Saturday, February 23, 2013

28 weeks pregnant with monoamniotic twins

Today marks a very important milestone in this pregnancy. I am 28 weeks pregnant. Babies born after this point have very good odds of surviving without any handicaps or defects from early birth. Of course, we want to keep them on the inside for another month, but should things change and necessitate us taking them out early, we have good chances of having healthy babies.

When we learned that instead of the normal, healthy, relatively simple pregnancy with one baby we thought I was having, I was in fact having an extremely high-risk, nerve-wracking pregnancy with identical twins in one amniotic sack, I could hardly imagine making it this far. That was 15 weeks ago. At the time, it felt almost as if time was standing still, and now, it is hard to believe that amount of time has passed and here we are. I am in the hospital being closely monitored and have reached week 28!

There are some very funny things about being in a foreign hospital. My room is right next to the midwife office and I often hear conversations between midwives. Sometimes they are having loud conversations with lots of laughture. If I could understand Danish, I would know so much more about  everything going on in the hospital and about the individual midwives and their personalities. But, alas, I cannot eavesdrop.

Another funny thing is the signs. The hospital is covered in signs with important information. There are at least 9 signs in my room alone. I have deciphered most of them, but it took a few days and when I got here, I really had no idea what was going on. The midwives told me a lot, but since most patients can read signs, they neglected to mention some things like how to use the television, which water is drinkable and which is not, how to get the shower to drain, etc.

I have gotten used to reading Danish at stores, supermarkets, in public transport, etc. but hospitals introduce all kinds of new words that are beyond my knowledge of the Danish language. So, I am taking the opportunity to expand my vocabulary. I have learned the words for clean and dirty among others. Give me another five years and surely I will be fluent.

Fortunately, all the midwives speak perfect English and are happy to talk to me. I feel very fortunate since it certainly wouldn't be as easy to communicate in some other foreign hospitals. I sense that I am a bit of a novelty to most of the staff here, they like to ask me questions and talk about America with me - San Francisco, marshmallow fluff, American medical practices, etc. It's a little funny, but also makes the days a bit more fun.

It is past time for me to be sleeping. Time to put the earplugs generously given to me by one of the midwives in my ears so I can sleep through all the beeping and banging in the night. Four weeks to go till baby time.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2 pounds!, marking time in a hospital and a roommate

Greetings from the hospital.

We learned today that the babies are approximately 2 lbs each. This is good news. They continue to follow the growth curve for normal babies and if they keep packing on the weight over the next month, they will have an easier time being born early at 32 weeks.

We also scheduled a tentative birthday (much more fun than saying a tentative day for the doctors to cut me open and take the babies out) for March 26th. It is very nice to have a specific day to focus on and look forward to. If all goes well and the babies are born that day they will be 32 weeks and 3 days gestational age and have a really good chance of a relatively short and uncomplicated NICU stay.

I have been here for nearly two weeks. I can't say the days are flying by, but I have been fortunate enough to have several visitors and enough stuff going on that I am not totally cringing at the thought of being here another month. I feel incredibly fortunate to have good friends all over the place who are supporting me in their own ways. Friends in Copenhagen who have come by to see me and chat at all times of the day. Friends in the US and other parts of Europe who have mailed me everything from books and magazines, to snacks, cozy socks and a fully loaded Kindle. Friends who send me emails to check in and keep me amused for a few minutes every few days. Friends who call me to chat and keep me occupied. Friends who are praying for me and the babies, or just sending us positive vibes. It is amazing how cared for I feel because of my fantastic community of friends and family. I continue to be very glad that Neil and I decided to share the news of this pregnancy with everyone when we did.

Life in a hospital has a certain rhythm and I am slowly tuning into the rhythm here. I now have several events I can check off my checklist as a way of marking time.
  • So far I have been here for two concerts in the hospital lobby and I should anticipate seeing two or three more as they tend to happen two or three times a month. 
  • I am on my second ID bracelet because I noticed this morning that most of the text on the bracelet had worn off. A friendly midwife informed me that I will need a new one every two weeks. So, two more ID bracelets before the babies are born.
  • This morning one of the midwives cheerfully came in my room and announced it was Midwife Day! This means I got my blood pressure checked, had to stand on a scale and was checked for any swelling in my feet and hands. This will happen four more times before the babies are born. 
  • We will have an in-depth ultrasound where the babies are measured two more times before they are born. 
It may be a little silly, but it's nice to have some rather mundane things to help mark the time.


