“I was one of those crazy ones who always wanted twins. I remember sitting at a friend’s baby shower one day, feeling insanely jealous because she was having twins. How lucky she was! No way I would ever be so lucky. What were the chances of that, right?
I met my husband when I was 17 years old. 8 years later, we got married. It wasn’t long after we returned from our honeymoon our dream came true and we fell pregnant. Twins weren’t even on my mind at that point. I just wanted a baby!
I remember sitting in the waiting room, crossing my fingers the pregnancy test was right and there was, in fact, a little baby growing inside me. I didn’t have any symptoms at all, so I was really nervous it was a false positive and it was all too good to be true. We went into the ultrasound room where we were having our dating scan. My fingers were still crossed as we looked up at the screen, hoping to see our baby. And then, we saw our cute little jelly bean-shaped baby, his heart thumping away. I felt so happy!
‘Let me just check on everything else now,’ the sonographer told me. It was then I thought I saw a second little bean. He moved back and said, ‘Oh, there’s another one! You’re having twins!’ I looked at my husband, and he had a very shocked look on his face. I was so excited! I couldn’t believe our luck! This really was too good to be true…
Around 8 weeks, we had our first scare and I started bleeding. Of course, when you start bleeding while you’re pregnant, you instantly worry you are losing your baby. But after a quick scan, we saw they were both growing well with strong heartbeats.
I had spotting again at 11 weeks, so we went back for another scan. I wasn’t worried this time though, as I just had this feeling everything was okay, and it was. Both babies had strong heartbeats. The lady who scanned me asked me if I had an appointment with Maternal-Fetal Medicine yet. I said I had an appointment just the week after. ‘Oh, that’s good,’ she said. A few times she said, ‘Yep, so you’ve got an appointment with MFM.’ At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. But now I know she was deciding if she should tell me or not.
Right before my scan with Maternal-Fetal Medicine, I had a huge bleed. It was awful. I was sure I was losing my babies this time. At the scan the next day, I was so nervous. But once again, there they were, two strong heartbeats and both growing well. It was just a subchorionic hematoma, and it wouldn’t harm the babies at all. You can imagine my relief. The sonographer then asked us to wait in the waiting room for the doctor to come and speak to us. She assured us this was standard practice.
While we waited happily in the waiting room, I remember being so excited. I was thinking of all the ways we were going to tell our friends and family we were having twins! I started imagining what our lives would be like raising twins. I felt so incredibly happy. When we got called into the doctor’s office, we had no idea what was coming. She walked in and said, ‘One of your babies is behaving beautifully!’
‘Wait, did she say ONE of my babies? What about the other?’ I thought to myself. My heart began to pound in my chest. This is when we learned one of those terms you never want to learn. ‘Your baby (Twin B) has an encephalocele,’ she told us. She showed us a picture of him and explained his skull didn’t form properly, which caused a cyst full of fluid to form on top of his head and his brain. His cyst was quite large too; it was almost the same size as his head. She showed us a picture of the top of both their skulls. We could very clearly see one baby’s brain but the other, you couldn’t see at all from all the fluid.
She explained to us because the cyst over his head was so large, his brain was likely to grow out of his skull and into the cyst. Babies who have this type of encephalocele don’t have a very good chance of being born alive and would most likely not survive. If he did manage to make it full-term, she couldn’t guarantee how long he would live for. He would most likely have serious mental and physical disabilities. We wouldn’t know until he was born.
She then gave us our options. Our first option was to continue on with the pregnancy with very close monitoring. Because of the type of twins they were, this would put Twin A in danger too. The boys shared a placenta, so if one twin were to suddenly pass away, the other twin may also not survive. Our second option was to surgically terminate Twin B, which could also cause a miscarriage of Twin A. Our third option was to terminate both twins. We even had the option of terminating then and there if we couldn’t handle any of it. She walked out of the room to give us time to think.
My husband cried. I sat there numb and silent. I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t think. The life I had imagined was now gone. Why was life so unfair? I knew having twins was too good to be true.
She sent us away with lots of information. We were to go back in three weeks for another scan and to talk about whatever it was we decided to do. This wasn’t fair. Why would the universe give me twins to simply rip them away from me like that? I was so confused.
The next few weeks were so slow. My husband and I didn’t really talk much about it. I think I built walls up so I couldn’t feel the pain of what we were going through. I didn’t let myself get attached to my babies. I went to work every day, trying to hide my rapidly growing twin bump. I didn’t want to share my news. I didn’t want to talk about it. Eventually, though, there was no hiding my bump. I had to tell people I was pregnant. I didn’t get to tell any of my friends or family in any exciting way. It was, ‘I’m pregnant with twins but…’ There was no excitement of being able to surprise people. No Facebook post to share my exciting news. There was just nothing. That all got taken away from me.
