After numerous IVF cycles we finally received the wonderful news that I was pregnant. I was suffering from fairly brutal morning sickness and a scan at six weeks confirmed the cause – I was carrying twins. Rob and I held our breath for the next six weeks and once we passed that important twelve week milestone we told everyone we had ever known, we were incredibly happy and excited. After about 16 weeks the morning sickness eased and my pregnancy was problem free.
We decided that we should try and prepare ourselves so we attended a Twins Plus ante-natal class at the Sofitel Hotel for the day. I felt a little unwell that morning but improved throughout the day as we learnt about what to expect once the babies were born. After the course had finished we joined my work colleagues for dinner to celebrate Christmas and the beginning of my maternity leave in one week’s time. I began to feel uncomfortable later in the evening and soon after we arrived home I knew that something was very wrong. The contractions started hard and fast and my waters broke all within half and hour and we made the frantic dash into the hospital.
On arrival at the hospital they discovered that one of the babies was already in the birth canal, there was no time for any steroid injections or no chance of stopping my labour. Angus and Jenna were born at 2.14 and 2.21am Sunday 14th December 2003 at 24 weeks and 4 days gestation. Angus weighed 725grams and Jenna 595grams. They were both intubated and taken immediately downstairs to the NICU and we rang our families to tell them the news. Rob headed downstairs to see the babies and I lay there on my own trying to work out just what had happened. I can still clearly remember opening then closing my eyes really tight thinking that this must all have been a dream.
The next day was a blur. Jenna was critical but stable and Angus was struggling. The situation then reversed and Jenna started to decline. The surfactant had not worked and she was struggling to survive. On Monday afternoon after heartbreaking discussions with her Doctor we made our way down to the NICU. Jenna Kate took her final breaths in my arms. We were devastated.
After Jenna passed away Angus’s situation immediately declined and there began his massive struggle for life. He was placed on an oscillator and not really expected to survive. Each hour seemed like days and we both felt like we were operating inside of a vacuum. We spent the next four days just waiting for any sign of improvement, there was none; however he did not get any worse. After my discharge from hospital we were able to move into the hospital’s accommodation across the road which enabled us to spend most of our time, day and night, by his side. At seven days old Angus was taken of the oscillator and opened his eyes for the very first time. Over the next week he made slow improvements and on New Years Eve I was able to hold him for the first time. Surrounded by tubes and leads and too scared to move in fear that I would extubate him Angus and I sat quietly for one hour.
The New Year began and the next months were spent trying to keep track of phototherapy, oxygen levels, ventilation modes, apnoeas, bradycardias, new drugs, old drugs, blood transfusions, PDA, ROP and numerous infections. We decided to leave the hospital’s accommodation when Angus was four weeks old. The drive home was so difficult. We had always planned to be bringing two babies home from the hospital so to return home with no babies left both of us feeling so incredibly empty. It took a few trials before Angus finally made it onto CPAP. He spent 49 days on various modes of ventilation and was diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease. Angus then spent 38 days on CPAP followed by 39 days on oxygen.
In total we spent 136 days at the hospital, 93 in NICU, and 20 in the SCN 9th floor and 23 in the SCN in Frances Perry House. On April 29th 2004 we were finally able to take Angus home with us. His discharge weight was 3344kg and he was able to be weaned off oxygen the week before. Angus’s corrected age was 4 weeks old. Since coming home Angus has thrived. He has had no complications and at this point in time is a very healthy and happy two years old.
On October 28th 2005 Rob and I welcomed our third baby into our family. Calan Jack was born at term and weighed a massive 3.16kg. It is only now that I am able to realise the vastly different experiences of a “premmie mum” and a “full term mum”. The birth of a healthy baby brings such joy. Happy phone calls the share the great news, lovely gifts, cards and lots of visitors. The birth of a premature baby brings a much different response. In our situation, with one incredibly sick baby and the passing of our daughter it was difficult for those around us to know what to say or do. The reactions of family and friends were varied, most incredibly supportive, others well intentioned though at the time very hurtful. Comments like “You always wanted boys” and “You are so lucky to still have Angus” seemed to trivialise the loss of Jenna. Other questions such as “Are you breastfeeding him?” and “When will he be coming home” seemed ill thought and demonstrated to us that most people have absolutely no understanding of the intense struggle that premmies and their families endure.
Our lives and those of our families and friends have been changed by the birth of our twins. We now recognise the fragility of life and are able to take such great pleasure in the smallest of accomplishments. Our hearts still ache for our little girl and we are hoping that the pain will ease with time. The life we lead now is full of hugs, kisses and giggles andthe occasional two year old tantrum. We are looking forward to a wonderfully happy and healthy future.
Angus the big brother with baby brother Calan