My rollercoaster pregnancy with my twin girls
If you see me today, you would probably assume that my life is as ‘perfect’ as humanly possible. I have a great husband, healthy and beautiful twin girls, constant support from our extended families, a cozy home in a secure neighborhood, and my own business. And guess what? Yes, it is perfectly imperfect and I love it. Today and always, I have been, thank God, a very blessed girl. This does not mean that I haven’t encountered challenges or major problems, but with a positive mindset, faith, hard work and passion, I have been able to conquer and rise above these challenges.
Today, I want to share with you my biggest challenge of all, and I do hope that this is the toughest hurdle that I will have to endure in my life. On February 9th, 2011, on my mother’s birthday, I received the biggest gift/news ever: I, too, was going to be a mom! Although, I had been married for almost 4 years, my husband and I weren’t quite looking for babies because, at the time, I had been training rigorously for a full marathon, which I happened to have run pregnant with TWINS! Yes, you read that right... Not only was I pregnant, the next day, on our first doctor’s appointment they announced it was a fraternal twin pregnancy. Funny enough, I imagined my running marathons was going to be on ‘pause” for a while, but little did I know that I was going to be running some other type of marathon right away.
After crazy laugher and awesome happy tears, the first thing my husband and I did was to call our insurance agent. We were self-employed, and due to the irrational health insurance prices, we had chosen for me not to have ‘maternity’ included in my individual policy. Why? Because our health insurance was already a very significant chuck of our monthly expenses ($800 a month). Nevertheless, now that I was pregnant, we knew we needed maternity coverage urgently. We found out that the only way for me to get maternity coverage for this pregnancy was to switch our individual health insurance plans to a small business plan, which increased our insurance by 63%. Luckily, we were ‘smart enough’ to realize that this was an investment that needed to be done, particularly because a twin pregnancy is always a higher risk pregnancy. Unfortunately, the maternity plan did not kick in until after 3 months, so for that period of time we had to pay out of pocket all the doctor’s expenses and ultrasounds, which easily were over $3,000 dollars.
As for the pregnancy, it all started with the common morning sickness, but slowly started escalating into more complicated issues. I ended up with an eye ulcer because the pregnancy really dried up my eyes. I fainted in a bathroom because of acute constipation, and broke out in skin hives because of a random allergy to something I touched or ate. However, to me, those were insignificant issues because the only one uncomfortable or affected was me. Every 2 weeks I had a doctor’s appointment either with my regular OBGYN or my high-risk doctor, and the girls were growing just perfect.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case at 23.5 weeks when I literally was about to give birth to my daughters in a bathroom in Dominican Republic, where I had gone for a week to visit family and friends that were throwing me a babyshower. Without going into preterm labor – meaning there were no contractions or warning signs – I dilated 6 centimeters and my girls started falling out. You can imagine my scream calling for help, and once helped arrived, I fainted. Truth be told, when my husband woke me up again, after being MacGyver and pushing my girls back inside (a big round of applause for him!), I wished he hadn’t woken me up because the fear of losing my girls was the most awful feeling I have ever experienced.
Being in the DR, this really felt like Juan Luis Guerra’s song “El Niagara en Bicicleta” ("Crossing the Niagara Falls on a Bike"). The hospitals over there are not as equipped as the ones in the United States, but luckily, the doctors know how to work around the lack of medical equipment, and the OBGYN that received me at the hospital took the risk of doing a double cervical cerclage to cinch the cervix shut with the hopes to prevent what was going to be an apparent miscarriage. It was a great risk, since cerclage are placed between week 12-14, and I was almost 24 weeks with twins. There was a risk of puncturing the sacs, infecting the babies, and causing preterm labor, among other complications.
Medically, what happened to me is called an incompetent cervix, and there is no way to predict this before it happens. Ironically, the week before the major chaos, the ultrasound technician had joked: “you can have triplets,” after my inquiry about my cervix status, and even more ironic, my maternity insurance kicked in 2 days before this crazy rollercoaster ride.
At the time, I wondered why I was in the DR when this happened. But today, I understand that God placed me in the right place at the right time. If I would have been here, they would have simply put me on bed rest with the bed tilted hoping that gravity would keep the babies in a bit longer because 24 week-old babies born in the USA have a 50% chance of survival in the NICU and the high risk of the cerclage is considered unacceptable at that stage, unlike in the DR, where they knew they had zero chance to save the babies if they were to be born then. Hence, the doctors in the DR did everything in their power to keep them inside... and they did. Doctor Rojas and his amazing team bought me 7 more weeks with my twin girls inside the womb.
Those 7 weeks were far from easy, but I was so grateful and faithful that these little girls had a special purpose in this life and that they were going to be born healthy because of 3 main reasons: 1) God sent them to me at a time in my life when medically it was highly unlikely for me to get pregnant, 2) they ran a marathon and stuck around, and 3) they were back in the womb perfectly healthy after being in the birthing canal.
Needless to say, during those 7 weeks, every penny that we spent on the insurance paid off. Between the cerclage, a private air ambulance to make it back to the United States, the hospitalizations, the progesterone shots, and the surfactant injections, we were relieved that we had insurance regardless of how costly it was.
In the end, my girls were born at 30.5 weeks, weighing 2.5lbs each, with an Apgar score of 9 (excellent), and breathing unassisted on their own. They were perfect little preemies, too tiny and ‘inmature’ still. It took us 8 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit to go finally take my Lanuguitas home. Lanuguitas is my nickname for them, and it comes from the word Lanugo that is the delicately soft hairs that cover the infant when in the womb, and in my twins’ case, still did at their birth.
During our NICU stay, there were ups and downs including the regular ‘bradies’, ‘de-saturations’, and even infections and blood transfusions, but never, ever did I doubt that my girls were going to be perfectly healthy thanks to God, the doctors, the amazing work of the March of Dimes, and my highly expensive – but oh so worth it – insurance.
Being a mom of twins is not easy, but it helps tremendously to know that you have God on your side, a great family, and the priceless gift of health.