Surviving Twin Pregnancy – My Story

Surviving Twin Pregnancy

I want to share the story of my pregnancy to hopefully give you SOME sort of insight into what it’s like, and how to survive a twin pregnancy.  

I spent the first several weeks after finding out I was pregnant with twins desperately googling for other mothers’ stories to give me both reassurance and a heads up as to what I needed to prepare for.  

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, there wasn’t a WHOLE lot out there.  So I’m here, writing this with the hope that my story can become one point of reference as you prepare for the coming insanity 🙂

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THE FIRST TRIMESTER

If I had to choose ONE word to sum up my first trimester it would, without hesitation, be NAUSEA. 

I found out I was having twins when I was only 6 weeks along. WITHIN A WEEK the nausea began.  And I can say, the term “Morning Sickness”, most definitely did not accurately portray it.  It was constant. 

Managing Nausea without Medication

I was determined, though, to make it through the first trimester without taking any medications.  I’m a pharmacist, and I also have the tendency to be very paranoid.  Put those together and what do you get? Basically I knew way too much about any drug that I could try and worried about every possible bad thing that could happen, even if there was only a 0.00001% chance of it. 

So yeah.  I tried sucking on peppermints and ginger chews, which only provided very minor relief.  My doctor recommended trying Sea-Bands, which I found to do absolutely nothing aside from make my wrists sweaty and itchy.  

Oh and I ended up saying goodbye to hot (and even warm) showers because they just overwhelmed me with nausea and made me nearly pass out a few times.  The rest of my pregnancy was spent taking as-short-as-possible cool showers. 

Improving Nausea, Growing Belly

Walking into the doctor’s office for my 13 week appointment, I found out I had lost 10 pounds. Seeing this, I knew I had to turn it around or I wouldn’t have a healthy pregnancy. 

I decided to go with what I thought would be the safest first option, and did an over-the-counter combination of Vitamin B-6 and Unisom (basically a Diclegis hack that costs a few dollars instead of hundreds).   

It did start getting better at that point, maybe from the medicine or maybe just from making it to the second trimester.  A low-level nausea persisted throughout the rest of the pregnancy, but I finally started eating enough to put on weight. 

Strangely enough, even though I was LOSING weight, I started showing in the last few weeks of my first trimester.  How is this possible? Well, basically, my butt disappeared.  Pretty sure I made it through my first trimester by breaking down and surviving off my butt fat.

I was uncomfortable in regular pants by 9 weeks and started moving to maternity pants then.  Don’t put it off – it is sooo much better. 

First Trimester Advice

Here’s what I found to be helpful in easing my nausea:

  • Avoiding Overheating – Try to keep yourself as cool. Hot showers made it SO much worse. Thankfully my 1st trimester was in the late fall/winter. Walking outside and taking a few minutes to breathe in the cold air really helped when it started to get bad. Dress in layers when you leave the house so you don’t end up getting too hot.
  • Eating Fresh Vegetables and Fruits – Raw, uncooked (but thoroughly washed) produce was much more palatable than most other types of food for me. Apple slices, grapes, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and cantaloupe were my favorites. Try foods without strong odors or flavors. I did make the mistake of eating a fair amount of pineapple one day that violently came back up.
  • Eating Small Amounts More Frequently – Graze, don’t try to rush it. I spent most of my days very slowly nibbling on tiny bits of food to try and take in enough nutrition. Trying to eat an actual “meal” was just too much for my stomach to handle. I jam-packed my lunchbox with food every day, but it almost always took me the whole shift to eat it.

SECOND TRIMESTER

Shortness of Breath, Increasing Pains

The second trimester is when I really started to physically struggle.  You know how during pregnancy you put on a ton of fluid weight?  Well…twins get you even more. 

I found myself more and more out of breath just walking around.  Now, I was far from physically “fit” prior to my pregnancy, and also had a history of back problems, so I think I was at a disadvantage here.  

