We are grateful to Giusy for sharing the story of the birth of her beautiful twin girls in the UK.
Writing this story is quite difficult. My emotions, my memories, my feelings are all mixed up into something shapeless, difficult to express. So I will simply start from the beginning, from that 11-week scan that so unexpectedly made me part of the ‘Mums of Twins’ world.
I was already 39..
with a beautiful daughter of 4 and a recent early miscarriage. My mum had gone into menopause at 45, so I thought the same would happen to me: I would never have another child! Had we been in Italy, it wouldn’t have been a big drama for me, my daughter would have been surrounded by the love of her family. Here in the UK I felt I would be letting her down if I left her as an only child. We were delighted when we saw the positive line on the pregnancy test and as the weeks went by, we became more confident with the pregnancy. I was quite nervous at the first scan, prepared for bad news, so I felt hugely relieved when the ultrasound technician said, ‘I can see your baby, the heartbeat is there and everything is fine’, then appalled when she added, ‘I can see something else though’, and finally shocked and speechless at ‘It’s another baby, heartbeat normal’.
…the medical report highlighted words like: ‘Growth Delay’ and ‘Femurs short and curved’…I was in a total panic!
I lived the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy in a state of confusion.
Still not believing that I was expecting twins and also a little worried about the added risks. I was assigned a consultant (here in the UK it’s a midwife, not a doctor, who follows a normal and non-risky pregnancy) and this reassured me, but the 20-week scan revealed some problems: one of the twins (I was expecting two girls) was too small, with short limbs! A referral was immediately requested at Bristol Hospital for a second level scan: the medical report highlighted words like: ‘Growth Delay’ and ‘Femurs short and curved’…I was in a total panic!
I, the paranoid hypochondriac, offering reassuring words of hope to my ‘Husband The Rock’, who was collapsing under the stress of the news.
The day of the appointment in Bristol.
I was wearing a green top, green for Hope. The scan lasted one hour: they took every possible measurement. The consultant dictated, while her assistant tapped on the computer, then they left to study the data and came back with tea, biscuits, and serious expressions. One of the twins was too small, with short limbs. The possible options were: 1. Down Syndrome, 2. Achondroplasia, 3. Severe Achondroplasia incompatible with life, 4. Other genetic conditions, 5. Nothing, she was just small (yes, this was one of the options because an ultrasound is not a 100% accurate diagnostic examination). I could do an amniocentesis to find out what it could be or to exclude some of the options, but the risk of miscarriage is quite high in case of twins. ‘You have a bit of time to think about it; we can do the amniocentesis tomorrow. Go for a walk and a talk, we will see you back here in one hour’ …BOOM!
Ironically, I managed to be very strong.
I, the paranoid hypochondriac, offering reassuring words of hope to my ‘Husband The Rock’, who was collapsing under the stress of the news. We had planned a mini-break in France with our daughter. I decided to stick to the plan and not go ahead with the amnio. I didn’t want to put my babies’ lives at risk, and, even if I had found out that something was wrong with one of them, I would have done nothing: I simply couldn’t have done anything, faced with the horror of losing them both. We were going through this journey together, all three of us.
…at 29 weeks of pregnancy, a whole new challenge was thrown at us … PREECLAMPSIA!
The following scans confirmed that the baby was small…
…and had short limbs, no other visible issues, but we should prepare ourselves for every possible outcome, they said. The amazing consultant in Bristol, after the third visit, sent us back to the local consultant, since there weren’t immediate issues with the twins. The local consultant? A witch! I don’t know how else I can describe her. She hid behind her mantle of professionalism and the need to tell me everything she discovered during the scans, and on every second visit she managed to tell me that my daughter’s condition was life-threatening, according to a measurement ratio she calculated that day in the 5-10 minutes that the scan took. ‘Of course I am not 100% sure’, she would tell me when the ratio indicated ‘life-threatening condition’!
How did I survive those long months?
I don’t know, I only remember that I was in my ZEN zone, my babies (one on the right and one on the left) were always kicking, so I was never alone, and whatever the future might have in store for us we were facing it together, all 5 of us!
…at 29 weeks of pregnancy, a whole new challenge was thrown at us … PREECLAMPSIA! I was admitted to the hospital, had steroid injections to speed up lung growth in the babies, and was given high blood pressure tablets. I started to do colouring and watched De Crescenzo and Troisi movies to calm myself down. My husband punched a house wall out of frustration (inside walls in UK are made of plaster, no injuries to his hand fortunately!)
I fought against preeclampsia for a month, pampered by my mother who had come to help out. Then at 34 weeks, with a planned C-section, a team of doctors and pediatricians that would be the envy of a British royal birth, and in the tense atmosphere that precedes all meaningful events, Giulia and Giorgia were born (2.3 and 1.2 kg) alive, beautiful, healthy! Giulia so sweet and calm, Giorgia so thin than her bottom was non-existent, her arms and legs normal, and very active. I was officially a Mum of Twins after the longest 8 months of my life!
I want to end this story with the most common and weirdest question random strangers ask when I am out with my twins: ‘How did you conceive them?’… I am tempted to draw them a sketch 🙂
Giusy de Novellis,