Maia and Iona

When I went for my routine fortnightly scan at 31 weeks, I expected to be back at my desk by lunchtime. However, the ultrasound showed that the smaller twin was not getting all the nutrients a growing fetus requires and it was decided that my babies needed to be delivered.

Although their chances of survival were more than 90 per cent, it still terrified me to be delivering my babies so early. I felt so unprepared and our first visit to the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit did little to reassure me with its daunting array of monitors and incubators.

I was given the first of two steroid injections to get the babies’ lungs working, and was booked in for a caesarian two days later.  My babies were born at 15.07 and 15.08 on 16th April 2008. The first baby, Maia, weighed 1.57kg (3.5lb). She was quite well and I was allowed a quick cuddle before she was taken down to the Neo natal Intensive Care Unit. However, Iona weighed just 790 grams (1.7lb) and was immediately rushed into an incubator and put on to a ventilator.

My husband went with the babies, but due to the caesarean I was not able to follow. The hardest part of my delivery was that I was unable to see my babies until the following morning.

My first sight of my babies was unbelievable. Although tiny, both were perfectly formed and now both breathing on their own.

Maia was fairly quickly transferred into a heated, open cot but at almost half her sister’s weight Iona was kept in an incubator for a few weeks. We soon became used to the bleeps and flashes of the monitors in NICU, and it became quite reassuring to watch the wobbly line of their heartbeats.

I was given strong support from the nurses to breastfeed, and shown how to express milk. I began a routine of expressing every three hours and, after a tortuous first week, managed to produce a regular supply. Taking freshly expressed milk at 3am felt like my way of nurturing them.

We were encouraged to have lots of skin contact with the babies, and for Maia were able to change her nappies and encourage her to breast feed. However, contact with Iona was limited in the beginning to once a day. My husband and I used to take turns at ‘kangaroo cuddles’, in which she was placed inside our Tshirts and we could let her sleep against us.

By 4 ½ weeks, Maia was able to breast feed and allowed to come home but Iona had only just crossed the 1kg (2.2lb) mark and had to remain. My life revolved around feeding Maia, expressing milk for Iona, and dragging myself and newborn onto the bus every day to get to the hospital.

At 7 ½ weeks, Iona had learned to take a bottle and could finally come home. Still determined to breast feed them both, I continued my cycle of feeding and expressing, until slowly Iona began to feed directly from me.

I was lucky that the girls didn’t need to go through any major surgery, but the heartache and frustration we felt, and the sheer exhaustion of traveling backwards and forwards to the hospital shaped the first two months of their lives. Although I missed out on those early bonding moments, finally having them home made up for everything, and the strong support of both family members and the hospital staff helped us all to get through.

Maeve from Peckham, mum of Maia and Iona 3

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