Tuesday, 21 December 2010


The second trimester is a wonderful time to go abroad, says almost every pregnancy related article I've read since becoming pregnant. Vitamin D is great for you and baby said another. Well we'd best go on holiday then! So, where shall we go, and when? Somewhere warm and sunny, Cyprus? (a favourite of mine) Nah! How about Prague! In december! And off we go....

I came home from work at the end of september to find P looking very guilty. From the look on his face I could tell something had gone on, and a look of 'that' nature suggested money had been spent. After some flapping and stuttering, and much redness around the cheeks, I learned Prague was in our future. Ive wanted to go to Prague for a while, I came close a few years ago but it fell through at the last moment, and P had wanted to go for some time too. Our date of departure: 13 december. I was around 10 weeks pregnant when it was booked, we worked out I would be around 22/23 weeks gone by the time we flew (that was before our scan put us back 6 days). 13 weeks seemed a very long time to wait.

Eventually the day dawned, albeit rather too quickly for P who had been singing the Messiah the night before, down in Bath, and only got home around 1am (we had to be on the train by 6.20am). The journey to, and our progression through the airport was fairly quick and painless. We were a litle concerned my passport may be refused as it was in my maiden name, and didnt match the name on the booking. I took the marriage certificate, just incase, and was rather pleased to discover that you can travel on a passport under your maiden name for 12 months after marriage (phew). We found ourselves seats in a Costa(fortune) coffee shop right by the departure gates and indulged in a spot of brekky (tea and toast for P, hot choc and almond croissant for me).

We left a dull and foggy Birmingham Airport 30 mins later than scheduled (air traffic control were having a lazy monday) and soared off into the skies.... and were blinded by the sun as soon as we broke through the cloud layer. An hour later we were over deepest darkest Europe, and saw our first glimpse of snow. A further 40 mins later we touched down in a very snowy and rather chilly Prague (it was minus 7 celcius). After a delay in meeting our transport we arrived at the hotel at around 3.30pm, and immediately set out to explore (read that as 'went out to play in the snow'). We walked down to Wenceslas Square for a quick mooch, found Debenhams, M&S and C&A, and the beginnings of the Christmas Market, which also provided our supper.

                                                         View down Wenceslas Square

We went for our first proper look around the following day, starting with the National Museum. They have a fab collection of natual history exhibits, skeletons and full size replicas of prehistoric beasties:

and some not so prehistoric beasties:

The Old Town Square was the absolute epitome of how I imagined Prague at Christmas would look; grand gothic and baroque-style buildings, the Christmas Market, horse drawn carriages and a huge Christmas tree, all finished off with inches of snow and huge fat snowflakes falling from the sky. It was really picturesque and quite lovely.

The most amazing part came on our penultimate night, when we were sat on the bed watching German TV. We were chatting about what we thought of our mini break, and would we come back, when we both felt the first proper kicks from the babies. I'd felt little flicks and pokes for a couple of weeks but nothing as definite as these. And they havent stopped since! Its a very odd feeling but also very reassuring. I'm sure that I wont be as keen in a few weeks time when they are almost too big to move around though...

Half way through!

Wednesday 8th December: 20 weeks pregnant! Officially half way through! Although, it is possible that these two wrigglers will make their appearance well before I get to 40 weeks, so it could be said I'm over half way. Now that is a little scary. The other reason to be excited: wednesday 8 december was the day of the 'big' scan, the 20 week anomaly scan. A pregnancy milestone and yet another moment to worry about. This is the scan where they check everything for problems, and I mean everything. We were in the ultrasound room for around 45 minutes while the sonographer looked at everything from every imaginable angle. The main concern for me was making sure that firstly, they both had heartbeats, and secondly they were growing well. Two very big ticks in both of those boxes, phew! Left hand baby was first to be analysed from head to toe. Baby was very wriggly, I dont think they appreciated being poked with the scanner! They were quite well behaved though, and let the sonographer see everything she needed to. Spinal column, arms/hands, legs/feet, pelvis, skull all present and correct. We saw the separate areas of the brain, the four chambers in the heart, kidneys, stomach and bladder, again all present and correct. So far so good (time for another sigh of relief!). No sign of spina bifida or a cleft palate. This is going well... OK then, next!

