Sunday, 9 August 2015

Twin are freaky

Full disclosure: I am a twin. I love being a twin. In general I think twins are great.

However, the thing that has been freaking me out most since I found out I was having twins was that these ones are identical.

I pretend it isn't. I talk to people about how I am going to get any sleep, or leave the house with two babies and a toddler but these are (comparatively) short term problems. That whole sharing DNA thing is going to stay with them forever.

In many ways the family I am about to have will mirror my own. I have a sister who is two years and three weeks older than my twin sister and I. Assuming I make it to my induction day Olive will be two years and 3 months older than her twin sisters.

My sisters and I get on brilliantly. We've always fought but tended to do it in rotation. Two would gang up against one. But not always the same two.

Growing up I was always pleased that my twin and I weren't identical. We were compared enough as it was, despite being markedly different in personalities and looks, if we'd looked the same I knew that people would completely fail to see us as individuals.

I want these little babies to become people in their own right. Not half of a whole.

I don't want Olive to feel left out of the "special bond" that people always claim twins have. (I am as close to my older sister as twin).

That programme, The Secret Life of Twins I mentioned last post, I found quite disturbing just how dependant some of the twins seemed on each other. I am sure many folk watched it and thought it would be brilliant to have their own special friend who will always be there. I just found it sad that the majority of the twins featured seemed unable to form relationships by themselves.

 *Spoiler alert* Look away now if you intend watching it. The most heartening story in the programme was the identical twins where one of the girls first came out as gay before realising it was more than that and realised she, now he, was transgender. The other remained a heterosexual female. Vive la difference.

What will be, will be. My twins might end up with a secret language and live in a cave together requiring no other human intervention. Or they might do their own thing and develop in such a way that they rarely seem identical.

However here are some pledges that I will make to them now:

  • I will not dress you the same. (Except for halloween obviously because that costume is a godsend). When people give you identical outfits, because they will, you will wear them on different days.
  • If you are very similar when born I will dab a bit of nail varnish on one of you (toe) so that I don't get you muddled in the early days.
  • I will not give you the same birthday and Christmas presents.
  • I will encourage you to develop your own hobbies
  • Wherever possible I will get you into different classes at school.
  • I will get to know you as individuals.
  • I won't call you Stacey and Tracey. In fact, all rhyming names are out.





Friday, 31 July 2015

Twins are special

Twins are special.

I assumed that people would be blasé about the idea of twins as everything I read states that they are on the increase. The reason for the surge in the number of twins isn't just IVF. Hyper stimulation followed by Intrauterine Insemination is likely to force more than one egg out of your ovaries and thus more chance of multiple births. Also, intriguingly, as women approach menopause their eggs go all lemming-like jumping off a cliff (or ovary) with gay abandon, so again they are more likely to release two eggs in any given month.

So don't just assume that an older mother with twins has gone down the drugged-up, medicalised route that I've opted for.

Despite all this twins are special.

I know this because of the attention that I receive every time people realise I'm not just pregnant but pregnant with twins.

Even from people I wouldn't expect.

As I queued amongst a plethora of other pregnant women to book my next scan the bored receptionist took my referral without even looking up. He started to type in my details when he suddenly perked up. "Twins clinic?! Congratulations."

Three people sent me a link to this twin photo.

Three different people texted me within minutes of The Secret Life of Twins starting on ITV.

No one ever sent me a link to information about single babies when I was pregnant with Olive (or Doug/ Dymphna as she was known then).

Also, a few weeks ago I met a guy in a park.

Not like that you filthy minded bunch.

He was hanging out by the swings with his adorable nearly three year old twins. We got chatting. On the downside he confirmed what I had feared, I will not sleep for at least two years. But on the plus side he has given (GIVEN!) me their now redundant double buggy. It would have cost about £600 new and approximately half that second hand but in selfless display of twin parent comradeship he has just given it to me knowing that every saving counts.

Yesterday I accosted a woman I had never spoken to before and within moments I had got her phone number. She is a mother of twins at the same nursery as Olive and I grabbed her at drop off and asked if I could have a chat with her sometime about twins. To you Americans this might not seem like a big deal but we Brits know you don't swap phone numbers until you have been on nodding acquaintance for at least three months followed by a good six months of weather conversations.

But twins are special.

So we've already got a playdate planned.

And my twins are doing well. I had a scan on Wednesday they are still a very similar size (one pound, two and three ounces respectively). Apparently if twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome is going to manifest itself it usually does so by 24 weeks. The latest scan being at 22 weeks and six days is therefore incredibly reassuring.

My twins are special.



Sunday, 12 July 2015

Non-Bucket List

I turn 39 this week.

