Sunday, 26 July 2009

Things fall apart

Everything started to go wrong from that point forward. The day that I found out I was expecting twins I went from being 'the most healthy, normal pregnancy' on my midwife's book to a high-risk pregnancy.

I did start to panic a bit more. The midwife I was seeing kindly agreed that I could go in to see her more frequently as I was becoming anxious. For the remaining eleven and a bit weeks of my pregnancy, I visited the surgery once every two weeks to listen to the heartbeats. I will never forget the sound. I used to head back into the car park with a grin a mile wide.

I only knew that I was expecting twins for eleven and a half weeks.

I got precisely what I desired. A baby. A baby girl. My heart's secret wish. If I was honest, I wanted a girl. It has an almost fairy-tale like quality to it. You will get your heart's desire but you have to make this Faustian pact. The happiest time of your life will also be the saddest time. You will look at the daughter that you love so much and it will always be just slightly unsettling. Her shadow sister.

At the twenty week scan, the news was not great. One of the girls (as we found out) had a pericardial effusion, a collection of fluid around her heart. I remember crying in the quiet room, where they take the parents who are getting bad news.

We were referred to fetal medicine at a larger hospital. We had two detailed scans. We saw a neonatologist, a paediatric cardiologist. The effusion was small. They saw no cause for concern from the ultrasounds. I was frightened but still certain. Certain that I would be holding both my daughters in a few months time.

But I was wrong. I would never hold my daughters at the same time. Not in my arms.

It was the bank holiday weekend in late August. Things were normal.
One of my dear friends had just come back from a year out in Australia and we met to catch up on news and gossip.
My husband and I had been watching Reading Festival on televison. We are veterans and had been the year before, knowing it would be our last until the 'kids' were old enough to go.
I had arranged to go and meet up with a twin mama friend the next day, to be trained in the mysterious ways of looking after two babies at once. I have to admit I'm still not entirely sure how they do it.

On the Monday evening the backache that I had been nursing all weekend suddenly became worse.

By about midnight I gave up trying to sleep and got in a warm bath which seemed to help. Then I told my husband that I would sleep in the guest bedroom as he had an early start the next day and I didn't want his sleep to be disturbed. I spent the next few hours moving between the bed and the bath. I thought that it might be Braxton Hicks or just a bad back from having such a big belly. By the early hours of the morning, I was dozing off then crawling on to the floor and rolling myself up in a ball, crying with pain. Then the ache would ease and I would get back into bed thinking that it wasn't so bad after all. Eventually I had to concede that something was awry. I'd been hoping that if I could just get off to sleep then, come the morning, everything would be fine. I never put two and two together and realised that I was in labour. As my friend said, 'higher education was wasted on you Catherine.'

By around 4am, I had started bleeding. My husband was awake and he kept saying that we should go to the hospital. I kept arguing as I just didn't want to hear it. I knew that something was going wrong and I was sure that they were going to tell me that I was having a miscarriage. How naive I was, I had no idea what a second trimester miscarriage is like. I thought I would bleed and they would tell me that the babies were gone. Then they would send me home. Actually giving birth never crossed my mind.

I finally admitted defeat and went to accident & emergency. Everything from that point on is a blur.

I remember the doctor telling me that she was going to send me up to the delivery suite but I kept thinking to myself. Why? Why is she sending me there? She told me that I was over 6cm dilated but I still didn't quite grasp it.

I remember the porter pushing me along on a trolley. I remember apologising to him that I was so heavy.

I remember the delivery suite. I was lying on a bed, in a hospital gown. The midwife was telling me what was happening but I just kept saying "it's too soon, they can't be born yet." Just repeating myself. Over and over. And then saying how sorry I was.

They tried to stop the labour. They told me that they were giving me something to stop it and that every hour I could hold on would help the babies. I almost relaxed a bit then because they were saying that there was a possibility of helping the babies and I thought that they would stop the labour. They asked me how far on I was. 23 weeks and four days that morning.

But they couldn't stop it. I had some gas and air as the pain across my back was getting worse and worse. I don't know if I should have had the pain relief. I don't know if I was in enough pain to justify it. I remember hearing the woman in the delivery suite opposite screaming. I felt sorry for her. I felt jealous of her.

