*warning, this post discusses pregnancy loss*
You’re laid down in a dark room, just you, your partner and the sonographer. You’ve waited weeks to lay eyes on your tiny baby and the anticipation in the room is palpable. Your heart almost stops. Your breathing slows. All you want to hear is the person scanning you say the magic words; everything is ok. Your baby is fine.
You’ve prepared yourselves for various outcomes, good and bad. But then comes the news that you hadn’t expected. ‘There are two heartbeats. You have two babies in there,” the sonographer said with a smile after a period of excruciating silence. Sorry, what? She had to repeat it to the both of us a couple of times before her words started making sense. Before the enormity of what she just said started to sink in.
The news that there were two little ones in there playing havoc with my insides suddenly made sense…
Of course. It all made a little more sense now. My baby bump had been big early on during my second, and twin, pregnancy. In my first singleton pregnancy, it took until I was around six months’ pregnant for you to even notice I was carrying a baby. With the twins, I was showing by month three. And the sickness second time round was debilitating. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t stand strong smells, and had a constant gut-churning sea sickness around the clock. The only way I could endure the relentless queasiness was to constantly nibble on little snacks like mints, biscuits and (lots of) fruit. That was it, all I could eat. I’d be carrying a plastic bag of food around with me at all times like some kind of nauseous nomad. So the news that there were two little ones in there playing havoc with my insides suddenly made sense.
I still remember that moment on the sonographer’s bed with perfect clarity. You see, we were perhaps more anxious and fearful (ok, terrified) than maybe many other excited parents at their twelve-week scan, those who are fortunate to have never experienced a pregnancy loss. Just a couple of months before the scan that identified twins, I’d suffered a miscarriage.
Even now, nearly four years on, I find it painful to think about. Hard to relive. Hard to put into words. The miscarriage happened at just eight weeks into the pregnancy. Merely a ball of cells at that point. The size of a blueberry. But, to us we lost a baby, a little person who would have changed our world. Who we would have loved with all our hearts. Who, in our minds, had a name, a personality, a future. In those precious few weeks, we’d built it all. To us, the news was devastating.
Having to wear that mask during those early, painful weeks was exhausting and, at times, almost impossible
I remember the days following my miscarriage someone asked me if I’d gotten over it yet. They weren’t trying to be hurtful or intentionally thoughtless, they just didn’t get it. I’m not sure you can really understand the depth of loss that comes with losing a baby – even at eight weeks – unless you’ve been through it personally. It’s not something to get over. It’s something you live with and carry with you always.
I felt numb and utterly confused. Why did it happen? Was it something I did? Will it happen again? It’s only when you have a miscarriage and you tentatively discuss it with a few trusted individuals that you learn how truly common it is, though it’s seldom talked about. Often it happens before the parents have made the pregnancy announcement, so it’s easier to keep quiet and heal both physically and emotionally in secret. Only tell those who need to know. Act to the rest of the world that everything is fine. That you are fine – accept you’re not. And I wasn’t; it shattered me. But I hid my tears from my little girl because I didn’t want to upset and confuse her. I’d cry in the toilets at work because none of my colleagues knew and I wanted to remain professional. Having to wear that mask during those early, painful weeks was exhausting and, at times, almost impossible.
I found it incredibly hard to process that I had been pregnant one moment and not the next. That the rest of the world carried on like everything was fine when it wasn’t. In that numb period, my husband and I were quick to decide we wanted to try again as soon as we could, despite the pain we were obviously both feeling. I fell pregnant just a couple of months later. I probably wasn’t emotionally ready and was still very much grieving our unexpected loss. But I don’t regret it for a moment – because it brought us our twin boys, George and Oliver.
It was an unforgettable moment; one of lingering grief, overwhelming happiness, and relief
As we looked at each other in that darkened room during the twins’ scan, trying to process such unexpected news, no words were needed. My husband – all 6ft 2ins of him – started to cry. His voice broke as he told the sonographer that we’d lost a baby months before. He’d been carrying the grief too. It was an unforgettable moment; one of lingering grief, overwhelming happiness, and relief. We squeezed each other’s hand as we stared at the grainy black and white screen in speechless astonishment. The moment I laid eyes on the two healthy babies was one I won’t forget. And how did I feel? Absolutely ecstatic. While my husband, ever the practical one, was frantically trying to figure out how we’d make this work financially – a big enough car, monthly bills, childcare. I, ever the impractical one, saw none of that. I saw Christmases. Holidays. Birthday parties. I saw five of us cuddled up together on the settee watching movies. I saw endless funny conversations at the dinner table after school. I saw three siblings who would be indelibly linked forever, who will forever have two other people in the world they can turn to; two ready-made best friends forever.