A year before the big four-oh (little explanation there for the more mathematically-challenged amongst you).

Traditionally this is the point when people panic and start writing endless lists of everything they want to achieve before they hit forty.

Or before they die.

I've had a good long think about this and decided it is time to be honest about what I am never going to do, either in the next 365 days or however long I have left on this planet.

These were things that I always sort of assumed I would do but have now come to the conclusion I won't, and I am perfectly happy with that.

So here is my non-bucket list:

I will never make it to Glastonbury festival
I won't run a marathon
I'm not going to get a tattoo
I won't grow my hair long (I have done this once before, so I don't know if it technically counts but I have come to the realisation that hair any longer than my chin just doesn't suit me).
I won't do a bungee jump
I will never be fluent in a second language
I am not going to acquire a taste for whisky

But there is one thing I really want to achieve before I turn forty, and now unlike just a few years, or even months, ago it now seems eminently possible.

I want to become a Mother of three.

What's on your non-bucket list?



Saturday, 4 July 2015

Gender Reveal

According to Pinterest I'm supposed to bake a cake with either a pink or blue inside and have a big party where friends and family gather to watching the cutting of the cake and gasp in amazement when they discover the babies are boys or girls.

Let's face it the sex of the babies is only really of interest to the parents and even then its not a massive surprise they are going to be girls or boys. (And don't start getting indignant on behalf of the transgender community at this stage genitalia is the only clue we have).

We told the sonographer we wanted to know the sex right at the start of the scan and spent the next 45minutes waiting to be told what we were having whilst she seemed more interested in minor things like blood flow to from the placenta and checking the hearts had the right number of chambers.

As she went through she told us what she could see and also spoke to her colleague tapping away on the computer behind her. She used exactly the same tone regardless of who she was speaking to say it was difficult to know when we were supposed to respond or keep quite. The more technical terms I assumed weren't meant for us whilst the stating the obvious "and there is the cerebellum - which is used for balance" was for our benefit.

At one point I thought she casually told us the gender as I heard her murmur "and there's two boys", at the same moment the husband heard "and there's two balls" it was only when she pointed them out that we realised she said "and there's two bones [in the leg]".

Right at the end she said with a flourish "And now to find out the sex".

She wriggled around and got one of the babies to give her the money shot.

"Girls."

I know I shouldn't have a preference.

But I did.

I do.

And I am delighted.




Monday, 29 June 2015

Endless Scans


I said before one of the benefits of IVF is those early pre-12 week scans that you get (and pay through the nose for). I can’t imagine the agony of having to wait until 12 weeks before knowing, for sure, there is a heart beat in there (or in my case two heartbeats.)

Twins, it turns out, is the gift that keeps on giving. 

I have hundreds of scans – and this time they are on the NHS so free. God, I love the NHS. I remember hearing Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes bought a scan machine so they could keep an eye on young Suri in situ. I bet even that didn’t give them the frequency of scan I have lined up.

I had my 12 week scan, then a 16 week one. On Wednesday I have an 18 week one and my schedule promises further scans every two weeks.

The downside of these scans is that they are there for a reason, not simply because everyone loves a twin and wants a peek.

My little dudes share a placenta. The possible complications relating to this is that they have one source of blood so are at risk of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, TTTS (yeah I noticed there aren't enough 'T's in the acronym too). Which basically means one hogs all the blood and they grow unevenly.  They can also take an uneven share of the placenta.

In addition having had pre-eclampsia last pregnancy they want to keep any eye on that (risk factors of pre-eclampsia are - having had it before, check; being over 35, yup; and having twins, uh-huh). 

So far it is all good though. The twins (the twins!!! shit, it still gets me) are almost exactly the same size  - 1.5% difference - and my blood pressure is good. Maybe I should be more concerned but I feel pretty confident in the care I am receiving. If things are going wrong I think they'll pick up on it quickly.

And, excitingly, it means that on Wednesday we should get to find out whether we are having girls or boys.

Which do you reckon they'll be?



Saturday, 20 June 2015

Finding Out


I had absolutely no clue that I was pregnant with twin prior to my first, six week scan.

A friend of mine told her Mum that I was pregnant through IVF. “Twins?” asked the Mum. “Liz wouldn’t be so stupid” was the response.

And I wasn’t.

I had two embryos left. I could have put two back in but I didn’t. Partly because I wanted two chances at a second child so decided to try them one at a time, but also because after having just one child the idea of twins was petrifying a risk we didn’t want to take.

