Author: Chris Scott
Our story started many years ago when Cathy warned me that for some reason since she was a little girl and dreaming of having kids when an adult, that she would always have twins. Guess what, we have twins, a boy and a girl. So, I was forewarned, but not prepared.
That being said at our 6 week scan where we knew we were pregnant and the doctor performs an internal scan; I was standing behind the doctor and could see the screen of the ultrasound machine, he said that’s one embryo, oh and there’s a second one. I could see the two embryos on the left-hand side of the screen, he announced that he was going to have a look around and all of a sudden there were two embryos on the right-hand side of the screen. Four. Cathy will tell you I went white, but I can’t confirm that. The doctor picked up on our (my) fright and said no there are only two, and that he had turned the probe to a different angle. As if two embryos was an everyday thing.
Moving forward, we went to see our OBGYN’s registered nurse at 32weeks for a check-up, but more as a lesson on where to come, what was involved in a C section, etc. Our OBGYN was at the North West hospital, which is where we were planning on having the kids. Cathy had not been feeling the best, and we mentioned it to the OBGYN as we walked in with the nurse and he replied “the fun of having twins”. The nurse took Cathy’s blood pressure, standard thing, and walked out to see the doctor. He came back in and found a specimen jar and asked Cathy to go pee. They stuck a litmus paper into it and promptly rang the hospital and said that we were coming over, Cathy was 3 days short of being 32 weeks so we were bound for the RBWH and NICU if the kids arrived (forcibly delivered) early; as she now had preeclampsia.
4 hours and a steroid shot later an ambulance arrived to transfer Cathy to the RBWH; I followed in car and had no idea where they took her when I arrived. Thankfully I was a member our Multiple Birth Clubs Facebook page and had explained our little issue and asked about parking, never having been to the hospital before and couldn’t think straight. After a few scares of over the next couple of nights, on the Saturday when we hit 32 weeks, the hospital transferred Cathy back to the North West as the hospital could handle 32 week+ babies if they didn’t have any complications. So back we went, which we preferred, closer to home for me, and just easier to deal with.
After a few days they thought they had Cathy’s blood pressure under control, I went back to work during the day and Cathy was going to be able to have “home visits” as long as she was only out for 3 to 4 hours every second day or so, and we would just play a wait and see game and hopefully make it to 36 weeks+. Ha.
On the Tuesday night while eating a lovely hospital roast dinner (sarcasm) the nurses came in and did a normal check-up, we were told that her blood pressure was up and that they would be calling the OBGYN’s office/on call doctor. He came flying in not 10 minutes later (was at the hospital for a meeting) and was very upset that Cathy was still eating dinner, for if he had his way we would be off to the operating theatre and she would be under a general and we would be parents not long after.
Our OBGYN was more relaxed and had told the on call doctor to get her blood pressure under control and he would operate in the morning. We were going to be parents.
We never did have that chat with the registered nurse about what is involved in a C section, and given that the on call doctor wanted a general we had not thought more about it. In the morning, the anaesthesiologist came in and offered Cathy a choice of general or spinal block with an epidural. This sent her into a spin as neither of us like needles (who does really), but we hadn’t been thinking about it. We went a spinal block and epidural, at least this way she could see our kids when they were born, the recovery was going to be faster than a with a general and I could support her.
The anaesthesiologist had four goes at getting the spinal block needle in, and actually bent one; and I mean bent like the letter Z, not just a nice slight curve. Trying to keep calm is hard when you are excited and panicked all at the same time, and you really don’t function. It is reassuring that when you look over at the waiting nurses and doctors that there was a team for Cathy and a team each for the kids. And when they asked if I wanted to cut the cords I jumped at it. A lot tougher than I expected. A few quick pictures of Cathy and kids, a last kiss with her and off I had to go with the kids, I wasn’t expecting this, but as the kids needed to be checked, etc. and no name tags/bands had been placed on them yet, I needed to stay with them to ensure that they were my kids.
Down to the Special Care Nursery (SCN) we went, and I just stood back out of the way and let the nurses and doctors perform all their checks, all the while I was in a daze. I even met a couple from our Multiple Birth Club who were doing their final bath and weigh of their twin boys before leaving SCN and we had a brief chat.
After a few hours of being in SCN with the kids, getting to hold their fingers for the first time, just looking at them and taking about 300 odd photos, I was released and could go and see Cathy and how she was fairing. Unfortunately she was still in recovery as the surgery had played havoc with her blood pressure and she was still in recovery. But I didn’t know this; I just thought I had misunderstood the timings. I knew that Cathy wouldn’t be up and about until at least the next day, and given the kids were in SCN they couldn’t leave it just yet, I loaded all the photos I had taken onto our laptop and set it to cycle through them and left it on her side table, and back to the kids I went.
Cathy finally got released and we were able to talk, I could make sure that she was ok and tell her about the kids. We decided on names to provide to the nurses for our two bundles of joys. It would be 36hours before Cathy got to see our babies again as they had to manage her blood pressure and to make sure she was getting better.
Leaving to go home, I left my wife and my two new babies at a hospital. That is hard and a does a job on your mind and emotions. I cried when I got home, happy, frightened, scared, excited and alone. So alone. Neither Cathy’s or mine family live near Brisbane, so our support was limited.
At this stage the kids were in the humidicribs, hooked up to all kinds of monitoring equipment and feeding tubes. Twin A (boy 2.25kg) we found out was suffering bradycardia (heart rate issues) and apnoea (breathing issues), while Twin B (Girl 1.65kg) had had a couple of apnoea episodes but her biggest issue was bilirubin so she had to undergo light treatment. Twin A’s breathing worsened and he had to be placed on C-pap (assisted breathing) but thankfully he strengthen up after about 5 days and could breath by himself again, but was still receiving caffeine to help his heart in a regular rhythm.
