Indianna and Mackenzie

[image]indianna and mackenzie.jpg

I found out I was pregnant with twins on our eldest daughter's 4th birthday. We had been trying to conceive for years so, although very shocked, we were so happy that we were having two babies, and up until my 18 week scan I was feeling really good and I headed off to the scan really excited.

We went for our scan at the Foetal Maternal Unit (FMU) at Liverpool Hospital. It seemed to last forever. It was explained to us that we were having girls and that they were identical. The Dr left the room and returned with another and explained to us that they had picked up on a problem. The girls were suffering from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). We were explained a little about the syndrome, but from what I already knew about it, the chances of both babies surviving was very slim. We were told to return the following week for another scan, to see how the babies were doing. We walked out of the hospital totally gutted.

The next week passed in a haze. I researched everything that I could on TTTS so that I could head to the next appointment armed with all the questions that I needed answers to. As it turns out, we could not have been in better hands under Dr Smolenic and his team at Liverpool. After another scan, it was explained to us that the syndrome had proceeded to worsen and that they would need to perform laser surgery on the placenta if there was any chance to save the girls. So the following day I was admitted to Royal Women’s Hospital at Randwick to have Laser Ablasion performed on the placenta which the girls shared. The following day, under a general anaesthetic, I had the surgery and when I was scanned the next day everything looked good. We headed home happy and positive about the rest of the pregnancy.

From the day that we found out that they girls were sick, we were explained everything that could happen, good and bad, so when a week later I had yet another scan, we weren't shocked to find out the TTTS had returned, reversed and we now had a new donor twin. We just took every day as a blessing though, and we continued to try and stay positive. It just seemed as though everything was against us. At 20 weeks, things got even worse when I woke at 5:00am and my waters broke.

Over the next 9 weeks I spent a total of 6 weeks in hospital, having ultrasounds and resting. The girls were monitored very closely but slowly the syndrome was getting worse. It was decided that the plan was to try and get me to 32 weeks and then the girls would be delivered. We arranged to have a tour of the NICU with our daughter, Kate, so that we could be somehow prepared for what was ahead of us, but on the 23rd May 2006, the day of the tour, I started having contractions at 6am and our beautiful daughters arrived that afternoon at 29 weeks gestation. Indiana Marie entered the world at 1:13pm followed closely by Mackenzie May at 1:15, weighing 1620grams and 1240grams. Both were resuscitated and ventilated and whisked off to the NICU.

I didn't see the girls for about 5 hrs after I had given birth. Gareth had named them and was nervous that he had mixed the names up, but when I saw them, I could not have cared less if he had called them Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum, they were here, they were alive and they were fighters. It didn't matter to me that the Dr said they were in a critical condition, I barely heard him when he was explaining things to me. I just saw my girls. My precious little girls who had already fought such a battle, and as far as I was concerned had won. The first week went in a blur of tests and medications. We were to learn quite quickly just how sick Mackenzie was, as it was her bag of water that had broken 9 weeks before, so she had gone 9 weeks with minimal amniotic fluid. Her lungs were in a terrible condition.

Both of the girls had many different problems. Initially, our greatest concern was the effects of the Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Indiana was overloaded with blood and had to have some removed, whereas Mackenzie was anaemic and needed two blood transfusions in the first week. After 2 days, Indiana was placed on CPAP and was on it for 15 days, then low flow oxygen for about a month. Mackenzie was taken off the ventilator on day 3 and put on CPAP. Her lungs were incredibly damaged due to the lack of amniotic and she remained on CPAP for 69 days, then oxygen for another five weeks. There were many struggles while we were in the NICU. We took the good with the bad. By far the hardest time for me was being discharged from hospital. I had not been home for over a month, but I did not want to leave. I sobbed all the way home and did not stop when I got home. We lived an hour away from the hospital, and I was leaving my children behind. I couldn't bear the thought of anything happening to them while I was away and not being able to get back to the hospital soon enough. I think at that time I reached my lowest point, but kept up a brave face. It was easier than looking at people who had no idea what to say to you and trying to accept their sympathy.

It was such a foreign world in the nursery. It was hard not knowing if we were allowed to touch the girls, or change a nappy, but we eventually got the hang of things and the NICU became our second home. We watched our girls grow stronger and stronger every day. Indiana progressed a lot faster than Mackenzie and was allowed home after 8 weeks. It was so exciting to take my baby home, yet bitter sweet. I felt such guilt having to leave Mackenzie behind. Mackenzie's progress was very slow but after 4 months, including a brief stay at Campbelltown Hospital's Special Care Nursery, we were allowed to take both of our girls home. I guess you could say, this is where the real journey began.

From a mother’s point of view, I don't think I will ever "get over" the whole experience that we went through with the girls. It has been such an enormous part of my life. I remember every part. How many scans I had, had many the girls had, the names of their first nurses, who gave them their first bottle, put them in their first dress, and I hope I never forget. The girls will be celebrating their 3rd Birthday this May, and I can look at them, so cheeky and full of mischief and know how very blessed I am.

To all the Dr's and Nurses that gave us our beautiful girls, we will forever be in your debt. To my wonderful husband Gareth, you will never understand just how much your strength and support got me through my darkest hours. And to the wonderful, wonderful women of Miracle Babies, thank you all so much for everything that you represent. You will never truly know just how much you touch the lives of so many people and give hope when we have none.

Natalie

 

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