Our story begins July 2011 with 2 blue lines
Very excited, we went for our first scan at 8 weeks. We weren’t at all prepared for what we were about to see – two gestational sacs and two tiny heartbeats. Shocked, we left the doctors rooms starting to take in what we have just seen.
As a nurse and midwife I’m aware of all the risks with multiple pregnancy and we were a bit worried about what my lie ahead. We were very fortunate to have a very easy pregnancy up until 31 weeks. By this time I was very uncomfortable and my blood pressure was getting higher with every visit.
Three days after my doctors visit I started getting period like backache, I contacted my doctor and I was send for foetal monitoring, where they detected contractions. I was admitted for preterm labour and received medication to stop contractions and steroids to mature the babies’ lungs. I was discharged after two days on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. A day later I was suddenly very short of breath and after a night of sitting up because I couldn’t breathe, I contacted my doctor again I was immediately referred to a hospital with a neonatal unit.
I was admitted for pulmonary oedema and pre- eclampsia. I was so scared because I was only 32weeks and the babies’ weights were around 1, 8 kg each.
The next day the doctors decided it was best to deliver the twins. The girls were born at 32w2d weighing 2,075kg and 1,810kg. I could only see them for a brief second before they were wheeled off to the NICU. Hanlie, the bigger twin was only hooked up to monitors and didn’t need any oxygen. Little Santie was hooked up to monitors and she received oxygen via CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). The next morning Santie came off CPAP and didn’t need any further oxygen.
Nothing could prepare me for my first visit to the NICU: there they were. Two tiny, little bodies with all these monitors and drips and tubes. This was a very emotional moment for me.
The girls were a day old before I could actually see them for more than a split second and although I couldn’t hold them right away I could touch them and talk to them. Later that day we got the okay that we could KMC (kangaroo mother care) them that night! What an awesome experience it was to finally be able to hold them. The nurses helped to get them out of the incubators and onto our chests without interfering with the monitors.
From day two I had a big task- to produce enough milk for two babies. At first I hand expressed the colostrum and at home, I started pumping. I also had to put the babies to the breast which was a big challenge because babies only learn to coordinate their suck and swallowing at around 34 weeks.
When the girls where 3 days old I was discharged from the hospital. This was one of the hardest things to do: leave those two little ones there.
Then came the next challenge: getting to the hospital everyday to bring expressed milk and to visit the girls. After a c-section, you are unable to drive for some time so I had to ask my mom, husband or mother-in-law to take me.
After a week or so the girls started to latch from time to time and my milk was finally enough for two babies. After another week I came in for longer periods of time so that I could breastfeed for more than one feed per day. The expressing, feeding and coming to the hospital was very tiring and there where times that I didn’t feel like a mom at all. It felt like the nurses knew my babies better than I did and I had trouble bonding with them because they where so tiny and because we where separated for so long.
After 23 days in NICU the girls could finally came home: Hanlie weighing 2,3 kg and Santie 2,2 kg. It was so nice dressing the girls in their own clothing and wrapping them in their own blankets and finally taking them home with us.
I learned that with babies in NICU, one should have a good support system. You should take lots of photos, asked questions about how your babies are doing or what all the treatments are, rest enough while they are there, talk to your doctors and ask about breastfeeding and kangaroo care.