I love pregnancy stories ... especially those with a twist. Pregnancy is always good fodder for discussion - and since I'm feeling sappy because my babies have recently turned two, I'm taking a long walk down memory lane. This is the first of many stories I feel compelled to write down before I forget the details. You know, my mind isn't what it once was.
One of the most common questions I hear from people is: "Wow, Did you know you were having triplets?!" I don't know what exactly they mean by this. They could mean "Were you surprised when you found out that you were pregnant with three?" Or, do they mean, "Were you surprised when the babies were born?"
Even though we transferred six embryos during our IVF cycle, I was shocked that I was pregnant at all. Nothing could have really prepared me - or Charlie - for the news that we were expecting triplets. When our doctor performed the first ultrasound I could clearly see two sacks with two strong heartbeats. When he pointed out the third, I thought for sure he'd counted one of them twice.
So whenever people ask me if I knew that we were having triplets, my honest reply is "No. I didn't know that we were having triplets until I was almost 8 weeks along. I knew that I was expecting, but I didn't know how many babies there were until I had my first ultrasound." It was mind boggling to imagine three babies, but with time, Charlie and I became more and more excited.
What the vast majority of people do not realize is just because you transfer a certain number of embryos, doesn't mean that you are going to wind up with a certain number of babies. The chance of achieving a pregnancy is increased with the number of embryos you transfer - just as your chance of having multiples is increased.
Theoretically, the more you put in ... the more you could potentially get out.
For the record, it is not advisable to transfer a large number of embryos because the risk of high order multiples (HOM's = triplets or more) is present. A HOM pregnancy is, generally speaking, very difficult on the mother and always results in preterm (less than 40 weeks) birth of the babies.
However, there are alot of other criteria to be considered ... including the woman's age, the quality of the eggs, the quality of the embryos, the infertility history, etc. In our case, we transferred four beautiful embryos during our first two IVF cycles and never achieved a pregnancy. On our third cycle, 50% of the embryos that I transferred "stuck" around. Since I have become a parent, I have met several mother's whose embryo count increased by 50% following their transfer. Meaning, they transferred two embryos, one split so they have a set of identical twins AND a fraternal twin. Three babies + one pregnancy = triplets.
This is more common than one might think.
Two years ago, I read about a woman who transferred two embryos and gave birth to a set of quadruplets - a pair of identical girls and a pair of identical boys. Two embryos = four babies. Can you imagine their shock?
Actually, I can...
I met a woman when I was 18 weeks pregnant that was the mother to quadruplet boys. Throughout her entire pregnancy, she didn't know she was having quads. Here's the scene as she described it: They are in the delivery room. The first baby - that they expected, was born. The second baby - that they expected, was born. The third baby - that they expected was born. They are starting to close the mother up from her c-section, and the doctor sees a little tiny foot. A little tiny foot that was attached to a fourth baby ... that they were NOT expecting.
It's incredible that with ultrasound technology - something like that could happen. It was shortly after I met this woman, that I went to the doctor for my 24-week ultrasound. The technician was taking measurements on all of the babies and she would call out "Baby A. Two arms, two legs, beautiful heart, two kidneys. Baby B. Two arms, two legs, beautiful heart, two kidneys. Baby C. Two arms, two legs, beautiful heart, two kidneys." And then she says ... "Baby D. Two arms, two legs, beautiful heart, two kidneys."
I almost fell off the table. Charlie almost fell off the stool where he was perched next to my head. We both said aloud "Baby D?! What do you MEAN Baby D?? There's no Baby D!!!" The technician glanced at our paperwork - looked at the monitor and said, "Uh, yes there is. There's a fourth baby. Right there. See it's head?"
For the next several moments we sat in stunned silence while our technician ran off to get our doctor. I could tell that he was a little surprised. Even though I was under extremely close watch - with ultrasounds every single week - I met a woman who just a year earlier, didn't know that she was having triplets until her 26th week ultrasound. The reality is - babies can be difficult to spot and technology isn't perfect. After a tense few minutes, the doctor let out a deep breath. "No, there are three fetuses. A, B and C. It looks like one of the babies flipped and duplicate measurements were taken."
I've often wondered how our lives would be different if we had been surprised by an additional baby. I know one thing for certain ... my life wouldn't be nearly as different as a woman I met who after having two children decided that she'd had enough. Her husband went in for a vasectomy and two years later ... the woman became *spontaneously* pregnant with identical triplets. One egg + one sperm = three babies.
In case you were wondering - yes, they are his.
Because technology isn't perfect and because my husband is a jokester, to those people who ask if we were surprised, Charlie will almost always respond "Yes, we were shocked. We had NO idea that we were having triplets. We were in the operating room and one baby came out. And then two babies came out. And then ... THREE babies came out. We totally freaked because we didn't even realize Jen was pregnant in the first place. We thought she had a kidney stone."
Even though a triplet gestation is considered high-risk, I absolutely loved being pregnant. Maybe it was because it took me so long to get there, but I savored the entire experience right up until the end when I topped the scale at 240 pounds, would have gladly traded my Tums for a crane to hoist me out of bed, and had to do my shopping in a wheelchair that beeped whenever I backed up.
One of my favorite pregnancy memories is when we went out for Chinese food following a doctor's visit. I was only 20 weeks pregnant, but I was measuring 38 weeks, or nearly full-term. We sat down at our table and the waitress came up and asked me "What you have? Boy or girl??" And I responded "Two girls, one boy." She shook her head and said "No, no. What you have right now?" And I again responded "Two girls, one boy." I could tell she was frustrated by a language barrier so she shook her head rigorously and said "NO, NO. What you have RIGHT now. In your dummy!!" And I smiled and very slowly said "Two girls, one boy." And then I pointed, top left quadrant girl ... top right quadrant girl ... bottom boy.
She jumped back so fast she dropped her note pad.
Our waitress gaped at me - Charlie - and then me again and asked "TREE BABIES?!" When I nodded ... she grabbed my arm and said "Tree babies! Oh, dat vewy good wuck!" She quickly disappeared and somewhere distant, I could hear her shouting in Mandarin. Seconds later - the entire staff, dishwashers, cooks, and the book keeper came in to the dining room and smiled at me. She again repeated, this time to the full restaurant, "Tree babies. Dat vewy good wuck!!"
The waitress couldn't have been more correct. If there was one thing we maintained throughout my pregnancy, delivery and six long weeks spent visiting our premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) ... it was good luck. And lots of it.
.... to be continued ....