Where Lefty had been behaved, Righty wasnt.. Baby had decided to curl up right behind my right hip bone, making it very difficult for the sonographer to see anything she needed to. Cue some rather awkward gymnastics on my part. First of all the bed was tipped up to try and get baby to come out of hiding, a procedure which only resulted in me feeling as though I was about to slide off the bed and end up in an upside down crumpled heap behind the scanner. This was followed by 'just turn onto your left side' said the sonographer. Sounds easy, but being tipped head down at a rather worrying angle and then trying to turn onto your left side while someone is attached to you is not that easy. Factor in that your clothes are either bunched around your boobs or about to display all your modesty to the room (or most likely both at the same time) and you're covered in slimy gel which gets everywhere, suddenly a simple manoeuvre becomes anything but simple! Anyway, after all that, baby moved enough (on their terms) for the necessary measurements to be taken and logged. Repeat the sigh of relief, and relax. All is good. Both babies are growing well, both well within the guideline measurements expected for 20wk foetus/foetuses/foeti?? Whatever, they are where they should be which is very reassuring.

The last pic shows the size differences from 12 - 20 wks, with 20wks on the left and 12wks on the right. The centre pic is from 16wks.

Our next scan is booked for 4 Feb, it seems so far away! SInce 12 weeks we've been scanned every four weeks so having to wait eight weeks between the 20 and 28 wk scans seems like a lifetime. The next milestone is on 5 Jan: Viability Day, the day from which the twins stand a chance of survival if they are born early; every day after 5 Jan is a day in their favour. Hopefully they will stay put until at least the end of March. After that I may be begging the consultant to take them out!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Antenatal Classes

Saturday 4 december was 'A' day - Antenatal Class Day. The day when we would (hopefully) learn some of the skills desperately needed for looking after two babies at the same time. We had booked our places about 6 weeks before, through TAMBA (the twins and multiple births association) as this would mean the class would be tailored to the needs of parents having twins and more. The class was being held in a community centre buried deep in Sutton Coldfield, so our first task of the day was to find out which station was nearest, not as straightforward as it sounds.. The map we were sent had obviously been devised on the basis that the postcode was Sutton Coldfield, and therefore Sutton Coldfield station would be the nearest. Not so dear reader. Jump two stations further up the track from SC and you find yourself at Butlers Lane station, which confusingly isnt on Butlers Lane... (memo to self, be more specific when giving directions to the taxi driver). Butlers Lane station, being 2 stops closer to Lichfield than SC is makes it a lot cheaper to get to. We arrived at our station of choice to find our taxi waiting (its good when that happens) and 10 minutes later we were at the community centre. So far so good.

There were seven couples on the course, which was being run by a local midwife. The chairs had been placed in a horseshoe arrangement with the midwife's chair at the 'open' end of the horseshoe. The room reminded me of the seminar rooms we used at univeristy; rather sickly green paint on the walls, institutional looking hardwearing easy-clean carpet, heating up full blast. When we arrived there was only one other couple there, we did the 'hi how are you' bit and sat ourselves down with two seats in between us and them (nothing personal, its just the British way isnt it?). As three more couples joined us they too all sat down leaving two chairs between themselves and those already seated. We were all there for the same reason but it seemed as though no-one wanted to get too close incase they 'caught' twins too..... Eventually all the seats were occupied by nervous-looking dads to be and mums to be with bumps of all shapes and sizes, ranging from 19 weeks (me) up to 33 weeks. I must admit I felt quite teeny in bumpage in comparison. Im sure it wont be long however until I have my very own gravitational field.

