Mummy Inspiration: Joanna is a fellow blogger at Mudpie Lullaby and inspirational mum who struggled with secondary infertility and subsequently a twin pregnancy and birth. I have asked Joanna to share her story here and hopefully inspire someone who may be on this journey, too.
My inspirational mamas series is one I hope that inspires you, and maybe brings some awareness about different things Mums experience throughout pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth and parenthood. I’m so excited to share other women’s stories, and thank Joanna for being willing to bring hers!
We were married young and “waited” to get pregnant with our first for 4 months after we were married. He was born 2 months after our 1st anniversary. We had a wonderful life with the three of us, but by the time he turned one year old we wanted to go ahead and get going on a sibling for him so they would be close in age.
But I had a problem. My cycles were 19-21 days long. That means I was having 20 cycles a year. It takes 12 days to ovulate and another 10 for a conceived baby to implant in the uterus lining, so you need at least 22 days for your body to even start to realize you are pregnant.
I remember laying on the bathroom floor at 1:00am, crying silently into a rolled up towel because I didn’t want my husband to see me broken again. I would crawl into bed and whisper “not this month” and he would wrap his arms around me and not let go.
20 months and almost 30 cycles after we started trying to conceive we had a huge lifestyle shift. My husband had been working overtime to get a home business started as an internet marketer and we were ready for him to transition to full-time self employed. At that time I got a job offer to help with housekeeping and office organization at a midwife-run birth centre. A few weeks into working with the midwives one of them suggested I do a saliva hormone test to figure out why my cycles were so short. We had spent thousands of dollars on blood tests, invasive procedural tests, books, consults… but no-one had suggest that we try that.
So we did.
It turns out my hormones were showing me as “lean PCOS”. I didn’t have the standard PCOS symptoms, but my hormones were going to take me there fast.
We made some major shifts — we added some supplements, primarily Inositol, which is proven to help stabalize PCOS causing hormones, and other basic blood-sugar balancing supplements such as chromium and cinnamon. We also flatlined my blood sugar levels as much as possible to inhibit hormone production responses by switching me to a massively low glycemic index diet AND having me eating small amounts every 3 hours around the clock so that my blood sugar never spiked.
And wouldn’t you know it, it worked! 2 months of this lifestyle change, and I had a 26 day cycle with a faint positive. My period started just a few hours after that positive test, but we had a glimmer of hope again. But it hurt.
The following month I was setting up our dining room with streamers and balloons for our first born’s third birthday and I completely lost it. I sat in a corner of the kitchen and sobbed. He was turning three, and for 2 years we had hoped and prayed and bled. What I didn’t know then was that we had already conceived twins. And my period was going to hold off long enough for them to implant and for my body to get the signals and start cranking out the hcG.
16 weeks later we went to our gender/diagnostic ultrasound for our first peek. I was measuring four weeks ahead and my midwife was curious what was causing it because she had only been able to get placenta and baby heartbeats after repeatedly checking for 2 heartbeats. We discussed the possibility of too much amniotic fluid, or maybe having miscarried a twin with the cycle previous to when we *thought* we had gotten pregnant, and my mind discounted the idea of twins entirely.
So, somehow, when the tech said “there’s baby A and there’s baby B” we were both completely shocked! We surprised friends and family with a big box wrapped up as a gift to my Mom that she opened on video, where two helium balloons, one blue and one pink, floated out when she opened it!
Our cup was overflowing with joy!
We transferred care from our midwife to an OB who was comfortable with the idea of a potential breech vaginal delivery and started getting our 900 square foot home ready for twins, and trading our car in for something that could handle three car seats.
Twin pregnancy is no joke, ya’ll. At that 20 week ultrasound I weighed 135 lbs. I had just quit daily vomiting and massive food aversions and was starting too gain. 18 weeks later when I was induced I was 195 lbs. That weight gain means everything hurts. Everything burns. Everything is a chore. I was trying to eat 100g of protein every day and drink a minimum of 3 qts of water a day, but I felt full after 3 bites and had the worst acid reflux/heartburn you can imagine.
And at 32 weeks we were told that our girl twin had a velamentous insertion — That means that, basically, her cord was attached the placenta on the side, which makes it very fragile. I was having a lot of contractions and a quick exam showed that I was 4+ cm dilated, so I went on bedrest. At that point, we transferred care to a high-risk OB that was within 10 minutes of home to have the babies monitored several times a week.
I can’t even tell you how many ultrasounds we had in that time from 32-38 weeks. We had the stress tests, we had heart tone monitoring sessions, we had ultrasounds and more ultrasounds, but after I came off of bedrest at 36 weeks I was back to 2 cm dilated and nothing was kicking labor into gear.
Now, before you wonder why on earth we WANTED babies to come before the full 40, please understand — when you are expecting multiples you have to choose your mountains to die on. As it was, we had a doctor who was willing to let us labor and birth the twins IF we were in an operating room, IF baby A was head down and baby B was either head down or transverse, and IF we didn’t go past 38 weeks. And I did NOT want pitocin.
So we tried to naturally talk my body into labor, but we ended up with pitocin at 38 weeks, 2 days. And the twins were born vaginally in an operating room. Healthy and strong.
Our boy twin decided to struggle a bit with weak breathing, though, so he ended up under observation in the NICU for several days while I went back and forth between him there and the girl twin in my room to breastfeed them both.
We made it home, a family of five, with a biliblanket for our 5lb, 4oz little girl and a 7 lb baby boy who was awfully happy not to be having his heel pricked every 4 hours, and life hasn’t slowed down since.
What’s funny is that I’ve never been able to write about it with an emotional perspective. We got through. We survived the panic of bad ultrasounds attacks, the 4 different care providers, the shift from a home birth plan to an OR birth plan.
We just survived.
Then came mastitis every 3 months while breastfeeding twins that refused to eat ANY foods until the were 11 months old and wouldn’t touch a bottle. And the whole thing is a blur of just trying to keep on coping.
The twins are 3.5 now, and we have a 1-year-old little girl, making us a family of six. We homeschool, and I’m pursuing certification as a postpartum doula. I am having my eyes opened more and more to the level of fatigue and off and on depression that I dealt with throughout the twins’ pregnancy and first year.
I hope that as I continue to build my resource website (http://mudpielullaby.com/) and train as a postpartum care provider that I will be able to help other mommies through the rough days. I hope they will know that they aren’t alone when they are aching through infertility. I hope I can sit beside them when they are burning with mastitis and help them get relief, whether it’s through something I wrote or actually physically being there with them.
And I hope that, no matter how tired you are right now, you can look at a story like mine and see that this life is good. The spit up may flood the living room, but this journey is precious! The aching exhaustion may knock you off of your feet, but the investment is eternal!
You’ve got this, mamma! Hang in there!