Sciatic pain started to kick in at the beginning of the second trimester.  Making it through the day at work was tough between the pain and the shortness of breath.  

I felt like a total wimp because I was having such a hard time.  Of course I was playing the comparison game, looking at other moms-to-be (even twin ones), telling myself to push through and don’t complain because other people clearly can do it. 

I really wish I had taken it easy sooner.  Less than halfway through my pregnancy my doctor started suggesting I take some time off from work because he saw how much I was struggling with simple daily activities. 

Of course I didn’t listen because OMG I’m about to have twins and its gonna be so expensive and I have to work as long as possible to even begin to afford this.

I got to the point where I was basically calling and rushing in to see my OB twice a week because of abdominal pains and other various problems.  He took a very conservative approach with me and wanted to check everything out.  I’m very grateful for this because I think things could have gone much differently with another doctor. 

The Transition to Working from Home

Photos of swelling in ankles during twin pregnancy showing improved swelling with elevation of legs during the day.
Swelling at 20 weeks, while I was still physically going into work, versus 23 weeks, when I started working from home.

By 22 weeks I knew I couldn’t keep going the way I was.  It was taking me close to 30 minutes to make the walk from my car to my desk seat (which before took maybe 5).  

Fortunately, I had a fantastic boss who was able to set me up to work from home at that point.  While that was getting set up, my husband was wheeling me in and out of work in a wheelchair.  

Guys, I work at a hospital. Do you know how embarrassing that is??? Obtaining my remote access could not happen fast enough.

It finally got all set up and I spent the rest of my 2nd trimester working at home in a fluffy recliner and resting as much as possible.  It was lonely and the days dragged on FOREVER having no one to talk to while I sat at a computer for 8 hours, but I believe it bought me some time. 

The swelling in my legs started to get really bad, and I had to wear compression stockings.  I couldn’t reach my feet to put them on, though, so that became my poor husband’s job! (PS – if you run into this problem, get a donner – it makes putting compression stocking on SOOOO much easier.)

The only time I left the house was to go to my ob appointments. I passed my glucose tolerance test (barely).  I did get a little anemic, though, and had to start iron supplements. Luckily, things seemed to remain fairly stable for the rest of the trimester. 

Second Trimester Advice

  • Don’t feel bad about taking it easy – YOU’RE GROWING MORE THAN ONE BABY. There’s not many people who do that.
  • If at all possible, take some time off work – Ask if you can arrange to work shorter or fewer days. Find out if you could do your work from home. You need to start saving your strength now because it’s only going to get harder from here!
  • Get compression stockings, keep your feet up, and pass on the salt – I was very upset when I had to stop ordering my McAlister’s Spud Max. It was the one thing I really loved eating since the nausea improved. But the swelling can get bad and it’s really sad when you’re no longer sure where your ankles are.

THIRD TRIMESTER

Though I know there are many women who have had it much harder than me, I would not wish my third trimester experience on anyone. 

At 29 weeks + 5 days, I was admitted to the hospital for preterm labor. 

Preterm Labor

I don’t know why it happened, I think it just did.  I noticed about halfway through my work shift that I seemed to be having more regular contractions.

Now, I was terrible at identifying contractions.  Honestly they didn’t feel to me like I expected or even what was ever described.  

One of my biggest fears during pregnancy was that I wouldn’t know when I was having contractions, so I was pretty paranoid about it.  But I also know that I’m paranoid. So I really try to avoid overreacting. Because of this, I had a difficult time making decisions about when I should call my doctor.

I started timing them out, and it seemed like they were coming about every 10 minutes.  Problem was, I only felt them while I was sitting down, not while I was standing up.  Nothing else was out of the normal, no leaking, no bleeding, nothing. 

I even took a short nap to see if it changed anything.  They did slow down after that for maybe an hour or so, but then they picked back up to where they were. 

The regularity finally made me decide to call my doctor, who had me head immediately to the hospital.  So I called my husband, who was on his way home from work, and told him to head to the hospital instead. 

