This is Kirsty’s story of the birth of her beautiful twin boys at 29 weeks, the journey of neonatal and after, and how sharing our stories can help others.
Please be aware that some stories may trigger difficult memories and emotions so remember your own self care as everyone will be at different stages of healing.
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It was the 11th march 2017 when I found out I was pregnant, it was a complete surprise we had no idea. We were filled with such fear and happiness, this was the best thing to happen to ourselves and our families for such a long time, it was the light that brought us all back together.
After a few weeks we went for an early scan, ‘I think there’s two heartbeats’ she said with a smile on her face, not once did I feel panic or fear, two tiny hearts beating with mine, I’ve never felt such comfort. The next few weeks felt surreal, I had no morning sickness, other than being a little more tired than usual, everything was perfect, we quickly got our mortgage in order and began looking for our first home.
We were told at our 12 week scan that our babies were due on 17th November 2017, they were identical and shared a placenta, due to this we were high risk and would have to be scanned every 2 weeks to ensure they were growing healthily and there was no sign of TTTS (Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome).
At each scan there was a ‘hold your breath’ moment until they could tell us that both heartbeats were strong and they were both growing well. At 17 weeks we paid for an early gender scan, I can still remember with such joy the look on Alex’s face when she told us we were having identical boys, I was carrying his dream!
My pregnancy journey so far had been plain sailing, I’d had the odd spell of panic when the boys seemed less active but was quickly relieved when we were seen by the hospital and the ‘thumbs up’ was given.
At around 26 weeks I began feeling drained, exhausted and generally unwell, with no actual cold/sickness symptoms I just thought it was the two tiny humans I was growing taking a toll on my body. We made a few trips to the hospital only to be told ‘your fine, you can go home’ this only caused us to become irritated as I felt as if I was being brushed off as a new mom with no previous experience. At almost 29 weeks I decided to go into work late as I felt so tired, however that morning I woke up as any mother or expectant mother would know bursting for the toilet, as I got there I realised that I had had a bleed. We quickly got to the hospital and waited for hours, they had the boys on a monitor and said their heartbeats were fine. We were situated next to the nurses station when they made the phonecall for somebody to come and examine me, several times we heard them arguing as unfortunately nobody wanted to come and see me, they was all too busy. After 3.5 hours A young doctor came walking into the assessment unit ‘who am I here to see’ he said snappily, we went into another room and after a quick examination he said ‘your cervix is swollen but your fine, you can go, if you have anymore bleeds come back’ I was furious, why wouldn’t anyone take me seriously? Something was not right!
We went home disheartened and fed up, at 3am the following morning I woke feeling unwell, half way down the hall just outside of the boys nursery I felt it . . . my waters began to trickle, I was terrified, I was only 29 weeks. I called the triage unit, they told me not to panic and lie down for 15 minutes, if I got back up and felt the same thing come in immediately. I did as they had said and my waters trickled again, I woke Alex and told him what was happening, he quickly got up and drove us to the hospital, we were only there for a short time but it felt like hours!
After an examination I heard the words I had been dreading ‘your waters have definitely broken’. The midwife told me she was going to get a course of antibiotics and steroids to strengthen the boys lungs, the second she left I just broke, I couldn’t stop crying, why had this happened?
Over the next few days I was monitored in hospital and given anti-contraction medication, I began feeling hopeful that I may be able to stay on bed rest and keep the boys in for a little longer, I was discharged on monday. On wednesday we went in for our routine scan, this time it was different, the sonographer didn’t give much away and told us to wait for our consultant appointment afterwards, this was when we was told I would have to be admitted, the boys waters had pretty much gone now and the chances of them replenishing was slim.
The next few hours I felt as though everyone was talking at me but I couldn’t hear them, consultants telling us worst case scenarios, nurses telling me the plans for the evening. A faint ringing sound overwhelmed the voices, it was just me, hearing my heart beating in my ears, what did this mean? Would my babies be okay?
nobody can ever imagine the magnitude of being discharged from hospital without their babies
It was Thursday 7th september 2017, I was 29 weeks 5 days pregnant. Alex was scrubbed up and ready, I was in a theatre with 17 people. At 11:29am James was delivered weighing a tiny 3lbs 1oz, a little cry came and the panic dulled, I was briefly shown him as the nurses wrapped him in plastic and rushed him away. At 11:31 Jack was delivered weighing 3lbs, there was a slight pause and then a tiny cry, this time the nurses seemed more rushed, I barely saw him before he was gone. I didn’t get to kiss them, I didn’t get to cuddle them, I felt lost.
