At this point, things get a little blurry in terms of my memory. I started to gag and vomit again. I was stitched up and taken to recovery. I was alone for that last bit of surgery which felt like an eternity. I just wanted an update on my babies. It was so different from my first experience, last time I had Ade by my side and Emily never left his arms. This time I was alone. No husband. No babies.
On Wednesday, I went to see my OB for my standard weekly check up. All was well. Things were looking good on ultrasound. My blood pressure was okay (a tiny bit elevated, but as many of you know it was up and down throughout my whole pregnancy). My OB said everything was on track. Our aim was to still get to 38 weeks (I was currently 35 weeks) but I physically knew that I probably wouldn’t make it that far. I was at my limit. Everything was swollen. Everything. It was the middle of a Sydney heat wave with temps clocking over 39 degrees most days.
The pressure I was experiencing was insane, so much so that I would have to brace myself if we were going over a bump in the car. I couldn’t climb stairs properly. I wasn’t physically able to get down to the toilet and would free fall, praying I wouldn’t rip it off the wall. I couldn’t roll over in bed. I asked my OB if we could schedule a C-section in sooner – I didn’t want to have an emergency C-section like last time, I didn’t want to go into labour at all and I wanted to know when would be the earliest we could deliver with no complications for the babies.
I felt so defeated that day. I did my urine sample like always and then headed home. That afternoon I got a call from the midwife…even though my blood pressure was okay at the appointment, there was protein in my urine and it was at the highest level it could be. A tell tale sign of preeclampsia; what we had been trying so hard to avoid. My OB wanted me to go into hospital for a day stay to have my blood pressure monitored the next day. It was all precautionary. On Thursday, I dropped Emmy at daycare and off I went to check into the hospital day stay. I was excited about spending a day in aircon.
My blood pressure was stable…up until about 4:00pm. Shortly after that my blood pressure started to rise, they admitted me so they could continue to monitor me overnight. I felt fine at this point. I called to hook up my hospital TV, filled everyone in on what was happening, stocked up on snacks and organised for Emmy to be picked up from daycare and have a sleep over at my parents. I was looking forward to eating some chocolate and watching my choice of TV in bed, avoiding all domestic responsibilities and totally tuning out for the night.
my blood pressure continued to rise from that point on and nothing they tried was able to bring it down.
But, my blood pressure continued to rise from that point on and nothing they tried was able to bring it down. I had a doctor, intern and a midwife with me at all times and they were constantly liaising with my OB. The only option was to deliver the babies. I called Ade and told him it was likely that we would be delivering the babies tonight and I called Mum to fill her in. No rush, everything was under control for now, but by 9:00pm my blood pressure was so high that it became urgent we deliver the babies right away. I was being prepped for surgery and Adrian was making the dash from home after a slightly panicked phone conversation that went something like “You’re going to miss it all!!! Hurry up and fucking get here!!!”… things happened so quickly that a doctor met him at the hospital entrance to take him straight into theatre.
It was funny because I felt relieved that I didn’t have to carry these babies anymore. I knew I was physically at my limit but I was also so angry at myself that I couldn’t hang in there for longer. My babies weren’t ready for this world and I was worried about their health and what this early delivery would mean. I cried a lot but I had started to feel so sick by that stage that I knew we needed to get them out. My blood pressure was so high that they were worried about administering the anaesthetic and continued to pump me with drugs to try and get it to an acceptable level to at least operate. I ballooned with fluid. My head felt like it was about to explode. I was shaking and I was vomiting.
I wanted to see my babies, I wanted their little faces etched into my mind because I knew I wouldn’t get to hold them.
The surgery began. I was determined to be present because after my emergency C-section with Emily I was SO exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open. I wanted to see my babies, I wanted their little faces etched into my mind because I knew I wouldn’t get to hold them. They’d be whisked away to the NICU and I knew it would be a few hours before I could see them again.
