My experience having twins during the COVID-19 pandemic
Written by Rosie Smith, Ph.D. on March 11, 2021
On 23 March 2020, at 22 weeks pregnant with twins — my first babies, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Later that day, Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The announcement wasn’t really a surprise. I’d already switched to working from home, clearing my office the previous week with a view that I wouldn’t return until after my maternity leave.
I gradually realized that my Easter trip to Cornwall, in the south of England, to see my family would have to be canceled. I hadn’t seen any of them since Christmas when we’d told them our pregnancy news.
I never really had the tearful pregnancy hormones, and the first pregnancy tears came when I realized I was unlikely to see any of my family throughout my entire pregnancy.
Day-to-day living in lockdown went quite smoothly for me. My husband and I could both easily work from home, the crisis didn’t put either of our jobs at risk, and we have a garden to get outdoors easily.
In fact, switching to homeworking made it easier for me to continue working through my pregnancy — the 1-hour plus each-way commute was taking its toll on my pregnant body. And it saved me from attempting to socialize, which I was too tired to manage!
But the coronavirus crisis did significantly add to the worries of pregnancy. As a 40-year-old pregnant woman with twins, now diagnosed with gestational diabetes and anemia, later also with a low platelet count, my pregnancy was high risk.
I knew that this combination of factors — mainly the fact it was twins — made it significantly more likely that my babies would arrive early and need special care. As I couldn’t meet twin parents and expectant parents in person, I engaged in some social media groups for support and information.
This was useful for finding out about the experiences of other twin parents and getting useful, practical advice on how to prepare for twin parenthood. But I found there was a negative side too.
Through these groups, I saw many stories of parents to premature twins born during the pandemic. The struggle of premature birth and babies in neonatal intensive care (NICU) was exacerbated by many hospitals sending the father away as soon as the babies were born and not letting them back on the ward.
Some hospitals limited parent visits to babies in NICU to just 1 hour for one parent per day. These stories made me scared that if my babies arrived early or unwell, I’d be alone without my husband Steve, while my access to my babies could also be restricted.
I regularly raised these concerns at my midwife appointments. My midwife told me not to worry about these things but could offer no assurances to me.
I did what I could to avoid seeing the things that I found upsetting — stories of neonatal struggles, photos of parents in masks for first moments with new babies, and first meetings with grandparents being a quick glimpse through a closed window. This helped a little but did not remove the worries.
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