Chloe and Emily

My husband Scott and I had been married for a few years when we decided that it was the right time to start a family. We were shocked and also over the moon to find out when we were 10 weeks pregnant that we were expecting twins. We were told the entire pregnancy that they were fraternal (dichorionic, diamniotic) twins, with 2 placentas, 2 sacs and 2 chorions. This is statistically the ‘best’ sort of twin pregnancy in terms of being low risk of mortality or complications. No twins in our families so it was not something that we even considered might happen. Once we were over the initial shock we were both so very excited about becoming parents to not one, but two precious little babies. We knew it would be challenging but we were ready for that challenge!

Throughout my pregnancy my health was great and all of my tests always came back fine, my obstetrician even told me I was “boring” on a couple of occasions....blood pressure good, sugar good, scans all good etc., not even any morning sickness. I had a routine checkup with him when I was 31 weeks along and he sent me for a blood test to check on my liver (I think). He received these results the next day and left me a message on my mobile. The message I received was to take myself up to the hospital and check in. I was stunned and frightened. I’d not even packed a bag for the hospital, I was due at work the next day. I couldn’t even begin to work out what might have been wrong, Scott told me to pack a bag as if they were being born that night but I refused to believe that that was a possibility. I was 31 weeks +2 and they had so much more cooking to do.

I raced around the house in a daze and threw a nightie, slippers and underwear along with toiletries into a bag and off we went. We arrived at the hospital half an hour after we received the phone message.  I was put into a bed and they put monitors straight onto the babies. We had decided to wait until they were born to find out their sexes. We had 2 girls, Emily & Chloe. Emily’s heart rate didn’t change for about 2 hours, well beyond a sleep cycle. They used 2 different machines and nothing changed. They gave me cold water to drink to try and wake her up. They kept my obstetrician up to date with the numbers. I could feel the girls moving as I had done for several months up until that point. Nothing felt ‘wrong’ to me. Next thing I knew, they were telling me I’d need a steroid injection, well that’s when I lost it as I knew there was only one reason for that – they were going to deliver these babies!!  They tried to reassure me that it was only precautionary but I couldn’t think straight, I’m glad they never checked my blood pressure.  As we’d planned to have the twins in the private hospital, that’s where we were.  As they don’t have the facilities to house babies delivered before 34 weeks, I was taken by ambulance to Liverpool Public Hospital.  I think this was about the time that it felt like I was no longer going through this but standing beside myself watching it happen, I was petrified but trying so hard to stay positive.

Once we arrived at the public hospital, at approximately 10pm, I was given a gown and they again put the monitors on the girls.  Still, Emily’s heart rate hadn’t changed; her heart rate was hovering between 123 – 128 beats per minute and not moving from there. My obstetrician arrived and suggested that we had to deliver them now otherwise “we might only have one to play with”. I was rushed off for a caesarean section, the wards person raced me down to theatre, I could feel the breeze in my hair he was moving so fast. I was shaking uncontrollably, Scott running along beside me, I was so frightened. I had a general anaesthetic and thankfully I was under before I knew it....Poor Scott was left outside the operating theatre not knowing what was happening to myself and our precious babies...I can’t imagine what he was going through. As it had all happened so quickly none of our family were there before I went into theatre, it was late at night so the corridors were empty, the doors literally slammed in his face.

Our precious baby girls were both born at 11.11pm on 4th March 2010, 21 seconds apart, 31 + 2 days gestation. Emily was born first and we were told that they worked on her for 20 minutes before declaring her a ‘still born’. She weighed 1900 grams and was very swollen, suffering from foetal hydrops. Her heart was failing before she was born. Chloe was born second and weighed 1612 grams. Chloe was taken straight to the NICU and put into an isolette. We were told once they were born that it looked like it was acute Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) which can ONLY happen in identical twin pregnancies. I had no idea how this could have happened with 2 placentas, we still don’t know why it did....

Well, that’s how our miracle baby came into the world, now for the story of her fight for life....

