It's been a long time since I was pregnant with the twins. Three years ago, we were gearing up for the majestic unknown as we thought about how life would be after the girls were born. I've written before about all the turmoil and sorrow that was occurring in our lives during this pregnancy - my beloved father-in-law and my loving step-mother died within two weeks of each other just months before Nora and Maya were born. It's not possible to change that fact, or to have experienced the pregnancy with any other backdrop. However, I've never really written about the twin pregnancy itself, how it was as an experience. As the girls are approaching their third birthdays, it feels right to me to try to describe what an awe-inspiring experience it was being pregnant with them. Because I will never forget.
This was me, just a few weeks away from my delivery. I was able to carry my babies to 37 weeks, full-term, when my water broke just a week ahead of my scheduled 38-week c-section date. They were born big, strong, and healthy, just under and just over six pounds each, and miraculously needed no time in the NICU. Flash back to when we found out we were having twins at 8 weeks; we never would have hoped to predict this glorious outcome.
It had never ever occurred to us that we might have twins when we decided to have a third baby. I was much sicker during the first half of this pregnancy than I was during my pregnancies with the boys, so early on I wondered if something was different, but dismissed any serious thoughts of twins - I figured maybe I was having a girl this time. When we went in for our first ultrasound and found out there were two heartbeats, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. We were shocked, to say the least, and it took us (and our families and friends!) a long time to adjust to the news.
Before we could truly become overjoyed, we had to experience being scared. My overarching concern was physical - I was so small, how would I ever be able to carry these babies to term? That was why it was so hard for me in the beginning - in addition to being sick, I was petrified that even before they were born, I wouldn't be enough for my babies. I am happy to say that by about halfway through the pregnancy, with MUCH support and love from our families and friends, we truly felt more overjoyed than we did scared. It also helped that I wasn't feeling sick anymore.
In addition to my physical concerns, there were two main worries that stood out in my mind during much of my pregnancy. First, I had always loved and treasured being able to breastfeed and enjoy sweet, snuggly, post-milk cuddles with my babies. How would I be able to do this with twins? I found a picture of a mother breastfeeding her twins in one of my pregnancy magazines - I cut it out and hung it on my refrigerator as an inspiration. I read a book which said I shouldn't assume I couldn't breastfeed twins. And lo and behold, we did it - the girls breastfed in tandem until they were 17 months old. And I was still able to enjoy many newborn sleepy snuggles.
My second worry was that I would not be able to tell my girls apart if they turned out to be identical. Seriously. I worried that I would mix up their identities and we would forever be unable to identify who was who. When Nora was born with a freckle on her chest and a freckle on her cheek, we rejoiced. When a genetic test a few months later showed that the girls were indeed identical, I was already relieved that these beauty marks would allow us to correctly identify our girls. Of course, now, there are so many other ways we can tell the girls apart.
How can I describe what it felt like to be pregnant with two babies? When they started moving, it was incredible to imagine both girls moving together, so close. Every breath, every heartbeat, every hiccup. As my pregnancy progressed and the girls grew bigger, I hesitantly grew prouder. Yes, I was carrying twins! Yes, I was very short, but I was doing it. I remember proudly hefting my belly in front of me each time I would walk into the maternal/fetal wing for my regular appointments to monitor the babies. Yes, I would tell people on the elevator, it's hard and I'm uncomfortable, but I'm blessed. I tried very hard not to complain about being pregnant, not wanting to jinx myself. I wanted these babies to stay put for as long as possible.
Nora, baby A, was head down for most of the end of the pregnancy. I could feel her movements, but she didn't do any crazy maneuvering. Maya, baby B, was the flipper, all the way up to the end. Head up, transverse, head down, she couldn't decide. We like to joke with them now that Maya got impatient and pushed Nora out a week early, breaking Nora's water and getting the ball rolling.
When the girls were born, we were surprisingly able to figure it out as we went. The tremendous support we had gotten from our families and friends during the pregnancy continued once the girls were born; we were able to keep moving. We had thought our lives would be unmanageable, but surprisingly, they were just on the edge of manageable.
So that's my tale. We never expected to have twins, or to have four children, but now, of course we can't imagine it any other way. Two boys, two girls. Everyone has a buddy, and there are so many different combinations.
I thank G-d that I was gifted the privilege of experiencing a twin pregnancy. Early on during that time, I decided the books on twin behavior were not what I needed - I didn't need to fuel the fire of my swirling concerns with advice about how to keep your twins from figuring out how to help each other scale the kitchen counters and steal the knives (this was seriously written about in one of my books). What I needed was to be present in each moment, do what I could to provide for my family, and be happy. And the rest, as they say, is history.