So some sort of background on my tribe – Our family consists of a 3 year old daughter, Adelyn and twin daughters, who were conceived through IVF – Hanna and Riley who were born 14 weeks premature in February last year – 2018.
My girls are the reason I decided to share our journey as when we were going through our own journey I struggled to find any stories I could relate to. As a family we have been through so much in the past year but have come out the other side stronger than before. Without my husband by my side I would have crumbled – he is my rock!
I believe infertility isn’t openly talked about enough. Especially secondary Infertility. Just because you’ve had one kid does not necessarily mean it is easy to fall pregnant again with number 2 or 3. Falling pregnant with Adelyn actually took a long year of trying. Every month I’d pray my period wouldn’t show its face and I would over think every little symptom. Were my boobs sore because I may be pregnant, or was it just normal hormonal sore boobs? Period two days late? Could it be?! Ah nope there’s Aunt Flo! Every month was the same until I decided to stop trying. I decided to focus on myself and I began prepping for a fitness modelling competition. After 3 months of prep I fell pregnant. Adelyn’s pregnancy was perfect! I was able to train the whole time and keep fit. We had no issues and she came out a healthy 3.5kgs at 40 weeks and 2 days via non elective C section.
When Adelyn was 8 weeks old we started trying for baby number 2. Crazy right? We had always wanted the kids close in age and with how long it took to conceive Adelyn we thought we best start trying sooner rather than later. Months passed and nothing. Each month the disappointment got worse and worse. It was hard to enjoy Adelyn as the longing for another baby took over. We waited for 18 months before doing our first round of monitoring under a Fertility Clinic. They found my AMH levels, the levels to show how many eggs you have, was extremely low – like a 65 year old woman. I pretty much had no chance at falling pregnant naturally as I had as many eggs as a post menopausal woman. So we decided to get help through a fertility clinic. We did one round of iui but unfortunately that wasn’t successful. It was the most heartbreaking moment ever, seeing that negative pregnancy test once again even after getting help. After the countless blood tests, needles, jabs, prods and pokes I thought it would of worked. Why wasn’t my body working how it should?
So we jumped ships to IVF in August 2017. We wanted a chance to have more than one baby in the future so this was our best option. The month of IVF was tough. The toughest thing I had done till to that date. So many more needles and hormones flowing through me it was emotionally draining but I went with the flow and just trusted the process. I remember the nurses being amazed with how calm I was during that month. They were able to collect 10 eggs with 4 of them growing into successful day 5 embryos. We were pretty lucky, as some of the ladies I met through the clinic only had 1 embryo that made it to day 5. Transfer day came and it felt amazing to be PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise). I couldn’t stop talking to and rubbing my belly. I actually had a chance of being pregnant, a real chance! I was in two minds about doing a pee test before blood test day but I couldn’t wait and low and behold it was a positive!! Everything I had put my body through over the last few months felt so worth it! We were so so so lucky that we fell pregnant first round of IVF as many don’t. We now have 3 more embryos in the freezer!
As soon as that pregnancy test was positive we were stoked! It felt like we had waited so long for this! Bloods came back and confirmed it was most certainly a positive and my hcg levels were quite high. I had people joke oh maybe its cause its twins but I just brushed it off laughing. It couldn’t be because we only transferred one embryo, right? I loved being pregnant again, rubbing my belly knowing I was growing a life in there, not knowing secretly it was actual two! At 7 weeks we had our first dating scan done. I remember it so clearly… Justin, Adelyn and myself were in the room nervously waiting to see that little flicker of a heartbeat… The sonographer was quiet a moment and said “well guys…” and at that moment I just knew she was going to say it was twins. We were in such shock! Never in a million years did we expect the perfect little embryo we had transferred two weeks prior, to split into two. We were speechless! I sat there crying my eyes out with so many emotions flooding in. It was such an overwhelming moment. Was this really happening? Were we going to have two babies in less than 8 months? It was such a blessing after going through secondary infertility I just knew it was meant to be!
I thought sweet, my body has done this before and it’s pretty strong so I’ll be ok carrying two. Oh how things changed. At our 16 week scan there was a difference in the babies sizes (weren’t sure 100 percent on the sex then) so the Dr called KEMH and referred us there to be checked. In any pregnancy there is risks but a twin pregnancy it increases especially MO/DI Twins. So off to KEMH we went, nervous wrecks, we met with the Gold team and the most amazing Obstetrician. She sat us down and was blunt with us. We needed fortnightly monitoring and I was told to stop doing anything which could take blood away from my placenta, this included training. I left that day devastated. Training was my life after all I’m a Personal Trainer. Each scan we would sit nervously in the waiting rooms, praying both girls would still have heartbeats and were still growing. Scan by scan the difference in size got bigger and bigger, up to 55 % growth discordance at one stage. Twin 2, Riley, wasn’t growing and her cord flow was absent. She wasnt able to get enough nutrients through her cord to grow big and strong like Hanna. At 22 weeks we went to weekly scans then twice weekly to keep an eye on Riley. I was pretty much on light duties at work at this stage and had to give up my PT clients so I could rest. We had a talk with one of the top pediatricians in the state about the likely hood of survival for our girls. It was the hardest thing ever to hear you may loose one or both of your babies any time along the pregnancy especially if they were born around 400g or before 26 weeks. They were aiming to get us to 28 weeks if they could but Riley had other ideas. Her cord flow at 25 weeks went to reverse absent diastolic flow, she was sending all her blood to her brain and heart to keep herself alive. Her movements got less and it was time to decide what we were going to do. Hubby and I always said we wanted to give both girls a chance at survival and this is what we did. The Friday and Saturday before the girls were born I got the steroid injections to help their lungs incase the following week was the week to deliver. The scan on that Tuesday I’ll never forget, Riley was very quiet that day and the Dr monitored her for a good while then said “todays the day”.
