Our second attempt at IVF was successful and after giving birth to our precious son Adam, just 18 months later we decided to try for a brother or sister for him.
We have met many new life long friends through our experience of infertility, and through them and the advice of Infertility Network UK I was well aware of the risks of multiple births. However, as soon as I was in theatre facing embryo transfer all of my common sense went out of the window. Even though we already had a son, I began to panic and convinced myself that this may be the very last chance to get pregnant.
Therefore, I had to give myself the best chance I could so I asked my consultant if he would transfer three embryos. This was in the days when it was possible to transfer three embryos so it was not a request that he hadn’t heard before. Fortunately, he very kindly, but firmly, refused and I will always thank him for that.
We were again successful and I felt a mixed sense of emotions when they told us it was twins (heck it could have been triplets if not for John Webster, my consultant!). I was excited at the prospect of having twins and the special relationship they would have, but there was also the worries about how I would cope with three children under three. I worried if we would ever get to go on holiday again, where would we put them all, new car, work etc – yet I did look forward with positive anticipation.
My pregnancy was uneventful and Mark and Lucy were born at 34 weeks. Although they were born premature they were a reasonable weight. As I am the founder of the national charity, ‘ACeBabes’ (which is now part of Infertility Network UK) we got a fair amount of local and national media attention and I began to enjoy the experience of having twins. You certainly get lots of attention and are made to feel very special and I thought that actually getting them into the world safely was the hard bit over. I had a secure and loving family network around me and felt confident for the future.
Mark and Lucy will soon be teenagers and their big brother is a strapping young man. I can’t remember the first nine months of their lives, it was a dark hole to me, a complete blank. I suffered with severe postnatal depression – I felt I had to keep up the front of a happy mum of three IVF babies and for that I should be so grateful, yet I was crumbling inside. Everyone said “oh twins, how lovely” but I was crying within.
Mark was a very distressed baby, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at just nine months old and our world really did fall apart. As Mark grew, the difference between him and his twin sister also grew – now being twins wasn’t so wonderful. Lucy walked and talked as expected, Mark didn’t. Lucy thrived as Mark struggled. It was no longer like having twins as Mark was developmentally delayed. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at five and then dyspraxia and dyslexia. He had an MRI scan which clearly showed the damage to his brain which had happened just before he was born - basically his twin had squashed him in the womb and deprived him of oxygen.
Mark is a lovely kid, he is at mainstream school and doing okay. His twin sister fiercely protects him and has taken on the role of his mentor. His birth has taken me in many different directions. I speak out loudly in support of Single Embryo Transfer – it really isn’t worth the risk. I always blame myself for having two embryos replaced, I feel I made the selfish choice that led to my son being disabled. I now work with the disabled children’s services and run support groups for families with children with disabilities – many, too many, of whom are twins.
I do ask you to consider the welfare of your child and if it really is worth the risk.
There is a poem by Emily Perl Kingsley called “Welcome to Holland”. Please read it and consider if you would be prepared to wake up in Holland instead of Italy.