Joanne Lim and Glenn Tan received a huge shock when they first learnt that they were expecting twins. But when they found out that a rare condition in the womb meant that there was a chance they would lose their precious babies, the couple chose not to tell anyone about the pregnancy. Imagine the shock of family and friends when the pair produced their two gorgeous girls, Jenna and Jennise, after having kept the entire pregnancy a secret!
“We were told it was a very high risk pregnancy and the survival rate was relatively unknown.”
“People couldn’t believe I had been pregnant with twins and they didn’t know about it. The expressions on their faces were priceless,” says Joanne. “My colleagues had been sitting next to me at work the whole time and they still didn’t notice.”
Joanne’s initial scans revealed she was pregnant with monoamniotic or “MoMo” twins. MoMo twins are identical twins who share the same amniotic sac and placenta, but have two separate umbilical cords.
“We were told it was a very high risk pregnancy and the survival rate was relatively unknown,” says Joanne, 34. “There was nothing they could do besides monitor me.”
A fragile situation
The prognosis only got worse when the couple discovered the babies’ umbilical cords were entangled, which often leads to complications with the babies’ development and during labour.
It was Glenn, 36, who made the decision not to announce their news, as the couple feared they could lose the twins at any stage during the pregnancy.
“I felt like I was constantly putting on a fake smile in front of people,” says Joanne.
However, at four months, they felt they needed emotional support… so they confessed to Glenn’s parents. But to the rest of the world though, their pregnancy remained a secret with Joanne doing everything possible to hide her growing baby bump.
She was lucky. She did not gain weight on her face, arms or legs, and was able to easily conceal her belly with loose fitting tops and dresses. Joanne also made sure to tactically hide in photos – always crouching, sitting, or standing behind furniture or her older children – Gisele and Ginelle, who were seven and five.
“I still posted on Facebook like I used to because otherwise people would know something was up,” she explains. “Even two weeks before they were born I was in a photo taken on my husband’s birthday. I was crouching behind them and you can’t tell a thing; I don’t even look pregnant!”
All worth it
Because of the risks, doctors had also warned against purchasing nursery products or baby clothes, so visitors to their house were none the wiser.
However, the secrecy took an emotional toll on the couple, who became less and less social. “I felt like I was constantly putting on a fake smile in front of people,” says Joanne.
By December, Joanne was admitted as an inpatient for 24/7 monitoring, before the twins were born at almost 32 weeks, by C-section.
“It was such a huge relief to hear them crying,” she says.
The girls were whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and it wasn’t until mid-February when the doctors gave the all clear.
“That’s when we could finally tell everyone,” says Joanne. “Family and friends were shocked. They said it was like we had been living in our own secret world.”
After spending six weeks in NICU, Jenna and Jennise are finally home, and Joanne and Glenn are cherishing every moment with them.
“They’re just perfect,” beams Joanne. “They are just starting to open their eyes now and take in their surroundings. After everything we went through, to have two happy and healthy little girls is the most amazing feeling.”
For more real life stories, read Meet The Woman Who Climbs Mountains For Abused Women And Children, “The Doctor Said I Had Maybe Five Months To Live” and “They Found My Baby’s Tiny Left Hand Inside My Womb”.
For more on pregnancy, read 11 Dangerous Foods Every Pregnant Woman Should Avoid, How To Ease Common Pregnancy Aches and Cramps and 12 Must-Eat Folate-Rich Foods For Pregnancy.
Text: Bauersyndication / Photos: David Hahn
Additional Reporting: Elizabeth Liew