I’m not sure if you had an idea that multiples were a possibility for you… but they were off my radar. They don’t run in my family, I don’t match any of the precursors, and we had just started to ‘try’ to get pregnant. I know we were incredibly lucky to get pregnant as quickly as we did, believe me — I’m so thankful. But being prepared to start trying to get pregnant is a far cry from being prepared to find out you’re having twins. When I found out ‘it’s twins!’, I scoured the web (in true blogger fashion) for others’ experiences. I had a difficult time coming up with a realistic view of what I was in for and even more difficulty finding a balanced approach to body image. I’m thinking I’m not alone. I’m thinking that if you’re a mom of multiples, you’ve been here too. I KNOW being blessed with multiples means a body to prove it. I’m very much okay with that. But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it! Here’s my experience of coming to terms with my super-sized belly both from a body-image perspective and what that meant for my lifestyle.
My doctor was having troubles dating my pregnancy (we were thinking I was around 12 weeks) so I was sent for an ultrasound. I remember heading into my ultrasound with my belly band on (none of my pants fit.) I was stomach-in-my-throat anxious to see that little heartbeat and waiting on that before we officially shared the news with the world. By this point, our families knew – it’s pretty hard to hide a twin bump. Strangers, friends and coworkers had been noticing too – all skirting around the real question with a casual, “So, is anything new?”
When the ultrasound tech told me I was only 8 weeks pregnant, I was in shock (didn’t she see how big I was?!) Then she turned the screen around and showed me not one, but two little heartbeats. I just remember feeling a rush of relief — there was a healthy heartbeat! Then, as we walked out of the clinic I remember my husband and I sitting in the car staring at the little print out of these pea-sized humans in disbelief. Not one… but two! We were nervous, but so excited. We called our families right away, trying to make it real for ourselves. We went to pick out matching sleepers. We were thrilled.
But now I was only 8 weeks pregnant, not 12 like I thought. I wasn’t ‘in the clear’ to share the news – I promised myself we’d wait until we were past that dicey first 14 weeks. Our family knew, but I was determined I’d keep it from my work, and from anyone other than my closest friends. I wore every flowy blouse I owned, but by the time I was 14 weeks my boss had asked me, strangers in stores had asked me, and extended family and friends were calling and upset that I hadn’t told them the news sooner. I even had friends from other provinces call me when they’d seen a photo of me (shoulders up) because they could ‘see it in my face’. I know some women love to share the news. I’m much too logical. I needed to confirm that everything was on track, and spend the time celebrating and preparing with my husband. I wasn’t ready to share! Ready or not, my belly was shouting to the world.
The exciting and ever-so-personal secret that only you know and get to celebrate in private before choosing how to spill to the world was taken away from me. I felt robbed of the opportunity to ‘spill the beans’ so to speak. When we finally shared the news with our friends (earlier than we’d initially planned), we were met with, “I knew it!” and “I could SOOO tell, but not because of your size or anything”. Let’s be real, I knew I had a belly. I didn’t need to have it pointed out. On the other hand, I was offended that people would comment that ‘it wasn’t my size’ that gave it away. What does that even mean!? Do you think I ate too much cake over the holidays? Nothing made me happy. I was pregnant, emotional, and wanted to have a secret to share.
My job didn’t help. At the time, I was in fundraising which meant I was giving presentations a few times a week to crowds and at events. I was putting myself out there, day after day. Which meant more and more comments, day after day.
I battled with the speed in which I ‘showed’, shocked at how soon people (strangers even!) felt comfortable commenting or touching my growing belly. I struggled to come to terms with my size before the world could comment on it. As soon as I learned I was blessed with twins (and even before that), I knew there was a pretty good chance my belly would be massive, stretch marks were possible, and I’d have to splurge on new clothes to fit my changing body. I was OKAY with that. I also loved my bump. I loved knowing that there were two little babies growing inside me. I loved hearing that the growing belly meant healthy babies. But the commentary from strangers and the timing stressed my logical, well-planned, controlling self out.
