One of the first questions I get asked is ‘Oh my god what did you do when you found out’. I can’t blame people as I am sure I would ask this if it wasn’t me in this situation. In fact at work one day a colleague announced his wife was expecting twins. I joined in all the ‘Oh my god’ kind of comments, even contributing to the discussion that the lady who lives next door-but-one to me has triplets (really) and how that could be likened to a litter. How we all giggled. Hmm. (Our neighbours have since moved. I can’t imagine why. We have twin girls across the road too – so in a cul-de-sac of six houses, three of them contain multiples – imagine what that would do to the house prices).
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I was about five weeks pregnant. We told close family at eight weeks. We held off telling anyone else until we had had the all important 12 week scan confirming the pregnancy and that everything was as it should be. With my second pregnancy I decided I would try to hold off telling people for as long as possible. I don’t know why but I just thought it is a nice secret for just us to know for a while and as far as I knew, it was just a singleton pregnancy, nice and straight forward. However my sister had other plans. When I was seven weeks pregnant she announced she was nearly six weeks pregnant with her first child. Myself and my husband both remained silent on our news whilst the family digested this wonderful news. This then caused a dilemma as to what we should do. Not telling the family for as long as possible did not seem like a possible option – what happened if something happened to her baby in these early stages then I popped up to say ‘Oh by the way I am pregnant’; or if something happened to my pregnancy, I would want the support from my family. So 24 hours later, myself and my husband did the same route my sister and her husband had done the previous day to my parent’s house then to her house to deliver our news. One can only imagine how excited our parents were. My sister’s baby was due on 15 May and I had managed to sneak in before her, due on 8 May. So sorry to my sister for barging in there and pulling some of that attention back to me that weekend, and for actually being due first.
Having said that, a bit more attention would be coming my way in five weeks time….
The 12-week scan
I awoke with that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach mixed with excitement that makes your knees slightly wobbly. This was the day of our 12 week scan at MUMS (Midlands Ultrasound & Medical Services). Now having done this just under two years ago with my first takes an edge off the unknown but I won’t relax until I know there is a heartbeat.
I settled on the table, my husband at my side and the sonographer set about doing her stuff with that sticky jelly and scan stick when she sat back.
’Have you had fertility treatment or something?’
‘Ermm no’, ’
‘I think I have a surprise for you’.
My heart sinks. Surely something bad wouldn’t be referred to as a surprise, so what.
‘You have triplets in there’.
Our first son was 18 months old. There are no multiple births in our extended families, or not that we are aware of. Three of my eggs had been fertilised making three separate embryos and placentas, almost certainly non-identical triplets. Three eggs! What was my body doing releasing three eggs in a month? I am the Egg-Woman.
So here come the tears. I don’t think that they knew what to do with us. This was all new to them too as it is not everyday someone pops in and is scanned with triplets. It is hard to know the exact likelihood of having triplets as data is skewed by IVF activity but about 1 in 8000 is a rough guide for non-identical triplets. The first thoughts which came to my mind were the risks. I didn’t know why multiples were more risky, I just knew they were.
My husband too couldn’t hold back the tears. He says now he doesn’t know why he cried, most probably because I had. Or maybe his first question of ‘What kind of car are we going to get’ gave it away. This is no criticism of him. Whereas my maternal feelings lead me to question to health and viability of my babies, my husband went back to his caveman roots of seeing himself as a provider of his family, and was obviously thinking about the financial aspects of this new piece of information. Or maybe I am trying to analyse his thoughts too much. Maybe he was just crying because I was, and when he asked ‘What car are we going to get’, it was a case of, ‘No really, what car are we going to get?’
What then followed was a lot of information that we weren’t prepared for. After the scan where all the babies were measured and neucal tests (Down syndrome ‘DS’) tests were done, we had a ‘matter of a fact’ consultant come to talk at us for 30 minutes. Now this is where I learnt that a consultant is a scientist. The consultant didn’t have a flicker of hope or excitement. He sat opposite us, talking mainly at me and not making eye contact with my husband as I often irritatingly find is the case with medical staff along the pregnancy path, and discussed all the risks we face. Great. Cheery stuff. Yes I know we need to be told, but just give us 20 minutes to get our heads around it before discussing embryonic reduction. The results of the scans showed that one embryo had a high risk of DS (1 in 155) whereas the other two were low risk at 1 in 13000. So hey, how about getting rid of this one and giving the other two a better chance and just having the twin risk. Oh but having said that, the condition highlighted of ‘tricuspid regurgitation’ that lead to the high risk may go away at 20 weeks when followed up with a cardiac scan, so it could be ok. This was all too much for a couple who had turned up that morning for a scan of their second child, feeling slightly smug for knowing how it all works, been there, done that, and hoping to go back to work that afternoon. We left the clinic in a daze of negativity, even with the cheery receptionist chelping ‘Congratulations!’ on the way out. No wonder I was sick in the car on the way home. We hated that consultant for his bluntness and not offering any inkling of hope to a couple in a daze of confusion.
This was to be the start of my desire, my need, to grip onto something positive. It was such an uncertain time full of questions and worries. I re-read the consultant reports so many times, eyes wide, straining each word in the hope of it reading differently, each time hoping to find answers to questions I had, a glimmer of hope that it would all work out ok, but failed.
We arrived home to a slightly apprehensive welcoming. My mum had been looking after my 18 month old and was obviously concerned why we had been so long and why I had sick on my trousers and puffy eyes. ‘Don’t worry Mum, nothing is wrong. We are having triplets’. I don’t recall having to convince my mum it wasn’t a joke. It was odd, however, making those first calls to those people close to us, my dad at work, my sister – How did the scan go? Well, we have triplets. You’re joking. No. You’re joking. No, really. It seems like it could be a joke, but not that kind that anybody would ever make.
As I say this was a huge surprise to us, but looking back I often wonder if I had an inkling. I am starting to sound like my mum. She often realises she guessed the outcome of a situation before she knew it, but only admits this after the outcome. Very convenient. However I did say to my husband, ‘Look at the size of me. Surely this is not normal’. I did look pregnant to us, not to people who saw me with clothes on. I mentioned to the midwife that I felt much bigger this time – ‘Oh no love once you have had one it just all pops out again’. I also remember telling myself the morning of the scan not to be disappointed if there was just one in there. So maybe if I had found out I was expecting just twins, I may not have been sick on myself on the way home.
So that was that. We knew our life was going to change in a way we could never have anticipated. I was going to have four children. I do recall saying to my husband once that I would have liked four children but didn’t want to spread them over eight years…..oh.