Author – Kirsty Smith
The nursery was all set up, it had been for five years, a cot that that I had found at the markets and painted white matched the change table and drawers. The linen was in neutral pastel colours.
Month after month and still no pregnancy, it was time for medical intervention. We tried artificial insemination several times with no luck, then on our very first IVF attempt it worked!!!! We could not believe our luck! At seven weeks we went for a scan, I was so nervous, I expected them to say it was a mistake and that we would be back to the drawing board.
Then the sonographer very casually said “Okay, there is a heartbeat, and there is another one.” What the? Two? Surely not! My head was spinning, my husband was beaming! TWINS!!!
We left the clinic in the city to head home to country Victoria, on the freeway I told hubby to pull over and I vomited on the side of the road! I continued to vomit for the next 18 weeks! To this day I cannot stomach corn flakes!
The pregnancy was great (apart from the vomit), we had 2 embryos implanted so we were pretty sure they were non-identical and in their own sacks, I decided to stop work at 23 weeks due to some sciatica in my leg. I was a lady of leisure, spent my days watching day time TV and walking the dog. I had a scan at 28 weeks and everything was looking good, I had decided to find out that we were having two girls, but hubby didn’t want to know!
On the 11th November 2003 at 5am I was woken by a loud pop and a gush of water between my legs. I was 31.6 weeks gestation. This was not in the plan, even though my hospital bag was packed, this was obviously far too early. Surprisingly I was calm, I rang the local hospital who straight away said “There is no way you can deliver them here, call an ambulance, they will bring you here, then off to Melbourne you go!”
My GP arrived at the local hospital around 7 am, patted me on the leg and said, “Don’t worry, it will be another 24 hours or so before these babies arrive.” I had the steroid injection to help develop their lungs. At this point there was no pain, but I was getting anxious, it was an hour and a half journey into Melbourne.
Finally, we were on our way in the ambulance, they told Justin to follow behind, he popped home to feed the dog and collect some things for the hospital. The paramedic was reassuring “Don’t worry I have delivered a premmie baby before”. Hmmm, but not two I thought to myself, and we had no idea what position they were in. Then the pain started, it intensified very quickly. The next thing I know it was lights and sirens, going up gutters in peak hour traffic. It was panic time.
We arrived at the hospital around 9:30am, by this time I was in agony and I was vomiting. They rushed me upstairs, my obstetrician was waiting, it was frantic, nurses were stripping my clothes off, asking a million questions. They rang Justin and said to get there immediately-leave the car at the front door! The doctor did an internal examination and I saw his face; “We need to go to theatre immediately.”
There was just enough time for me to have a spinal block, at least I would be awake. There was a weird tugging sensation, then silence. The longest silence ever. Finally, a tiny little cry; the best sound in the world. “It’s a girl!” Justin cried. More tugging, more silence, another little cry. “It’s another girl!” I released the breath I had been holding forever. Then it was chaos, they had to be rushed to the NICU. I told Justin to go with them, not to leave their side.
I was in recovery for what seemed like forever waiting for the spinal to wear off, no-one could tell me anything and they wouldn’t let Justin in. It was agonising, I didn’t know if they were even alive.
Finally, I was wheeled down to the NICU, they took me to Kaitlyn and I was able to hold her. What an amazing moment. She was twin one, she had been in a footling breach position and only 1294grams (2pd 14oz). She had been resuscitated at birth but was breathing on her own now. I couldn’t hold her long, she needed to be in the humidicrib to keep warm.
Next, I went to Alanna, I couldn’t hold her as she was being ventilated-that was heartbreaking. She had been in a transverse position and was only 102grams bigger at 1396gms (3pd 1oz). They made me go to my room then, it is the hardest thing to leave your babies, but I had no choice.
The next morning, I had my first cuddle with both! They had survived! You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! It was going to be a long road ahead, but I was ready. I wanted to breast feed so we painstakingly hand expressed the liquid gold (colostrum) that was put through a syringe into their feeding tubes.
Soon enough my milk came in and I was like a jersey cow and even though I would still get up through the night to express I managed to develop mastitis. It was like I had been hit by a Mack truck! By this time, I had been kicked out of the hospital and was staying at a hostel down the road from the hospital-however I spent every waking minute in between their humidicribs, and had as many skin to skin kangaroo cuddles as they would allow!
The girls gradually progressed through the six NICU rooms. I remember giving them their first baths at two weeks of age! I was petrified! They had several tests and scans, both were severely jaundiced so spent a lot of time under the special lights, but neither required any surgery and things were looking good. We were so incredibly lucky.
At two weeks we were able to move them to a hospital closer to home, (it was still an hour journey each way, but at least I could sleep at home). They remained in the humidicribs for a further three weeks, so there I sat every day from about 8am to 10pm in between the two, a hand on each baby. Kaitlyn had sleep apnoea, so every time the monitor started beeping I panicked. Otherwise, they were well, they just needed to grow!
One of the best moments was when they went into an open crib! Together! They were finally back together, side by side! From that moment they thrived and grew! After two more weeks we just had to get them suck feeding and we could go home. We got day release for Christmas day as a test.
Kaitlyn cried and fed the whole day-Alanna would not even wake up for a feed! The night before we were due to go home they made us all have a sleepover together at the hospital. I was struggling to get them to feed and was crying because I thought we would never get to take them home. “Just give them a bottle!” I cried. My amazing husband who was sleeping on the floor (or at least trying to) reassured me that I could do it, and sure enough they let us all go home the next day after 7 weeks in hospital!!!
Then the real challenges began!!! Life became a blur of feeding (one at a time because I couldn’t manage twin feeding!), nappy changes and trying to get them to sleep at the same time!!
They reached their major milestones albeit a bit slower than other babies. Alanna crawled around 9 months and walked at 14 months. She was diagnosed long sighted and developed a severe turned eye, she had to start wearing glasses around 8 months, and had corrective surgery on both eyes at age 4. She still needs glasses now but otherwise is thriving!
Kaitlyn was diagnosed with a developmental delay at 12 months, she didn’t crawl until 22 months and finally walked at 23 months. She needed to get glasses at 18months and has had a life of therapy, you name it she has had it! Speech, physio, occupational, psychology, vision etc. She has small amount of brain damage which they say is from in utero, I wonder if it was from birth, we will never know for sure! The damage affects her vision and she has a mild intellectual impairment. Having said all that, she is a happy and healthy (she never required surgery or had major injury or illness) and is thriving as well!
As I write this we have just celebrated their 14th birthday! We are surviving the teenage years! The girls could not be more different, they have nothing in common and don’t even hang out together, but I know they will always be there for one another. It was heart-warming when Alanna came to a level of maturity and realisation that Kaitlyn’s difficulties were real and life long, and she doesn’t hesitate to show her the way. We are so incredibly lucky to have two beautiful girls that we are so proud of every day.
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