30 Nov

Twins: Leo & Isla’s Birth Story

Sharon is a mother of three and an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor

Imagine our surprise when the sonographer pointed out, ‘Here is the heartbeat, oh, and here is the other heartbeat!’ and there began our very different birth experience. We were already parents to Rosa, now 6 years old, and were looking forward to being parents again. However, this was to be an altogether more complicated event!

We were very keen to have a home delivery with Rosa, and carefully researched the best birth pools on the market. I wanted as natural a delivery as possible. I laboured for the most part at home, but delivered in hospital due to her heartbeat going too high at the last minute. Back home the next day, no complications.

I naively thought we might be able to gun for a similar scenario this time round, but to my surprise, twins were considered ‘high risk’ and I would be strongly advised to deliver in hospital, probably by induction by 37 weeks, and in any case, in theatre. Not what I was hoping for at all. I knew all the risks associated with inductions and managed deliveries (continuous monitoring, more risk of interventions and C-sections) and wanted to do my best to avoid them!

Luckily, I am quite an assertive person so at the many of my antenatal appointments at Royal Berkshire Hospital (monthly scans from 20 weeks for twins!) I clearly set out my concerns to the various consultants and managed to agree to a compromise. Intermittent monitoring and stretch and sweeps to start off with instead of going straight to a routine induction.

Unbelievably, I got to 39 weeks (albeit sporting a giant tummy and unable to move much beyond a slow shuffle) before I finally agreed to be induced. The stretch and sweep hadn’t worked, and the risk of placenta failure after 38 weeks in twin births goes up drastically, so on Monday 15th October I began the induction process at 3pm. My mother was at home looking after my daughter and my husband Jon stayed with me as we waited for the progesterone pessary to take effect.

Nothing much happened initially, so Jon went home that evening and I stayed overnight, contractions not really getting going until later that evening. By the morning, they were much stronger and more regular, and very painful. Unfortunately, despite all this, I remained at 2 cms dilated, so by Tuesday afternoon, it was agreed that my waters would be broken. This really got things underway, and contractions came hard and fast. They were much more painful than I remember with Rosa, but I coped well with gas and air and good old fashioned breathing techniques.

The hospital were careful to remember my wishes and I was able to labour in private with one midwife and my husband, and only have intermittent monitoring of the babies heartbeats. That way, I was able to remain more mobile and hopefully speed labour up a bit.

The last shift change of staff meant that by some strange coincidence, the midwife who delivered our first daughter was with me for the second stage of labour. I reached 10cms and was swiftly taken into theatre for delivery. They tried to put in a spinal block in case I needed forceps assistance or a C-Section to deliver the second twin, but as they tried to put one in, our first twin decided he could wait no longer, and popped his head out!

All I remember at this point was chaos as staff ran around waiting for him to come and decisions were made about what to do if there was a problem with our second twin. Leo Jacob was born at precisely midnight Wednesday 17th October weighing a whopping 7lb 3oz. All was well and he was promptly placed on my chest for some skin-to-skin, before being handed to a very proud Daddy.

Now for twin two! She had been breech during the last few months of my pregnancy, and showed no sign of shifting her position, despite the extra room Leo left for her after his birth, so I ended up delivering her bottom first, much to the surprise of the theatre staff, still only using gas and air! Strangely enough, I felt very much in control at this point which helped me push her out in a rather rapid manner! Isla Estelle was born at 12:15, 6lb 3oz and a little traumatised by her delivery. She was whisked off for some oxygen and got suctioned as she had swallowed a lot of blood. However, she was fine within 5 minutes and went for cuddles with Daddy whilst I was stitched up. I got off rather lightly, I think,with a minor second degree tear.

We were elated by their arrival and were able to stay in a single room to begin to enjoy our babies. Isla took to breastfeeding immediately but Leo wasn’t so interested, and by the middle of the next day, I realised he had quite a pronounced tongue-tie. This meant that he had trouble latching on, and as a result, I had to express my colostrum (a major feat that took an hour for just 1ml!) in order for him to get some sustinence. He was getting dehydrated so the hospital staff were worried enough to keep us in longer, until they were satisfied that he was taking enough.

We finally left hospital in Friday 19th October, with a referral to get Leo’s tongue-tie snipped at a later date.

Looking back, I feel proud that I managed to stand firm and get as close to the birth experience that I wanted. All too often, twins seem to equal unnecessary complications. I am convinced that my positive experience has been beneficial in helping me bond with them, and also succeed in getting breastfeeding established under difficult circumstances. As it stands, it transpired that Isla also had a tongue-tie so both babies had them snipped by an independent lactation consultant at two weeks old and are now doing well. In fact, both are looking very bonny and the frequent feeds have done wonders for my waistline!

Despite the constant feeding, changing what feels like hundreds of nappies and lack of sleep, they really are the most precious gift and memories of painful contractions and hospital drama are fast fading as we look forward to our first Christmas as a family of five!