Alex was allowed to see the boys whilst I was in recovery, he came back such a proud dad, he had taken videos and photos for me to see, it felt so wrong that the first time I would see my babies was by a photograph. Due to the medication I was on I didn’t get to see the boys until the evening, it was around 8-9 o’clock. Alex pushed me onto the neonatal ward in my wheelchair, there they were my tiny babies, surrounded by tubes and wires, monitors beeping, alarms going off, nurses rushing in and out. I opened the window on the incubator and put my hand gently on them, I was scared to touch them, they looked so small and vulnerable. I was told briefly that the boys were stable, James was now off ventilation and was on oxygen, Jack had been on ventilation for a little longer and was on C-Pap, the mask was so big you couldn’t see his tiny face. In those moments I was torn between insane love and proudness, and profound sadness that my boys were no longer safely tucked up in my tummy, they were out in the harsh world and we had no idea what the next few weeks would bring.
Unless it’s something that you have been through, nobody can ever imagine the magnitude of being discharged from hospital without their babies. I felt I couldn’t celebrate the birth of my babies, I was no longer pregnant but I didn’t have my boys to show off to the world. I found myself aimlessly walking around mothercare shopping for our pushchair, the feeling of complete devastation and hopelessness, however, I felt I couldn’t be sad either, because my babies were alive, was how I was feeling valid?
Of course after having the babies everyone offered support, people wanted to help with washing and ironing or cleaning whilst I was visiting the boys, this only caused me more anger.
I had no control anywhere in my life.
I couldn’t control my body to keep the boys safe.
I couldn’t be in control once the boys were born.
Most parents could feed, change and cuddle their babies whenever they wanted to, we had to ask if we could pick our babies up. We spent so many hours sitting staring at incubators, our hearts stopping every time an alarm went off, waiting for someone to run in and see what was happening. The guilt of having to leave the boys, mixed with the sound of the alarms and monitors beeping still resonating in your ears was too much. I didn’t know why but later I couldn’t bring myself to look back at videos of the boys time in hospital, the sounds of the machines made my chest feel tight and my eyes filled with tears, this is something I have struggled with for so long.
After 39 days our babies were discharged from neonatal. The nurses checked in on us for months and the boys often attended doctors/hospital appointments. I was terrified of the boys catching anything and going back into hospital, so we stayed cooped up inside the house and never invited people around. I found myself screening anybody who wanted to enter our home for illnesses. I would sit for hours in the night checking the boys breathing, once they began sleeping through the night I would sit looking at their cot unaware that I was actually sleepwalking, I would jump up in cold sweats thinking I had heard a cry.
I never really told Alex how I was feeling or acting, I was pushing anyone away who offered support as all I wanted was to take care of the boys. We had spent almost 2 months in neonatal and I just wanted to have some normality.
It was quite obvious that the boys journey was not over yet, they often picked up coughs and colds and we spent endless nights calling out ambulances or sat in A&E. This began taking a huge toll, I slowly started feeling angry and upset anytime people mentioned having a cough or a cold after coming into the house, ‘why do they want my babies to sick?’ I could feel everyone around me dwindling away, including Alex, we weren’t living, we were just existing, alongside each other.
All of a sudden the feelings from neonatal began rushing back to me, flashbacks and the sounds of the machines.
One day Jack became poorly whilst I was at work having a meeting, my mom called to tell me she was at the hospital, he’d been taking by ambulance and had suspected sepsis. I sped all the way to hospital and as I got out of the car I remember feeling like I was looking at myself from another perspective, my head went tingly, I couldn’t breathe and I started sweating. I couldn’t coordinate myself, I had no idea what was happening, I rushed inside and spent the next 5 days in hospital with him.
All of a sudden the feelings from neonatal began rushing back to me, flashbacks and the sounds of the machines, the nurses, having to leave James at home, it was overwhelming. Again, I didn’t say anything to Alex.
A few months later I came across an article from a lady who had been diagnosed with PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) and I remember thinking, that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling, I couldn’t believe it. We had an appointment coming up with the boys health visitor, I knew for the sake of the boys, Alex and myself I needed to speak to someone. Our health visitor was so amazing, straight away she confirmed that it sounded like PTSD, within a few weeks Emma called me, we arranged to meet and talk things over. If it wasn’t for reading somebody else’s story I never would have spoken out, who knows where I would be if I hadn’t received help, its okay, not to be okay.
I miss being pregnant so much, I didn’t get the relaxing few weeks preparing before the birth, the baby shower where everyone measures your tummy and says how big you look, my pregnancy ended too soon. I still find it hard when the boys become poorly, I still get anxious and overprotective. It’s a work in progress.
Emma and Unfold your Wings saved our family, she does such amazing work and I owe her so much.
Thank you for reading our story