We found out I was carrying twins during the first ultrasound check-up. Our initial reaction was total shock. Even though fraternal twins exist on my side of the family, I never expected we would be so lucky as to have them ourselves!
In the days that followed, I did as much reading as I possibly could about raising twins. The book I found most useful, and would recommend to anyone expecting multiples, is Raising Twins by Shelly Vaziri.
But despite our joy at expecting two babies, my pregnancy turned out to be a rollercoaster ride. Carrying twins automatically categorises you as a high-risk pregnancy anyway, but a routine check-up following our ‘babymoon’ to Sri Lanka suddenly turned up a serious complication.
Despite only being five months’ pregnant, the doctor discovered that my cervix was already dilated to 2cm, which meant I could go into labour at any moment. I was rushed to the hospital immediately to do an emergency cerclage [cervical stitch]. Overwhelming emotions of sadness, fear and worry rushed through my mind as the doctor explained that I could quite possibly lose our babies either during or after the surgery.
Pregnancy: ‘The days were long, the nights longer’
Thankfully the surgery was a success. But on leaving the hospital, I was given strict instructions: to stay off my feet and have complete bed rest, with my legs elevated to remove pressure on the cervix. That meant some pretty big changes: I had to quit my job, I had to lie down on my back 24/7, I wasn’t able to cook, I wasn’t even able to shower for more than about five minutes at a time. I was basically immobile. But I didn’t mind – at that point, nothing mattered to me but keeping our babies growing inside my belly for as long as I possibly could.
The days were long, the nights even longer. I looked at my calendar every day, counting down the hours until I would be out of the ‘danger zone’ and into the seventh month of my pregnancy, which is when the risks would lower considerably. My only outings were weekly visits to the hospital to get progesterone shots, which of course had to be done while wheelchair-bound, with the help of my husband. During those seven long weeks of immobilisation, the only thing that kept me sane was to shop online for the twin’s nursery and watching movies on loop!
Labour: ‘A strange calm came over me’
At 3.15am on October 11 2016, when I was 31 weeks + 5 days, my waters broke. Although it was still premature, I had made it past the seven-month stage, and a strange calm came over me. I woke up my husband and my mother, who was visiting, and took a moment to appreciate my belly one last time. I even asked my husband to take a last photo of it. Then we headed to the American hospital.
Everything happened very quickly. I was determined to have a natural delivery and that’s exactly what happened. A magical feeling of calmness saturated my body and, strangely, I wasn’t nervous at all. I felt a greater force was around me, supporting me and helping me throughout the delivery; a feeling that no words can clearly describe.
I must say I found the pain of labour (and especially having my cerclage removed) excruciating, and I ended up having an epidural. But I still managed to deliver my twins naturally, only five hours after my waters had broken. At 8:28am, twin A, Joelle, was born, weighing 1.605kg. Then twin B, Karam, was born, at 8:43am, weighing 1.456kg.
Read more Should you bank your baby’s cord blood?
Birth: ‘I didn’t feel like a ‘mother’ right away’
My babies were immediately whisked away to the NICU and placed in the incubator, where they stayed for 10 days. When I went to see them, just two hours after giving birth, they were so tiny and fragile! I was terrified to carry them. I didn’t know how to touch them; they looked as if they might break. The nurses helped me to hold them and I cherished my moments of skin-to-skin contact.
When I got discharged from the hospital, I didn’t know how or what to feel. Coming home without my kids didn’t seem right and I was unable to feel that I was really a ‘mother’ right away. I had moments of frustration and sadness, and then the baby blues hit me after about a week after delivery. My emotions and mood were up and down for about 10 days, but then things seemed to go back to normal. I am very lucky that postpartum depression didn’t hit me hard, as it can do with so many women.
The kids stayed at the NICU for five long weeks.
I would arrive at the hospital every day at 9am and stay by their side until 10pm at night. What kept me going was seeing their cute little faces and watching their eyes light up when they saw me, heard me, smelt me. Their precious little heads pressed on my chest during our skin-to-skin moments was breathtaking.
My experience from pregnancy to delivery and getting the twins home safely has taught me to be very patient and resilient.
Life has lots of twists and turns, but it is up to us to make the most of every situation and have faith that everything will turn out to be alright.
CORRECTION: In the original version of this article it was erroneously stated that Carine was from France, whereas she is from Canada. We sincerely apologise for this mistake.
Read more UAE birth stories: