From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 3, May-June 2002, p. 97
Once I discovered that I was pregnant with twins, I was told by my doctor about the possibility of delivering early. After my first sonogram it became an absolute certainty. Sixteen weeks into the pregnancy I was officially diagnosed with having a monoamniotic-monochorionic twin pregnancy. According to the doctors most twins have a membrane separating one baby from another, preventing cord entanglement and cord compression. Mono-mono twins lack this membrane and there's a very high risk of losing one or both babies. This condition is very rare, and during pregnancy the babies require a lot of fetal monitoring in order to catch a problem before it can become fatal.
Twenty-four weeks into the pregnancy I was transferred to the high-risk clinic at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where non-stress tests were ordered by my doctor and performed three times each week in order to provide closer monitoring of my babies. At 28 weeks I was hospitalized for 24-hour fetal monitoring of my babies. Fetal monitors were placed on my abdomen and constant bed rest required. The labor and delivery clinic was truly wonderful. While there, I was given a tour of the NICU by the head of the department and also a description of what to expect if my babies were born early. At 32 weeks I had a scheduled cesarean section. Thank goodness they were both born healthy and breathing on their own! Jade weighed in at three pounds and 14 ounces and was on oxygen for about an hour. Blyss weighed four pounds, five ounces and was on oxygen for two days.
They were placed in the neonatal intensive care unit as "gainers and growers."
Coping with my babies being in the neonatal intensive care unit was very difficult, as I'm sure it is for all parents going through this type of situation, but the staff at Mt. Sinai certainly made a tough time easier to deal with. The nurses were always very helpful and courteous in addressing any questions or comments I had about my daughters and their care, and there was always a constant source of support coming from social workers, NICU mothers' support groups, and doctors, among others. I had planned on breastfeeding and found the lactation consultants to be enormously helpful and full of information and patience in coaching me. On my second day in the hospital I was given a double breast pump so that I could get started on producing milk for my babies. I pumped every three hours on schedule and the milk was given to my babies by a tube inserted in their mouths/noses.
Dealing with them being in the NICU was stressful. One of the greatest things that helped my family and me through the ordeal has been our spirituality. I remember talking to my girls and telling them to eat well and be strong, that their daddy and I were waiting for them to come home, that their big sister was waiting to play with them and love them.
Keeping a journal of my babies' progress in the NICU was essential for me. I remember calling the hospital and recording their weight, food intake, and oxygen levels on a daily basis and recording it in a special book of memoirs that I have for them. At about four weeks of age my daughters were discharged from the NICU and my husband and I were truly thrilled. We were both ecstatic and nervous about what life would be like with them at home.
The hospital had arranged for a grant so that I would be able to rent the hospital-grade breast pump free for one month. This worked out well while my babies were in the NICU for that amount of time. I was able to provide milk for them and maintain a good supply while I was away from them. When my girls came home, I found that nursing and pumping are two different processes! The first few days home they were going through a growth spurt in addition to becoming accustomed to nursing full time. We got through it and nursing has been a pleasure since then. I stayed home with my babies until they were three months old before returning to work, and I was determined to breastfeed my daughters for an indefinite amount of time.
Breastfeeding was something that I really wanted to do with the twins. I read everything that I could find on the subject. Thankfully I found lots of information on the Internet, especially on www.lalecheleague.org. There are also many books, such as LLL's MOTHERING MULTIPLES by Karen Gromada (Available from the LLLI Online Store.), clubs, and newsletters available on nursing and mothering multiples. These resources were helpful to me because I was relatively new at breastfeeding. I had nursed my oldest daughter until she was four months old but did not continue due to lack of information, experience, and support. It takes a lot of determination and drive to breastfeed. I've experienced many raised eyebrows, incredulous smiles, and not-too-nice comments about why I've decided to breastfeed and whether it is the best.
My daughters have been exclusively breastfed for eleven months now and are still going strong. We've had our ups and downs but I feel that I have given them the best possible start. They are happy and healthy and in the end that is what is important to me. I have no regrets about my decision to breastfeed and I also plan to breastfeed any future children. The twins are doing perfectly and developing quite well. As I write this, Blyss weighs fifteen pounds, eleven ounces and Jade weighs fifteen. They spend their days "talking," standing, crawling, and smiling. Each day my family and I give special thanks for what we proudly call our little miracles. Just looking at them helps me realize it was all worth it!