Proud dad Andre Blaauw shares how he and his wife Laren was advised to terminate their Mo-Mo twin pregnancy, but how the babies survived despite enormous odds.
In the beginning
It’s astonishing how sometimes, in the rearview mirror, we discover that what lies in our past is so similar to what we expected would be waiting around the next bend.
For many years Laren and I spoke about how wonderful it would be to have twins. We weighed up the pros and cons, played around with ideas about how it would work and change our lifestyle at the time. Needless to say for the latter part we missed it by a mile.
Ironically, twins were once again the topic of the morning’s conversation. We were at a local breakfast spot in Wilderness hours before the first appointment we had with Laren’s gynaecologist. We were making lighthearted conversation with our friends about how the same pleasant breakfast scene would be different had there been two little ones around to put us through our paces.
First appointment with the gynecologist
And so it came that only hours later we were staring at a screen in the doctor’s office that showed not one but 2 little fetuses sitting next to each other in perfect symmetry. First there was disbelief, then the nerves started playing along and before we knew it we were on our way out of there in a state that can only be described as a “jovial frenzy”.
Soon we were back to our normal selves again and only then did we start to ponder on everything the good doctor had told us. We had heard that we were expecting Monoamniotic-Monochorionic twins but what exactly did this mean? So with the world at our fingertips we started surfing the web. It was easy to get tons of information but it was not so easy to digestwhat we found.
Very quickly the excitement of the morning was drowning in a torrent mix of big words we did not yet understand. If the “beanies” were to survive the severely high-risk pregnancy, we were looking at premature labour as their only way into the world but this was only the beginning.
Every bit of information pointed to more and more challenging obstacles we would have to overcome before the “beanies” could come home.
It was hard to keep optimistic in the midst of all that we had learned about Mo-Mo twins. On the
upside we learned that less than 1% of all twin pregnancies are Monoamniotic-Monochorionic and this meant that to say the least, we had something special. With our hopes hanging by a treat we were off to Cape Town where we had an appointment to see a foetal specialist.
A harsh reality
With a swirling motion of her hand over Laren’s now distended tummy, and with no sentiment for our hope the specialist said "this pregnancy is not good news". To say that the bomb dropped at that moment would be the understatement of the year.
Laren was emotionally crushed and was now sobbing in the chair holding my hand while we braced for the statistics that followed. We were given a 25% chance of the twins being born healthy and surviving neonatal ICU without serious lifelong complications or dying. With a clear message that we should terminate the pregnancy we were sent on our way for the longest 5-hour drive back to Wilderness.
"There was life and there was hope"
But somewhere along that long drive we decided that this is not our call to make. There was life and there was hope. Statistically we knew things were gloomy but fortunately we also knew that Laren was not expecting a “statistic”. We had just learned that she was expecting 2 baby boys.
So the “beanies” got another shot at life. We had our gloves out and we were going to fight for them as long as they were in it with us. If nature took its course and the pregnancy turned for the worst we would be able to live with our decision, knowing we did everything we could to save them.
It was by no means an easy decision to make. It’s hard to fathom how a mother-to-be is expected to comprehend such odds and I sincerely hope that anyone in that same situation have theclarity of mind and the support of a loved one to help them through it. We did.
Soon we learned that just because you have your gloves out does not mean life wont knock you out. We went the full 10 rounds and it was never easy. Some days the news was good and others it was bad. Some days it felt like for every punch we threw we got 3 in the face. In hindsight i know in the end it was as close as the flip of a coin.
The marvel of modern medicine against all odds
We often look around us for material things when we count the blessings in our lives. What followed over the next couple of months taught me and Laren something. It is the people around us that helpsteer the course of our lives to the better who are the true blessings.
After what seemed like a never ending episode, Jordan and Connor were born on 20 March 2011. Against all odds they had survived and the sun was shining just a little brighter that day. On 7 May 2012 the feeling was surreal when we set off to the hospital for the last time. We were at the end of our journey and this time Jordan and Connor would be coming home.
It was hard to express the gratitude we felt for all the doctors, sisters and nurses who had held Jordan and Connor in their capable hands over the past 8 weeks. We will never forget any of them. “The marvel of modern medicine”, now there is a phrase that holds much more gravity than it is given.
We tend to forget that we have much to be grateful for. When Laren and I count our blessings we start with our family... and the number 2.
What are MoMo twins?
MoMo (Monoamniotic/Monochorionic) twins are identical twins that share the same amniotic sac and same placenta within their mother’s uterus, but have 2 separate umbilical cords. This is extremely rare, with only around 1 in 35,000 to 1 in 60,000 pregnancies (1% of twins) resulting in MoMo twins.
The umbilical cord is a vital lifeline to babies, supplying them with oxygen and nutrients. But because there is no membrane separating MoMo twins, as the babies move around, their cords can cross, become entangled or press against each other, cutting off their supply. There's a real risk of damage to the cords, and the risk of death for one or both babies.
In the photograph on the right doctors show just how knotted the two umbilical cords were, making the healthy birth of Jordan and Connor even more of a miracle.
That's why the risk is usually minimised by delivering the twins by caesearean after 34 weeks.