I remembering holding my husband's hand. I was apologising to him. Then I would turn and apologise to the midwife. There were a lot of people in the room.

I didn't know what to do. I'd never had a baby before. I'd never even been to an antenatal class. I remember grunting with pain and effort. I'm ashamed of that now. Such little babies, surely it shouldn't have hurt me as much as it did.

One of the nurses gave me a steroid injection for the twin's lungs. That was the only time I yelped. Somehow that seemed to hurt more than the rest.

Georgina Jane was born at 7:08am on the 26th of August weighing 1lb 10oz (around 750 grams) She was born silently but she was alive. They held her up for me to see. I was ecstatic which seems stupid given the circumstances but I was. Completely flooded with happiness, with love. I was going to meet my daughter. She was surrounded by people. A doctor, a young doctor with curly hair. Nurses. Equipment. I couldn't see her from the bed.

Jessica was born at 7:33am on the 26th of August weighing 1lb 7oz (around 670 grams). She was born with a cry. A tiny cry that sounded like a kitten. I didn't see her. She was taken to a table behind me and I couldn't turn around far enough to see her. Her placenta broke and the doctor needed to deal with that so I couldn't move to get to her.

They took both of the babies away. The curly haired doctor came back and told us that there was a slim chance that Jessica might survive but a vanishing chance that Georgina would live. I was amazed, I had assumed that they would both be dead.

I had gone from no babies, to one baby, to two babies, to no babies, to two babies in such a short time frame. My head was spinning. I was taken in a wheelchair to see them in the SCBU.

They were both so beautiful. They were beautiful beyond my ability to tell you just how beautiful they were. It is hard to imagine but that is where we all begin. Every single one of us human beings. We have all been those tiny, delicate creatures. But in a hidden, secret place.

In those tiny, tiny bodies. In fragile shiny skin. With those tiny, skinny limbs. Those thin rib cages. Inhabitated by human beings. Distinct human beings. It seems obvious yet completely incomprehensible at the same time. How could it be? How could it not be? Humans? My children? Of course they were.

Jessica was closest to the door in a white hat. The smaller baby. I rushed to see her as I had missed my chance earlier.

Georgina was in the next incubator to the left. Wearing a pink hat.

I loved them so much. I love them so such. My girls.
It seemed as though something had gone horribly wrong.
It also seemed strangely inevitable. No surprise.
That these would be my children.
These tiny, beautiful beings. Not the babies that I had imagined.


And because I said I would at Angie's beautiful blog, Still Life With Circles.

I hereby declare a Catherine W comment amnesty.

If you are fed up with receiving my lengthy comments, often replete with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, typing glitches and stupidity, do let me know. You can leave a comment here if you wish to humiliate me publicly or you can send me an e-mail if you want to be kind about it.


  1. Catherine, this is an incredible post.
    I'm without the right words, if I ever had them.
    Thank you for sharing your story.
    Please keep commenting on my blog. I LOVE hearing from you. xxxx

  2. Catherine,
    I am so sad to read your story and so glad that you are writing it. Does it help to write it out? I go back and forth..but I know you were contemplating before. My twins were born a day before yours (not on the calendar but in gestation). My story is very different but the same.
    I don't understand the comment thing, but please, please, continue to comment on my blog! I feel so, so special when I get comments and they comfort me. Especially lengthy ones with spelling mistakes (though I will say I haven't noticed).
    Much love!

  3. Thanks for sharing this story's beautiful. It's shocking how beautiful given the terror isn't it? That's what amazes me. I still remember sitting with my arms wrapped around Brandon and Oliver in Oliver's last minutes and looking at the clock and thinking that I couldn't imagine how time could go so slowly and so quickly at the same time...and how I simply couldn't fathom that even as he was slipping away from us there would actually *be* a point where he was gone. It's horrifying and shocking and's imprinted in my brain of a time that was so beautiful. I'm trying to draw a cohesive connection to your post...reading your words remind me so starkly of that moment in my own story, I guess.

    And you may leave whatever comments you want to on my blog sweets. It always brings me such joy to see when you've written something. You get me (even my cheerleader analogies!) and you get the big "it". I can't tell you how much I value that.