When I got there and got hooked up to the monitors, I found out I was actually having contractions every 2-3 minutes.  So they gave me a bunch of fluids and tried a terbutaline injection. 

The contractions slowed down only a little, so my OB decided to admit me.  Things quickly got real.

Hospitalization

Trying to Stop the Labor – Drug, After Drug, After Drug

Since the terbutaline didn’t do much, the next thing they tried was nifedipine overnight.  There was a small improvement, but I definitely wasn’t in the clear.  

The next day pretty much everything else that a doctor might order to prepare for a preterm birth was started.  Antibiotics to protect against Group B Strep,  Betamethasone injection to help the babies’ lungs.  And magnesium to protect their brains.

Let me tell you something – the magnesium was AWFUL.  It starts out with a huge dose given over a short period of time, then you stay on it continuously (at a lower rate, but still higher than a normal hospitalized patient would get) for at least a day. 

Despite my drug knowledge, I was NOT prepared for the magnesium.  Basically, my nurse shows up, hands my husband one of those giant vomit basins, and tells him to immediately go down to the ice machine and fill it with ice.  

When he returns, she adds cold water to it, sets it on my bedside table, and hands my husband a couple washcloths.  His instructions are to soak the washcloths in the icewater and get ready. And I’m just lying there like WTH is happening???

She starts the magnesium, and the heat hits QUICKLY.  I feel like I’ve been lit on fire.  So my husband gets to work trying to cool me off.  

After 20 minutes, the rate is slowed down and I start to believe maybe I’m not being burned alive after all.  Now its more like I’m lying in a sauna.  Except I’m gonna have to be there a while. 

While on the magnesium, you have to have frequent nursing checks to make sure your blood pressure doesn’t go too low and that you keep your reflexes. Basically…it really slows your body down.

Because it slows you down, you became a fall hazard.  At my hospital that meant I lost bathroom privileges and had to get cathed.

To be honest, though, that part really didn’t bother me too much because I could barely think straight anyway. You know those videos you see of lava at the edge of a volcanic eruption? Where it’s really far out and creeping forward so slowly that you can barely even tell it’s moving? That’s what my brain felt like on magnesium.  

via GIPHY

Arranging Leave from Work and Learning About Early Term Birth

While my brain was processing things at the rate of a snail and all my muscles turned to rubber, I had to make a couple calls to arrange for my FMLA and short-term disability to take effect.  

I felt so sorry for the poor agent that had to take my call because I knew it was taking me 5 times longer than a normal person to get a sentence out.  My husband tried to help as much as he could, but I had to handle some questions he had no idea how to answer. 

If you are a working mom reading this and you will need to use FMLA or Short-Term Disability insurance to take time off, figure out the exact process you will have to follow as soon as possible!

If I hadn’t had the suspicion early on that I wouldn’t be working till the end, I would have had to wade through a bunch of policies that didn’t make sense at an already extremely stressful time.  Find out exactly what you will need to do, and how everything will work if you have to take time off before your expected due date. 

A little later that afternoon I had a visit from the neonatologist. She basically educated me about every single thing that would happen should I give birth in the next few days. 

It was incredibly overwhelming.  I tried my best to keep calm and not burst into tears.  

I found out that my babies would go straight into a warming bag and I wouldn’t have skin-to-skin contact.  Hearing that is what ultimately broke me down. 

Somehow, though, over the next day or so, my contractions slowed down and things started looking more hopeful.  

My OB ended up keeping me in the hospital and on fetal monitoring for 9 days. I think he would have kept me longer if my husband (a school counselor) hadn’t just finished his last day of work for the semester. 

Surviving Bedrest

Goal 1: Making it to 35 weeks

Loom knitting baby blanket in bed while on bedrest during third trimester of twin pregnancy.
Loom-knitting baby blankets was one way I occupied my time on bedrest.