I had a roommate for three nights this week. It seems I made the mistake of thinking about how much I enjoyed having a room to myself. No sooner than I had that thought a woman showed up to occupy the other bed in my room. She was also pregnant with twins and came for laser surgery on her placenta because of twin to twin transfusion syndrome. We check for signs of transfusion syndrome every week at our ultrasounds, so I am very familiar with the problems that occur when one twin starts taking all of the resources from the placenta and the other twin slows in growth.

I was not thrilled when my roommate showed up on Monday afternoon, but she turned out to be incredibly nice. While I wasn't happy to have my privacy so quickly taken away, it was nice to have some company. We talked about how humongous our bellies are getting with two babies inside and laughed about the flaws of the hospital room - broken lights, a shower that doesn't drain, televisions from the 1980's. It was nice. Happily, her surgery went well and after two days of post-surgery observation, she got to go home this morning.

I was incredibly nervous when she went down for her surgery for several reasons. Primarily, I didn't want her to have any complications and lose one of the twins. But selfishly, I also didn't want too much sadness to invade my living space. I am working overtime to be as positive and cheerful as possible and the possibility of someone else's loss seeping in to my head space was alarming to me. It was interesting to realize my self-interest in a virtual stranger's surgery going well. I am not proud of this, but at least it was accompanied by a genuine desire for her to have a successful surgery for her own sake as well.

I have my room back to myself tonight. I am listening to music and feeling two babies dance around in my belly as I type. Four weeks and four days to go...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

27 Weeks Pregnant With Monoamniotic Twins

Today I am officially 27 weeks pregnant. Each day the babies continue to do well is a milestone and each week marks fewer and fewer complications for preemies born that week. When we found out about our monoamniotic twins in early November, I could hardly imagine making it to this point. I hoped and hoped, but there were too many gloomy doctor appointments, too many stressful ultrasounds first searching for that elusive membrane between the babies and then simply searching weekly to be sure their hearts were still beating. But here I am, completing my 6th day in the hospital, closely monitoring my girls and feeling more and more optimistic that we will bring home two healthy babies this spring.

The truth is, however, we aren't out of the woods until we walk out of here with the babies. Women have been in the hospital and still lost their monoamniotic twins due to sudden cord accidents. But, with each day that passes and each normal session on the heart monitors, our odds increase. I am betting on these babies, but I still think it is important to remind myself that we're walking on a tightrope and we could still fall off. I was given a stark reminder of that fact shortly before checking into the hospital...

About two weeks before I checked into the hospital, I made a new friend. We met on a monoamniotic twin website and discovered we were both in Copenhagen and both pregnant with monoamniotic twins. My friend was a few weeks behind me in her pregnancy and planning to check in when she reached 26 weeks. When we met she was 20 weeks and I was 24 weeks. We had a fantastic conversation over coffee. It was really nice to have someone to talk to who understood exactly what I was going through. We planned to ask the hospital staff to put us in the same room when she checked in about a month after me. We planned to meet up with our new babies and form our own playgroup.  It was an instant connection and was clear to me that even without this crazy-rare pregnancy in common, we would have had things to talk about. We didn't stop talking for two hours and planned to meet the following week for coffee again.

The night before our second coffee date I got a text from my new friend saying she lost the twins and had found out that morning. She was 21 weeks pregnant. Understandably, I haven't heard from her since. Getting her news broke my heart and gave me a dose of survivors guilt. Since checking into the hospital, it has been hard not to think of my friend and wonder how she is coping with her loss. I wish I could still look forward to her check-in in a few weeks.

And so, every day, I thank the universe for all the good fortune we have had with this pregnancy so far. And late at night, when I am feeling sorry for myself because I am lonely and I will miss Riley's hugs in the morning, I try to remember how lucky I am to be here, to have made it this far and to be getting one more day with these babies thriving on the inside.

