Pregnancy and birth

22 weeks

This week, the good people at Huggies will tell us what’s going on with the babies:

Lots more development and fine tuning with those little muscles this week. Your baby may be spending some of its time sucking its thumb, holding onto its umbilical cord, hiccoughing, or practicing its grasp reflex.

More fat is being laid down this week and your baby doesn’t look as translucent as it did a couple of weeks ago.  Don’t fall for the old line of needing to eat extra food for the baby as well.  The recommendation from experts is that during pregnancy, you only need to increase your normal intake by about 10 percent.  So that means around an extra 1050 kilojoules/day during your second trimester. An extra piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or a healthy sandwich is enough to cover this extra requirement.

Your baby has fingernails, tiny as they are. If your baby is a girl her uterus and vagina will be in place and if your baby is a boy, his testes will be descending from his abdomen down to his scrotum.  Many babies have enlarged genitals when they are born. This is a result of the pregnancy hormones causing them to swell.  Over the first few weeks though, they do settle down to a more normal size.

“Don’t fall for the old line of needing to eat extra food”, followed by “you only need to increase you normal intake by about 10 percent”?  That extra 10 percent could be described as ‘extra food’ surely?  (This is nothing to do with babies – bad writing annoys me.)

All of the guidance about how I should be changing this week is the same ‘blah blah blah you might be finding that your clothes are a bit tight’ nonsense, so let’s just take it as read, shall we?  I measured my circumference earlier today and it’s still the same as last week, although my obstetrician told me yesterday that we can expect a growth spurt from the kids in the next few weeks, which will no doubt expand me even further.  And after weighing myself last week and being thoroughly depressed by the humungous numbers I saw (yes, I know that it’s all good and healthy, and that 99% of it seems to be on my bump, but still!), I’ve decided to steer clear of the scales for the forseeable future.  I’m still eating pretty healthily 99% of the time (with the remaining 1% being the occasional bowl of stewed fruit and ice cream for pudding), so I guess I really need to relax about it all.  And I’m trying to make more of an effort to eat vegetables – for lunch today I had a bowl of wholegrain rice with cole slaw, yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes and grated cheese, as well as an apple, some celery sticks, and some carrot sticks.  And when I can be bothered to peel them, I’ll have a mid-afternoon snack of a couple of mandarins.  It’s helped that I really haven’t regained my appetite for lollies, biscuits or cake, and I generally dislike fried food and haven’t been tempted to eat it much at all.  I had chips a couple of times while I was in Wellington last week, and we tend to have a Burger Fuel dinner once a week or so, but that’s probably it.

Yesterday’s obstetrician’s appointment was just a standard four-weekly check-up.  We discussed the anatomy scan results and he said that he’s happy with the way that the two babies’ growth is tracking – our girl was measuring at around 10% smaller than our boy, but apparently this is fine, and as long as there isn’t a discrepancy of more than 20% between them, we’re OK.  I’ll have another full scan near the end of the 25 week mark, primarily to check their growth more thoroughly.

We had a quick scan at the appointment.  Both babies were lying transverse, with our boy’s head on my left-hand side and his sister top-and-tailing with him in the top bunk.  She seemed to be asleep during the scan, so Vijay, our obstetrician, gave my tummy a couple of gentle pokes in order to wake her up and get her wriggling around.  I don’t know if it was just a coincidence, but this seemed to lead to an unprecedented level of baby movement from both kids yesterday afternoon, with the two of them lurching around in a most peculiar manner.

It’s so handy to be seeing an obstetrician and to be able to have a quick scan during each appointment.  If he’d seen anything alarming Vijay would have packed us off for a full scan elsewhere, but he was perfectly happy with what is going on.  We are so lucky that this pregnancy is proceeding very smoothly.

Our next obstetrician’s appointment is at 26 weeks, and after that we move on to fortnightly appointments.  That will really signal the downhill run towards the babies’ arrival.  And although I’ve been happily thinking about what a pain it will be (for the kids) if I should end up having them on Christmas Day or something, I’ve also been forced for realise that it would actually be pretty amazing if we made it to Christmas Day, given that it takes place in our 35th week!  We bought a change table this weekend from a girl who had her twins at 29 weeks – eek!  That really isn’t very far away at all.  Her babies were in hospital for seven or eight weeks, but they are now over six months old and are in fine fettle.

The whole question of early arrival is an interesting one when you’re carrying twins.  I think that your perspective of ‘normal’ as a twin mother is totally different to what singleton mothers consider ‘normal’.  You hope that you’ll get them to full term – say, 37 or 38 weeks – but you can’t help but learn about all the people for whom this hasn’t happened.  A couple of weeks ago a girl I know in London had her second baby at 33 weeks, and although this is obviously very early and would cause anybody to worry a lot about the welfare of their child (he was on a ventilator for the first day or two, and she’d been having steroid injections to strengthen his lungs after her waters broke at 30 weeks), it sounds like he’s going to be absolutely fine, which is great news.  For a twin pregnancy, though, a 33 week delivery would not really be hugely unusual.  One girl I know told me that, from her twin antenatal class, pretty much everybody had their babies by 34 weeks.

The other thing that becomes ‘normal’ for twin mothers is the prospect that one or both of your children might need to spend some time in hospital, and that you’ll be extraordinarily lucky if both babies can be discharged at the same time as you.  It’s fairly awful to contemplate that one or both of our babies could be left in hospital for a few extra days or weeks, but I guess we just have to make our peace with the prospect of it and not let it worry us – after all, there’s nothing we can do to control it, and they need to get the best possible care if they do arrive early.

