Anita Paradis

Posted: Dec 18, 2010

As newlyweds, my husband and I were delighted when I got pregnant right away. Our delight was doubled when, at thirteen weeks, we learned that I was carrying twins!

We decided early on that it was best to be well-informed so we signed up for two sets of pre-natal classes designed especially for parents of multiples. I bought and borrowed some books, and we set about learning as much as we could about what lay before us. The information was to stand us in good stead.

One of the risks of a multiple pregnancy is premature labour so I made myself aware of all the symptoms and kept a checklist on the fridge. One day, at 33 weeks, I started experiencing one of the symptoms. The checklist recommended that I lay down for an hour and the symptom might disappear. It didn't. As the day progressed, I started experiencing another symptom, then another, and another. I spent most of the day lying down. At three a.m., when I noticed yet another symptom, I was debating whether to go to the hospital to be examined when - WHOOSH! - my water broke. So the decision was made.I was going to the hospital. (I later found out that the probable cause of my premature labour was Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome [TTTS] and toxemia).

Twelve hours later, I delivered a tiny 3 lb. 11 oz. daughter. She was immediately whisked away to NICU. Only one of the amniotic sacs had ruptured and my body thought it was done after the delivery so the obstetrician induced a second, shorter labour by breaking the other sac and administering more pitocin so that I could deliver our second daughter. She arrived two hours later, weighing 3 lbs. 10 oz. and was also whisked off to NICU.

I was allowed to meet my daughters several hours later. As small and premature as they were, both girls were housed in isolettes, fed through tubes and required varying amounts of oxygen for the first few days. There were tubes and wires and medical tape everywhere. Each baby had a nurse assigned exclusively to her, and was constantly monitored. I could see their every bone and vein, and their chests collapsed as they struggled for each breath. It was terrifying.

The babies' lungs were not fully developed, they were underweight, and had no sucking reflexes. One had a heart problem and the other had apnea and jaundice. All complications of prematurity. Additionally, our babies were suffering the effects of TTTS. The neonatologist reassured us that the babies were otherwise in good health, and that these conditions were routinely and successfully treated. Then he put things into perspective by saying, "Of course they're not breathing on their own yet. They're not supposed to be. They're supposed to be 'cooking' inside you right now. I am confident that by their due date, they will have achieved all the milestones they need to reach to be released." So that's what we focused on.

The milestones were: the ability to regulate their own body temperatures, breathing on their own (in the case of apnea, the ability to resolve an episode without intervention), and a sucking reflex established.

As early and as often as we were allowed, we held the babies, bathed them, and fed them. We spent every possible moment with them though they were asleep most of the time, and held them naked next to our skin (kangaroo care). I was anxious to start breastfeeding and was relieved that the babies were so receptive to it after all they'd been through. They responded very well to the various medications that were administered and made steady progress on the path to wellness. One was discharged at four weeks, the other (finally!) at five weeks, weighing about 6 lbs. each.

There is a very happy ending to all of this. The girls have experienced no developmental delays and show no effects from having been born prematurely. They are a happy, healthy four year olds now.

Anita Paradis
Orleans, Ontario

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