My Full Diabetes Twin Pregnancy and Birth Story
I’ve been emailed so many times for more details about my pregnancy and birth of twins as a type 1 diabetic that I just figured I’d make a lengthy post for those wanting to read more of the experience. So here goes!
I got married at the end of August of 2008 and by October was pregnant. I had just been told I probably couldn’t conceive and yet somehow this test I took after missing a period said otherwise. I remember being out of town for work, feeling strange cramping in my abdomen and thinking about what the doctor said about my ovaries. I laid on the floor of the hotel room closing my eyes, wishing, wishing that what the doc said wasn’t true. I was one week pregnant then. But I didn’t know for three more weeks after that trip. My husband and I were very nervous upon hearing the news because I was passing lots of tissue for some unknown reason. Assuming my diabetes was too much for pregnancy I figured the tissue loss meant I was losing the baby. I didn’t have an appointment with an OB doctor for a few more weeks.
We celebrated the news with family in a semi-joyous event. I was so nervous about my cramping and tissue loss and just sadly watched everyone drink their champagne. I thought about the little bit of beer and wine I had the weekend before and wondered if that was going to hurt my baby. I thought about my blood sugars. Had they been good enough for this? I also couldn’t shake the feeling that lately I had been craving a lot of steak and vegetables.
I made an appointment with my general practitioner, an internal specialist, right away and asked if we could do every blood test available so I would know how I was starting out the pregnancy. Luckily, my A1c was a 4.6%. My lowest ever. My other labs came back within normal ranges. The doctor didn’t check my vitamin D level. My allergist did months later and we found it was low, which he said was a risk factor for children to have allergies and other immune system related issues later in life. I got the level up quickly by sunbathing and taking cod liver oil every day. Anyway, my A1c before pregnancy gave me confidence in knowing the diabetes aspect should (hopefully) be alright. At least to begin with.
My appointment with an OB was in December where the hormone test came out so high the nurses assured me I was still very pregnant and shouldn’t worry about the tissue loss. After all, I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and maybe my cysts were shrinking and naturally passing due to pregnancy hormones-namely estrogen. Because I am a diabetic and the hormone test was so high, the doctor decided to go ahead and do an early ultrasound test. I prayed she’d find a heartbeat going strong and since I was unable to read the strange figures on the monitor I just watched her face for clues. She sort of got wide eyed at one point and smirked and gave the nurse a funny look and then the nurse looked closer at the screen and smiled. Phew! This must mean they see the embryo! The OB looked at my mother and I and said, “Are you ready for this?” I looked at the screen and saw what looked like two bubbles… Confused I just looked blankly at the doctor who sputtered out “you’re having twins!”. I looked at my mom and she at me and we both started laughing and crying all at once. I was so shocked-mostly about my body’s ability to get pregnant with two! My faith was so small I felt I couldn’t even handle one. Shame on me.
This was the beginning of a wild journey. I began having very severe morning sickness during the 2nd month of pregnancy. This was so severe and the only thing that would help the smallest bit was eating carbohydrates. Problem was, this meant I had to give insulin to cover the carbs. Since I was so sick I would often throw up and then my blood sugar would plummet. My husband endured many scary moments handing me juice box after juice box as I, in front of the toilet bowl, tried to keep from going unconscious while my blood sugar stayed in the 30’s. This severe morning sickness lasted day and night for several months. So much for being happy newlyweds. By the 3rd month of pregnancy I was outgrowing clothing. A twin belly grows really fast! I was still throwing up a lot. I couldn’t handle much of the usual foods. I couldn’t stand many smells. I became severely anemic and yet couldn’t stomach the iron pills-although I did take them. I worried about my blood sugars and if the babies were getting enough nutrients. I was pale and sickly looking. I was often so dizzy and fell down flights of stairs twice during this time, once injuring my already dislocated tail bone. I had many low sugar episodes during the first trimester (due to needing less insulin) which occurred mostly in the middle of the night which was very stressful for my husband. One night in my sleep he caught me mumbling “I can’t go on…I’m not going to make it…I’m so tired…” and he frantically woke me up. I tested and found my sugar was 32. Yikes! Way to go hubby!
