My girls were born three months early due to twin to twin transfusion syndrome and were both taken within a month, here is their story:
We were ecstatic, when after 4 months of marriage I became pregnant. Although I was feeling very ill, I was still overjoyed to be pregnant. I was totally shocked and thrilled to be told at my 12 week scan that I was only 9 weeks pregnant but I was having twins! It was such a big challenge to be having two, but we were just happy that everything was okay at that stage.
The 14 week scan showed that my twins were identical (diamniotic) and monochorionic. I would have to have a scan every 2 weeks to make sure they were okay, but I didn't mind. Unlike other mothers I would be able to see my babies a great deal during my pregnancy, it was very reassuring to see my little ones growing and changing. At 20 weeks I found out I was having girls. I hadn't cared what gender they were, as long as they were born healthy and okay.
My pregnancy at this stage was pretty bad. I was constantly sick, losing weight and I often felt very faint sometimes passing out. I had to take a month off work before the fainting and sickness subsided and I began to enjoy being pregnant.
A week after my 22 week scan, I suddenly felt an enormous amount of pain. I just assumed it was my uterus stretching as I had been experiencing pain like that all the way through my pregnancy. The same day, I noticed I was losing some fluid too which I took to be urine due to the weakness of my bladder. A couple of days later the pain returned and wouldn’t go. My boss took me to the delivery suite at Bradford Royal Infirmary, where they confirmed I was in labour, but that it wasn't advanced enough to be too concerned about and they gave me some drugs that eventually stopped it. My husband arrived but they were not willing to let me leave the delivery suite never mind go home.
The next day, my consultant scanned me and was concerned with the fluid surrounding one of the babies. A second scan confirmed that it was stage 4 twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. Although this was, the most advanced stage there was absolutely nothing I could have done, but they could perhaps still try and find a way to save the babies, or at least keep them in there longer. At this point I had just entered my 24th week, which gave my babies some chance however small.
I was then transferred to the fetal medicine department at Leeds General Infirmary. There they would be able to see the how the blood vessels in the placenta were organised and check the babies in more detail. The best we could hope for was that I would be recommended for laser surgery in London at King’s.
On arrival I was scanned by one of the doctors. She looked only very briefly at my girls and then went to get the consultant. I didn't think anything of that as I was still hoping that everything would be okay. The consultant came in and looked briefly at Lucy, the larger twin with all the fluid round her, but she hovered over Bryonie, the smaller twin. As there was a monitor above the bed, I could see what they saw. She just was not moving. I thought perhaps she was sleeping, but I couldn't see her familiar heartbeat either. I turned to the consultant and asked "Is she still alive?” She looked at me and simply said, "No, Catherine, she's not".
I became absolutely hysterical and pleaded with the consultant to try and save my other baby. I couldn't get it into my mind that I had lost one. I couldn't lose two.
When I was calmer, they took me back in and looked solely at Lucy. She was awake and full of life. She was drinking her fluid and wriggling about. The consultant told me I had a naughty daughter and that made me smile. I had one baby to cling to. They concluded that my daughter was okay, there were no obvious problems and the placenta and cord were okay.
The shock of losing Bryonie started labour and I was taken to the delivery suite, but it subsided and I was moved to a side room in a ward before being transferred back to Bradford. During the journey labour started once again and then subsided. However early the next day, it started again and this time it did not stop until I gave birth. On 5th April 2007, at 24 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy, Lucy Charlotte was born alive and wriggling weighing 1lb 10 oz. I was allowed to fleetingly touch the top of her head as the neonatal team took her away. Bryonie Catherine was born three minutes later weighing 460 grams. She was curled up and still inside her little sac. The midwife, an amazing lady, took her out and looked at her. She said, "Oh, she's just perfect" and I started to cry. She was wrapped up in a blanket and handed to me. She felt warm still, despite dying four days previously, her eyes and mouth were closed and a tiny dribble of blood came from her nose. She looked like she'd been in a war. She was bruised and her skin was an unhappy combination of purple and pink, but the midwife was right - Bryonie was perfect.
I looked at her, utterly dejected and my husband took her and wept over her tiny body. She weighed less than a pound. My mother in law held her and cried too. The next day, I was given a card, containing Bryonie's hospital tags with her birth weight and her hand and foot prints. There were also pictures of her. I was so grateful to the midwife who cleaned and dressed her as I had a copy of my Bryonie's pretty face. They asked if I wanted to see her again and I declined. I didn't want to remember her as cold, stiff and blue. I wanted to remember her as warm and sleeping like she was the night before. Now I wish I had seen her again, just to hold her and kiss her one last time.
