26 Weeks, and it’s Twins!
Our story starts in 2002 when we decided it was time to start a family, after 2 years of trying and no success we decided to find out what exactly was wrong. To cut a long story short we found out that it was almost impossible for us to conceive naturally so after careful consideration and assessing the bank balance we booked ourselves in with our local IVF clinic in June 2004 for a procedure known as ICSI. This is where they take your eggs, fertilise them and put them back, this was going to be the most successful course of action for our fertility problems. We had discussed with our Dr how many eggs we would like implanted. “Two eggs give you more chance of Twins however two eggs will also give you a better chance of success”, was the answer I was given by him. I questioned whether the cone biopsy I had had on my cervix a few years previous for pre cancerous cells would be a problem and he assured me that all was OK, after careful consideration we decided two eggs would give us a better chance on our first cycle.
After the Pills, disgusting nasal spray, self injections and a reasonably painless operation I arrived on the 28.10.04 to have the best two fertilized eggs transferred. Two weeks later (the longest two weeks of my life) I received the call I had been waiting for, we were delighted to find that our cycle had been successful and that I was pregnant, we could not believe our luck, to conceive on our first cycle was amazing, the next question was how many eggs had taken? We had to wait a further two weeks for our first scan but blood tests during that time had revealed very high levels which suggested Twins. Twins it was; we were so happy when the radiologist told us that there were two strong heart beats and that all looked well. After a couple of days the excitement turned into worry, how would I cope with two babies, how would we manage, how could we afford it? My Husband was the voice of reason, he reassured me that all would be OK to stop worrying and enjoy my pregnancy, and I did; well for a short while anyway!
I had some mild spotting at 8 weeks, which at the time was of no real concern to the Doctors as there did not seem to be any indication of a bleed on the scans so I went about life as a normal pregnant woman itching to tell the world our happy news but waiting for that magic number 12 before we told anyone as IVF pregnancies are high risk at the best of times, without the added drama of Twins! My OBGYN had discussed the need for a cervical suture as the previous cone biopsy in conjunction with the Twins could cause issues down the track (that was something the IVF doctor had not mentioned), the surgery was scheduled for the 15 weeks mark.
At our 12 week NTS scan we found out that all looked good, we decided to tell all our friends as the secret keeping was killing me, as soon as I started to tell people the trouble started! We had gone out to dinner to farewell my parents who were about to move to Tasmania to retire (bad timing) I had been feeling terrible all day and was feeling very nauseated at dinner not eating much at all, a trip to the bathroom revealed I had started to hemorrhage, not something you would normally discuss over the dinner table and as you can imagine the farewell dinner took an atmosphere dive when I broke the unhappy news, off to Emergency we went and yes I was threatening to miscarry, it was a terrible time emotionally not knowing was the hardest thing. I was so sad; sadness I had never felt before, a feeling I was to become very accustomed to in time to come.
Luckily the bleeding slowed down and after I had spent five days at the local hospital I was sent home for a further weeks rest before I could return to work.
All was OK for a while. I had cut my hours at work down to just three days and was taking it easy. My Dr. cancelled the cervical suture as he was concerned this would only add to our problems so we were counting the weeks down as he was concerned that I would not make it past 26 weeks. At our 18 week scan we found out that we were having Fraternal Twin Boys, as you can imagine my Husband was extremely happy, as was I, all my life I had this feeling I would have Boys, it just felt so right!
At 22 weeks I woke on one of my days off, went to the kitchen for a drink and felt a trickle down the inside of my leg, it was nothing really but enough to make me think had my waters broken or did I just wet myself? I called the Dr. who asked me to come in, he had a look reassured me all looked fine, but just to be on the safe side another ultrasound was in order. I went down to Radiology and was checked out, both babies were fine, strong heart beats, good growth and the membranes appeared to be intact BUT my cervix was open, now I have never had a Baby before but that didn’t sound good! The Radiologist did not seem overly worried about it and told me she would report this to my doctor and that if there was anything to be concerned about someone would call me, so I thought I should waddle down to the Dr. office and leave a message just in case no-one bothered to tell him, I left a message with the Secretary and I headed home.
I called my Husband on my way home and discussed my craving for Cheese on Toast for dinner and that I would be home soon. As soon as I hung up the phone rang, it was the Dr. urging me to return to the hospital that he needed to discuss the scan with me. This didn’t sound good, but I was still optimistic! I called Hubby, explained what I was doing and told him to put the cheese on toast on hold for an hour or so, I would be home a little later; how very wrong I was. I arrived at Maternity expecting a conversation with the Dr. and I would then be on my way. Instead I was met by a Nurse who told me that I was to be admitted. I was asked to lie down on the bed not to get up for anything and that the Doctor would be here soon to examine me. She advised that I was to have emergency surgery to put a suture in my cervix. WHAT THE??? It went from “all looks OK” to Surgery all in a matter of an hour! The Doc arrived at 6pm to examine me, and by 8pm I had been operated on and was back in my room, needless to say, Cheese on toast was cancelled! Surgery went well and both Boys were OK, I spent a few days in Hospital recovering and under observation, everyday I cried and cried, all I could think about was how far we had come and if something was to happen now, that I would lose my boys. I was sent home and ordered to have complete bed rest from then on.
