Time and again, people would ask me what it’s like to be pregnant with twins. It’s high time I finally sat down and shed light on the topic.
1. Same Old, Same Old. For most of the time when I was pregnant with the twins, I felt pretty much the same way as I did in my previous pregnancies. I also had ‘morning sickness’ except that the waves of nausea would attack me when dusk sets in, or as the Malays say “bila dah nak Maghrib“. In comparison, with MyEldest, it was ‘all-day sickness’; with OnlyGirl and RoundBoy, I was blissfully free of it. Whereas I depended on Slurpee to combat the nausea with MyEldest, with my twin pregnancy, I was hooked on mee hoon tomyam — rice noodles swimming in a spicy-sweet-sour Thai broth.
2. Risky Business. After the initial euphoria of finding out at 6 weeks that I was carrying twins, reality finally started sinking in. My gynaecologist/obstetrician Dr Z wasted no time in informing me that she would be monitoring me a lot more than usual. Apparently, multiple pregnancies — i.e. pregnancies where more than one baby is involved — are considered high-risk pregnancies. There was the risk of conjoined twins a.k.a. Siamese twins had they shared a common sac; luckily they had separate sacs despite being identical twins. There was the risk of one twin hogging all or most of the blood flow from the placenta, a possibility that was ruled out after several checkups, one of which involved a detailed scan. There’s also the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, placental abruption, the babies not gaining enough weight, and pre-term labour. At some point, I made the decision to stop reading about all the things that could go wrong because there were just far too many possibilities!
3. The Beached Whale That Kept Getting Bigger. I’ve always had big babies and the twins were no exception. And this development gave me such a big headache in the wardrobe department. Way back then, there weren’t many boutiques specializing in maternity clothes that were fashionable enough to be worn for work. In addition to the limited selection, sizing was another pressing issue — I had to buy bigger and bigger clothes every few weeks during the second and third trimester. I started with size M and worked my way to XL, perhaps even XXL.
I had the foresight to take two photos of me with my tummy in profile — one at 24 weeks and another one at 35 weeks — and it’s only now that I can see just how ginormous my belly was. By the time I was 7 months pregnant, my belly already resembled that of a full-term pregnancy; just imagine how big it was at 35 weeks! I felt like a beached whale and probably looked like one.
My twins were huge by twin standards, by the way: at birth, Twin1 was 3.15 kg; Twin2 weighed 2.85kg. Their shared placenta weighed 1kg. That meant a total of 7 kg in my belly, not taking into account yet the weight and space taken up by extra water and blood circulating in my system!
4. Discomfort. Owing to the enormity of my belly, getting out of bed was a major challenge by the third trimester. I had to be helped out of bed towards the end of my pregnancy. I had to sleep on my side and I needed innumerable pillows in order to find some semblance of comfort. Leg cramps came and went as they did in my other pregnancies. Let’s not even start talking about the back pain!
5. What Belly Button? I’ve always taken pride that I had very minimal and hardly noticeable stretch marks with my first three pregnancies. All this ended with the twins: my belly was so distended that my belly button was stretched out flat; the skin of my entire belly was stretched so taut until tiny red ‘crack’ lines appeared. My skin itched like hell and no cream in the world could give me comfort and to my despair, Dr Z, who never minced words, told me point-blank, “The only cure is for you to give birth.” Post-twin pregnancy, suffice to say that I’d make an excellent candidate for a tummy tuck, if a free one ever came my way.
6. The Nerve! Somehow the twins’ position literally affected my nerves, resulting in numbness in my fingertips for many, many months. Dr Z told me I should consider myself lucky; she said that one of her patients (who also had twins) had temporary partial facial paralysis. Again, Dr Z gave me the very reassuring line: “The only cure is for you to give birth.” The numbness lasted a couple of months after giving birth, by the way.
7. Early Birds. It turns out that multiples like to make their entrance early. Dr Z and I expected preterm labour…but never quite expected the first signs to show up as early as 24 weeks. By the 24th week of my pregnancy, I started having contractions. Strong ones. Real ones. Not Braxton Hicks, no sirree. Dr Z gave me medicine to take daily to prevent such contractions and gave me strict instructions to have complete bed rest. So from 24 weeks, I took time off from work and stayed at home, resting most of the time, pining for the outside world and the freedom of driving myself, small liberties that were deemed impossible by my condition. But such patience paid off because I managed to carry the twins up to 36 weeks, quite a feat for a multiple pregnancy.
In summary, it’s not easy to be pregnant with twins. And that’s an understatement. So now you can understand why, when people would gush about how “nice” it must be to have twins, I’d always reply that I’d never wish a twin pregnancy for anyone, knowing fully well the dangers, risks and difficulties that it involves.