First trimester of pregnancy: A twin ray of hope

Towards the end of the first trimester around 10 weeks pregnant, I went to have a scan at Rigshospital to check the nuchal translucency (apparently an indication of the statistical likelihood of Downs syndrome in the foetus).  As it happened, I thought I was 13 weeks by then, but found out I had misjudged based on my dodgy menstrual cycle. Anyway. It was a rough day.

The ultrasound doctor noticed that there were twin babies in there, and I was completely shocked; there are no twins in my family and I had never even considered this possibility. Then a specialist came and had a look and told us that the twins are sharing a placenta, and are in separate amniotic sacs (monochorionic, diamniotic) and are a risky type of twin pregnancy. He explained that there is a high chance of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) in this case, where the blood vessels from the placenta run from one baby to another. So one baby becomes overly engorged with blood, and the other is deprived, and gets really tiny. The only solution is laser surgery to cauterize the shared blood vessels, and that can only be performed from 17 weeks, but if this syndrome is happening, they won’t make it until then. However since it was only 10 weeks, we would have to wait and see in the next 2 weeks if they were really in separate amniotic sacs, and if one would be bigger than the other.

I was blown away. I couldn’t believe I had gone from ‘oops a baby’ to ‘Wow! 2 babies!’ to ‘Maybe neither baby will make it’. My husband and I were totally devastated and what followed was the worst night of my life so far, followed by an awful 2 week wait, which I survived in suspended animation, numb and too afraid to feel anything in case I should lose control and go insane with grief. As I write this and recall those feelings I am tearing up, even the memory is still painful.

So 2 weeks later we had another scan, and in a new surprise twist, the babies were clearly monoamniotic, sharing an amniotic sac. So they are mono-mono or momo. This means that they are a lower risk for TTTS, but now they stood a chance of getting their umbilical cords all knotted together, which causes less blood and oxygen from the placenta to reach them, and can be lethal. The doc told us there is a 50% chance of survival in the beginning. Well, not great odds, but considering what we had just been facing with slim odds at best, we were relatively relieved. Still freaked out, but there was a glimmer of hope and we both grabbed it for all we were worth.

12 weeks
Our momo babies at 12 weeks

First trimester of pregnancy: winter (of my discontent) 2013

I thought I would go back to the beginning of the story and fill in some of the more interesting blanks, elaborating on the pregnancy journey in each post.

So it was December 2013, and I had just returned from a trip to Berlin, where I had done a course on consciousness (life-altering stuff, Consciousness Coaching Master II). My mind was full of questions, about how I perceive the world and all the layers of identity that prevent me from really engaging with what I want in life. I felt full of possibilities, and empowered to make some significant strides in finally figuring out how to live!

But there was also this niggling feeling, since my cycle had been irregular the last month, and I had painful breasts. I thought, I’m sure I’m not pregnant, but I guess I should do a test to rule it out. You see, my husband and I had been trying for some time to get pregnant, had no luck and decided to wait until after he finished his PhD. So I was awaiting an appointment at the gynae to get an IUD for contraception, as I was reluctant to re-start the pill.

Apparently, my body only needed to hear ‘maybe now isn’t a good time’ and BAM! I was pregnant. I took the little plastic test to show my husband and he started giggling nervously when he understood that the 2 pink lines means, yup buddy, now you’ve done it.

We were really scared but also elated, and I was excited to imagine all to come. At first I really didn’t ‘feel’ pregnant, you know? I was like, when are the changes going to happen dammit? I want a big round belly already! (yes impatience is one of my more persistent characteristics)…

Well it didn’t take long and the morning sickness greeted me to prove that yes indeed, I am a pregnant lady. Now I had read about it, and was expecting what you see on TV: a pale woman wakes in the morning, runs to the toilet and vomits, and that’s her lot in life for a couple of weeks. TV lied to me!! I didn’t have any such experience. Ok, so yes I was pale (what else after the sunless never-ending winter in Denmark?) and I woke early in the morning. Like 3am. And yes I was nauseated. But no vomiting (yet), and I felt roughly the same level of profound queasiness throughout the day (and night) for the next 3 months. I couldn’t even think about food, never mind actually eating it. And this is new for me, believe me, normally I live for food ! I plan my meals for the week, enjoy the grocery shopping, cook every night and generally obsess about my next meal, as a rule. So I felt almost disembodied to be so disgusted by the very thing I have loved so long. And smells! Hark the arrival of my super-sniffer, I could smell the faintest tinge of garlic a mile away, and it made me gag.

I tried everything:

  • sea bands (yes, guilty, but I was desperate ok?) – fail.
  • eating band foods – I could only eat white toast
  • drinking bubbly water (tap water was impossible to even swallow)
  • ginger sweets (momentary relief and then a weird taste in my mouth that made me wish I never tried them)
  • constant snacking (on the toast of course)

It was all useless, and I really felt like the universe was sucking the life force out of me. I lost 3 kg in the first 2 weeks, simply being unable to eat much, and then I got flu, which amplified the nausea 100-fold, this time causing some of the most violent vomiting I have ever experienced in my life (sorry neighbors!!)