Maeve came first, she was small compared to Emily but she was still chunky and weighed in at 2.8kgs. I was happy. She looked healthy and looked exactly like her big sister.
Violet came second. She was so small. Smaller than the ultrasounds had anticipated. I was a little in shock because I hadn’t expected her to be so tiny. I could see her bones. I cried. I was so angry at myself for not giving her a better start. It was too early and I knew she hadn’t grown enough. She weighed in at 2.1kgs, exactly half the size of Emily when she was born. Despite being so tiny I was relieved she was over 2kgs. I knew that was the “magical” number in terms of premmie development and health.
They were taken to the NICU and Ade went with them. I told him not to be long; I wanted a full report of how they were and everything that was happening in the NICU.
At this point, things get a little blurry in terms of my memory. I started to gag and vomit again. I was stitched up and taken to recovery. I was alone for that last bit of surgery which felt like an eternity. I just wanted an update on my babies. It was so different from my first experience, last time I had Ade by my side and Emily never left his arms. This time I was alone. No husband. No babies. I decided to just close my eyes because if I kept looking around, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from crying.
During the handover, I heard one of the nurses say “Can we just check this, there is a little bit of blood”… I think they say that to not freak out the patient but it must have been a shit load of blood because almost immediately there was someone on top of me pushing down “massaging” my uterus trying to get it to contract. I cannot even describe the pain and the force that this was being done. It was unbearable. I screamed. I begged her stop. I started hitting at her hands.
“We need to get her back into surgery” … “We can’t stop the bleeding.”
“We need to get her back into surgery” she said. I remember someone coming right down to my ear and saying… “We can’t stop the bleeding. I can’t say for sure but it’s highly likely you’ll need a hysterectomy. We are calling your OB back to operate but you’ll need to sign this waiver for surgery”. They weren’t able to give me any of the usual drugs that help your uterus contract because my blood pressure was so high and they were extremely worried about stroke.
“Can someone call my husband?” I said. “I need to speak to my husband.” but they couldn’t find his phone number in all the rush and I was terrified I’d never see him or my girls again… back I went to surgery and I was out.
When I woke up, I was surrounded by doctors… there would have been 8 or more on all sides of my bed. I was told I was in ICU, but almost immediately I heard “Here he is!”, they pulled back the curtain and I saw Ade. He looked at me, burst into tears and walked away. I thought in that moment that I was dying and I wondered if they had just brought him in one last time to see me…
I found out later that I had been in surgery for hours but when Ade went to find me to report back relatively quickly after the girls were admitted to the NICU, the hospital didn’t actually know where I was. He didn’t even know I was back in surgery. It all happened so fast that the only information that he was eventually able to find out after a whole bunch of searching from the wonderful nurses in NICU was that I was haemorrhaging and was in theatre. How traumatic for him, at 3:00am in the morning, in the NICU with your newborn twins and no idea if your wife will be ok… the last words she said to you were “Don’t be long”.
The next thing I remember from that night was waking up to a midwife hand expressing my boobs to get colostrum. I didn’t even speak to her, I just closed my eyes and went back to sleep.
I was in ICU for 3 days and was in and out of consciousness for most of that time. I avoided a hysterectomy and had a Bakri balloon inserted into my uterus to stop the bleeding. I needed 4 blood transfusions. A midwife from NICU would come and express my boobs every 3 hours. I was fed by IV for 3 days. I couldn’t even have water in case I needed to be rushed back to surgery. I wasn’t allowed to brush my teeth. Dry mouth took on a whole new meaning for me. I lost 13kgs in a week (all fluid and baby).
The next day, my immediate family started to visit but I don’t remember much. I had full blown text conversations with friends that I have no recollection of. One of the midwives from NICU delivered 2 print outs, a page each of photos of the girls. I looked at them for hours over the next 3 days, studying everything about their tiny features.
