This week our featured blogger is Heather of It’s Twinsanity! Heather is the proud MoM to two sets of twins, Leila and Sarah (age 3) and Nathan and Ryan (almost 1). Heather also has two older sons, Matthew (age 6) and Joshua (age 5). How Heather does it all is amazing to me, she truly is Super MoM! Before you check out her blog let’s get to learn more about Heather and her family.
Can you tell us a little about your family?
My husband and I met 8 years ago and it was a whirlwind romance that resulted in marriage, baby, and moving to a new state all within a year. My oldest son is Matthew and he’s now 6 years old. On March 20, 2003 (the day the Iraq war started) my husband joined the Army as a Persian-Farsi linguist. (That’s the language they speak in Iran.) We moved from our hometown in the Washington, DC suburbs all the way across the country to California. Our second son, Joshua, was born there 5 years ago. From there we moved to Texas and lost a baby to miscarriage. In the middle of our move from Texas to Georgia I discovered I was pregnant again. I was 22 weeks pregnant when I found out I was carrying twin girls. Leila and Sarah turned 3 this year. Last year I got pregnant again and immediately suspected that it was twins. I assumed that was impossible since our girls are monozygotic (identical) but an ultrasound confirmed that I was indeed carrying another set of monozygotic twins. Nathan and Ryan were born in September 2008. In June of this year I packed up my brood and headed west to join my husband in Arizona for the summer.
Both of your sets of twins had TTTS, were both cases similar? Can you tell us a little about that experience?
When I was pregnant with my first set of twins I was seeing a midwife. I did not want to have any ultrasounds done. When I was 21 weeks pregnant my midwife noticed a dramatic increase in my fundal height. Suddenly I was measuring 11 weeks ahead for that week of my pregnany. Initially the midwife was concerned that there may have been too much amniotic fluid which could indicate a problem with the baby. She told me to come back a week later so that she could measure me again. When I went back, she felt my belly and told me that she thought I was having twins. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep that night and immediately scheduled an ultrasound for te following day, which happened to be my birthday. The next day it was confirmed that I was having twin girls. Because I was 22 weeks pregnant and the babies were in separate amniotic sacs, the ultrasound technician told me that the babies must be dizygotic (fraternal.) Later I discovered that she was wrong and that monozygotic twins are usually in separate amnitioc sacs. I carried the babies to term and had regular visits with an OB while still planning for a homebirth. At 39 weeks and 1 day, my water broke in the middle of the night. The babies were born 12 hours later, on the floor of my bedroom with 3 midwives in attendance. It was not until after the birth that we discovered that my twin girls had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS.) It was acute TTTS which can develop at term or even during labor. A doctor’s visit 2 days earlier had shown no signs of TTTS so we believe that it developed during, or shortly before, labor. Monozygotic twins that share a chorion (monochorionic) are at risk for TTTS because their shared vascular connections in the placenta can sometimes become unequal. In our case, Baby A (Leila) was anemic and pale. Baby B (Sarah) was polycythemic and very red due to the high red blood cell count. Both girls are fine and had no complications.
Because of my previous set of twins sharing a placenta, I was very cautious during my pregnancy with my second set. I saw the same backup OB that I had used for the first set and I had a very early ultrasound to confirm chorionicity. When we found out that the second set were also sharing a placenta, I was a bit nervous. Again I carried them to term and planned a homebirth. This time I had a doctor’s appointment at 38 weeks and everything was fine but it showed a bit of growth discordance between the babies. My doctor was not concerned and told me he’d see me at my appointment the following week. The next day I started to have a very strange nerve pain in my groin. To make a long story short, I ended up heading to the hospital because I knew something was not right. Although the nerve pain was not related to the babies, I believe it was God’s way of getting me to the hospital. I stayed there overnight and in the early hours of the next morning the doctors came rushing into my room. Baby B was in distress and his heartrate had dropped to 50bpm. I was rushed back for an emergency cesarean under general anesthesia. Both babies were fine but Baby B had to be resuscitated. Baby A was 7 lbs, 9 oz and Baby B was much smaller at only 6lbs, 6 oz. Thankfully neither of them had any other complications.