At 25 weeks plus 6 days I was again spotting. This time I felt really unwell. I was booked in for an ultrasound that day, it showed the boys were fine all normal and my cervix was still closed, but it was back to Maternity for another three day stay just to keep an eye on me as I really did not feel well. I had been having these strange tight feelings, mild period pain and heart palpitations for months but the Dr. reassured me it was just Braxton Hicks and not to worry. If there was no real pain involved then it was nothing, but they were getting more frequent. No one seemed really at all bothered by them, even though they were ½ hour apart, so I was sent home, again!
The trip home lasted all of 5 hours. I was back at Maternity by 6pm with pain in my lower back and contractions 5 minutes apart! It was Friday 15th April, I was 26 weeks plus 1 day pregnant, my life was about to change forever in a way I would never have imagined. Never in my worst nightmares could I foresee what was about to happen to my beautiful little Boys.
An ambulance was called and the Helicopter was on standby, the Dr. was concerned that they would not be able to stop the contractions and he did not want to deliver as they did not have the facilities to care for the Boys; Brisbane was the best place to be. I was given all the necessary drugs including the steroids for their lungs just in case the worst happened. The Ambulance arrived and I was whisked off to the RBWH.
When I arrived I was put in a large cold dim lonely room for hours, with barely anyone to talk to, not knowing what the hell was going on, still in pain from the contractions. Hubby could not come with me in the ambulance as I had to have a Midwife with me just in case the boys decided to come during the ride. He went home packed a bag and drove up to the Hospital only to get lost in the maze of hallways and almost have a nervous breakdown trying to find me. But at about 1am he finally did.
The contraction had stopped at around 3am and I was taken to my room, Saturday came and went no contractions and Sunday was also good, the Dr’s thought they had me under control. On Sunday Night I was taken down to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit(NICU) and Special Care Nursery to be shown what to expect if the Boys were to be delivered early, to prepare me for what might be to come. I do not think that anything can prepare you for that place. I had not shed a tear that day (a tearless day was a rare thing at this point in my life let me tell you) but the visit to the NICU was enough to bring me to tears. It is a world I did not know existed and did not want to know, the sadness, the hope, the desperation on the parents faces I could not bare to look at them. Early Monday morning the contractions started again, once again they filled me full ofdrugs, this time the drugs did not work.
On Tuesday morning I was told that this was it, I was 26 weeks plus 5 days pregnant and this was the end of the road. Medical diagnosis for delivery was “preterm labour”, which basically means they have no idea what’s going on and can’t stop it. I was 3cm dilated with the suture still intact and an emergency caesarean needed to be done.
Twin 1 was Breach and Twin 2 was Transverse so I had no hope of a natural delivery.
The details of that day are all very blurry. I remember bits; it all seemed like a bad dream. This was not the way it was supposed to be, why had everything gone so wrong, was I being punished for the IVF, did I go against the laws of nature and my Boys were being taken from me as punishment; these were the thoughts running around in my head. It was like everything was going in slow motion, I was answering people but I had no idea what they were saying, I do not remember who they were, their names or what they were there to do, all I could think about was my tiny babies and there was nothing I could do to change what was happening.
We were told that chances were we would not get to see the boys when they were born as the doctors needed to attend to them and take them off to the NICU. There would be no time for cord cutting or holding, maybe a photo if we were lucky, that the Boys may require ventilation as the chances of them breathing on their own were slim at this gestation and that we would be taken to see them when they were settled, their chance of survival at this gestation was 50%; needless to say I was a complete wreck!
At 8.57am on the 19th April 2005 Chase Allan made a very noisy entrance into the world followed by his much quieter brother Taj Raymond at 8.59am. Both boys were breathing on their own which was a blessing, given an Apgar of 9 each, which was fantastic, only requiring a little oxygen to help them along. We were told that they were doing well and that Ray could come over and take photos, which we thought was encouraging. When they were ready to be moved to the NICU I was lucky enough to have them passed by me so that I could catch a glimpse, they were so beautiful and so tiny; Chase weighing in at 998grams (2.2 pounds) and Taj 922grams (2 pounds). I cried and cried and cried when they were born, they were tears of joy and tears of sadness for what was yet to come. Hubby was fantastic he was so strong for me, so supportive; I could not have done it without him he was my rock. He took control when needed and was so fantastic. The rest of the day is a drug induced blur, I was wheeled into the NICU after recovery to see the Boys in their isollette’s, but I barely remember being there or anything at all. After leaving theatre, all I knew was that I was a Mum and my life and everything I thought motherhood would be had been turned upside down.