24 hours after the girls were born I was wheeled out of ICU to see them for the first time. I was only allowed to stay for about 15-20 minutes, I wasn’t allowed out of bed and they packed a resuscitation unit for our trip down, just in case my heart stopped!
I got to hold Violet for the first time. I was so happy but I remember her boney body against mine, so fragile and small. I didn’t get to hold Maeve, but I was able to touch her hand through the tiny hole in the humidicrib.
I didn’t get to see them again until the end of day 3 when I was finally moved out of ICU and onto the normal maternity ward. I remained there for another 5 days and was back and forth between the NICU. I was expressing round the clock and being constantly monitored. I was on IV antibiotics 3 times a day and my blood pressure was being taken hourly while they figured out the best drug combination to bring it back under control. It was still extremely high. I had my first shower. My first meal. I heard babies crying all day and night which was a stark reminder that my babies weren’t with me. I cried a lot those next few days, especially at night, alone in that hospital room. One night my Mum had brought up dinner and we cried together. She recounted her version of the events and how she thought she might lose me.
The hardcore drugs from ICU were phased out and I focused on getting up and moving about despite the pain. I needed help to shower and get dressed. I required another blood transfusion on day 6.
Day 7 I was discharged, Emily was thrilled. I was glad to be home but in my mind, this was when the real work started. We needed to get the girls home. I did everything humanly possible to make that happen. My hormones were out of control and I remember being in the shower that first night home and sobbing so uncontrollably and loudly that Ade came in to check on me. My heart broke into a million pieces every time I thought about them not being home with us.
I’d wake up and pump every 3 hours and deliver milk to the NICU. I’d be there first thing in the morning and head home at night to do the dinner, bath, bed routine with Emily. She was struggling in her own way to deal with all the changes and everything that had happened, so it was important that I was there for her. She had so many questions about my “scratch”, she didn’t fully understand why she couldn’t touch her sisters and why they had to stay in hospital…
In the NICU I’d cuddle the girls all day. If I wasn’t cuddling them, I’d try and make sure Ade was. It wasn’t just about doing the basics, it wasn’t just about making sure they were fed and their stats monitored. I needed to make sure they felt loved. I needed them to know that I was there. I had so much guilt about being absent at the beginning. I had so much to make up for. I blamed myself for them being in there.
The NICU is a funny place, it’s filled with hope and love and the staff are so wonderful but it’s intense. Emotions are in free fall, there are tiny victories, big setbacks and everyone there is slightly on edge. There is hardly any natural light, it’s dark and there are constant alarms going off, constant checks and the constant sound of humming machines. It’s artificial.
Sometimes you have the same nurse looking after you for days, she knows you, she knows your babies and the next day you have someone you’ve never seen before. A total stranger. People talk about you and your babies in the third person when you’re standing right there. You don’t want to leave but you can’t wait to get out of that place at the end of each day either. It’s mentally exhausting.
After about 12 days, the girls were strong enough for us to take them out in the pram for a short time but we had to stay within the hospital grounds. We went outside. I felt the sunlight. Ade and I ate lunch together. We pushed the pram and I felt normal for the first time since having them.
To be discharged from the NICU the girls needed to go 48 hours of having only sucking feeds (no feeds could be administered by tube and either had to be breast or bottle). I left the hospital that night, we’d reached 36 hours. I couldn’t sleep all night. I was praying they’d make it through the next 12 hours. I just kept thinking that I’d walk in the next morning, their tubes would be back in and we’d have to start all over again. I was preparing myself for the worst. I felt sick driving to the hospital that day but when I arrived; I was told they’d made it. I cried. After doctor’s rounds that morning, we would be discharged.
I personally still wasn’t 100% though, I was on a tonne of medication to keep my blood pressure under control and I still had limited movement from surgery. I knew once we got home things would be tough, but I didn’t care, we’d deal with whatever was thrown at us. The night before Emily told me that we could live happily ever after when the babies came home and my scratch was better. As we walked out those hospital doors with our babies, I knew our happily ever after was just beginning.