Twinning in Taiwan

Almost immediately after finding out we were expecting, Josh told me, “I think it’s going to be twins.” As a kid I’d always thought twins were the most efficient way to have babies– a two for one deal, plus twice the cuteness! In the back of my mind I kind of hoped he was right, but I knew statistically speaking we were pretty much in for the same deal as last time: one pregnancy, one sweet baby at the end of it.

When we went in for our first ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy, there was one tiny little amniotic sac, with one even tinier little bean inside. One baby, as should have been expected. Somehow I still felt a little surprised (probably because Josh kept talking up the twins thing) but very happy to see that precious little one doing well on the screen!

Next appointment, I told Josh not to bother coming since we’d already proven his twin theory wrong. So I went in by myself, and since in Taiwan you get an ultrasound at almost every prenatal visit, I got to see the little bean again. But this time, the doctor hovered over the bean for only a moment saying, “there it is…” and then moving along to another little bean and announcing very calmly, “and there’s the other one.”

“The other what?” I asked, knowing that it had to be another baby but still not quite believing it since we’d already established there was only one!

“The other baby,” the doctor responded, seeming mildly amused by my reaction.

“No way!” I said. “Are you serious? You aren’t allowed to joke about stuff like this, right?”

And at this she really did laugh and asked me what she had to gain by joking to pregnant women about whether or not they’re having twins. Fair enough.

By the time I got home to tell Josh he already knew what I was going to say just because of how excited I was coming in the door. Perhaps it was father’s intuition, but he was right! God had given us two new little ones to love.

My pregnancy with Hosanna was unbelievably easy and symptom-free, so much so that I really didn’t understand what other women were complaining about. Pride goeth before a first trimester with twins, my friends. I was basically out of commission for about two months; eating all my meals (i.e. toast and cheese quesadillas) in our bedroom so I didn’t have to see or smell anything else Josh or Hosanna ate. I think there were a couple weeks where I cried every night because the headaches and nausea were so overwhelming… but that is the miracle of pregnancy, I suppose, because once that phase was over I could barely remember it, save for the fact that Josh was a constant witness!

The second trimester was a lot more fun because, since I was actually able to get out of the house without vomiting again, I got to learn lots of new Chinese phrases regarding babies and pregnancy and twins. I also learned quite a bit about the Taiwanese mindset towards birth. Fear of pain can impact women in any culture, but it’s definitely more acceptable here to jump at the chance for a c-section to avoid labor. Practices that have been discontinued in the West for decades are still routine here. Last I checked, Taiwan had the 3rd lowest VBAC rate in the world, so for me, my hopes of a VBAC were pretty much shot down immediately once we found out we were having twins… and I checked with four different doctors just to make sure!

Prenatal appointments start with a kind of DIY check-up. You record your blood pressure and weight for the nurse to write in your official pregnancy book. The nurse asks if Chinese is okay, and you respond “yes” and hope that your Chinese actually will be okay enough to comprehend half of what she says when she quickly runs through that particular week’s routine information. My approach is to just keep saying (in Chinese), “Ok, ok, ok,” to everything the nurse says until she looks at me funny because I’ve just said yes to a question that wasn’t really a yes or no question. That method turned out surprisingly well, as anything I really didn’t understand I could have my doctor explain in English once in the office. At least… I think that’s what happened!

Then, of course, you see the doctor. Dr. Liao, who is probably in his 70’s, sees about 80 patients in one half-day session. If he has two sessions in one day, he might see 200 patients, plus performing surgeries and being on call for delivering babies! Because he is such a highly respected doctor here, he has two rooms, so while they are bringing you into one room and pulling up your file, he is signing off paperwork and talking to someone in the adjoined room. As soon as he finishes with them, he’ll come to your room, discuss whatever needs discussing as quickly as possible, then head back to the other side. It’s not common for patients to ask questions, so when I kept showing up with lists of questions each time, I think Dr. Liao and the nurses were both a little surprised! After a few weeks of me stopping him when he was halfway out the door, though, Dr. Liao would ask me if I had any questions (which I always do). Dr. Liao has delivered more babies than anyone on the East coast of Taiwan. We are very thankful to have a doctor with such a kind heart and so much expertise to take care of us.

On your way out, you might pass by signs reminding you that girl and boy babies are both equally good and should be equally valued, in response to the old cultural preference for boys. You may also see signs informing you that all days are “good days” to have a baby, and that you should not risk your baby’s health to try to have them born on an auspicious day. Then, you go to check out and pay about $4 per visit (including the ultrasound which can be in the hundreds of dollars in the US!). And that about sums up the Taiwan protocol for prenatal visits!

We’ve been so blessed by the care we’ve received not only from our doctors and nurses but also from friends in our church small group and friends who have twins, who have passed along twin gear for us to use. As previously mentioned, because Hosanna was born via c-section, the twins will be born the same way. And the big day is less than a week away– unless the twins make a surprise move, we are expecting to meet them on Tuesday, November 6! We really can’t even imagine what life will be like adding these two little ones into our lives, but are trusting that God has already given us the grace we need to adapt to life as a family of FIVE. If all goes well, we should be home from the hospital just in time to celebrate Hosanna’s birthday on November 12. Then my mom will arrive on November 15 to meet the twins and help us out for two weeks (which means hooray, she will be here for Thanksgiving!).

Thank you for your encouragement and prayers over the past several months. We can hardly wait to meet these two little ones and introduce them to the world when they arrive next week!