So I got to go home on bedrest and nifedipine.  The goal was to get to 35 weeks if at all possible.

As I’m sure you suspect, bedrest is awful.  I was allowed to get up to go to the bathroom and my now-weekly OB appointments for fetal monitoring.  

We ordered a shower chair so I could take short showers sitting down.  My husband basically had to do everything – feed us, take care of the dogs, keep the house relatively clean and the laundry from overflowing.  He was amazing and took care of it all.

I passed the days with the constant underlying fear that something terrible was just around the corner.  There isn’t a whole lot you can distract yourself with when you’re confined to bed.

I spent most of my time on my phone, watching TV, or making baby blankets on a loom knitting kit I had bought a couple years before and barely touched.  I got pretty good at making the blankets and got through 5 before my fingers swelled too badly to continue. 

The days dragged as the 35-week mark crept closer, but every day I made it through felt like a win.

At my 35 week monitoring session, my doctor told me to stop the nifedipine on the coming Sunday.  Father’s Day.  My husband and I were convinced that I would go into labor that day.

The morning came, and I spent the day just waiting.   But nothing happened.  No changes in contractions that I could notice, and no new symptoms.  

When I saw my OB that week he said he was surprised to see me make it and that he had anticipated getting a call from me either Sunday or Monday.  I had thought the exact same thing, but there I was, still (uncomfortably) pregnant. 

Goal 2: Making it to Induction Day

I had made it to 35 weeks. We made tentative induction plans for 38 weeks should I make it that far.

So I went back home to lie in bed and do more hopeful waiting.  

By this point in the pregnancy I was basically miserable.  Everything was swollen, I had been having terrible plantar fasciitis (intense stabby foot pain) that would wake me in the middle of the night, and I could never actually find a comfortable position. 

I was truly happy and thankful that I had made it so far but I was sooooo ready for it all to be over.  Each day felt longer than the last. 

I spent a total of 7 long weeks at home on bedrest until the day for my scheduled induction came.  My stubborn kids had decided that since their earlier plans were thwarted, they were gonna stay put and have to be forced out.  

The induction and delivery of my twins is a whole other story, so I’ll leave that for another time.  But I had made it to 38 weeks after a difficult, anxiety-ridden, high-risk pregnancy.  I am so thankful that my children were not born prematurely or with any complications.

So have some hope that you can get there, even if there are troubles along the way. I want to leave you with a few things to remember:

ADVICE ON SURVIVING A TWIN PREGNANCY

Twin pregnancy belly progression photo sequence, 18 weeks, 21 weeks, 24 weeks, 29 weeks.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.  If something feels wrong, just get it checked out.  I’m so glad I didn’t wait any longer to go to the hospital when I started feeling the regular contractions. 

DON’T PUSH YOURSELF.  It’s completely possible I ended up in preterm labor because I was trying to do too much.  Don’t feel bad or embarrassed that you’re having a more difficult time than other pregnant women, even those who are pregnant with multiples! 

PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE.  Prepare as MUCH as you can, as EARLY in the pregnancy as you can.  You never know what is going to happen.   Get all your leave information figured out, your hospital bags packed, and the nursery ready by the end of your second trimester at the latest!

Finally, find and connect with your local multiples club!  You can join as soon as you know you are expecting multiples.  Everyone in my club has been so generous and helpful! The private Facebook group has been a fantastic resource whenever I had questions.  I wish I had joined earlier in my pregnancy. 

So that’s my story in a (rather large) nutshell.  It’s hard to condense 9 months into 3,000 words, but I hope you’ve found some insight here.   You can learn more about my husband’s experience preparing for our twins with 5 Ways to Support your Partner During a Difficult Pregnancy.

Let me know in the comments what you’re interested in hearing more about! Be sure to check out these 19 essential twin registry items to start preparing now for the coming madness 🙂

Pregnant Belly - Surviving Twin Pregnancy - How I Made it to 38 Weeks
Surviving 38 Week Twin Pregnancy

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