Tag Archives: twins

My Babies

I believe that nothing passes away without leaving a trace, and that every step we take, however small, has significance for our present and our future existence- Anton Chekhov

I came across this quote in the week, and I’m probably reading it out of context but I found it very comforting. If you read my blog now and again, then you’ll notice that I’ve been missing for a few months. I haven’t been sure how much to say about this, but recently I’ve found talking to people very cathartic and I’ve gained a lot of hope from reading about the experiences of others so I decided that I wanted to share “where I’m at” at the moment.

On December 8th, Jon and I found out at the 12 week scan for our first pregnancy that we were expecting identical twins and they were perfect. Growing as they should be, wriggling away from the scanner and vigorously trying to kick one another in the head. The pregnancy is high risk for a variety of reasons, the twins shared a placenta which is how they could tell they were identical, and as a first time mother with multiples I was high risk for pre-eclampsia, but apart from the all-consuming exhaustion that had made me sleep almost constantly when I wasn’t working for the first three months they looked great. We had regular checks, and as everything was going well, we were to come back after Christmas around 16 and a half weeks for our next check.

At that check we had some really bad news. Baby one seemed to suddenly have stopped growing and was 50% smaller than its sibling, its growth curve didn’t register on any of the percentile charts and we were prepared for the worst. It was diagnosed with severe early onset IUGR and we were told that it was very unlikely to survive. The hospital was fantastic and brought us in for regular checks to see if there was anything that could be done. These showed that, while the babies weren’t suffering from twin to twin transfusion syndrome, baby 1 had an insufficient share of the placenta, an enlarged heart from stress and the babies were showing signs of TAPs where the one baby has too much haemoglobin and the other has anaemia because of their connection. As well as the near certainty of baby 1 being unable to survive to birth, because of the shared placenta, the death of baby 1 would be able to kill or brain damage the larger twin, as within two hours of its death, all of baby 1’s blood would flood the larger twin’s body, giving them a massive surge in blood pressure.

On Monday I had surgery to occlude twin 1’s cord in the hope of protecting twin 2 to give them a better chance of survival. We were incredibly sad, but I was conscious throughout and the anaesthetist and nurses stoked my hair, held my hand and wiped my tears away as they fell. They talked to me all the time and were able to tell me when baby 1 had passed, so I was able to be quiet and alone with my feelings for a while then.

Baby 2, mercifully, seems to be doing well, they scanned me in the evening after my operation and printed a little picture of its face, I think it looks like its Daddy already. It’s heart was still beating well the next morning, and it looked strong at our last scan though I won’t be able to relax until it is safely born and I have it home with me. I was 19 weeks on Saturday and I know that we still have a long way to go. This has been the hardest time of my life, and I am so grateful to Jon and our family and friends, I don’t think I would be coping without them. I’m also in awe of the brilliant consultants, doctors and nurses who give babies like mine, with terrible odds against them, every hope of survival.

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My babies at 13 weeks


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Identical twins scare people. Think The Shining. Julia and Valentina Poole are even more disconcerting, because, far from being mere identical twins, they are mirror twins, each a perfect reflection of the other- even beneath their skin. At twenty years old they do everything together; watch television, go out, eat… even drop out of college. The desires of the individuals are sacrificed to meet the needs of the unit. The sisters couldn’t be closer.

However, when their mother’s mirror twin dies in London, a woman the twins have never heard of, let alone met, she leaves the sisters all her possessions in her will on the condition that their parents are never allowed to enter her flat.

Desperate for adventure, the sisters move to her flat, an antiquarian’s dream overlooking Highgate Cemetery, forces neither twin could imagine begin to drive a wedge between them. Throw in a crossword setter who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a man more at ease with the dead than the living and you have another excellent novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, from the best-selling author of The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger.

As anyone who has read The Time Traveller’s Wife knows, Niffenegger is bringing Magic Realism into the main stream with breathtaking stories which focus as much on characters and their relationships than the exceptional circumstances in which they life. Her Fearful Symmetry doesn’t disappoint in this respect. In Her Fearful Symmetry, Niffenegger weaves a modern Gothic Fairytale; crafting her characters with care, exploring their humanity and building drama creating stock heroes and villains. These characters are beautiful and flawed. Sketched on the page in simple black and white words, they are you and me; they are exceptionally vivid.

Niffenegger creates a multi layered story, and though the snaking plot threads are complex enough to ensnare the reader, they never become tangled by the magnitude and otherness of the story. At times, elements of the plot did become predictable in a way that The Time Traveller’s Wife never did but make no mistake, this novel is a great work of fiction and stands alone from its famous older sibling.

If you have no inclination to pick up this brilliant novel, I would recommend reading it for the character of Martin and the Highgate Cemetery Setting alone. The prose is beautiful, the plot well constructed; it was Martin however who simultaneously seemed wholly absurd and wholly alive to me. I’ve actually started to learn to do cryptic crosswords because of his character.

In a similar way, I am already planning a trip to Highgate Cemetery. Niffenegger’s description made me feel like Highgate was a place that I had spent my childhood in, exploring in the brambles yet terrified of the gravestones and mausoleums. Perhaps that’s a sign of a great writer; the ability to make an unknown environment at once familiar and other.

One day I will also visit Highgate and explore cemetery, half wondering if I will see shadows of the characters moving around. I call it New Gothic or Magic Realism (because we all like to label things) but behind the fantasy I almost believe this story could be true.