We began with the inevitable 'lets all introduce ourselves and tell the group a bit about ourselves' but I guess it broke the ice a little (or maybe that was the rain which was pouring down outside by this point). We learned that five of the couples had gone through IVF to conceive, a few of them for scary numbers of years, which made me feel a little guilty if I'm honest. It had taken us just three months to do naturally something which had taken twelve years, thousands of pounds and incalculable amounts of heartache and agony for them to achieve. It made us feel incredibly humble, and also made us realise that we shouldnt take any of this for granted. Every day they got through was a huge milestone, and one day closer to meeting their longed for children, whereas for us it was just a day closer to our next scan. We all shared a fear of something going wrong, but if something did happen, god forbid, we at least will have the chance and hope of conceiving again, I cannot even begin to comprehend how I/we would feel if we had waited for years and years for a child, only for the unthinkable to happen.

The rest of the course consisted of questions and answers mostly, such as how to feed two babies together, how to settle two babies, signs of labour, the general things people associate with antenatal classes. The first-timers also had a crash course in nappy changing; P got a nappy with mustard in to represent the nappy of a 3-5 day old infant. Nice! We finished just after 4pm, feeling rather overloaded with information, and also rather warm so it was quite pleasant to find ourselves having to wait for our taxi outside in the rain. We made it back to the station, and discovered none of the timetable boards were working. Fortunately we only had to wait about ten minutes for the train, and we were back in Lichfield just before 5pm. Im not totally sure whether the £139 was well spent, a lot of the info I had read on the internet but P found it useful so I suppose it was worth it. And it was great to talk to other couples who are in the same boat as us. One of the couples we learned live just down the road from us, are due two weeks before us and will be delivering at the same hospital as us so we may see them there!

The next appointment in the diary is wednesday 8 december, when we shall head to Burton again for our 20week anomaly scan. Finger crossed they're ok in there..

Monday, 22 November 2010

Meeting the Consultant..

The shock has dimmed a little since our 12 week scan, although occasionally it creeps back in when I'm least expecting it to. The thought that we are pregnant at all is still a bit daunting!

Just as suddenly as it started at bang on 6 weeks, the minute I hit 13 weeks the morning sickness left the building. Thank goodness! Although I think I escaped fairly lightly, I was never actually physically sick, it did leave me very drained and tired. I didn't realise how much it would affect me if I wasnt actually being sick all the time. Eating was a huge challenge, breakfast especially, I didn't want to eat as the thought of it made me feel sick, but I also knew that if I skipped breakfast then I would feel even worse than I normally would a bit later in the day. Being at work in the early days presented a few challenges as I couldnt snack during the day as I would at home. I very quickly learned that I needed to eat every 3-4 hours if I was to avoid the nausea. Food was beginning to play a pivotal role in this pregnancy (not that it wasnt pivotal before!). At 13 weeks things changed. I went from having to eat to stop myself feeling ill to 'I must eat constantly or I will die'. The Food Monster had arrived. It felt so good to be able to plan in advance what we would have for our dinner, or even venture out for a meal. Not surprisingly I started to expand around the middle a little too...

The weeks between our 12 and 16 week scans seemed to go in reverse, 5 weeks has never felt so long. At our 12 week scan we were told we would be under the care of a consultant at Burton, and would receive a letter confirming our appointment. 10 days before our appointment we hadn't heard anything so I phoned the antenatal clinic. And then the fun began. My notes, scan results and blood test results should have been sent to Burton, but they had not arrived. After being on hold for 15 minutes while the Sister hunted for my notes I was told all they had on my file was my name and unit number. Interesting. Because they hadn't got any data from the first scan I was booked in for another scan (no problems for us!) so they could attempt to determine whether or not our twins were identical (which may have caused problems) or fraternal (which would be a lot easier). We now had 2 appointments rather than one, as we had to see the consultant as well, so we would have a chance to discuss any concerns and get any questions answered. At least now we knew what was happening and when.