  4. what an amazing birth story. i am just in awe of your daughters who both managed to get through birth at 23 weeks + a few days gestation! both born alive! just amazing. also was surprised to see that georgina was the bigger baby. how tiny they both were, though! i always appreciate your words over at my place.

  5. What an amazing story. It was like reading fiction, and at times I wish it was. The agoncy and the ecstacy of losing a twin and bringing the other one home (some months later) is something I can't quite wrap my brain around. You have grace and wisdom beyond your years. You are a beautiful mother.
    And Catherine: please don't ever stop leaving your loving, heartfelt comments on my blog.

  6. God, it must have been terrifying Catherine. I read with my heart on my mouth. I knew fragments of the story from your comments and emails, but seeing written like this really brought home the enormity of what you experienced.

    I love your comments. I would be lost without them. xxxx

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it was helpful setting it out on "paper". I'm always scared that I'll forget something about my babies, and so find it very helpful to write it out.

    Are people being mean to you? Has some horrible troll come and written nasty things?? Please don't stop blogging -- certainly I value your comments and your posts very much.


  8. Catherine, I can see why you wouldn't recognize that you were in labor - it's not mentioned at that point in any of the pregnancy week-by-week books and it's such a horrifying prospect perhaps your brain just never registered that labor could be the source of the pain.

    I did a lot of apologizing too...

    Please continue to comment in my blog - I have enjoyed and appreciated the comments you have left.

  9. You're kidding, right? If you ever stop commenting, I'll hunt you down :)

    Beautiful, heartbreaking post - as always. I foudn myself nodding at so many places. I also believe that I would not have put two and two together and realized I was in labor. And, the way you described the one, to two, to none. . . very powerful and overwhelming.

    Thank you for sharing.

  10. I cried reading this post. so beautiful and honest. and heartbreaking.

    sending thoughts

  11. Those beautiful girls, it makes my heart break for you, Catherine.

    I like your comments on my blog, so don't stop, please?


  12. Oh Catherine it must have been so hard for you to write this. Right after losing my girls, I wrote my story in my journal because I was afraid of forgetting the littlest detail and I needed to get it all out of my head. Now it hurts so much to relive it that I don't even let my mind go to that day...I just can't revisit it yet. I want to write the rest of my story on my blog, but haven't found the courage to do so. I can really realte to a lot of this post, and for that I am so sorry for both of us, for all of us.

    And please, never stop leaving me comments. I so look forward to reading your eloquent thoughts.

  13. Please ALWAYS comment on my blog. You are always insightful and caring. Thank you.

    Of course you didn't know you were in labor. How could you know? I suppose we should all learn about labor at our first appointment, not at one in the later weeks of pregnancies. Perhaps more babies would live. Just another suggestion for the medical world.

    I am happy that through it all, you still saw beauty. Life and the human body are simply amazing. I noticed your words 'secret place' -- that's one of my most favorite Psalms since losing E.

    Peace, my friend.

  14. Hi Catherine! I have tagged you. Please visit my blog: for all the info. The topic is "What Makes You Happy." I think it might be good for all of us to focus on some happy things for a little bit!
    Much Love,

  15. The story of your girls is beautiful and of course, partly heartbreaking. Your roller coaster has certainly had it twists and turns - some that I can't imagine. When our first, B.W. was born still, I remember feeling so overwhelmed by his beauty too. I wanted to count his taste buds.

  16. I know this is a long time after the event of whatever made you feel hurt, but wanted to say how much i appreciated you commenting on my blog - and how sad i am to read your story. The agony of losing Freddie was dreadful and to not have been able to quite focus on just that, because i had another one to will for, would have been a layer of something else i can't imagine.

  17. I know it is over a year now Catherine but I wanted to tell you that I am reading and am so heartbroken for the loss of your daughter. Thank you for writing your story and for supporting me in the ways that you have. Love and grace- Leslie

  18. I am a mirror image twin born September 8, 1952. We to were born early. Now 60 and I loved reading your story of what I call, Baby Beauty, and you have done an amazing job writing this out to us. I admire this ability. I am not this good at writing, but I sure admire those that have that ability. God bless your journey.

  19. So beautiful, so heartbreaking: the horror spoken of so clearly.