I Didn't Know I Was Having Twins Until They Were Born

14/08/2014 16:51 | Updated 22 May 2015

I didn't know I was having twins until they were born

Gets your attention doesn't it? I'm a sucker for pretty much any birth story, whether written in black and white or in full gory detail on TV, so it was a given that I'd read the article which followed this headline.

The reason the mother in the story didn't know she was having twins wasn't that she'd had an incompetent sonographer or midwife. She didn't know she was having twins because she hadn't had a scan or seen a midwife. At all.

I think I should make it clear at this point where I stand on medical intervention. I'm overwhelmingly grateful that modern science and the wonderful NHS mean that we can vaccinate our children, treat nasty diseases with antibiotics and rock up at any A&E department after a serious accident and be treated by highly qualified, dedicated clinicians for free.

However, I also avoid visiting the GP for minor illnesses and think a nice long walk in a beautiful place or a hot bath and sleep can cure most ailments. I've never had an epidural and my third child was born in my sitting room without gas and air. Or a midwife for that matter, but that's another story. So I think I pretty much sit in the middle, medical intervention wise.

So as I read about this woman's pregnancy my jaw grew slacker and slacker. Now I can kind of understand why you wouldn't want a scan during pregnancy, I don't agree but I understand. If you think the scan might damage your unborn child then you'd say no. Of course you would. I had internal wrangles about what I'd do if it was suggested I had an amniocentesis. Thankfully my wrangles remained theoretical.

And I'm all for avoiding doctors in pregnancy where possible. Having children is not an illness, so unless there's a good reason I wouldn't involve a doctor. But not seeing a midwife? I really don't understand that. At all.

For as long as women have been giving birth, other women have been helping them through the process. Midwives are mentioned in the Old Testament. Our NHS midwives are basically performing the same function as their sisters in ancient Egypt and Rome, but with antibacterial hand gel and the machine that makes the whoosy heartbeat noise. These women know an awful lot about babies and birthing and they rather wonderfully make it their job to support us when we embark on it.

A midwife would have known that the woman in the newspaper article was having twins just by feeling her tummy and listing to the babies' heartbeats. She'd have been able to prepare her for the birth. Instead what happened was this: she went into labour, she discovered by examining herself internally that her baby (as she thought) was breech, so she called an ambulance and was rushed into hospital where she had a highly medicalised birth. Of twins. She is lucky that all three of them are still alive.

It's weeks since I read this article, and I still can't get my head around it. I can't understand why, or even how, you'd learn to do an internal examination on yourself. To me that implies that you know you need some form of intervention during the birth process. Also an experienced midwife doesn't always need to do internal examinations, she can just tell by looking at you.

The article doesn't explain her motivations other than a distrust of doctors, and maybe there are good reasons, but I can't help thinking that her actions could have led to a tragedy.

Am I the only one who thinks this is bizarre?

Victoria Wallop is a confirmed Londoner, with a love of travelling to far-flung places. She writes, tweets and solders silver for a living. She's useful in a pub quiz and adept at pulling leeches off small people.

Twitter: @vwallop


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