At the end of July came our first BIG surprise. I was massively worried about the 12 week scan as my close friend had had a missed miscarriage. So, when the sonographer said “Ahhh OK,” I convinced myself something was up until she turned round the screen and said “Well there's your baby..and there's the other one!” TWINS! We were totally shocked but really pleased. I was 29, Hubbie 32 ,no history of twins in either family, no fertility treatment, all in all no risk factors for twins. We told all our family the news that weekend. Everyone was ecstatic. A week later we saw the consultant who reassured us that they were DCDA twins (the lowest risk type).
My pregnancy was pretty text book and our 20 week scan showed 2 perfectly formed babies kicking each other! The only real problem I had was that I got very huge, very quickly, I'm naturally quite skinny so it really showed. I started to struggle with back pain and had to go for phsyio (off a gorgeous Irish guy unfortunately!) By 24 weeks I measured 35 and had put on 2 ½ stone, more or less only on my bump.
Therefore I didn't worry too much when after a busy day pram shopping at 24 weeks I started to get a crampy pain in my back. It wasn't dreadful but it was nagging and on Monday morning I rang maternity assessment to get it checked out as I had a busy day at work. They said that all sounded fine, that I wasn't leaking fluid or bleeding and the babies were still moving but If I wanted to come in for reassurance then I could. So I did feeling like a paranoid first time mother! Once there all looked fine, the midwives were all ready to send me home or rather back to work for an afternoon of teaching 8 year olds PE (!) but as a matter of procedure a Dr came in to check me out. This was then I was found to be 3cm dilated... then everything went crazy.
The hospital I was booked in to had Special Care but now NICU so I was put in an ambulance (blue lights sirens the whole lot) to go to the nearest place with 2 NICU cots that was about 40 miles away. I still felt O.K, everyone had told me labour was really painful, this couldn't possible be it, I was given drugs to stop the contractions with a view to having a rescue cervical stitch put in but they didn't work (I have since found out from my parents who are both Drs that these drugs have a very low success rate).
After a scarily short labour (with 15 medics in the room not what I had ever imagined!) Oliver Thomas (1lb8oz) and his younger brother Matthew Daniel (1lb9oz) arrived in to this world kicking and screaming, surprisingly loudly, at 8:55 and 9:16pm- They were perfect, I instantly fell in love with them and I glanced across the room to see them being taken over to the NICU.
I visited them twice that night, they were bigger than I thought they'd be and over the next few days they remained stable. I spent almost all day and night going from incubator to incubator. Their odds of survival were never great at around 25% but they made small amounts of progress. They were able to be feed on my breast milk through a tube, have little cuddles in their incubators and hold our fingers. Their brain scans and blood tests all came back clear. They each had their own little personalities. Matthew was more chilled and Oliver a lot more boisterous! The staff there were all amazing. My father in law used to be a neonatal- paediatrician and was so impressed by the standard of care which was really reassuring.
On day 5, Matthew took a sudden turn for the worse, his tummy swelled and he lost his colour, he was diagnosed with necrotising enterocolitis (a disease of the bowel common and often deadly in premmie babies) He was immediately put on high strength antibiotics and the head consultant rushed in from home. Despite the best attempts of the medical team he was taken off his ventilator in the early hours. We held him as he passed away and told him how much we loved him. He looked so peaceful as we gave him a wash, dressed him in some new clothes and tucked him up in a Moses basket.
The next morning and Oliver was still doing O.K but the staff were slightly worried as his temperature was varying slightly, as a precaution he was started on antibiotics and transferred to another hospital where they can operate on tiny babies with NEC. Sadly he got worse very quickly and that evening they had to operate.
We followed his incubator down to the theatre where we told him what was happening and he squeezed my finger- It was as if he already knew. We waited for the longest hour of my life until the surgeon came out and said he had tried his best but that it wasn't enough.
Less than 24 hours after we said goodbye to his brother we said good bye to Oliver and gave him the same respectful death as we gave Matthew. Then all his grandparents came in and gave him a goodbye cuddle. Without his wires in he looked just like his Daddy.
I wanted to tell my boys story for a few reasons-
Firstly to highlight the risks of multiple pregnancy. So far they think they were premature just because they were twins. That I was carrying around the same amount of extra weight as a woman at term, that my body was tricked in to thinking it was time they were out and my cervix gave way. They were perfectly formed and big for dates. I'm fit and healthy and had no sign of any medical condition. If you are, or know someone who is carrying more than one.. make sure that you listen to your body extra carefully.
I also wanted to say how hard it is being a mum of multiples on a neonatal unit. I still wonder if I spent the same amount of time at each incubator, did I hold them the same amount of times? It was very hard after Matthew had died walking past the incubator he had been in to see Oliver and stay strong for him. As well as the guilt of feeling that I have let them and everyone around me down I also have the guilt this brings with it.
But most of all I wanted to tell the story of my gorgeous sons and how, even for just a short week, they brightened my life and the lives of all those around them.
Sleep tight my handsome chaps!