The heart monitors that help us keep the babies safe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In the hospital in Denmark

If you had asked me two years ago, or at any point in my life, really, whether I ever imagined checking into a foreign hospital for any length of time, I would have laughed and said no. On Monday, I voluntarily checked into a Danish hospital for what I hope will be six weeks of monitoring my monoamniotic/monochorionic twins before they are born.

The hospital check in was not an easy decision, but after reading about this pregnancy and talking to no fewer than five doctors, it was the only right decision. Of course, I am missing my home and my family and especially being there for all the parts of my 2 1/2 year old's days.

I haven't really been admitted to a hospital in any country other than when I gave birth to my son in the US, but between that experience and a few urgent care visits and visiting family in hospitals in the US, I have an idea about what hospitals are like in my home country. And, well, it is a little bit different here.

When we arrived Monday, we went up to the floor and department where I was being admitted, announced our presence and were immediately shown to a room. It was ten in the morning. At 2:30, after I had had my first session on the fetal heart monitors, some midwives came to my room with a computer and asked a few questions for admission. At 10:30 pm, another midwife got me a hospital ID bracelet and a name tag for my bed. There are no nurses on this floor, only doctors and midwives.

Meals are served at a buffet that is set up near a small kitchen. Those who can't walk around have meals delivered, but I can walk over and get my food. The food is really good and doesn't taste nearly as institutionalized as the meals we got when we were in the hospital for our son's birth. I can wander into the kitchen anytime and help myself to yogurt, milk or juice.

I can also wander down to the linen closet and take any towels, clothes or blankets I might need. There is another closet with vases should someone bring me flowers.

It still feels institutional and like a hospital here, and the facilities are old, but there is something inherently homey about it here. The midwives have been kind and patient, even though the monitoring is tricky and frustrating at times and some of them may be asking themselves why I am here. This hospital has seen only about 5 pregnancies like mine in the past ten years. I am a medical oddity on a floor with mostly women on bed rest for early labor. It has been an interesting first three days to say the least. Something like 35 to go (hopefully) until my twin girls are born at 32 weeks.

I can be patient, I am happy to be able to have visitors at any time!! And to be able to walk around freely. I am reading and watching cheesy movies. I will make it through this trial. But I have to admit that it breaks my heart every day when Riley leaves to go home and I can't go with him. I once described the constant uncertainty of this pregnancy as excruciating, I still hold that opinion and am adding being away from Riley to the excruciating list. I am most certainly being tested with this pregnancy and I send up wishes every day that my family will be rewarded with two healthy baby girls. Thanks to all my friends and family for your continued prayers and positive thoughts it is enormously heartwarming to have so much support and positivity coming our way from all over.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Zebra and Elephant

We recently told Riley (our 2.5 year old) that there are two babies in my ever-enlarging belly. He knew about one for quite a while, but when we learned that I am carrying monoamniotic twins, we weren't sure when or if we should tell him there are two. We envisioned a number of heartbreaking scenarios where we had to explain to him what happened to the two babies. Now that I am 25 weeks pregnant, we are all feeling more optimistic about the outcome of this pregnancy and we decided to start talking to Riley about the two babies we will hopefully be bringing home this spring.

Today, Neil asked him if he had any names in mind for the babies. Apparently, he does... Zebra and Elephant. Good thing toddlers don't regularly name babies.

My pregnancy is going along. I suppose you could call it smoothly, though a monoamniotic pregnancy is really never smooth. I have one more week of freedom before I will be checking into the hospital here in Copenhagen to have the babies monitored frequently before they are born ( hopefully in late March).

Originally, we were supposed to move home by now, but because of this pregnancy, we decided to stay on for an additional year. This decision was just one of many tough decisions we made in the last few months. I was certainly torn about leaving Denmark and our life here, but at the same time, I was happy to be returning to the US and to being closer to our friends and family. But, a stressful move in the middle of this pregnancy just didn't seem like the right thing for us to do. So we remain in Copenhagen and the adventure continues. With a bit of luck, soon we will have two little girls, who Riley plans to call Zebra and Elephant, to join us on our adventure.

Thanks to everyone for the continued positive thoughts and prayers. We really appreciate them.