You know those perfect moments that are special at the time but they become even more precious because of what happens next?
I experienced this earlier this pregnancy.
At around 15 weeks, my husband’s hand lay on my small but growing bump, and we started laughing. Laughing because we had never considered having four children, yet now couldn’t imagine any other possibility. Laughing because we had done fertility treatments before, but identical twins came this time without it. Laughing because the fear of the first trimester, not to mention the nausea, was receding, and we couldn’t believe how lucky we were.
Four pregnancies and four babies. The math worked out in the end, even if the equation was a little complicated by a miscarriage and twins. Still, it was poetic, and we were full of joy.
And then came my 16-week appointment. I remember seeing both babies move and squeezing my husband’s hand. At this point, the initial shock had worn off, but the awe of seeing two babies on the ultrasound hadn’t faded (and I don’t think it ever will). We thought the gender was going to be the big reveal of the appointment. Instead, our tech, measurements in hand, brushed off our question and rushed to find the specialist.
The possibilities she then told us changed the course of the pregnancy in an instant.
Selective twin reduction
Delivery or hospitalization at 22-24 weeks
Fetal laser surgery
Fetal demise and threat to other twin
Moral questions I never considered seized my thoughts as I left the appointment and tried to figure out how to return to be a functioning mother and person amid so much uncertainty.
I can’t say I have it all figured out, but if you’re faced with an unknown outcome in a pregnancy, here is my best advice:
Give yourself a set amount of time to google.
“Stay off the internet,” people told me. And if you can heed that advice, please do. But I knew that was unrealistic for me. Instead, I gave myself 48 hours to look up all things about velamentous cord inserts, selective intrauterine growth restriction (sIUGR), premature atrial contractions, to name some of our complications. After this point, my google search results were pretty much all that purple “read” color anyway—not that it would have stopped me from obsessing and rereading. I felt I had enough information to be knowledgeable, and more information would only feed my anxiety.
Talk to people—or email or text.
I sent out a group email at one point because I lacked the energy to individually update friends. Having so many people care really does make a difference.
Keep to your normal routine (if not on bed rest).
It was hard to go to a dinner for my husband’s work the next night, but the alternative would have been canceling and sitting at home thinking about why I canceled. I was not my most engaged self, but I showed up. I tried to be present but also not put on a fake front.
Think of others.
Getting out of my own head and remembering that others are going through difficult or important times too helped. Check on them and let them know they care.
Give yourself permission to feel all of the things.
This was the hardest. We didn’t know what was going to happen. I was in shock the first day. The second one, I tried to emotionally distance myself from the babies that I could now feel flutter all around in my belly. That was an especially depressing day.
When I realized this was impossible to do, I turned to hope. The truth was that if we lost one or both babies, I would be completely devastated. Period. I couldn’t do anything to truly protect myself.
Focus on what you can do.
My pregnancy issues were out of my control. I wasn’t on bed rest; a magical medication wouldn’t help. I clung, a little obsessively, to two things that I could do: drink more water and eat more protein. Even if this wouldn’t change the course of my pregnancy, I needed to be proactive at something other than worrying.
I really felt like I was living a much different version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s eat, pray, love. I planned meals as if it were my job, I prayed a ton, and I concentrated on love.
These were days and weeks of my two daughters’ young lives I would never get back. They needed their mom–even if she wasn’t batting 100–and I needed them.
If the story did have a happy ending, I would regret living through my last pregnancy in fear.
And even if it didn’t, it would still be my story to own.
I wanted to look back on the pregnancy and be proud of how I handled it.
So, I chose gratitude.
Each week, month, I celebrated a new milestone. I was not one of those seasoned moms who couldn’t remember how far along she was. I could tell you by the day in an instant. I also had a few bigger milestones I’d set for myself (22, 24, 28 weeks) that helped pass time. I mostly tried to take it a day at a time.
In the beginning, it was hard. I didn’t want to make plans in case I ended up in the hospital. Visibly pregnant in my second trimester, I still caught myself couching statements with “we think” or “it seems” in front of all I needed to say. “We’re having twins.” But I soon settled into our new reality.
Seeing the girls on the ultrasound each week gave me the resolve to keep going, and make it to the next week.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, but what I do know is that right now, I have two beautiful girls on the outside and two growing inside of me. And that is worth celebrating.
I’m sure I won’t fully grasp how stressful this pregnancy has been until I look back at it later. I still have a hard time picturing what life will be like once these babies join our family and often concentrate on the pregnancy instead, probably a subconscious move to protect myself.
Now at 31 weeks and counting, my husband and I still have special moments at night looking at my not-so-little but still growing belly. We watch the kicks and movements of both twins and marvel at how far we’ve come and how strong these babies are. We may not have the same unbridled happiness as before, but in its place, a deeper sense of appreciation for these miracles has grown. We still feel so lucky.