Chloe spent 33 days in the NICU and that was pretty tough, looking back now though you do what you have to for your baby, I spent every day with her and would not have had it any other way. I was sitting there willing her to thrive, doing her cares and feeding her once she was able to suck. I loved kangaroo cuddles and was beside myself the first time I was able to hold her. She was 3 days old. I didn’t even realise that I’d be able to hold her so soon, she was so tiny and fragile and had so many leads coming from her I wasn’t sure how I’d manage it! Of course the wonderful NICU nurses were standing by ready to help. It was difficult to see her with the needles in her tiny hands and monitors on her, she had lines going into her umbilicus for the first few days, CPAP to help her breathe and they took blood out of her 3 times over the first 24 hours and replaced it with saline (I believe this is called a ‘partial exchange’) to try and thin the blood back to a ‘normal’ thickness. I can’t believe how close we were to losing Chloe as well in those early days. Once we were over those first few days and she kept on improving we felt so relieved and more confident each day that we’d be taking her home with us.

Chloe was on CPAP for 5 days and was in level 5 care for a week. We were thrilled when she moved beds to a lower level of care, it was one step closer to the door (and home with us!!). Her weight dropped down to 1422grams a week after she was born but she’s been steadily gaining ever since. She had trouble with milk initially so she was relying on the longline for her nutrients for the first week. When Chloe came off CPAP she was not put on oxygen at all so on day 13 when she was put back on oxygen I felt so frightened. Up until that point all she’d been doing was improving so at the time I felt quite sad that this was necessary. Chloe came off - then went back on - oxygen once more before she came home. The next time it happened I was totally ok with it, it was just helping her to stay strong.

By day 12 Chloe was being fully tube fed so the longline was removed. I was very relieved as it looked uncomfortable. Her tiny little arm was taped from hand to elbow holding it all in place so it was good to see that gone, and again, one more step closer to taking her home with us.

After 19 days in the isolette, Chloe was moved into an open air cot. This was a particularly happy day as I felt that I could get closer to her and it felt more ‘normal’ as I could stand in front of her for cares etc., rather than reaching her through 2 small windows in an isolette.

3 weeks old and I gave Chloe her first bath! She loved it, as did I. As each day went by we were getting closer and closer to taking her home. Being able to bath her was another fabulous moment. At 22 days old Chloe began to bottle feed, she was 34 ½ weeks gestational age at this stage. Over the next week and a half we gradually increased the ratio of bottle feeds to tube feeds, all the while her oxygen saturation was being monitored closely. She had trouble learning to suck, swallow and breathe all at the same time. This eventually came to her and we were allowed to take her home!

The day we left hospital was so surreal, we’d been waiting for it to happen for so long and when it did it felt a little odd. For 33 days we’d been visiting our baby at the hospital and leaving her there when we went home to bed each night, now she was going to be there with us. Chloe was 36 weeks gestation the day she came home. It was so nice not to have to go for a drive to see our little baby, we could just walk into a room to check on her. Absolute bliss!

As I write this, Chloe is 3 ½ months old and growing well! We’re in touch with a Paediatrician for regular checkups and our follow up appointment with the cardiologist found an ASD (hole in the heart) in Chloe’s heart. We’re hoping that this will grow closed in time and that it won’t need surgery. Chloe is smiling (melts my heart every time!) and she’s also rolling over. I don’t know how we’ll cope as she reaches each of her milestones, I’m sure the pain never goes away of losing a child, especially knowing that the girls are identical, you look at Chloe and you know that there should be another one exactly like her right by her side. We never got to know Emily but she was and will always be a part of our family. She’ll always be watching over Chloe and our family.

We’re eternally grateful for the Liverpool Hospital NICU and everyone who makes the place tick. Words cannot express our gratitude for keeping Chloe alive when she was so vulnerable. Chloe and I have been attending the Miracle Babies NurtureGroup in Sydney for several weeks now and that is wonderful to be a part of. The volunteers and parents there are amazing. It’s nice to be able to be in touch with people who have been through similar journeys with their babies and know that the foundation is there to support us while we went through the NICU and beyond.

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