Age of children: 8 months
I found out I was carrying twins when I had a scan at 6 weeks because of some pain and bleeding. Turns out it was my uterus stretching quickly because there were two of them in there! Even at that early stage they located two heartbeats, although the babies were like tiny kidney beans on screen. The ultrasound tech had been called in at short notice because it was a Sunday in the ER (my health anxiety got the better of me), and I’m not saying anything either way but he kind of smelled like whisky. Anyway it was a really fun session once I stopped laughing hysterically and shaking (“what do you mean there’s TWO EGG SACS?!!”), he took a load of pictures for me and explained what everything was and I was sent home to break the news to my husband. He actually laughed as well which was something of a relief.
One of the nicest things about being newly pregnant with twins was that I didn’t have to wait very long until I started to show. One of the other nicest things was that I first felt a tiny kick at 15 weeks; I was so excited! I found it difficult that I didn’t feel confident to exercise, as I’m usually pretty active. I didn’t want to ride my bike or rock climb; I know that some women continue to do both until quite late in pregnancy but I was too worried about having an accident. I love to hike and continued to do that until I got pretty big.
I ate a LOT in the first trimester as I’d read that gaining 25lb by 25weeks was a good way to ensure that your babies would get a great start on their weight gain. Subsequently I got a great start on my own weight gain! I started at 130lb which I felt was slightly overweight for me (but probably isn’t – I was constantly working on losing that “last five pounds”). By the time the twins arrived I was over 200lb, I stopped weighing myself about 10 days before they got here because it was mildly terrifying. So, I gained 70+ lb, partly because I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and hospitalized at 35 weeks. The preeclampsia made me retain a lot of fluid and added to my weight gain.
I wasn’t severely preeclamptic and my blood pressure never got too high (no medication), but I had a horrible case of PUPPS rash (aka Satan incarnate) and it was the hottest summer since about 1411 and the hospital didn’t have air con. I spent most of my days stark naked, standing in my bay on the prenatal ward with the curtain drawn round and my arms held out at my sides (I couldn’t bear any of my own skin to touch myself, that’s how itchy the PUPPS was), scaring the staff when they popped their heads around the curtain. Seriously most of them had never heard of PUPPS, I felt like some sort of teaching aid.
The hospital wanted to induce me which I was dead set against as I was scared it wouldn’t work properly and I’d end up with a c-section, or it’d work too well and the contractions would be too intense and I’d end up with an epidural and then with a c-section (did I mention the health anxiety?). As it turned out my waters broke at 2am when I was 36 weeks, and our girls were born naturally 17 hours later. My husband and my mum were amazing. Labour was more painful than I hoped but nowhere near as painful as I feared. I’d wanted a water birth at home with no pain relief and giving birth in theater while hooked up to a continuous fetal monitor wasn’t exactly the plan but considering the circumstances it was the safest and best outcome possible. No drugs apart from beta blockers to lower my blood pressure, and a vaginal delivery, which I had very much wanted.
I’ve struggled since the birth with my body image. I’m still 20lb overweight and the skin on my belly will never be the same. My breasts have dropped (they went up to a G cup so it’s not surprising!), but I remind myself how lucky I am to have been able to beast feed my girls. I never really liked my boobs that much but I did love my flat, smooth stomach and I do get sad when I look at it now. I’m 5’ 6” and I carried the girls straight out in front, and the skin was stretched beyond repair. It’s wrinkly and crepey and I have a diastasis so my belly sticks out and I still look pregnant. My stretch marks are very fine and pale and hardly noticeable, which I’m grateful for. I wasn’t prepared for the extent of the changes to my body and have found it hard to deal with – my husband tells me that he still finds me attractive but it’s difficult for me to see how he can.
The hardest thing for me to cope with has been the multiple prolapses I suffered since the birth. I have a cystocele and a rectocele (my bladder and rectum both bulge into my vagina); luckily I don’t have problems with incontinence but I do feel uncomfortable most days. It’s been difficult for me to return to exercise. I love to climb, hike, cycle and backpack, and I worry that I won’t be able to do those things in the future. The backpacking is especially hard to think of losing. My husband and I have done many long trips of two or three weeks duration during which we walked for 15-20 miles a day up mountains while wearing 25lb backpacks – right now I can’t imagine a time when my pelvic floor will be able to take that kind of strain, and it kills me. I cry about the prolapse often. I wish that people talked about this issue more because I wasn’t even really aware that it could happen to me until it did and it was a horrible shock. I know that I need to be patient for a while longer as a lot of healing happens in the first year after birth and I don’t yet know what the final outcome will be, but it’s hard and I get scared.
My girls are beautiful, healthy and I love seeing them change every day. I couldn’t have imagined how much I would love them (and I imagined that I would love them a lot!). As I said I wish that prolapse was more widely discussed as I feel that I would have done a few things differently if I’d known that it affects up to 50% of women. I would give anything for the changes to my body to be merely cosmetic and external. I am hoping against hope that if I continue to lose weight and do my kegels religiously then I might eventually be fairly symptom free, although I know that prolapse is lifelong. I am very much hoping to avoid surgery.
The first picture is my stomach at about 6 weeks pregnant, second is me at 8 months post partum. Third is a close up of my stomach post partum, and fourth is a side view. Fifth and sixth are our gorgeous girls :)