An anonymous commenter predicted twins when she saw my beta numbers. Yes, it was high but this didn’t prepare me either as they were eerily close to my numbers with Olive. You know, my single, first child. In retrospect I now wonder whether Olive started off as a twin too. I bled a fair bit in the very early weeks after that positive test. Maybe I did lose a twin then.

Everything that I initially told you happened at the six week was true, just not the whole truth. This is what happened where the last post left off…

The sonographer, after finding the precious heartbeat and I had relaxed, continued rooting around.

“and I think …” she paused as another blob appeared on screen “yes… you have twins. Another good heartbeat.”

“What?!” I yelped.

Now, I don’t claim to be a genius – but hey should you wish to saddle me with that title who am I to argue? – but the speed with which the thoughts rushed through my head on finding out was reminiscent of that scene in Short Circuit when Number 5 reads a whole encyclopedia in seconds.

This is a fraction of what I thought:
Twins.
Fuck.
They are going to be identical.
Identical twins are a bit odd.
What if I can’t tell them apart?
Will I ever be able to get them to sleep at the same time?
Will I be able to leave the house?
I’ll need a double buggy, plus Olive – a triple?
I won’t be able to get down the steps at the tube station.
Creepy identical twins.
We’ll need to get a car.
How can we afford a car and twins?
The husband will have to learn to drive
Can we afford driving lessons and twins?
Will I go back to work?
Will work cover childcare for three kids? Or will I have to pay for the privilege of keeping a job ready for when school kicks in.
Identical twins … shit
What will the husband say [he couldn’t make the appointment]
Its like my own family, two year old then twins.
My poor Mum
I always wanted three kids
Just not at once
The husband wanted two.
I win.
But identical?
How will I get them all downstairs in the morning?
I’ll need another moses basket…
And cot…
At least I already have two boobs.
They’ll be premature, won’t they.
This is going to be a high risk pregnancy
I hope I’m alright.
I hope they are alright.
Oh shit.

I’m conscious that my initial thoughts were not the overwhelmingly positive ones that you would expect from an infertile about to have more children that she'd ever hoped for. I’m sure many of you who are still waiting for their miracle struggle to read how ungrateful I was. Things have changed since the shock of finding out has worn off, but I wanted to be honest about how I felt.

Now I am just over 17 weeks pregnant - halfway through my pregnancy (the consultant told me he won't let them go over 36 weeks). I still have doubts about how I will cope with twins - or tell them apart - but I am pretty thrilled at the idea of them.



Saturday, 23 May 2015

Telling Work

I have been quite militant in the past about how to announce a pregnancy. Back in 2008 I decreed the best way was by email, I detail it here but in summary it was "By email. A short, happy one, not too full of details."

I decided to tell my work colleagues this time in one shot - rather than it becoming a whispered rumour, and risk missing people I thought I'd send an all office email. I still remember a colleague casually asking a heavily pregnant, normally very slim, workmate if she "was up to anything this summer." He'd missed news of her pregnancy and was trying to subtly ask if she was actually up the duff.

Unfortunately one of my self-imposed rules broke was I had to send it to people's work email address.

This was the email:


From: Me
Date: Thursday, May 21, 2015
To: Team
Cc: The Boss
Subject: Buns in the oven

Dear All

It seemed appropriate to announce my latest pregnancy by doing some baking so there is cake in the usual place.

So that we can get over the small talk – you don’t feel obliged to ask, I don’t have to repeat myself here is the conversation we would have had:

How pregnant are you?
13 weeks today

I can’t do the maths, when are you due?
In theory 26 of November but given that Olive was three weeks early and twins are usually premature I’m guessing October.

Twins?! Seriously?
Yes – note the plural in the title of this email

Do you know the sex?
If by that you mean do I know the gender not yet, I’ll find out in a couple of months. But I will find out rather than wait.

If you mean something else, I decline to comment.

Have you thought of names?
At the moment we are thinking Stacey and Tracey for girls or Romulus and Remus for boys. 

Really?
No.

What if they are a boy and a girl?
They won’t be, they are the creepy identical type.



OMG!!! Its going to be hell. My cousin had twins and she had a awful time …
Please can we change the subject now? What are you doing this weekend?

Liz




The cake went down well and the email went viral (my boss forwarded it to three people).

It'd be fair to say I don't work in a massively corporate environment.



Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Secrets and Lies

The scan on Tuesday showed a healthy, happy embryo. In fact it showed a bit more than that.

I really didn't mean to keep anything back this time.

After last pregnancy's time shift I felt a bit guilty about keeping you in the dark so this time the plan was to tell you exactly what was going on, as it happened.

But I didn't count on one tiny little flaw in my plan - a bit of news that would completely throw me and I'd need time to digest it before disseminating it across the world. To be honest it wasn't so much you lot that I wanted to keep it quiet from it was those real life friends and family that read this blog that I didn't want to find out immediately.