I thought that I had to be strong for Cathy and the kids, so I tried to keep my emotions in check, remain rock steady and be there for Cathy who was recovering from her operation and all the emotions and hormones of being pregnant. Listening to the nurses and doctors, remembering everything they tell you.
Getting to be there the first time you and your wife get to see you babies is just awesome, the first time you have to leave the SCN and your babies, heart breaking. But you will be back. Support for you both is very important, there is a lot of paper work to fill out, things to consider that you had never contemplated, but you are in this together, and you have to remember that.
Looking back on even the first week in SCN, it moved so fast, but when we were living it, it seemed to go so slow, and everything was a set back. We wanted to try and breast feed, but Cathy’s supply wasn’t coming in, so we were trying everything to try and help, natural medicine, medicines, pumping every 3 hours trying to set the rhythm, etc. Walking in with our 1 to 5ml of milk, and seeing other mothers with 50 to 100ml bottles and their child was only born yesterday, was hard to handle.
The day that Cathy was released from the hospital became the next hardest day, as this was the first time that she had to leave the kids. While at the hospital she could wander down to the SCN even in the middle of the night, but when she was released, our house was 30minutes away. This was a very emotional time for us both, trying to set a rhythm to help with the breast feeding but not being near your kids which is meant to help the process.
While in SCN we met some lovely couples and we became our own support network. Most of us were there early in the morning delivering the milk we had expressed overnight, doing the morning feed, eating breakfast, bathing the kids, doing the next feed, etc. And on and on it went. We got to know each other quite well, and helped each other through the tough days. And there will be some.
Both Twin A &B progressed well, Twin A once he was off the c-pap machine and the caffeine just blossomed and gained sufficient weight to get out the humidicrib, while Twin B took about a week longer, but we eventually got them into a twin crib. This was a happy day, to have the kids side by side, and looking at each other. We still had feeding issues and they kept their nasal tubes in for quite a while, but we eventually got to try tandem breast feeding. Other than helping get the kids on and burping, we can’t do much but support them; but it is all the other things that we can do to help them and the kids that count and make us useful.
Bathing the kids was a joy, having them float in your arm and just looking at you. We have so many great photos from bath time.
SCN is a very busy place (I imagine NICU to be even busier), but you do become accustomed to it. The need to wash your hands and arms upon entering is full on, but I am protecting my own kids as well; I even spent a couple of days not in the SCN due to a cold and I didn’t want to risk even the face mask. Your kids really do make you stop and think. You get use to the noises from all the machines, and can even end knowing when it is one of yours that just beeped or one next door or at the far end of the room. You will learn so much in SCN, how to read the machines, we even got taught baby CPR.
The real scary thing about the baby CPR was that not 5minutes later, the nurse that just taught us had to use it for real on a fresh baby, her first time in 40 years of nursing that she had to hit the emergency button and do CPR on a baby. I would strongly suggest that you take up on any offer to learn baby/child CPR, as we have seen it first hand, and had friends have to use it.
Your life will get into a routine, all around the kids and the hospital. The rest of the world including friends just doesn’t exist. We were lucky enough that by having twins, I was able to be fed as the guardian of the second child, so we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hospital. Our hospital had a room where the parents of SCN kids could eat, sleep or just rest in between feeds; this made the support for each other easier, and we lived in this room if we weren’t with the kids.
Our hospital wouldn’t let the kids go from the SCN until they reached 2.8kg, and this is what took the time with Twin B, although she proved to be the stronger of the two, it just took ages for her to gain the weight, but we eventually made it. We had made our way up through alternate suck and tube feeds, to all suck feeds, most still on bottles, but we made it. And we could take Twin A & Twin B home, where the real fun began – reflux, illnesses, breathing difficulties and more. But we have unconstrained access to the kids, and the love keeps growing each day.
If you end up in NICU or SCN, ask questions; there are no dumb questions and what is going through your head and worrying you they know the answer too and why not to worry about it, or how to help you with it. The nurses in these wards are brilliant and are only going to help you.
Be strong. Your wife/partner’s emotions are really going through a roller coaster, more than normal and pre-birth. Yeah, your emotions are high as well, but in my opinion they are constant, whereas hers are a mess.
Talk to the people around you in the SCN, you will be each others support network. It will help. We are blokes, we don’t talk about emotions too much, but the support you will get from the other families and other dad’s going through what you are will be worth it.
If you can manage it, take time off to help and be there in SCN. I am very grateful to my employer and manager that they understood and helped me with leave and flexibility. I was able to be off work while the kids were in SCN, so I was able to be there for them and Cathy. I returned to work the week after they were released, only because Cathy’s family started arriving and helping out. When they had to leave some weeks later, I took another 4 weeks off work to help Cathy.
Be there, for your wife/partner and for the kids. It is not somewhere you want to be, but it is the best place to be if your kids aren’t ready for the world just yet. It will take a lot from you, but you get everything back and more. Be open to the new experiences, skin on skin time is just awesome, and I can’t explain how happy it makes you feel.
Look after yourself as well, if you don’t you won’t be able to support them or be yourself.
Take photos, so much of the time can be remembered but is blurry at the same time. We have photos of all the family and friends on a loop in a digital photo frame, and whenever a photo from SCN pops up, the memories come back, the good and difficult. But each of these photos remind me of just how far our little family has come and helps me look forward to all of the adventures ahead of us.
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