The true enormity of our situation and how truly sick the boys were had not really sunk in, or was it that I was not ready to admit to myself that we could lose them at any moment. I was so ill from the Surgery I could not get down to see the Boys until Thursday morning and even then that was such a struggle, that I only managed to stay for a few minutes. Hubby would give me updates and bring me Polaroid’s of the Boys which helped, but I felt so helpless. I was discharged on the Saturday following. After only 4 days, I had to go home and leave my boys behind. I sat by their isollette’s before we left and touched their tiny hands for the first time, leaving them behind truly broke my heart, I cried for three days straight. I could not even phone the Hospital to check on them as I could not speak to the Dr’s without crying. Hubby had to be the strong one as I was a complete wreck.
On Day 6 of their lives they developed condition known as Patent Ductus Arteriosus which is quite common in Prems but this lead to them requiring ventilation. The medication worked and Taj was able to come off within days; Chase was not so lucky. He was too tired to take such big breaths and remained on the ventilator for 44 days. This was the a rollercoaster ride that I would not wish on my worst enemy.
I finally got to hold Taj on Day 19 and Chase on Day 27, they were both still so ill and so tiny, but it was the best feeling I have ever had in my whole entire life. To hold my beautiful boys in my arms for the first time was so special as there was a time I thought that I may never get to hold them this way. Chase was eventually given Steroids to try to get him off the ventilator, he had developed Chronic Neonatal Lung Disease and would not survive if we did not do something to get him off the ventilator. There was no guarantee that the drugs would work, but we were lucky and after 6 weeks of medication he was breathing on his own.
The ride from hell went on for over 90 days before we had any relief, every time we thought that things were going well, something would pop up to bring us back to the reality that this was not over; not by a long shot. I will not bore you with a problem by problem account of their health only to say that during that time we had problems with their hearts, bowels, eyes, hernia operations, general infections, Strep B infection and even a Meningitis scare. Their little bodies are covered with tiny scars from so many needles, IV’s and Central Lines and they have had more infections and antibiotics in their short lives than I have in my whole 35 years of life. Everything happened so fast; when they got sick they went down hill so quickly, I would leave to drive home and they were doing well and then I would be phoned an hour later when I was almost home to tell me that things are not so good, that one or both were ill and I should come back. There were so many times for us where it was touch and go, more than I care to remember. All I will say is that I have never felt sorrow like I did during that time and I never want to feel it again. I felt as though someone was cutting their way through my chest with a blunt knife and slowly ripping my heart out of my chest. At times I could not breath and sometimes I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up as the pain was just too much to bare. But everyday I got up and smiled and laughed and was strong because I had to be, my Boys needed me to be, it was what I had to do for them, it was the only thing I could do for them.
On Day 94 the Boys celebrated their official due date in the hospital, and a few days later their 100 days in hospital which was celebrated with cake, balloons and gifts from the hospital, it is such a great effort for a 26 week Prem to make 100 days and it is celebrated by the whole unit. Taj was at the time fighting a Strep B infection and recovering from a Lumbar puncture and was not feeling much like celebrating, but Chase was doing well.
We were at last ready to come back to our local hospital so that I could be with the Boys, or at least only 15 minutes away. Taj was doing well and was infection free and Chase just needed to be weaned off oxygen and we could do this on the Coast. All was looking good and the date had been set for the transfer, but Chase had other ideas for us. He developed an Arrhythmic Heart Condition known as SVT on the 6th of August, Day 110. This threw us all into a spin, if he had been taken off the monitoring equipment, as was ordered days prior, we would never have know about this and his poor little body would have shut down and he would have died. His condition was controlled with the aid of medication.
After 128 Days we finally brought our boys home to start our life together as a family. It was the happiest day of my life to finally walk out of those doors, the doors that took my breath away every time I walked through them (and still do to this day) holding my babies in my arms (well I was holding one and Hubby had the other but you know what I mean!). They had a long road to travel and we are still riding that rollercoaster at times, but the ride has slowed down and is more like a ferris wheel now. Overall they are doing really well considering what they have been through.
Not a day goes by where I don’t try and figure out what I did wrong. I go over and over and over it in my head, what I could have done to prevent this, what I should have done and everyday I blame myself for all the pain and suffering that my Boys have had to endure. I still cry when I look at their hospital photos and when I talk about what they have been through. But week by week the sadness and the guilt gets less and hopefully there will come a day where I stop blaming myself and all the guilt goes away. In the meantime I am just going to cherish every moment I have with my two little miracles.