On 5 July 2013, I gave birth to twin daughters, Catherine and Lucy, at 30 weeks gestation. I had been closely monitored from 16 weeks as there was a suspicion that they might have twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome; a disease which affects the placenta. Luckily, this never developed, but the smaller twin was struggling with poor blood supply and at 27 weeks, I was sent by ambulance as an emergency as they thought I might need to deliver that day.
However, our identical twin girls were born by emergency Caesarean-section at 30 weeks, after the smaller twin, Lucy, had a critical deterioration in her blood supply. Whilst we had been expecting to deliver any time, it was still a shock to be told on the day that I would have my twins in six hours’ time!
I never saw Lucy initially as she had to go straight to the neonatal intensive care unit, but I saw Catherine briefly and my only thought was that she was far, far too small. I only saw Lucy later that afternoon and she was even smaller! We were given lots of Bliss leaflets when we arrived on the neonatal unit, which were very useful and helped us better understand what was happening.
The twins were both ventilated for about five days and then swiftly put onto CPAP. We transferred hospitals when they were two weeks of age and from then on we had six weeks of watching our babies grow and learn to feed. It was quite hard at times, as every time I was with the twins on the ward, I was absolutely sick with guilt of leaving my not-then-two year old daughter Eleanor, who had never been left for so long or so often in the past. Although she could visit the ward, she needed to leave after about half an hour as she became restless. Every time I left the ward however, I also felt completely terrible for leaving the twins, as what mother would leave their babies in hospital to be cared for by nurses by choice? All of the nurses were excellent and I could not have asked for better care, but the thought that my babies could not be cuddled or handled at all without rubber gloves on made me feel absolutely horrified. It was also almost a three hour round trip to visit them every day. I wondered whether I would feel less attached to my babies as a result of this, but luckily that has never been a problem.
We had high day to day expenses. I was paying £23.90 per week for a rail card, and £11 per week on a bus ticket, as I could not drive due to my C-section. Trains were very unreliable, so on occasion I had to get a taxi, especially when timing was crucial either due to childcare arrangements or due to meetings with consultants; this cost about £30 each way. No food or drinks were provided and we were unable to eat on the ward at all, so although I took a packed lunch every day, I had to pay for drinks in order to be able to sit in the coffee shop and sneakily eat my own lunch.
My husband, James, was my rock throughout the whole time. While on paternity leave, he had to drive me to hospital, collect me at the end of the day, transfer Eleanor to whatever childcare arrangements we had that day, deal with her being upset that Mummy was yet again leaving her, deal with my outpourings of emotion, and find time to visit the twins.
In total the twins had to spend eight weeks in hospital. Lucy had a degree of retinopathy of prematurity, which was followed up on a couple of appointments after they were discharged, but this has now resolved. They are both doing amazingly well now.
Bliss is campaigning for more financial help for parents of premature and sick babies with high costs, such as Anna and her family had.
Find out more about the campaign