Pregnancy and baby

Real story: premature twins

Anna Mclynn, 36, explains how she coped when her twins, Amelie and Isabel, were born eight weeks prematurely, one with serious complications.

"After becoming pregnant by IVF, I was very anxious during my pregnancy. At six weeks, I began to bleed. I discovered that I had been carrying triplets, but one of the babies had died. Then a routine scan at 20 weeks showed that there was a discrepancy in the twins’ amniotic fluid levels.

"From then, I was scanned every two weeks. At 32 weeks, I was told I needed an emergency caesarean section as one twin had stopped growing and was in distress. I was lucky because I had been shown around the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and special care baby unit (SCBU), so I knew what would happen to my babies once they were born.

"After the twins were born, my husband went with them to the NICU and I fell asleep. When I woke up 12 hours later, I was told that when the doctors had tried to insert a feeding tube into Amelie’s throat, it wouldn’t go down. She had been born with a congenital condition, called tracheoesophageal fistula, which meant her oesophagus hadn’t developed properly and wasn’t connected to her stomach.

"She had to be transferred immediately from St Helier’s Hospital in Epsom, where she’d been born, to St George’s in Tooting for surgery. I was rushed down to the NICU and got to touch her plastic incubator to say hello and goodbye before she left.

"My husband went with Amelie, while I stayed in hospital with Isabel. But during Amelie’s operation, she had a cardiac arrest, so I had to dash to St George’s, two days after my c-section, to be with her. It was nine days before the doctors agreed to operate again and give her the chance to survive.

"This time, I was determined to be the last person she saw before the operation. The surgery went well, but then she went downhill afterwards and ended up on a ventilator. I think that was my lowest point.

"At St Helier, where Isabel was, I felt really involved with her care. Even though I couldn’t always be there because I had to be at St George’s with Amelie, the nurses tried to make sure I could do some of her feeds. But it was hard travelling between two hospitals all the time.

"The plan was for the twins to come home together, but in the end Amelie wasn’t well enough and Isabel came home first after 38 days. It was good to have the opportunity to learn how to care for a premature baby with just one at home, but I couldn’t wait to have Amelie home too.

"After 54 days, Amelie came home, but it was hard to care for twins when one was critically ill. In the early days, I was always rushing to A&E and going to doctor’s appointments with Amelie, so I spent a lot of time palming Isabel off on other people.

"This caused a lot of psychological problems for me and Isabel, and it took me around 18 months to start bonding with her properly. Eventually, I found a few people I trusted to care for Amelie, so I could spend some time alone with Isabel. But even now, she sometimes plays up to get my attention, particularly at feeding time, which is always a tense time with Amelie.

"Now the girls are three, things are a lot calmer, but it has taken a long time for me to feel more like a mum than a nurse. I know I'm a much more cautious mum because of Amelie. The one thing that stays with me is some advice I was given by my neonatal counsellor. She told me to remember that being 'good enough' is fine. You don’t have to be supermum."

The Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba) has a downloadable Parents' Guide to Neonatal Care booklet on their website. You will need to register with the charity first.

Page last reviewed: 05/06/2014

Next review due: 05/06/2016

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