Your husband is in the Army about to go to Iraq, how do you manage a move, kids, and homeschooling by yourself while keeping your wits about you?
I think this must be a trick question. Some days I really don’t feel like I have an ounce of sanity left. When my second set of twins were born my other children were 5, 4, 2, and 2 so I was already quite busy. My husband was working odd shifts and was even working nights for several months. The babies were only 2 weeks old when he went back to work and I was left by myself to take care of 6 little children. Because we’re a military family, we don’t have the luxury of having family nearby. Our family is all in the DC area, about 600 miles from us in Georgia. I didn’t have anyone who could come visit to help me so I just learned quickly to do it alone. When the babies were 3 months old my husband left for 6 months doing military training. I’m proud to say that we all survived! When we found out that my husband will be deploying in November, we decided to rent out our house in Georgia and spend the summer together. His training has brought him all the way out to Arizona until October. What’s an Army wife to do? I packed up our house (with some help from my sister-in-law) and put everything in storage. Then I loaded up our 12-passenger van and our trailer and the kids and I headed west. We’re in Arizona right now and we’ll be moving back to the DC area this fall. The children and I will stay there (near family) until my husband returns from Iraq and then we’ll join him back on the west coast in Washington state. Confused yet? Me too!
Lots of people ask me how I survive without help. I have just 5 words: by the Grace of God! I take it day by day and sometimes hour by hour. We stay busy and we try to get out of the house as much as possible. My kids are used to going places and so I bring all of them when I go shopping or run errands. We usually run errands in the morning and then come home to eat lunch. After lunch I try to get the 4 twins to nap and I use that quiet time to homeschool the older boys. Dinner, bath and bedtime is a blur. That’s the hardest part of my day! By the time they are all in bed, I’m ready to collapse and that’s when I hop on the computer or clean the house.
You describe your lifestyle as “crunchy” can you explain that?
I don’t really like the word “crunchy” (what does that even mean?) but I guess that is one way to describe us. I’m more naturally-minded than the average person I guess. We eat a lot of local, organic food and use natural cleaners and such around the house. I have breastfed all of my babies and I let them decide when to wean, which is why I am still nursing 3 or 4 of them now. Being a doula, I’m passionate about natural birth and I love that homebirth is becoming more accepted these days. My children are homeschooled and I’ve used cloth diapers for all 6 of them. We’re just weird like that!
Many of us MoM’s cannot imagine delivering outside of an OR, what was your homebirth like?
I can’t really describe in words how wonderful it was to give birth at home. Those first moments with my newborn babies were worth every bit of pain and discomfort I felt. My birth story is written on my blog (http://www.itstwinsanity.com/2008/04/two-years-ago-today.html) and I posted a G-rated video on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi37qJ-mIoU&feature=channel_page.) My labor started with my water breaking and I sat by myself in the dark of my living room and rocked through my contractions for 7 hours. When my midwives arrived I was in transition and alternated between leaning over the bed on my knees and taking hot showers or sitting on the toilet. I snacked on some cheese and drank clear fluids. My older children rubbed my back and encouraged me. When I started pushing I was alone in my bedroom as the midwives chatted quietly in the kitchen. I remember hearing them say that I must be having a break since I was so quiet. I was sitting in my husband’s desk chair and rubbing my face with a cold washcloth when I suddenly started to bear down. Instinctively I dropped to my knees and leaned over the foot of our bed. The midwives heard me and rushed into the room. Soon I was reaching down and pulling my daughter up to me. Her cord was short and was clamped and cut right away. Things got a bit hectic when Baby B decided to try to come out with her hand first. My wonderful midwives slipped her hand back inside and instructed me to push again. It was so hard to push out the second baby when I was so tired from already doing it once, and I was not feeling any urge to push anymore. Fortunately, it only took 14 minutes before my second daughter was in my arms, warm and wet and fresh. The midwives helped me back up into my husband’s chair where I held and nursed both babies while delivering the placenta. Then I crawled into my bed, where I stayed for the next day, cuddling with my new baby girls. We were never separated and never interrupted. It was the most amazing, peaceful experience!
A big thank you to Heather for being our featured blogger! Be sure to stop by It’s Twinsanity and say hi!
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