So whilst I haven't exactly lied to you I have been keeping one small detail back. At the start it was a tiny detail but as the weeks have gone on it has grown. This detail is now approximately five and a half centimeters long.

This detail is a twin.

A second baby.

A wombmate hanging out.

That one embryo I transfered clearly didn't want to be lonely so decided to clone itself in my uterus.

All going well I'm going to go from being an incredibly lucky mother of one near-miracle baby to a mother of three.

Which is frankly an embarrassment of children.



Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Approaching the second trimester


I have a week (6 days and 12 hours to be exact) until my next scan.

The 12 week one which I consider my graduation one, launching me into the second trimester. It isn't done at the fertility clinic but at the hospital where I will give birth, and it is done from the outside  - through the belly. I told a friend that my scans to date are all done up through the vag.

She was appalled;  "How embarrassing!"

I don't need to tell you guys that she hasn't been through IVF. I hardly notice an internal scan these days, you need to scrape out half my womb lining to get so much of a flinch out of me nowadays.

I haven't had a scan for three weeks so I'm getting increasingly jittery.

I don't feel like things have gone wrong.  I'm being sick and getting noticeably bigger - but the latter has less to do with anything growing in my womb but more to do with the only thing that eases the nausea is to eat.

So I am.

Constantly.

I've always been fairly short and had hairy toes but now I have added a second breakfast to my hobbit-like traits. (And mid-morning snack, late morning snack, lunch ...)

Still it helps fill the time.

I wonder how much I can eat in the next week.




Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A happy ending?


A couple of weeks ago I had my final intralipid treatment.

At the risk of repeating myself - a quick summary of the treatment:

Intralipids is a two hour infusion that seems to suppress the immune system.  I don't know if I need it as the test for an over active immune system - which can prevent embryos implanting - is way more expensive than the treatment. My gut feeling though is that it has made all the difference.

Anyway, back to my last intralipid treatment; I was parked for two hours on a drip directly opposite the production room.

The production room is the euphemistically named cupboard where the gentlemen go to have a wank to produce the sperm needed for their 50% contribution to the embryo.

It was really hard, with nothing to do but sit with a drip in your hand, not to judge the men who went in and out of that room. So hard that I, of course, didn't hold back.

Four chaps went into that room during my treatment. They all took pretty much bang on (or banging on) ten minutes. Two out of the four stuck the label on the bag rather than the pot and were reprimanded by the nurse (with a fifty percent failure rate I think you have to question the nurse's explanation).

The last chap went in with his missus. He took a bit longer than the others - maybe twelve minutes. But it just goes to show you don't know what goes on behind closed doors, and the door was most certainly closed. To look at them I wouldn't have guessed that either he'd need a helping hand or that she'd insist on giving one.

I don't know what a couple who do need to go into the producing room together looks like, but they didn't look like it.

This whole thing reminded me of something that happened several years ago. I didn't blog about it at the time because it didn't seem fair on the couple - what if by some coincidence one of the two in question were anxiously googling success rates for IVF and came across this blog detailing what had happened to them that day. So I kept quiet but now, many years later, I have to share.

It was egg collection day for me at my clinic.

There were half a dozen couples in the ward, all neatly screened off from one another, and all ws silent other than the swish of the curtain as various doctors, nurses and embryologists pop in and out of the cubicles. I became aware of a bit of a commotion in the bed next to me. The couple urgently whispering to one another and then calling the nurse.

More discussion and then the nurse says, in a stage whisper that would shame Brain Blessed, "WE COULD TRY VIAGRA".

"shhhhhhhh" the couple said in a panic.

"I WAS WHISPERING!" the nurse assured them. And the rest of the ward.

It turned out the woman's eggs had been collected and there is a short window for the sperm to get in there. A window that was getting ever smaller whilst the chap couldn't raise his old chap.

Talk about pressure to perform.

The resolution was to prescribe viagra, but they don't stock it in the clinic so he had to go out to a pharmacy. Not, you'd think, a problem in central London except it was a Sunday with only a few emergency pharmacies open.

The poor guy had to leg it ten minutes up the road, get the pills, come back to the production room, do the most high pressure wank in the world and hand over the goods. All within (by this time) forty minutes.

For research purposes only, I've just been googling "how long does viagra take to work". Apparently about an hour.

I had to leave before the story reaches its climax.

So I am afraid I can't leave you with a happy ending.

But just a reminder, yes we women have to go through an awful lot during IVF, the drugs, injections, hormones both natural and artificial.

But I've never felt that kind of pressure.