I secretly delighted in being labeled “high risk”—at first. High risk meant closer monitoring and more ultrasound scans—more chances to see how my twin girls were doing. When life seems so tenuous on this journey—reassurance is both welcomed and feared. I thought of it as “Schroedinger’s babies”—they were both doing fine AND in some sort of danger in my mind until I saw the comforting image each time—one of them smiling, the other getting kicked in the head by the smiling one.
At first the complications started off small. My jaw became stiff, making it difficult to eat; my gums were bleeding and my wrists became useless as carpal tunnel syndrome tightened my fingers. I couldn’t eat solid foods or wipe my behind after using the restroom but “as long as they are okay,” I told myself with a gigantic smile (and anyone who would listen), “I can handle anything!”
At the 16 week ultrasound scan I was informed that I had complete placenta previa. I was told that I shouldn’t walk long distances and to stay rested. This included pelvic rest (which incidentally is the name of my fictitious all female punk band.) I was warned by “the internet” that twin pregnancies often result in bed rest and since I was still able to walk around—a little—I considered this a victory. “The placenta previa will most likely clear on its own,” so I wasn’t worried. And even if it didn’t, I would be at risk for a Cesarean section. But the golf ball sized fibroid removed from my uterus a year prior already dictated that I would require one of those.
Just about the time the placenta previa resolved, gestational diabetes arrived to take its place. I considered it the universe intervening on my intake of ice cream. I would now have to learn different ways to “increase my calcium intake for the girls.” This was an inconvenience, but always looking for the silver lining I determined eating 6 times a day was not all negative (especially when cheese was involved.) I turned to the internet to prepare myself for the pitfalls of gestational diabetes: overly large children—a positive I thought, considering twins—and a potential C-section—already predetermined. Monitoring my sugars four times a day gave me something to focus on besides whether or not I would lose my girls at any point. And again I thought, “as long as they are okay, I can handle anything.”
Sometime at the beginning of the third trimester, I was unable to walk. Acute sesamoiditis of the accessory navicular bone, the intense pain that rendered my right foot useless, would be the beginning in a series of incidents for which I was unprepared. X-rays showed that I was one of the “lucky” people that had extra bones in my feet. Being lucky in my life is always juxtaposed with some unfortunate occurrence. Accompanying the jaw and wrist issues—my ligaments had loosened around these extra bones and I could no longer walk. Putting the slightest amount of pressure on my foot instantly brought tears to my face and I worried about how I would get to the refrigerator (for cheese) to eat every 2-3 hours. My husband would have to stay home for the next few days as it resolved to take care of us. A pregnant woman on crutches with three flights of stairs in her tall, skinny house required some supervision.
During the 30th week, I ate ice cream for the first time in weeks. I should have known better. Forty five minutes later, I felt like I had received novocaine at the dentist. My lips were numb and I couldn’t taste anything. I didn’t think too much about it until I woke up the following morning with the left side of my face incapacitated, left eyelid frozen, eye tearing and no longer able to easily move my lips. Labor and Delivery triage doctors determined that “good news!” I didn’t have a stroke! But rather, I developed Bell’s Palsy. I asked if this would affect the girls at all and doctors assured me once again they would be okay. And they would be okay after the two courses of steroids. And they would be okay after the trip to the Emergency Room when the pain behind my ear and along my jawline was so bad that I was crying in pain—again. Doctors told me I could expect recovery in three weeks. Nine months later, I have 75% function of my face. Now I tell myself that whatever beauty I ever had—I gave to my girls before they were born.
My father, knowing full well that these would be my only children, joked with me that I was having the “full pregnancy experience.” I laughed even though I no longer found any of this funny.
At this point in time, cliched hands on belly, I whispered to myself, “as long as they are okay…” I no longer felt the need to tempt fate to see what else I could develop.
I felt horrible, even guilty for thinking about how I might be seen as complaining about my pregnancy. The girls were growing, heartbeats strong and I didn’t want to feel ungrateful about how *lucky* I was that our second IVF treatment worked.
During my fourth or fifth nonstress test around 34 weeks, my blood pressure started to creep up. There was protein in my urine.
Things moved quickly now.
A day or two later, what I thought were Braxton-Hicks contractions were happening every hour. Another trip to L & D triage—and they couldn’t complete a nonstress test on one of my girls. Her biophysical profile scored low. I had a headache. My blood pressure was rising. What I did not know earlier on was that Bell’s Palsy has a correlation with preeclampsia; and I was developing it.
Around midnight, I was transferred by ambulance to a hospital with a Trauma Level III NICU. The surgical team met me in my room shortly after my arrival and told me that the twins were coming into the world and they were coming now. Through tears, I pleaded with them to take good care of my girls.
They would be born an hour later at 2:33 am and 2:35 am—on room air. They would need no significant interventions in the NICU for the next twelve days as they just worked on gaining weight.
I couldn’t help but feel like I was willing to make any sacrifice for them. Scientifically, the things that happened to me were unrelated to how the girls fared. My foot issues weren’t protecting the girls from possible congenital heart defects. My carpal tunnel syndrome wouldn’t guarantee that they would be developmentally normal. However, infertility changed how I thought. The fear of saying anything positive inevitably felt like it would lead to loss in some way, some irreversible detriment that would break my heart. Despite my outspoken war on jinxes, I always still secretly believed in them. And as things got more difficult for me physically, I truly believed that I was protecting them and taking the blows of the universe for them—so that they were okay.