November 12th dawned with the usual apprehension and worry; would the babies be ok? Would they find a third? Would we find a parking space within 2 miles of the hospital? What would happen if we got lost in the miles of corridors within the hospital? Thankfully we got there in time, and we didn't get lost, but we did end up having to sit in the waiting room of the antenatal clinic for about 25 minutes before we were called in to our scan. Again, as I had with our first venture into the maternity unit in Lichfield, I felt a little out of place as most of the other mums to be had very definite rounded bumps; although I did have a bump I sort of felt as though I was 'playing' at being pregnant. We were called through by the sonographer a little earlier than we thought, and similar to our earlier scan I asked her to confirm there were just the two of them in there (I had been getting increasingly concerned they would find a third as I seemed to be expanding very rapidly). On went the scanner and the gel (its always freezing) and as before there they were, only this time they wouldn't both fit on the screen at the same time. (And yes there was absolutely without a doubt only 2 in there). Both hearts were checked and beating away furiously, and their little bones glowed white on the machine. Measurements were taken around the skull and the length of the thigh bone, they were too big to get a crown to rump measurement like before. Twin A (on the right) was behaving very well and let the sonographer take the measurements (we think they were asleep) while Twin B was performing all sorts of acrobatics and giving the sonographer a hard time! Thankfully they were both growing very well and were measuring at 17 weeks gestation which considering I was only 16+2 was rather a surprise. We managed to get 4 pictures to add to our growing scan pic collection (see the end of this blog for pics).

After the scan we saw our consultant. She was really lovely, and took the time to go through our huge list of questions and answer them as fully as she could as well as going through the scan procedure for the rest of the pregnancy. A few of our questions couldn't be answered such as 'would a Caesarian be necessary' and 'when will they arrive' as they depend on factors such as the size of the babies at 36 weeks and also their position in the womb at the same point. If the leading twin is head down at 36 weeks the a natural birth is most likely. If they are breech then a C-section may be needed. Here's hoping they behave and get into the right position! I was also given the results of my haemoglobin tests (which I didn't know I had had) and was told my oxygen saturation level was 100%, which considering I'm carrying twins was very surprising, but reassuring as it means I don't need iron supplements. Yay!

So after a number of weeks of uncertainty and worry, everything has gone more or less to plan; we met our consultant, we have been given our scan dates up until march and most importantly we have seen the babies who are happy and very healthy, which is more than any parents to be could ask for. And as one countdown ends, so the next begins. Roll on Wednesday 8 December...

                                          Twin A, on the right hand side, asleep on his/her face

                                          Twin B, on the left hand side, the potential gymnast.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The First Foray into the Maternity Unit

At the beginning of september a plain looking brown envelope fell through the letterbox. It didnt appear overly promising, it was a little tatty around the edges as though it had been tumbled around in an industrial sized washing machine for a week or so, but its contents were much more exciting; our first midwife appointment has been issued. Maybe it wasn't the most exciting thing ever but it was for us!

Thursday 16 september dawned, rather damp and chilly, and we were rained on several times as we headed across town to the local hospital. Walking into the maternity unit was quite unnerving, there were several ladies waiting with very obvious bumps and I felt a bit of a fraud, only being 9 weeks gone and not visibly pregnant at that point. We were very quickly called in by the midwife, who was very lovely and asked us how we were to which we replied 'excited, nervous, terrified........!!'. The booking in appointment itself was very straight forward, basic questions (name, rank, serial number that sort of thing) and the medical history of the prospective parents. Nothing too strenuous so far. Then she enquired whether we had had any thoughts on where we wanted our baby to be delivered (cue images of FedEx standing at the door with a baby under one arm and one of those annoying little boxes which manages to completely mangle your signature beyond recognition in hand). We had discussed the place of delivery several times, and decided as close to home as poosible was the best idea for us. So in reverse order, 4th on our list was Burton, 3rd Good Hope, 2nd Lichfield and 1st was in the comfort of our living room. Fortunately our midwife agreed, and our home birth was booked. I had some blood taken for tests (P didnt look) and then our 12 week dating scan was booked for the 12 October, and we were done. We left feeling excited, and were certain we would meet family/friend/neighbour on our way home as we were carrying a huge plastic folder with 'Your Pregnancy Notes' emblazened all over it and no bag to hide it in (we were determined to keep the pregnancy quiet for as long as we could). Thankfully, we made it home without seeing anyone we knew.