I was anxious I wouldn’t get that beautiful maternity shoot with a perfect *little* bump that you see all over Pinterest. I dabble in photography and have captured these moments for other mama-to-be’s and the thought of missing out on that made me go into hyper-planning. Twin (or multiple) pregnancies pretty much promise stretch marks, and often threaten bed rest or premature births. What if I missed my window!? I knew the photographer I wanted to take my photos so I hopped on the phone (at 9 weeks pregnant) and laid out the dilemma.
I ended up having her shoot my maternity photos at 24 weeks. Ridiculously early, I know. But by this time, people in the grocery store were commenting that I must be overdue, and I’d had to buy not one but two sets of maternity clothes to fit my bump. Walking up the stairs to my dentist, I was scolded by a gentleman adamant that I shouldn’t push myself or I’d have the baby right there on the stairs. I had been put on medical leave from work, although I wasn’t yet limited in my activity. I felt like this was my chance for the maternity shots I’d dreamed of. And you know what… they turned out beautiful! I was so thrilled to have them featured on prominent websites, and spread on Pinterest. But… I still wasn’t happy. The whole point of maternity photos (to me) is to capture this precious time in your life where you are waiting to meet your bundle(s) of joy. You’re expectant and glowing because it’s TIME. I was pregnant in these photos, sure… but I was nowhere near ready to meet my babes. I look back at these photos and they feel so staged to me, because I know that it’s not a true snapshot of my pregnancy.
Other than photos, my size was fast becoming an inconvenience. I couldn’t fit comfortably in vehicles, having to recline my seat more than I should. And dressing that bump? I hit up some maternity stores (the closest one being two hours away) when I started to show and picked up some clothes that were a size bigger than they recommend. After a heated discussion with the sales-lady, I left with a size medium even though she was positive they would all be too loose even at the end of my twin pregnancy. For the record, she was wrong. Fast forward a few months and my maternity shirts couldn’t even cover the beach ball that was growing by the minute. I bought the next size up on another trip and when those stopped fitting, I started buying dresses to wear with shorts. They were the only thing long enough without being a tent. Please tell me you’ve been there?
After being put on modified bed rest, I was a little ticked. Didn’t my doctors know that I had so much more to do before the babies arrived? After a couple trips to the hospital for a jumpy uterus and threatening preterm labor, I finally embraced this ‘bed rest’. I watched every TV series I’d always thought sounded interesting, I read books that were collecting dust on my shelf, I started a blog and pursued my love for writing, and I took online courses just to learn something new. Looking back, I’m so grateful for this time.
Finding others online who had gone through twin or multiple pregnancies — and not only survived, but thrived — encouraged me. I loved my growing belly more when I was sitting at home on my couch, feeling my babies do the can-can together. This meant they were healthy. My growth meant they were growing. Bed rest made me appreciate my pregnancy so much more. My belly was no longer an inconvenience to dress and to drag in and out of cars, and up in front of crowds for presentations but it was a mark of something beautiful. At 32 weeks (my second trip to the hospital) I decided I wanted to remember this stage of my pregnancy too. I set up my camera and had my husband take some shots of me in our home. I cherish these shots the most. They marked my acceptance and love of my super-sized belly and finding the beauty in bed rest. Those were the last moments I would truly have to myself in a very long time.
I know everyone’s story is different. I know that my pregnancy could have been a lot more challenging. But most of the pregnancies out there are pretty average just like mine. I hope that my story can help other women like me know not only what to expect, but that it’s okay to be overwhelmed. I hope that you will be able to find beauty in your bigger-than-life pregnant belly. And I hope you will share your stories with me. Let’s talk.
Colleen Pastoor is the lifestyle blogger behind Lemon Thistle, home to DIY, parties, home décor and lots of babies. She’s a wife; mama to one-year-old boy/girl twins; and lover of pretty things. Colleen believes you can have a beautiful life, home, and party without spending a lot. Every day deserves to be special, there’s no accomplishment too small to celebrate. She hopes that her children will learn to love the little things in life. Follow Colleen on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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The rate of twin births has risen 79 percent over the last three decades, and continues to increase. A mom of fraternal twins and a national guru on having two, Natalie Diaz launched Twiniversity, a supportive website with advice from the twin-trenches.
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Accessible and informative, What to Do When You’re Having Two is the must-have manual for all parents of twins.
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