The 13th February was the scariest day of my life. I was about to meet my girls who weren’t meant to be here for another 14 weeks. At 25 weeks and 6 days I delivered the twins via c section.
Adelyns C section was a breeze in comparison. Firstly I was left on permanent monitoring and set up on a drip of magnesium to try and protect their brains. This stuff was horrible!
You could literally taste it and it made me so hot! I was wheeled upstairs and the aesthetician popped in the epidural, with a mixture of epidural and a spinal block. I remember it taking what felt like ages to be numb, laying on the surgery table with about 20 people in the room. With Adelyn I felt nothing, absolutely nothing during the procedure. With the twins there was so much pulling and movements my body couldn’t take it and I started to panic. There I was lying vulnerable on the table having a panic attack. I didn’t even want to see the babies after they were born. The best moment though was hearing both girls faintly cry / squeak. They were here and alive for now! Because I was in such a state of panic I didn’t want hubby to leave my side, as the girls were whisked off to NICU, I was sewn up. This took forever … I needed to move. Even more anxiety kicked in. I only started to feel ok once I was in recovery with my midwife. What an ordeal my body had just been through and now it was time to start pumping every 3 hours. Riley has always been cheeky from the start.
She actually got a better apgar score then Hanna born! She decided she didn’t like being intubated and pulled her tube out on the way to NICU! They decided to give her a go on CPAP instead, but after a little while her tiny lungs got tired and needed more support. I didn’t see the girls till later that day. I was so scared to see how little they were going to be. I was wheeled to Hanna first and thought wow she is small (930g) but ok I can deal with this but when I saw Riley (515g) I lost it crying. She was the most delicate thing I had ever seen. I felt overwhelming guilt that my body didn’t do what it was meant to and protect and provide for her.
Their NICU journey was long and they both went through many days of sickness, countless heel pricks, blood transfusions, ventilation systems, alarms going off nonstop, highs and lows
BUT they are such amazing little fighters. Riley was intubated on the jet ventilator for weeks – a gentler form of ventilation that gave short puffs of air – as her lungs were teeny tiny it made it hard for her to not be reliant on it. Weeks passed and the DRs encouraged a course of steroids to help her lungs become strong enough to get onto the next step of CPAP. We have no idea what the effects of the steroids will do to her development but they were a necessity for survival and that’s all that matters. She ended up needing so many rounds of steroids I lost count. Riley was so fragile that for two weeks we couldn’t do anything more to her then gently hold her head and bum in what they call a hand cuddle or gently take her temperature. The first time I held Riley I was terrified but so full of joy that she was alive and fighting. My littlest miracle!
Hanna was flying through those first few weeks – breathing and gaining weight like a champ then something horrible hit. She went downhill so fast one night and we received that dreaded middle of the night phone call saying Hanna was very unwell and she had to be reintubated and placed on a sedative. My gut sank as deep as it could go. She was diagnosed with NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis) a medical condition where part of the bowel starts dying due to infection. We had been warned about this as they believed Riley had a high chance of getting this in her first few weeks of life, but lucky for her Hanna took this bullet. Hanna deteriorated so fast that next day, seeing her on so many types of antibiotics, triple strength morphine, sedatives, TPN, and reintubated was heart wrenching – I don’t think I stopped crying for the full 5 days we stayed at the hospital with her. So many times the alarms would go and Drs would rush over having to resuscitate her with the neopuff. Each time I couldn’t watch, I had to walk away. A decision was made that she would be transferred to the Children’s Hospital as they suspected her bowels may rupture. Luckily Riley was able to go along for the ride so both girls could be in the same place! We are very blessed that over the next few weeks Hanna made a full recovery with no surgery and took off in leaps and bounds after she recovered. Unfortunately during this time Riley got Pneumonia in her lungs and it was her turn to go downhill quickly. She ended up back on the Jet Ventilator and on mix of drugs just like Hanna was. It was hard to watch Riley suffering but then watching Hanna celebrate little milestones such as trying to breast feed and bottle feed. Once Riley was able to fight the sickness, with more steroids she too then started to take off in leaps and bounds. We were able to return back to our original hospital as the twins were no longer sick enough and when we returned they were the most stable babies in the ICU section. After ticking off every box in the to do list Hanna was able to come home after 15 weeks in NICU, with Riley having to stay another 5 weeks due to her lungs and needing hernia surgery. Those 5 weeks were the toughest 5 weeks of my life. Being able to take one baby home and not the other hurt so bad but that feeling on the day we walked out of hospital with both girls in the pram was indescribable. They were finally ‘our’ babies to look after, not the Drs and nurses they were ours!
During the almost 5 months we were in hospital I suffered from PTSD, PND and Anxiety about the girl’s birth and life so far. To this day I am still suffering but nowhere near as bad. I find comfort in sharing my journey with other mummas. I wished I spoke up about my anxiety sooner in our journey as I waited till I crashed 100 kms an hour into a wall. This is the one thing I would go back and change and encourage other mums to do – if you feel like you’re not coping, please speak up. I have learnt you are not weak for asking for help you are actually braver for doing that. Our life is so different now that the girls are here and both home together, with the last year being the most craziest ride through motherhood ever! The thought had never crossed my mind that I would have a premature baby, let alone two micropremmies! They have taught me so much strength, patience and love then I ever knew about before. The future is still full of unknowns as we watch the girls grow – the NICU journey doesn’t end when you get it home it just changes path. Juggling a ‘threenager’ and 12 month old actual twins is tough some days and a glass or two of wine is most certainly needed, I wouldn’t change anything.I believe we were thrown this challenge because we were strong enough to get through it and look at us now – thriving being a family of 5!