During the 2nd trimester the morning sickness lessened (but didn’t completely go away). I was already as big as someone carrying one baby at 40 weeks and was going to physical therapy for some lower vertebrae which are out of place due to tight pelvic floor muscles (go figure). This included my tail bone. So not only could I hardly walk or stand, I could hardly sit or even lay without pain. I wondered every day if I was going to make it. I cried every night for fear that I wouldn’t. I worried about every high blood sugar reading and prayed constantly that my babies, a boy and a girl, would be ok. I left work while 5 months pregnant due to all of the above. (Did I also mention I couldn’t sneeze without a pad on?)
As my 3rd trimester began I got my eyes checked and for the first time discovered one or two leaking blood vessels. I had just had my eyes checked right before becoming pregnant and everything looked good so I was told this was due to the strain of the twin pregnancy. (Did you know that towards the end of a twin pregnancy, one’s body’s supply of blood has literally doubled?) I had my A1c checked again and found it was 5.3%. Not bad. So checking 12-18 times a day works eh? I quit wearing high heels during the 6th month. During my 7th month of pregnancy I finally started to swell. My ankles and feet mostly. My blood pressure began rising and my nerves were really getting wracked. I wasn’t able to sleep more than 5 hours a night just due to feeling so darn awful and having to pee every 2 hours. At this point I was testing even more just to ensure great blood sugars for the babies. I wanted them to have perfect blood sugars themselves when born and I knew it depended on my blood sugar. My birthday came and went with me on the couch in an awkward position because my son was head down in the birth canal. I was now going to the doctor every other day and each time found out my daughter had drastically changed location (I felt her wild movements and imagined she’d be a whimsical child and guess what? she is!) Her moving around above and then below her brother caused lots of pain as my super stretched skin tried to extend itself a tiny bit more to accommodate her. (My doctor was very impressed with my belly-she said it was one of the biggest she had ever seen in her career!) (I wasn’t so much impressed as scared I was going to tear open at the seams.)
Finally at 34 weeks and 5 days I went to my check-up appointment. The night before went badly. I felt panicky, couldn’t breathe well, felt my pulse racing, saw strange flashing lights, and otherwise felt like it was time because mama wasn’t going to hang on much longer. Around 3 am when I couldn’t sleep I went to the computer and typed in “symptoms of preeclampsia”. Yep, I knew it. My body’s ability to carry about 12 pounds of baby-not including their personal sacs and fluid environment, had finally expired. My doctor walked by me into work while I waited outside her office and she took one look at me and rushed me in ahead of the others for a stress test. I must have looked bad. Thankfully, the babies were fine. (Sighhhh) But, what about mom? Blood pressure was really high. I was experiencing preeclampsia. A nurse said that was the first time in my entire pregnancy that she had seen me look that way. She said I always came in all dressed up, hair fixed, make up on, smiling and this time I look scared and like something was sucking my life away. Honestly, that’s kind of the way I felt, physically speaking. My doctor nodded and I was told to go straight to the hospital. I wanted to cry and felt myself about to start panicking. I went out into the waiting area to find my mom when a lady sitting in front of her asked about my twin pregnancy. She had been talking to my mom and said she was 3 months pregnant with twins and scared about what would be next. I looked at her and noticed that she looked really healthy and thought, “Well without diabetes you won’t have such a hard time I’m sure…” Not to mention she was really tall. Did you know most women who carry twins are tall? It’s a bit more of a natural fit, apparently. There is more room to expand. My doctor said my short stature was a bit of a disadvantage to me. Anyway, I instead say to her, “You’ll be fine! it’s wonderful to carry twins!” We laughed and as soon as I walked away and down the hall I began crying. I told my mom what the doctor said. She comforted me yet could barely control her excitement. The babies we had all worked so hard for were coming soon!
In the hospital I spent over 24 hours in induced labor, trying hard to have a natural birth. I went 12 hours without any painkillers and endured harsh back to back contractions which, by the way did NOTHING to dilate me past 1cm. The pelvic exam done by a different doctor which had never hurt before was suddenly so painful I screamed all the way through it. Not to mention that doctor had the biggest hands I’d ever seen. I still shudder when I see a pair of large hands, I’m not kidding! I think when I get very nervous my muscles extremely tense up. Not ideal when trying to give birth.
