The moment remains crystal clear in my memory, even fifteen years later. The rush of emotion was powerful; there was amazement and joy, confusion and fear, relief and shock. My mind reeled, simultaneously trying to process the words that the doctor had just uttered while rushing ahead to anticipate the consequences of this life-changing pronouncement. We were having twins. There were two. Not just two images on the ultrasound screen, but two babies inside me. We were having two babies.
It was not what we expected to hear when we arrived for our second ultrasound. Yes, that's right. I did not discover I was having twins until my second ultrasound. My first, early in pregnancy at seven weeks, clearly showed one developing embryo. What it didn't show was the second one, playing a perfect game of hide and seek, nestled so closely behind its sister so as to be completely concealed when viewed in a quick two-dimenstional scan.
We remained blissfully unaware of our double status for the first half of my pregnancy. Without sign or suspicion, with minimal morning sickness and discomfort, it never crossed my mind that my pregnancy was anything out of the ordinary. Until that mid-December afternoon when my husband and I cleared our schedules in anticipation of my routine twenty-week ultrasound scan.
In my doctor's practice, it was standard for one of the doctors to perform the ultrasound. As I settled into the table, the lights were dimmed so we could better focus on the video screen. The doctor moved the wand toward my belly. The ultrasound screen lit up, a blur of swirly gray dots. The doctor looked, frowned, put the wand down, turned on the lights, checked my chart and shook his head slightly. My heart started to pound. Was something wrong?
He closed the chart, turned off the lights again, and returned to the ultrasound equipment. He cleared his throat and pronounced the words that would change our lives forever. "Okay," he uttered. "So here is the first head and here is the second."
"WHAT?" My brain screamed, trying to process what he was saying. We were having a two-headed baby?!?!
Thus, it was almost a relief to discover we were "just having twins." My relief soon turned to panic. Two babies? What would we do with two babies? I wasn't even sure that I could care for one! How would we manage? How would we afford it? How did this happen? At the same time, I felt incredible joy. TWINS! How cool! How crazy! Two!
No matter how you find out you're having twins, it is a shock like no other. For some families, it is expected, the successful outcome of a quest for reproductive assistance. And for others, it is confirmation of a suspicion, a hunch, an answer to the question of unusual signs or symptoms. But for still others, it is a complete and utter shock, an unexpected out-of-the blue surprise.
In modern times, surprise arrivals of multiples in the delivery room are rare. As the multiple birth rate has risen, caregivers are more attuned to the signs and symptoms. Routine screening may indicate elevated hormone levels; doppler monitoring may reveal a second heartbeat. Given the more frequent use of ultrasound technology, most twins are discovered early in pregnancy, and easier access to equipment allows suspicions to be quickly investigated.
My twins are now teens. I can scarcely imagine my life without them. That fateful December day changed my life forevermore. The announcement that "you've got two!" brought great blessing to our lives and shaped our family in a special way.
Regardless of when they are discovered, the presence of twins presents parents with many questions and concerns. Costs, logistics, medical complications and emotional upheaval are all issues that must be addressed. For more information on twin pregnancy, please consult these resources: • You're Having Twins! Now What? • Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Twin Pregnancy • Pregnancy with Multiples: What are the Risks