Actually, my somewhat uncharacteristic zen-like attitude towards the prospect of early baby arrivals illustrates one positive change I’ve noticed in myself during this time of my life: a better acceptance that I can’t control everything that happens to me and that, because of this, I shouldn’t waste energy worrying about things that I can’t change.  I don’t think you can go through fertility problems and then get pregnant without being slightly preoccupied with terrible “what if” scenarios, and with a twin pregnancy the risks – and the reasons to worry – increase significantly, but I seem to have grasped the fine art of not getting too bogged down with it all.  While I am mindful of what can go wrong (as per all of the early arrival information I’ve just quoted), I’m certainly not convinced that, because some women have had problems, it’s inevitable that I will also have problems.  My older sister, Pip, carried her twins to full term.  So did my friend Kirsty.  Mel, an old London colleague, carried hers to full term (and kept working until close to the end).  Nic in Sydney got very close to her planned c-section date before her twins arrived.  I’m very healthy and not horribly unfit: there’s no reason why I can’t keep my buns in the oven for the full cooking time as well.

Now, I think it terms of little milestones.  According to the Oh Baby website (and this information sounds similar to the statistics that our antenatal teacher told us), a a baby is born at 24 weeks has a 40% chance of surviving, and may have lasting disabilities.  However, by 30 weeks the survival rate leaps to 95%, with only a 20% risk of disability.  So, anything beyond 30 weeks is a good initial goal.  Beyond that, babies born from 34 weeks are much more likely to be able to suckle, making it easier to feed them without having to resort solely to feeding tubes (and being able to breastfeed from early on is obviously helpful in getting milk flow established), and babies can suckle strongly from 36 weeks – before then, they’re just too little and find feeding too tiring.

Basically, if we can get past mid-December without our two being born I will be pretty happy, and if we can last until 2013 I will be absolutely delighted.  We haven’t yet sorted out any kind of birth plan with Vijay, but in our initial discussions I’ve said that I have zero interest in my ‘birth experience’ and just want them to be born in the safest way possible: this makes it very likely that we’ll have a planned c-section.  Yesterday Vijay said that, at our next appointment, we might start thinking about it all and looking at when we could book that in.  Of course, the best laid plans of pregnant women and their obstretricians can be disrupted by premature labour, but I will continue to do whatever I can to take it easy and increase the chances of our babies staying put for as long as possible.

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7 thoughts on “22 weeks

  1. I’ve kind of focused on my ‘birth experience’ in the past but now it’s going to be a definite occurence I can hardly think about it. I’m not really into candles and whale music thank god but I would like something that isn’t going to linger for years. At the end of the day if I get a healthy baby then I don’t care that much. I’ve waited too long for her to care how she gets here as long as its safely!

    1. I reckon that most of us who have been through fertility treatment and the years of trying that goes along with it are of a similar mind, Steph! I certainly don’t want a horror of a birth (which is why we’re likely to opt for a planned c-section: if both babies are ‘head down’, we might try for a natural delivery, but I would really like to avoid situations where we could end up in a stressful emergency c-section, such as if the first baby was born naturally and then the second one got into difficulties). I try to remember that the birth event is just one day of mine and my children’s lives, so the most important thing is to get them out safely. Have you started antenatal classes yet? We covered birth a lot and I did find it reallly helpful – it was good to demystify natural birth a bit. People talk about it in such terrible terms, and obviously it will be flipping painful, but if you’ve got good medical care on hand I’m sure it will be fine – not the most fun day of your life, but certainly an incredible one!

      1. Our antenatal classes aren’t until November/December – we don’t have quite the same pressure to get them done early like you do! I’m also doing two one day courses – ‘getting to know your baby’ and breastfeeding. I figure birth will happen whether I want it to or not and if I have a c-section or vaginal birth is really out of my hands but I can control knowing about feeding her properly and getting her to sleep so i will focus on what I can control. Since I am pretty desperate to have something in my life that I can control right now!! Knowledge is power after all.

      2. Absolutely! Those one day sessions sound like a great idea. Our final antenatal class covered breastfeeding, and our teacher really emphasised the value of getting help from midwives/a lactation consultant as early as possible, to get the knack of it – it sounds like problems like cracked nipples can start if you’re struggling to get a baby to latch on, and then it all gets a lot more difficult. I’m very keen to breastfeed our two if at all possible – ideally for six months, although any time at all would be great. And did you know that newborns feed 8 – 12 times every 24 hours?! I guess I know what I’ll be doing all summer…

  2. On the plus side it’s supposed to be excellent for losing weight too. I’m reading a book called Breastfeeding Sucks. I highly recommend it for some advance reading, the info is plain, not judgemental (for the most part anyway) and funny at times. There’s one called Pregnancy Sucks (oh it really does!) which I am going to read too. Breastfed babies feed more often than bottlefed babies too but I’ll consider it an investment in my baby. I’m going to try pumping and freezing some milk too in case there is any point where I have trouble feeding her. Not sure if a mother of twins would have enough milk to spare for freezing but maybe worth considering if you do have extra at any point. And the La Leche League can help with advice too.

  3. I used to do the milestones of survival rates too. I’ve recently found the journals I kept when I was pregnant with the twins – it’s funny – every week was a little celebration. I hope you follow the family trend and end up not having an early delivery – I spent a few days in the neonates with Claire, and it’s not fun at all. Jaime was small and jaundiced a few days after birth, but rather than putting her in the neonates, because Olivia was doing well, they kept them together in the room with me!

    1. Yes, I am very reassured by our family’s habit of keeping babies until full term! Hopefully it will all go according to plan, with a 37 week c-section, and the babies and me all heading home four or five days later.

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