There’s nothing quite like the excitement that comes with finding out you’re pregnant – except, perhaps, the unbelievable shock of discovering you’re having multiples. Conceiving identical twins without the aid of fertility treatment takes place in only one in 250 pregnancies, after all.
But, for Australian mom-to-be Kate Lucas, her pregnancy came with a caveat: she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone she was expecting. That’s because her doctor believed her twins had just a sliver of a chance at survival. Consequently, he wanted Kate to be realistic about breaking the news – in case she later had to break some hearts.
Despite this dark diagnosis, though, Kate’s twins had different plans. And, 32 weeks into their mother’s pregnancy, the twins came into the world in a miraculous way. Their doctors were stunned, too, when they realized what the tiny infants had overcome in order to survive.
For expectant mom Kate Lucas, the news that she was carrying a child was one she welcomed with open arms. Kate was a self-admitted baby lover who already had two children of her own: 13-year-old Xanthea and her son, Hudson, a toddler.
According to a post she wrote for Miracle Babies, Kate considered Hudson “a good advertisement to sell [her] hubby on the idea of having more.” Thus, she and husband Adam decided they both wanted their son “to grow up with a sibling close to his own age.”
“New Year’s Eve, a few drinks and a fun night out and… success!” she wrote. “A positive test eight days after ovulation! We could hardly believe it.” But little did they know their pregnancy joy would soon increase exponentially, when Kate’s doctor discovered a second heartbeat.
But that joy would only last momentarily, because Kate’s doctor would go on to discover something unusual about her babies. They were monoamniotic-monochorionic identical twins. Monoamniotic twins share an amniotic sac, meaning the babies grow inside of the same space. This is dangerous when the twins are also monochorionic, which means they have two separate umbilical cords.
This situation puts monoamniotic-monochorionic twins at risk of tangled umbilical cords as they move around in their shared womb. And, as the babies develop, the risk increases. With less and less space between them the babies can squash each other’s cords, shutting off the flow of nutrients and blood.
Because of all of these risks, Kate’s doctor had to tell her that her twins would only have a 50 to 70 percent chance of survival once their cords inevitably became tangled. And, if they did survive, her monoamniotic-monochorionic twins would also have a higher probability of birth defects.
However, the worst disclosure of all was still to come. Kate’s doctor said she “should probably not tell anyone [she] was pregnant and wait for nature to take its course – a likely miscarriage.” Kate was also told “not to set up a nursery, as it would make it too hard if [she] lost one or both of the twins.” This obviously shocked the expectant mother and her husband. “We could hardly believe the things we were discussing,” she wrote.
For Kate, this type of outlook was unacceptable from the person meant to be bringing her children into the world. “Needless to say, I decided he was not the right doctor for me,” she wrote. Instead, she found a specialist who let the Lucases make as many decisions about their babies’ care as possible.
The couple agreed to weekly scans to ensure the babies’ well-being until Kate reached 28 weeks into her pregnancy. At that time, she’d move to a hospital room for constant monitoring until she reached a safe 32 weeks’ gestation, at which point she could deliver her babies.
Even with this plan in place, though, the Lucases still had the opportunity to put their high-risk pregnancy to an end. “We were give the option of termination due to the stressful nature of the pregnancy and the uncertain outcome and risks,” Kate wrote, “but we had already fallen in love with our little blobs!”
One thing that kept Kate strong throughout her risky pregnancy was the fact that monoamniotic-monochorionic twins come into the world as close as two babies can be. That’s because “they have been in physical contact since conception,” according to Kate. “They have been seen holding hands and sleeping forehead-to-forehead in the womb, and then similarly once born.”
Indeed, the ultrasound images of her babies cuddling and looking at each other were enough to power Kate through to 28 weeks, at which time she moved into the hospital as planned. Moreover, her isolation proved to be difficult on her and her loved ones. But the family visited Kate regularly while maintaining their usual work and school routines.
Finally, five weeks later, Kate had reached the 32-week milestone – the point at which she and her doctor agreed that the twins could safely be delivered. However, there was a stroke of bad luck for the Lucases, as there weren’t enough beds in any NICU unit in Brisbane for her to give birth to two babies.
But two days later, as she ate breakfast, a team of midwives appeared by Kate’s side with a hospital gown ready for the mom-to-be. Two baby beds had freed up just enough space for her twins to finally be delivered by C-section.
“I was terrified, so the lack of time to ponder what was about to happen was probably just what I needed,” Kate wrote. And, in no time at all, her two daughters Harper and Cleo came into the world crying and, thus, breathing all by themselves. This was a shock – but not the most shocking part about the babies’ birth.
The medical team who had cut the babies’ umbilical cords were stunned the girls had been born so healthy, Kate wrote. “As the cords were examined, a shocked silence fell over the room. The girls had survived horrific entanglement, with a true knot at one point. We delivered them just in time… they were truly our miracle.”
After that, the girls continued to defy expectations, moving from the NICU and into special care after just one night. Today, they’re healthy ten-year-olds, who are just as close as they were in their shared womb. And, for Kate, that is more than worth the ups and downs of her dangerous gestation. “This, to us, was the best possible outcome of a treacherous pregnancy,” she wrote.