I finally got to meet my Lucy that morning too. She was deep pink and on a ventilator. Tubes and wires come out of her. She was wriggling about and moving. The neonatal nurse looking after her told me I could touch her. I washed my hands thoroughly and tentatively touched my baby’s foot.
I was discharged the next day. I hated being remotely near other people's healthy, happy babies. It hurt too much. I went home and just cried for hours. We could lose Lucy at any moment and Bryonie was gone.
Lucy progressed one moment and then went backwards the rest of the time. She would be coping well with the drugs, but then she'd be fighting the ventilator. They had to give her morphine to sedate her and give her pain relief.
The neonatal staff were as wonderful as the midwives and treated my husband and I brilliantly. Lucy was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary for a 90 minute operation to close the duct in her heart with a titanium clip. How my brave girl coped, I don't know. She was the bravest human being I have ever known. Every day something happened to distress her and everyday, she coped with it.
The operation was a success, but in the days afterwards, her lungs began to deteriorate and they couldn't take her back to Bradford. We stayed with her everyday. We sang to her and talked to her often reading her 'Guess How Much I Love You?’ We had no idea if she even heard us, but her Dad and I would read a page each to her.
One day, the head consultant took us to one side. He told us that Lucy was not making progress. We were shown X-rays of her lungs and even to us as non-medical people it was obvious there nothing left of them. So as we sat in that room, we knew what was coming; our precious, beautiful little angel baby was dying. She was leaving us; she wanted to go.
We were stunned. We had known it was coming, but it still hit us hard when someone told us. Every avenue had been exhausted; they just couldn't make her better. It seemed outrageous - they'd only been trying a month. Why not try longer? But then you go through it all and you know they're right.
We decided to let her get to her 1 month birthday, on Saturday 5th May. We thought she deserved to get there after all she was such a tough little baby with such a tenacity for life. I spent every moment I could with my darling baby after that. Counting her fingers and toes, kissing her head and talking to her. Telling her about her family and me the many things she would have learned when she grew up. The hours seemed to just slip by. My precious girl was going to leave me and no matter how many photos I took or dresses I put her in, it seemed like nothing at all.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, the sister on the ward, assisted by the registrar doctor and a nurse let me hold my baby for the first time ever. It took three of them to lift my 1lb 13oz baby and all her wires and place her into my lap. It was the most magical moment of my life. I had my photo taken with her and I cradled her close to me. She was beautiful; so perfect and so tiny.
I wanted to speak to the consultant on-call, after all our family had arrived - just to make sure I was doing the right thing. I'm an educated and realistic human being, but I'm a mother and I cannot ignore my instinct to protect her. I had to be absolutely sure that she was definitely dying. I had to hear it one last time.
The consultant happily answered every single question and explained as best he could, how ill she was. He said that she was dying; her lungs were so damaged that she could not possibly recover. Still I agonised to agree to end my darling baby's suffering but as we discussed how to go about taking her off her ventilator, Lucy took the decision out of my hands. She must have heard her Mummy give her permission to go onto that silent place without her and had given up her fight; she had known it was time to spread her wings.
It seemed to happen in a few moments that lasted hours. I dashed to the quiet room where all my family were and told them that she was going and it was happening now. My brother gave me a big hug and I ran out again. She died there in her Mummy's arms, surrounded by her family. I wept for the longest time. My poor baby became on Angel before her time. After everyone held her, I bathed her, changed her nappy, dressed her in her Blessing dress and wrapped her in a blanket. She looked gorgeous as a really great minister blessed her.
The funerals were two of the most awful days of our lives. We opted to put our little girls in the Snowdrop Garden in Bradford. This is a communal vault where many babies and children are buried. It is beautifully kept and gets the sunshine in the afternoon, which is the time of day children play outside when they come home from school.
Twice, I had to watch the back of the estate car from the funeral directors open up to reveal a tiny coffin. What broke my already shattered heart further was that Lucy's coffin was twice as big as Bryonie's. The council went out of their way to put Lucy next to her sister. Bryonie has Lucy on one side and a very special little boy called Noah on the other.
I don't want anyone to forget my girls. I know that you have never met them, held them, kissed them or played with them, but they were real and tangible. They were so briefly on this Earth and they will remain in the souls of my husband and me forever. Please hold them in your heart and in your prayers, because that is where they will always be.