Rolling with the punches: Our high-risk journey for 2
Falling pregnant with twins at 38 was the biggest blessing of my life, but it also put me right up there in the category of ‘high-risk pregnancy’. Despite being high-risk, everything was going well until I developed Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) at 26 weeks. ICP is a liver disorder that affects the normal flow of bile and increases bile acids in the blood.
My only symptom was insanely itchy palms and soles every night, enough to render me edgy and incapable of sleep. In an attempt to ‘relieve’ the itching, I had a couple of strategies that worked to some extent, but they only brought temporary relief. The itching eventually subsided in the last 3 weeks of pregnancy, either due to meds or my diet change at the time.
That experience, however, didn’t bother me nearly as much as the effects that ICP could have on my unborn twins. I now had a 15% chance of stillbirth, preterm labour and foetal distress added to my already “high-risk” status. What was even more distressing was that neither my OBS nor the specialist he sent me to had ever encountered a patient with ICP. This meant that I had to rely heavily on Google throughout the process.
The only certainty with having ICP in Pregnancy is premature birth, be it natural or induced. It is not recommended to carry full term. I was advised to give birth early to reduce the risk of stillbirth. I gave birth naturally at 34 weeks to my 2 beautiful, healthy, premature daughters. Arizona weighed 1.53kg and Indiana weighed 1.99kg. They stayed in NNICU for 3 weeks to gain weight, the first 5 nights of which I was also a patient in the hospital.
While in NNICU, my milk production was not great. My precious babies were ravenous. After a stressful week and extremely painful breasts, I had no choice but to begin expressing to ensure that I was producing enough milk for both of them. But, unfortunately, I wasn’t. After an hour of expressing, I would not get a drop more than a teaspoon of milk. I needed at least double. With my paediatrician’s blessing, we made the choice to give all my milk to Arizona, so that she could pick up weight and catch up to Indiana. We put Indiana mostly on formula and any leftover breast milk.
It felt unfair that Indiana didn’t get breast milk. It was tough not being able to provide for both of them, and it was heart-breaking that because of expressing, the bonding during breastfeeding wasn’t happening as much as I wanted it.
Putting that aside, the 3 weeks of NNICU was a rather gentle and happy experience. My husband Greg would come in the morning for a visit before going off to work and he would come again after work until 9pm. After I was discharged, we adjusted our routine. I would pump as much milk through the night as possible and we would take turns going in to feed the twins. Greg, was very happy with this arrangement because it meant that he could get involved with feeding from the get-go. Before the birth, he had joked that he wanted to get a strap on breast so that he could experience the bond of breastfeeding. His wish, and then some, was granted.
As part of our routine, we would do the evening feeds together and we routinely enjoyed a refreshing date night after leaving the hospital. That part was so surreal. We didn't know what to expect before the birth, but we for sure didn’t expect so many date nights with newborns!
Whilst feeding, be it breast or bottle, we were encouraged by my Paediatrician to give as much ‘Kangaroo Care’ as possible. Basically, this meant I would breastfeed or pump while having both the girls on my tummy and chest. Skin to skin. When Greg was there, he would kangaroo the babies as well. That’s the best advice we got when caring for low birth weight and preterm babies.
The kangaroo care bonding was incredible, and it helped us to bond even when I wasn’t able to breastfeed. In those moments, everything just felt calm and happy.
Once we were all home, I continued to express and top up with formula equally between them. I would still try to breastfeed, but as the formula was now the lion share of the feeds, my milk dried up after 5 months, just in time for me to go back to work. Once the twins started with solids, we reduced their milk intake gradually, and initially substituted one milk feed for a meal.
Indiana, however, was a little milk monster, she LOVED her milk. We needed a different strategy for her. We increased the water in her bottle until she was basically drinking white water. But in all honesty, she still had a bedtime bottle until she was about 4. It just made her feel like she was in a lovely, warm, cuddly, cocoon and we didn’t have the heart to take that away from her.
Advice for new parents
My best advice to any new parent is to read, educate yourself and get to know all the different methods and styles. Then throw it all out the proverbial window and follow your baby’s lead. They know what they need, and it is your task to figure it out. If your baby stops crying when you pick them up, carry them. That’s what they need at that moment.
If they spit the dummy out and don’t start crying, don’t put it back in their mouth until they start to look for it. Smile at them and talk to them, tickle and cuddle them, hold their hand and kiss their feet. Read to them every day. Let them feel your presence, let them touch your face and hair and hands.
Get your partner involved from day one, don’t hog your baby. The quicker he gets used to participating in the daily baby chores the better. It’s a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week kind of job, one person should not be responsible 100% of the time.
The 1st year goes so fast, even if the days feel long. Don’t try to get any sense of your old life back that year, devote yourself as much as you can to them. If sleep training doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If keeping a minute-by-minute feeding schedule fills you with anxiety, don’t do it. The Gina Ford methods are not for everyone. They definitely were not for us.
Most of all ask for help!
"Until the girls were about 2 they were ‘cohabiting’ not interested in each other much. Since then their bond has been super strong & they have the vocabulary & EQ to communicate at a level where they understand each other & manage to resolve conflict without our intervention at most times. On occasions we have given twins full autonomy in conflict resolution. They are in the process of developing how to handle their arguments, and how to resolve different scenarios. It's one of my favourite things to watch them do." - says Gosia.
More about our Mom of the Month, Gosia
From left: Arizona, Gosia, her husband Greg and Indiana
In addition to being a mom to twin girls Gosia is also the founder of GOSHii - an online store with beautiful, sustainable and locally made products. Her latest range of Japanese crossover aprons is perfect for the whole family and can be used for cooking, gardening, in the art studio, workshop or just about anywhere.
Photo credits: @foreversept_photography
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MyMilkClub is about sharing experiences and supporting each other. We launched the #mymilkjourney series to share stories from other parents about their experiences on their milk journey. If you have a flair for writing and would like to share your story get in touch with us. We would love to share your story.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. MyMilkClub reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life, and continued breastfeeding with complementary foods for up to two years of age. Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not possible, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of registered health professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.