregnant ladies get back-aches!
Doctors should totally tell you this at your first appointment. That way, you have plenty of time to move everything in your house to chest level.
Twin Pregnancy--The Little Things
Like I said above, not all moms go through the same symptoms. Some breeze through a twin pregnancy as easily, or even easier, than with a singleton. Some have it a lot worse, requiring bed rest and even surgery to keep the pregnancy on track.
After talking with tons of women who also had twins, there are some issues or annoyances that many of us share or shared:
Doctors Will Want To Go Spelunking More Often
Everything south of the Equator will swell and become "tender" (read: painful) from all the hormones, weight, pressure, and extra fluids.
Despite this, the medical profession will want to explore "down there" more than usual. And it hurts.
No one tells you beforehand that they are going to start pulling out all kinds of probes and instruments from their secret arsenal. While they are torturing you, they will tell you how awesome it is to be having two babies. Awww!
The bonus is you get lots of extra ultrasounds, so you can see your babies grow in stages.
Braxton-Hicks and Other Contractions
BH contractions start a lot earlier than with a single baby, too. They may happen every time the babies move. They can be intense too. I had some that squeezed me so hard I saw spots because I could not take a breath.
Even having a semi-full bladder can trigger them. Or touching your belly. A sneeze. Or sometimes just nothing.
This strikes many pregnant women, but can be pretty severe in those who are carrying mulitples. Despite the funny name, this little symptom is probably the most annoying (and scary) of all.
It means that the mucous membranes of the sinuses and nose simply swell shut. If you really want to know how panicky that can make you feel, try stuffing your nose full of bubble gum until you have to breathe through your mouth. Now lie down on a bed and place two cement blocks on your diaphragm.
Sleeping this way, (when sleep happens) leads to dry mouth, chapped lips, snoring and a sore throat.
I actually had nightmares about someone or something covering my mouth. The truth is, if someone had put their hand over my mouth, I would have suffocated and died. That was how impossible it was to breathe through my nose. Talk about scary.
And I honestly would have taken double all the other symptoms to avoid this one.
Movements. Oh, the Fetal Movements...
Unlike a single pregnancy, there isn't any downtime with a twin pregnancy. Twins are always moving in there! By the end of pregnancy, a single baby settles down to get ready for birth, but twins start getting all territorial about their limited space.
They spend those last few weeks trying to avoid each other, trying to crawl into your chest cavity, and possibly trying to burst through your navel.
You've never known pain until a top twin pushes down on a bottom twin who is breech, with her feet on your cervix. Plus, I had ovarian cysts that were always painful. When top baby squished bottom baby into one of those, it was enough to lay me out.
We actually didn't have to joke about them fighting for space or practicing karate on each other. We got to watch it live on those ultrasounds. So did everyone else:
You Get to Be the Learning Module:
My first pregnancy and birth was rather peaceful and private. Twin pregnancy draws a crowd. Suddenly, there are 14 people the doctor wants to call in so they can get in some twin experience.
We had four ultrasound techs at one of our appointments.
The delivery room was probably the closest I will ever get to "playing to a sold out crowd".
The good news is, you don't go through this thing alone. The bad news is, well...you don't get to go through any of it alone!
You Will Freak People Out:
From about week 18, you look like you could go into labor at any moment. So people are going to be watching you anxiously when you trudge by in the grocery store holding your achy, contracting belly.
Then you get to see the looks of horror on their faces when you tell then you still have four months or so to go. (That part is kinda fun.)
People Will Freak You Out
I'm not really bothered by some of the weird stuff people say to pregnant women. I don't really mind the the belly pats.
But I will say that I heard some STRANGE questions and comments come out of stranger's mouths. Including:
- How many times did you have to have sex to get pregnant with twins?
- Are they burrito-sized yet?
- Did you plan on twins?
- How will you be sure they are twins if they aren't identical?
- Will they come out at the same time?
- You should switch to my doctor, he delivered my aunt's twins.
- Why didn't you have one of each instead of two girls?
- Are you sure there are only two in there?
Some questions are asked with good intentions and true curiosity. Those aren't so bad. But do expect lots of questions when you are pregnant and for a long time after the babies are actually born.
New Questions You Will Ask By the End of a Twin Pregnancy
All those questions you had at the beginning of pregnancy may be replaced by new ones, such as:
- Who the heck is going to put my shoes on for me when my husband is at work?
- If I sneeze, can I explode?
- Will I ever be able to breathe again like a normal person?
- Will my liver eventually return to where it belongs?
- Do they seriously want me to fast before delivery when I have to eat every 3 seconds?? (haha, I got out of that one!)
- What if I go into labor when I'm alone? I can't reach the gas pedal anymore!
- What are we gonna name two babies??
As I said earlier, many women have survived. So don't give up hope. For the days when you can't breathe, when you are snacking on Tums, when you've gotten stuck in the couch cushions and get up...and you really have to pee...hope is all you have to cling too.
That and the fact that you will have two babies. That is kinda awwwwwwesome!