I ended up having a c-section around 6pm the next day and to my surprise heard both of my babies crying and breathing on their own as they were pulled from deep inside of me. I felt every bit of the c-section, only I felt no pain. I was very nauseated when they took out “baby B” which was my daughter, because she was up between my ribs. My husband watched the whole thing and now boasts that he knows me very well on the inside. Not so funny to me but, anyway, when we both heard both babies crying after being pulled out of me we were so happy! They came out needing no assistance despite having been born early and to a type 1 diabetic mother (who didn’t always have such great A1c’s, mind you). I went unconscious for a while after the birth and this period of time is still cloudy to me. I think later that night I awoke with family congratulating me. I remember hearing that my son looked like my husband and my daughter looked like me, which we still hear. I was still so scared and tired and I wondered what the future would hold. How would I take care of two babies when I felt like I needed a month long hospital stay to recover from all this?
I was given a lot of magnesium to combat a possible seizure from the high blood pressure and this meant double vision for several days. It was like having four babies. I cried over the fact that I couldn’t see my own children clearly-and everyone else could. It didn’t feel right. (These were mostly hormones talking, I’m sure) The magnesium prevented me from moving and at one point I couldn’t chew and I couldn’t attempt breastfeeding for a long time. I also had so much liquid pumped into me through IV that I was carrying around 35 pounds of water weight (I only gained baby weight during my twin pregnancy although I did lose tons of muscle). This water weight lasted 3 weeks and made it very painful to walk or move at all. It felt like my feet, my hands, my legs were going to explode. The c-section healed nicely yet, hurt much more than I imagined, mostly because I didn’t take painkillers since they passed into the breast milk (and I didn’t want my little ones to get so sleepy they’d be unable to fight for air when they choked on spit up).
The first week was so difficult I don’t think back on it with fond memories. In fact the first several months were “hellish” I don’t even remember my babies during their first few months. I was barely there. There was a serious lack of sleep and a lot of post pregnancy hormones to keep me on a crazy emotional leash. I pumped breast milk for 4 months every 3 hours round the clock which, I found is a great way to control blood sugars! But, taking care of two babies while dealing with carpel tunnel and tendonitis is not ideal. I wouldn’t have made it had my mom not visited me almost every day while pregnant and driven me to all the doctor appointments. My family was very supportive and when I visited they would make me comfortable on the couch, serve me food, listen to my fears. My husband was in the trenches with me and never went out without me just so he could stay with me through it all. He saved me from countless lows, from panic attacks in the middle of the night, and from exhaustion by always being there. It was a tough job, I know it was. My mom came to help with the babies almost every day until their first birthday and I can’t imagine what would have happened to my sanity had she not. I definitely want people to know the truth. I had a lot of help and it was still extremely difficult. And yes, much of what made it more difficult was my type 1 diabetes. But, talk to any new parent of twins and you’ll find out having twins is no picnic, just like having one isn’t either. Twins are double the joy for sure but, the experience was so overwhelming to me that one day I want to start a foundation that helps new parents of twins or multiples to get help and support during the first few months. They really, really, need it.
People tell me I look like my old self now that a year and a half has passed. Truthfully, I’m not exactly like my old self. If you look at my stomach it’s completely wrecked beyond recovery (tons of stretched skin that just hangs there and as I’m told by other twin mothers and doctors-won’t go away) which as you can imagine does a lot to one’s self esteem. I weigh the same as before though and I can actually run more miles than before (something about being a mom makes you more like superwoman I think). My eyes have been checked since and thankfully, the blood vessels have shrunk away. I have a lot more broken capillaries on my legs than before the pregnancy-probably due to all the extra blood flow but, also the 35 pounds of water retention I endured after the birth due to being hooked up to an IV for so long. It’s not cool going into the hospital feeling like a whale and coming out even larger, I’ll tell you that lol.
I won’t sit here and tell you my pregnancy was easy. It wasn’t. It was so hard you could send me into a panic attack by telling me I’m pregnant. Yet, for 8 months of suffering I got these two little miracles who have already given me so much in return. This includes teaching me how to have faith and teaching me that working hard on good diabetes management can have immense payoffs! I hope everyone reading this remembers to place your diabetes first. You need to have good glucose control for good health. There is no way around that. But, I know you can do it! There was a time I didn’t think I’d see my 21st birthday. Then I didn’t think I could carry one child, much less two. The body (even a diabetic’s) is really amazing! Don’t you forget it.