About 10 days before our scan I started to feel 'something' getting in the way whenever I bent over to feed the cats or load the dvd player, which I put down to being bloated (I had read in my pregnancy book that bloating was very likely in the first 3 months of pregnancy) and thought little more about it. A few days later my mum phoned me, all excited, and exclaimed 'I had a dream that you rang and said you were having twins! It was so vivid that when I woke up I was convinced you had phoned!'. P and I laughed it off, although it planted a seed of doubt in our minds...

We arrived at the maternity unit for our 12 scan feeling excited but nervous, and on my part quite desperate for the loo (I was told to drink a pint of water before leaving the house in order to make the locating of the uterus easier fo the sonographer). In the back of our minds we were concerned they wouldn't find anything, or discover that we had conceived but it hadn't survived, and of course somewhere in there the word 'twins' was lurking.. The midwife called us through, and I was told to lie on the bed. I jokingly said 'please just tell me theres one in there..', and she turned and looked at her colleague. 'Well, the previous 2 ladies we've scanned this morning are both having multiples, one's having twins and the other has triplets!'. Oh dear. Its not looking good then! On went the gel (rather cold I must say) and on went the scanner. A grainy black and white image appeared on the monitor, and she quickly turned it off, muttering 'oh dear I will just reset it and then we'll try again..'. Take 2.. The screen came on, I glanced at P, and commented 'oh crikey', (what I wanted to say was a little stronger than that) which said it all. On the screen were 2 little white blobs in a sea of grey, with 2 very clear hearts frantically beating away. By this point P was lost in a cloud of utter terror and shellshock, whilst the only words I could muster were 'oh my goodness' over and over again. Through the bombshell though was extreme happiness, yes there were 2 of them, yes our lives were well and truly altered beyond all recognition, not to mention how on earth are we going to fit 2 babies into the flat, but they were there, growing, wriggling around, healthy. And that was suddenly all that mattered. They were healthy babies, albeit double what we were expecting.

Somehow we managed to stagger, dumbfounded, out of the hospital and make it to P's mum's house, where we collapsed on the sofa, P with a large mug of strong tea in hand. Silently we handed over the scan pics, which the midwife had annotated with 'twin 1', 'twin 2' and 'both', and slowly it became clear as to why we were so white. Suffice to say, most of the Lancaster-Hamilton clans were equally as shocked. By the time we were home however, most of cyberspace knew thanks to the wonders of social networking sites, and the messages came flooding in. Then, oh so very slowly, it started to sink in a little more.. 'You're having twins...'

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Journey Begins...

On friday 13th August, 2010, I sat rather nervously on the side of the bath, a small white plastic stick in my hand. In a matter of minutes this innocuous piece of technology would let me know if my life, and that of my husband, would be changing forever. Its amazing just how long 2 minutes can be...

When I gathered the courage to look, about 5 minutes later, 2 little lines had appeared, one just a shade darker than the other. Ok then. Positive. Wow. Blimey. Am I ready for this?! 

Im not really sure how I managed to get my phone to make contact with my husband, who was away at the time of testing, but thankfully it was he who answered and not a random stranger. Somehow I was able to stutter 'its positive', and after a few confused comments from him he realised what I meant.. We both spent the rest of the day walking around with stupid smiles on our faces in our respective corners of the UK.

Three days and 2 further positive tests later (we had to make sure we weren't hallucinating) I rang my GP's surgery to make an appointment for the tests to be verified (they don't just take your word for it around here). We were so worried that this test would come back negative, especially when I rang for the results at the given time only to be told they didnt have them yet. Another nervous 24hrs passed, this time I was told they did have the results (they had had them since I phoned the previous day) and yes it had come back positive. Cue a huge joint sigh of relief in the Lancaster household!

And so it has been confirmed, we are pregnant, expecting, with child, up the duff, whichever phrase you wish to employ at this juncture. Let the life changing experience begin!