My name is Kate, mother of twins girls Phoebe and Tamsin. The reason for me writing this blog about the girls is because they were born 11 weeks premature (29 weeks).
This is about their journey as they grow through the years. No doubt I will have plenty more wrinkles before they spread their wings and fly the nest but my god I am enjoying it so far!
One of the reasons I wanted to talk about the twins being born so early is because when me and my partner Sam did what the doctors and nurses told us not to and Google ‘Twins born at 29 weeks’ we found nothing but negative and scary news. For that reason I wanted to write a positive blog about the experience. And yes, my twin girls are healthy and well!
I won’t deny it, the journey was tough. The twins were in Stepping Hill Neonatal Unit for two months. Every day I spent 8-10 hours at the unit watching my baby girls grow. There were good days and bad days, but most importantly it was a happy ending. The twins have no health issues and are acting like any other child at their age would be.
They were in Intensive Care for five and a half weeks, Critical Care for two and a half weeks and Transitional Care for four days.
Before having the twins I had never heard of a Neonatal Unit and had no idea what journey I was about to embark on. I knew 29 weeks was scarily early but I had total trust and hope in the nurses that they would do a great job. I was SO right. I often pop back into the unit even now as I became friends with many of the nurses, one in particular Chris, I see outside of the hospital. I will never forget the nurses. They kept my children alive and helped them grow, something I will never be able to thank them enough for.
The first five and a half weeks were adjusting to what had happened. My waters broke unexpected at a friend’s house and both twins were born naturally all within three hours. Phoebe and Tamsin were placed into incubators and rushed to the unit where I didn’t see them for six hours.
Once I was allowed to see them, they had numorous wires and monitors attached to them. Getting used to all the beeps was tough at first but you do get used to them. Here the twins went under blue lamps to treat Jaundice and had heel pricks to test their blood gases every hour. Luckliy they didn’t need to be put on ventilators, they could breathe with assistance of the CPAP machine.
I wasn’t allowed to hold the twins for a few days due to infection control. However I could put my hands in and place them onto their head and tummy for comfort. Then after that I could have what is called Kangaroo Care (skin-on-skin). This felt amazing after seeing them in an incubator for days.
Like I said before, being in intensive care was a roller coaster ride. After four weeks they were off the CPAP and were moved into Critical Care. This is where they had their first weekly eye test to check their eyes were developing ok. Both reacted badly to the eye solution used and went back into Intensive Care on the CPAP full time. A huge, upsetting back step.
They recovered after a few days and a different solution was used for the eye test, which worked fine. The twins were again moved into the Critical Care room and by my surprise were wearing clothes! This was a huge step forward and wearing clothes meant the nurses were confident in their breathing and didn’t have to watch their chests move up and down in just their nappies.
However there was another set back. Phoebe fell ill and was having lots of desats (low oxygen in blood level). She went grey and very unresponsive. We had a call at 3am in the morning stating she went back into Intensive Care and back on CPAP full time.
The worst thing was the doctors didn’t know what it was. They did a Lumbar Puncture test to rule out viruses like Meningitis and nothing showed in the results. Not knowing what was wrong with her was frightening. Luckily after five days she came out of the illness and was fine. Doctors put it down to an infection.
Phoebe joined Tamsin in Critical Care and they stayed in this room for a couple of weeks. Here me and Sam could bath them, pick them up whenever we wanted without having to ask a nurse and I could practice breastfeeding them. Their apnoea alarms went off quite often but this became less frequent as the days went on. Not a nice sound to hear but again you get used to them.
The twins did suffer from reflux but after time this also went and they were given Gaviscon to help, which in my opinion didn’t really help the twins but I know it helped other babies on the unit.
I wasn’t allowed to go home with the twins until they could breastfeed. Normally they master this at 37 weeks but mine were a little ahead and were breastfeeding fully at 36 weeks. Sam stayed with me for two nights to get used to having them without any alarms, which was difficult to adjust to.
When breastfeeding was mastered and there was no apnoea’s, we were allowed home! They had a hearing test that they passed and all routine checks were completed. We had to add vitamins to their milk up until they were one years old.
The twins are slightly smaller for their age but other than that they are healthy, smiley twins!
I have decided to write this blog from when they turn one, which is tomorrow! Naturally I wanted to write this sooner but I have had my hands full!