We already had one child at this point, a four-year-old little girl we adored. So we were well aware of what was coming, though nothing really prepares you for having twin babies. Already having one baby doesn’t prepare you for trying to split yourself in two to take care of the same newborn needs at the same time. But I felt lucky that I’d already had a child, that I’d travelled that difficult, bumpy road of transitioning from childless married couple – doing what we want, when we want, with a healthy disposable income – to suddenly having a baby who relies on you around the clock and seeing your freedom evaporate overnight. That was a difficult evolution that took a great deal of time and adjustment, but by the time the boys arrived, we had both settled in well to being parents so were relatively well-prepared for the whirlwind that is welcoming two babies at once. Those who have twins straight off the bat – I honestly take my hat off to you. Having two newborn babies even with the experience of having already had a child was so incredibly hard, I can’t imagine how blindsided I’d have been if they had been my first.
I think maybe I was meant to be a twin mum; it’s pushed me to my absolute limits and continues to test me in ways I could never have imagined
Yes, before our twins came along we experienced a personal tragedy. And I still imagine what that little one would have been like. Would it have been a boy, or a girl? Would they have resembled my little girl Carys? Would they have been thoughtful like George or a cheeky rascal like Oliver? But, while I allow myself to daydream for a moment now and then, I don’t dwell on it. How can I when I have three beautiful children who truly make me feel whole? I think maybe I was meant to be a twin mum; it’s pushed me to my absolute limits and continues to test me in ways I could never have imagined. But it’s also shown me how strong I am, how resilient I am; how the love I feel for my family is more overwhelming than any bad day. It’s also confirmed to me how strong my husband and I are. We had been together for 16 years before the boys arrived. We already had a very strong foundation and were best friends; truly partners in all that we do. And we’ve been to the edge and back together during the boys’ first three years. Through chronic sleep deprivation, no time for each other, sacrificing so much personally, financially and professionally for the good of our family. And through it all, we’re still smiling, still in love, and stronger than ever. We were meant to be a family of five.
I’ve never once regretted seeing two babies instead of one on the screen at that first scan. Quite the opposite, I feel so blessed to be a mum of twins. The bond I see between the boys and their sister is nothing short of beautiful. When I scolded Oliver the other day for hitting his brother, George fixed me a serious gaze and wagged his finger at me, telling me not to shout at Oliver because ‘he’s my brother.’ He gave me a stern telling off and they walked off hand in hand. While they may argue like cat and dog sometimes, the message is clear; ‘we’ve got each other’s backs.’
So, to anyone who’s just had a scan and has discovered ‘there are two babies in there’; it’s completely natural to be apprehensive. To wonder how an Earth you’re going to do it. How you’ll afford it. How you’ll split yourself in two; but believe me when I say you will find a way. You’ll devise strategies to achieve what may feel like the impossible. Like putting two – or more –babies to bed at once. Or breastfeeding both at the same time. Or simply leaving the house!
Mums of multiple young children are not wonder women. We’re not infallible. We fall down, cry, shout, feel desperate…
“I don’t know how you do it” is a phrase I hear very often from people and I always find it a difficult one to respond to. Because, so many times, I almost can’t do it. Mums of multiple young children are not wonder women. We’re not infallible. We fall down, cry, shout, feel desperate. Most of the time, we’re just winging it and simply surviving. Sometimes when things are so incredibly hard, I feel like I’m at the bottom of a chasm with no way out. But us mums and dads are so incredibly resilient and the love we feel for our kids thankfully allows us to bounce back from even the toughest of days.
Yes, that moment you find out you’re having twins is pretty daunting, scary and overwhelming. But it’s just a moment. The months and years to come will be hard at times but they will also be full of joy. Full of cuddles, kisses, singing and dancing. Having twin babies is undoubtedly harder than having one. It’s just plain math; everything has to be done twice, their needs are twice as great, and they cost twice as much! But the payoff is also doubly great – double the laughs, double the pride and double the love. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. To anyone who has ever uttered the words ‘double trouble’ to a parent of multiples aren’t aware of a little-known secret – one that only mums and dads of multiples know; we are the lucky ones.