Guest post by Katrina B.
'Oh, I didn't see this coming...'
Those were the words from the sonographer that my husband and I will never forget at our first ultrasound viewing, which displayed two tiny hearts beating away. It was the biggest and best surprise of our life - we were expecting twins!
As beyond exciting as this news was, it also brought with it a sense of concern too, as we were immediately told that as I was pregnant with multiple foetus, it was a high risk pregnancy, as not only would my body be carrying the pressure of two babies at once, it also brought an increased risk of pregnancy conditions to the table, as it put extra stress on my organs, for which I was checked every two weeks at King Edward Memorial Hospital, where they specialise in high risk pregnancies. Being identical twins, I was also having ultra sounds every two weeks (that part I loved - being able to see my babies so frequently!) as well, to ensure I wasn't developing Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, where identical twins can receive too much or too little of nutrients, as they share the placenta.
Both of my boys were developing extremely well and my doctors even thought I'd make it between 36 weeks to full term with them and I was really beginning to see the picture in my head of sitting there in a hospital bed, cradling both babies at once - I couldn't wait to have my arms full of love.
At one of my usual appointments, I knew something was up as soon as I saw the look on my doctors face after looking at my routine results, and after half a day of many tests, I was told I had developed a pregnancy condition called pre-eclampsia, that my organs were starting to shut down, that my babies would arrive in anywhere from a few days to a month, so I was given a shot of steroids to help their lungs start developing sooner and told that a hospital bed on the ward was currently being prepared, where I'd stay until my babies arrived. I still really had no idea what was going on, it was a lot to process, I had nothing with me, nothing packed and was thinking of everything I now had to cancel (logic went out the window when the confusion came in!), including the baby shower my sister had organised for the next week.
My husband and mother were amazing and brought me what I thought I'd need for the night and arranged to bring the rest the next day and got me settled into the hospital room, with my husband staying with me until late, as I tried to process the whirlwind that was that day. The next thing I knew I was woken in the early hours of the morning to my waters breaking where shocked nurses and doctors realised these babies were coming fast and that there was no time to give a second shot of steroids to help with their development. Two and a half hours after my waters broke, my beautiful tiny babies had arrived via a natural birth at 30 weeks, with doctors allowing me a swift kiss before they were taken to the NICU. The rest of the day was a blur, as I was taken to theatre to have excess placenta removed, then to to the Adult Special Care Unit (ASCU), as I was still in a bad state from the preeclampsia, where all I remember is begging to see my babies through states of being 'out of it'. 12 hours later, my husband, who had been shuffling between the NICU and being by my side with my mother all day, was allowed to wheel me down with my oxygen on, accompanied by nurses. It felt so odd being wheeled up to a box and being told that was your baby was inside there, hooked up to all sorts of wires and contraptions, then off to another section to do the same with your other child. I remember being worried that being separated after living in each other's space for so long, that this would cause extra stress on their tiny bodies.
After several days, I grew strong enough to leave ASCU, then to the maternity ward and after a week in hospital in total, was allowed to go home, where I remember feeling so strange and extremely empty as I walked into our home, where just one week ago I had left with a belly full of babies, expecting to be home in a couple of hours, to coming home a week later empty handed for a while. Everyday I would travel to the hospital to be by my boys' side to encourage their strength, let them know it was going to be ok because mummy was there when she could be and to be there for the light care taking duties the NICU team would allow us to do, which made me feel like a 'real' mum. I was fortunate enough that the boys were just around the corner from each other, so I never felt too far away from either baby, but when one of my twin's was transferred to a different nursery when he started getting stronger before my other little man, that's when I felt unbelievably conflicted. Every day I spent approx. 10 hours at the hospital, but I never felt I was there enough for either of the boys, as the whole time I was going up and down the hallways trying to work out 'who needed me more at that moment'. Every time my eldest twin (by eight minutes!) progressed a little further I was so proud of him, but felt bad for my baby back in the first stage. Every time I was able to have the immense pleasure of holding my babies during kangaroo care, I was so trying to be in the moment, but I couldn't help but feel guilt for the baby that wasn't being held. The NICU staff were so incredible in every aspect, even including helping me schedule cuddles with my boys between nurseries, feeds when they began to breastfeed and timed the care duties as much as they could so that I was able to help out with each baby equally. Only the parents and grandparents of the babies were allowed in the NICU and as my husband was having to work long hours, a lot of the time my wonderful mother was allowed to go to one nursery briefly while I was in the other when things like head scans were happening at the same time.
After 3 weeks at KEMH, my boys were transferred closer to home in the SCN of Joondalup Health Campus. My boys were able to be in an open bassinet at this stage, and for the first time since birth, my boys were reunited and stayed side by side in the double bassinet. It was an absolutely magic moment to see them right next to each other, being able to compare 'how identical' they were, to witness them interact and to sit by their side at the same time. Just before they went home I experienced my very first and very longed for 'double cuddle', yet another incredible experience and, at 36 weeks gestation we walked out of hospital with our beautiful boys in tow, completely beaming and about to embark on the full on, but blessed journey of feeling like 'real' parents, raising our twin boys at home.
That day was 2 years ago on the Friday just gone, and we now have two healthy, happy, cheeky sense of humoured, boisterous toddlers who bring an abundance of love to our lives everyday. For this, we are eternally grateful to the NICU/SCN's of WA for the tireless work they do day in, day out for all our babies, it brings home why it's so important to have associations such as Tiny Sparks, whose aim is to support the work of these hospitals, other associations around WA that help families and their different situations, such as the Perth + Districts Multiple Birth Association and of course, the families who experience the high risk pregnancies and what it means to have a child/children in the NICU/SCN.
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