Ilana van Lingen’s Birth Story

by | May 31, 2021

Gender: Twins – 1 girl and 1 boy

Name: Liam and Liana

Born: 7 August 2020

Due date: 10 September 2021

Weight: 2.5kg each

Planned: An unmedicated water birth at a maternity clinic

Actual: Natural birth at a hospital

Duration: 2 hours from water breaking

Pain relief: No pain medication 

Complications: Babies arrived early at 35 weeks.

My natural twin birth story

I found out I was pregnant in January 2020, after trying for a year to fall pregnant for the second time. Little did we know what 2020 had in store for us. I had terrible nausea this time around, and the thought of twins did cross my mind once or twice. Me, being a twin myself, firmly believed that it would skip my generation. It was a massive shock to see the two sacks clearly on the monitor at our first scan at 12 weeks.

I had a relatively easy pregnancy. I was home all the time with the hard lockdown, so I got lots of rest. The morning sickness started to go away at around 16 weeks, and other than the usual aches and pains, it was a pretty “low risk” pregnancy. I was expecting Di/Di twins, which means that both babies had their own placentas and amniotic sacks. I was ecstatic as this meant I could still push to have a natural birth. The idea of having a C-section scared me; how would I care for two babies and a toddler after major surgery?

My husband wasn’t allowed to attend any midwife appointments or scans, which broke my heart. But my midwife was always happy with how things progressed. I wanted to have the same birth experience as my first – an unmedicated waterbirth at a maternity clinic.

The twins decided to arrive earlier than expected on Friday 7 August at 35 weeks. I just finished watching a movie with my almost four-year-old when my water broke at 9:45. When I shouted to my husband that my water had broken, he replied, “Are you sure?”.  He started freaking out a bit. We thought I would go over 36 weeks. I quickly grabbed my phone to call our amazing birth team: my midwife and doula. No contractions yet as we rushed to the nearest hospital to have our COVID-19 tests done. We were planning on going for the test over the weekend, but the babies had other plans. We headed back home and finished packing. By this time, I started experiencing slight contractions.

My twin sister arrived to help look after my daughter while we packed the last few things I might need at the hospital. My husband was frantically rushing to fill the car and my sister was just looking at me in complete disbelief at how calm I was.

We decided to meet our birth team at the maternity clinic for a quick check-up and develop a plan of action. We arrived at the clinic at around 10:45, and by then, I was fully dilated. Baby A, who has been head down for 30 weeks, had decided to change position and was now breech. This meant we had to rush to the nearest hospital for the birth. My midwife jumped into the car with us and started prepping to deliver the twins in the backseat as things were moving along too fast and my contractions were becoming more intense.

We made it to the hospital, and hubby started the admission process as I was taken straight to the labour ward. A couple of minutes later, and with one push, Liam made his Rockstar breech entrance into the world at 23:44. Six minutes later, with only one contraction, Liana made her entrance. The both weighed in at approximately 2.5kg. Unfortunately, as it all happened so quickly, hubby missed the entire birth. My backup gynaecologist arrived a few minutes after the birth too.

Liana swallowed some fluids and needed attention from the birth team, who handled the beautiful chaos like champions. I got to do skin-to-skin with Liam while the team was focused on Liana.

We got to hold the twins for a couple of minutes before being rushed to Neonatal ICU. Hubby joined them as I was discussing the super-fast birth with my team. My doula walked with me to the bathroom, and I can still remember the hospital staff’s faces when I walked past them shortly after birthing twins naturally.

Because of COVID-19 protocols, my husband had to go home, and wasn’t allowed to visit while I was at the hospital. He did, however, drop off a few things at reception for me. Throughout my stay at the hospital everyone, including the security guards at the hospital, was talking about the lady who had given birth to twins naturally.

Liana was in Neonatal Unit for three weeks and Liam was in for five weeks because of complications. The first couple of weeks after the birth of the twins were an emotionally rollercoaster for me and my husband. I would drive to the hospital everyday to see the babies. My husband wasn’t allowed to visit for the first two-and-a-half-weeks. He only saw Liana the day before she was discharged.

Liam picked up an infection called Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) while in hospital. I remember driving to the hospital every morning not sure what to expect. We weren’t allowed to hold him for the first four weeks of his life.

On top of the extended hospital stay, both babies and I tested positive for Cytomegalovirus (CMV), which most likely reactivated during pregnancy. Therefore, I didn’t breastfeed them directly and had to pasteurize my milk for the first couple of weeks. Despite this, I was adamant to breastfeed them, and was extremely happy to put them on the breast at eight-weeks-old for the first time. The twins are currently nine-months-old and breastfeeding is still going strong.

My birth plan didn’t work out as planned. Even the fourth trimester was not as I thought it would be, although I was still able to have a natural birth. I do believe that preparation, and especially metal preparation, during pregnancy plays a major roll in the type of birth you will have. Doing a Hypnobirth course really helped me with getting to grips with the fact that I might have to go through with a C-section, but also prepared me for the delivering twins naturally. I’m still sad that we missed out on most of the newborn phase with the twins, but thinking back on it now, it could have turned out much worse, and the staggered introduction with the twins did help ease the process with my oldest. We have adjusted to life with 3 kids, which is not easy during a global pandemic!