Luckily, this was during Christmas holidays, so I lay on the couch in bilious stupor, and watched back-to-back seasons of Sons of Anarchy and Grimm. Yup, intellectual stuff, I know. It was all I could do to remain sane – distract myself with sexy bikers and fairy tales, and sip bubbly water, all the while hoping that the next day I would wake up feeling ‘normal’.

Then I had to go to work, and this was especially challenging. To think coherently, it helps if don’t constantly feel like throwing up.  And that’s hard to avoid when your work smells like fermenting bacteria, and chemicals….So I went to the doctor (she asked ‘have you tried snacking? what about carrots?’) Geez- did she think I was stupid?! I pleaded for help, and all she could give me was some antihistamines and vitamin B6.  Apparently antihistamines can combat morning sickness, though the mechanism by which this occurs seems less than well-understood. This was useful for sleeping, and I popped one in the evening so I could get some shut-eye, and woke up feeling stoned, and you guessed it, nauseated. Come 3 am I was snacking on dried apricots, and then on my usual toast and bubbly water for the rest of the day. I took vitamin B6 3 times as day, and although it didn’t alleviate the nausea, I felt like I was worse if I didn’t take it (psychosomatic? who cares!)

So finally I had a system to deal with my new living hell. And I managed to graduate to eating spaghetti…..



I browsed of some old family photos yesterday. I have been in the mood for looking back recently, and wondering how my mom would have coped in my situation. She passed away 3 years ago, and as much as I have missed her over the years, it’s been worse since i got pregnant.

It sounds lame but there is something to be said for having a mom when you’re knocked up!

She has been though it, more or less, and she loves you unconditionally and in my case, luckily, she usually had a lot of answers for my questions. So I really have been wishing she could be here now. I even feel a little selfish saying that. But hey. She was a real warrior of a woman, strong and smart and always with a plan and the voice to work and ask for what she wanted. And no one can take her place. Saying that, I can’t complain, my husband is a real champ, totally supportive and awesome. But he’s just not the same. She was the one who made me. She dealt with all my insanity growing up, comforted me when I was sick or hysterical, disapproved when she thought I was doing something stupid (famous quote ‘You are wrong my girl’) but ultimately loved me through it all.

So anyway. I was browsing the old pics, and found some of her as a teenager, at her wedding, and then when I was a baby, and I found myself trying to picture what our little babies will look like, what kind of babies they will be, and wondering how on earth my mom managed- she was only 24 when I was born! In her day that was considered old (ha!) but I feel like the 30s are a better fit for motherhood for me anyway. I wish I could ask her so many questions! And I feel pissed off that I was so lame when she was alive and never thought to interrogate her and write it all down! Hindsight hey.

Welcome to our little story

I am 6 months pregnant with monoamniotic twins (girls!) and the whole time has been intense. So I thought I would start a blog to share with crazy journey, as I reckon it is one of life’s unique experiences. I have been wanting to blog about this, but struggled to find the time while 1. feeling like I would never be not-nauseated again, and then later 2. finishing up a million experiments in the lab prior to starting maternity leave…. But luckily the morning (all-day-long-life-is-hell) sickness passed and blessed leave is here now & I have some time for reflection, and preparation. I hear that this is the time to get your head right for the way your life is about to mutate into an entirely different thing….

My husband and I were not trying to get pregnant, so it came as a surprise, which was made even more exciting when the doctor doing the ultrasound said ‘oh there’s the other baby!’. I had such a shock I burst into tears and she had to leave the room so I could get a hold on myself. It was just a rush of neurotic projecting into the future and ‘Oh my God I can’t do this!’, which luckily subsided quite quickly into ‘Wow- those are my babies!’.

Then we found out that they share one placenta and one amniotic sac, apparently a rare blend of twin, 1/10 000. The doctors told us this type of pregnancy has a 50 % chance of survival for both twins in the beginning, and it was tough to hear. We have both been struggling to enjoy the pregnancy with the cloud of fear surrounding us, but with mutual support (and quite a lot of pretending everything is normal, plus ice cream for treats) we have made it so far without going completely insane. In the beginning I was so ill, I felt like life was torturing me, and I was barely functional for a month. After that, I learned how to cope with a layer of queasiness on my world, and later still the evil veil lifted and I finally felt sort-of normal again.

Every 2 weeks I have had a scan and been holding my breath, hoping they are both still ok. Since they started kicking around 22 weeks I have had more of a hint that they are doing well (thank you ninja babies), but still Google is full of negative outcomes to freak me out. I’m not sure that being informed is really better when there is nothing you can do to change the outcome, but damn I am curious so I continue to torture myself with information…

Since about 25 weeks, I felt a little more optimistic and have yielded to the urge to prepare for their arrival. I was reluctant, but really it’s insane to try and sort it out at the last minute, not to mention my ever-increasing girth! So I have decided that our girls are coming into this world and I will do my best to make it a pleasant experience for them. At this stage the survival rate is close to 90%, but still not 100% dammit…..but I am having scans every week, and trying to figure out how the hell to prepare for this whole life-altering thing. Mostly I feel really lucky to have gotten this far,  that I have such an awesome supportive husband whose patience knows no end :), that I have great friends who never tire of hearing my story, and family far away but bursting with love.

They are getting big!
They are getting big!

So there –  I hope this blog will be useful and/or entertaining & that I can keep it up!