Finally, our next appointment came. I had no idea what we were going to tell the doctor. I figured I would wait until the scan and figure it out from there. I’d prepared myself to see his brain growing into his skull. Part of me wondered if it would be easier to make a decision if his brain had grown into his skull. If he were sicker, would it be easier to decide what to do? I didn’t know.
The doctor scanned over my already large belly to find Twin B. She sat there silently scanning his brain, staring intently at the screen. I looked up at the screen where we could see his skull. I again prepared myself to see his brain growing out of his skull. But when I looked, I could see his brain sitting perfectly inside his skull. I definitely wasn’t an expert, but I couldn’t see the cyst anymore. ‘That’s good, right?’ I thought.
‘I’m just not seeing what I could see last time,’ she said. ‘I’ll be back in a minute.’ In came another doctor with her, who also scanned his head. Then another doctor and another doctor. It wasn’t long before the room was full of doctors, all of them staring intently at my baby. But no one could find the encephalocele so clearly there just weeks before.
‘If this was the first time I scanned you, I wouldn’t be concerned about your baby at all. His skull is properly formed. There’s no fluid and no cyst.’ She couldn’t explain what had happened or where it went. She said they had never seen an encephalocele just disappear before.
The plan was to closely monitor the pregnancy. They were also concerned Twin B had Down syndrome, but that was the least of my worries. I needed to have an amniocentesis in a few week’s time, and then around weeks 18 to 20, I would have an MRI so they could get a really clear image of Twin B’s brain.
We left feeling slightly more hopeful. I still didn’t let myself get attached, though. I didn’t think this was real. How could we be so lucky everything just happened to work out? I convinced myself the encephalocele must still be there, just hiding somehow. The weeks continued to drag by in slow motion. Eventually, I had my amniocentesis, which, thankfully, came back all clear. Both twins were healthy! Still, I didn’t let myself feel happy. Then came the MRI. I was so nervous. I laid in there listening to all the sounds the MRI made, crossing my fingers everything would be okay.
It felt like an eternity until our appointment to get the results. Our doctor came in and I held my breath as she started talking. ‘Both your babies are perfectly healthy,’ she said. I couldn’t believe our luck. Both our twins were fine. They still couldn’t really explain what had happened. They were certain he did have an encephalocele at that first scan. Now, by some miracle, it had disappeared.
Once the MRI was all clear, I rushed to the shops to buy these onesies.
It felt amazing to be able to tell people both our babies were healthy. I finally could tell everyone at work the reason my belly was so ginormous was that there were, in fact, two babies growing inside of me! I got to do my Facebook post! Yet, I still didn’t let myself get too happy or excited. I was too worried if I let myself be happy about it, something would go wrong again and I wouldn’t get my twins. I was worried buying two matching onesies would jinx it. I thought if I let myself feel too happy, the universe would try and take my babies again.
The rest of the pregnancy went by fairly smoothly. Both babies were growing well and were healthy. Once they were here and I could physically see them, I’d be happy.
Finally, the day came for our elective c-section. We decided this was the safest way, just in case Twin B’s skull wasn’t okay. They delivered him first. I still expected to see a huge cyst on top of his head when they pulled him out. Out he came, screaming his lungs off. It was the most beautiful noise I had ever heard. And there it was, his head. His perfectly normal head. I’ve never felt so much relief before. He was fine! His brother joined us not long after. He too was kicking and screaming, and it was the most amazing sound. They placed them both on my chest. It was such an amazing feeling. I had never been so happy before. I could finally hold my two healthy babies!
We named Twin A Alexander, but we mostly call him Alex. Twin B we named Harry. Harry was always a name we had both loved, but we thought it fit him perfectly because Harry from Harry Potter is known as ‘the boy who lived.’ Well, Harry is my boy who lived. He survived against all odds.
We have, of course, celebrated with a few Harry Potter-themed photoshoots at home since then!
Every year, around the time we received our MRI results, I like to take a photo of them in the onesies I ran out to buy to celebrate just how lucky we are! For anyone out there who may be going through something similar, a difficult diagnosis, or experiencing a rough time, just remember miracles do happen. They can happen to ordinary people every day. It happened to me. Never give up hope a miracle can happen to you too.
It hurts much more to think about it now than it did back then. Back then, I built up walls to stop myself from feeling the pain. But now, I know him and his brother. I know who they are and have fallen so deeply in love with them both. It’s really painful to think about how close we were to losing them both. I feel like the luckiest person alive to have my beautiful twins. Not a day goes by where I don’t look at them and think how lucky I am to have twins. It’s amazing to watch their bond develop. They are the most funny, loving, caring, and happy boys. They are perfect.
Fast forward a couple of years and Harry is now a perfectly normal and happy 2-year-old boy! He is my Harry, my real boy who lived. As JK Rowling said in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, ‘All was well.'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Ashley. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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