We recently read an inspirational birth story from a mum who delivered premature twins. It was such a touching story that we felt we had to reach out and let her know how moved we were by it. Well, one thing led to another and we asked if she would like to be a guest blogger on NSSLOU and share her story with our audience.
So we now have the absolute pleasure to introduce our first guest blogger, Sam Goodwin, with her inspirational story about the birth of her twin boys Kalani and Keanu. So please show Sam some love for the bravery to share her story publicly, and maybe we can convince her to return as a guest blogger in the future to share an update when the twins are 12 months old.
‘6 months in, 6 months out’ by Sam Goodwin
“It was March 2015 when I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was reading a positive pregnancy test. I was just short of 21 years old and had only just developed a recent relationship with my soon to be child’s father.
4 weeks along my doctor confirmed it… I was expecting a new bundle of joy! I didn’t know how to feel at that stage, so I called it a bundle of ‘what am I meant to do now?’
To my surprise at my 7 week dating scan, I wasn’t expecting just one baby. But two! Twins! At this stage, I almost fell off my chair in disbelief! Me? Two babies? What! I could hardly get my head around one, but two humans in my belly? That I will give birth to and nurture and raise… two babies!?
As the weeks went on I was trying to get my head around it. I was attending antenatal appointments, scans and blood tests, and at two different hospitals. This was because I was informed there were a lot of risks involving the type of twins I was carrying. The doctors had explained the sorts of risks that would involve preterm labour such as TWIN-TWIN transfusion, which was one of their main concerns. They forgot to mention the risks that this pregnancy would have on myself and my body.
At the 20 week scan the ultrasound technician had noticed my cervix had shortened quite a significant amount and for precaution, I was sent to the birthing suite to be examined. Later it was confirmed that I was at risk of very preterm labour. It was right then and there that I was booked in at 21 weeks to have a cerclage stitch put in my cervix to help prevent the babies from coming preterm. There was still a risk the babies would come, but we could only hope the stitch would hold them in. If they were born before 24 weeks, the doctors would not resuscitate and I would birth still-born babies.
Before being discharged from the hospital, the doctor had explained to me that I would now have to give up work and be on total bed rest at home for the remainder of my pregnancy. If my cervix shortened any more, I’d have to be admitted to maternity at Royal Brisbane hospital until my babies were born.
At 24+4 weeks I had a routine check-up at the Royal Brisbane. My cervix had shortened again and I was now dilating by 3 centimetres. There I was, being given steroid shots and magnesium to help my babies lungs, brain and organs for a preterm birth.
I was admitted to the maternity ward that afternoon and spent a total of 4 hours lying in bed until I started to have contractions.
I was then taken to the birthing suite and the midwifes, nurses as doctors did all they could to slow down my labour. But by the time the next day came, there wasn’t much more they could do for me, or my two babies, and they would be born extremely premature at just 24+5 weeks gestation.
I was given the option to have a natural birth, but I made up my mind of having a C-Section as it was the safest option. Twin number two was in breach.
I was wheeled into theatre to have an emergency Caesarean, early afternoon on Tuesday 15th September.
As I laid in the operating theatre, in a state of panic, nervousness and sadness, with no movement from my chest down from the epidural that had leaked into my spine, I heard the doctor yell “twin one out”… It all seemed so surreal. It happened so quickly and it was all a blur.
I couldn’t see over the sheet that had been across the top half of my body but I frantically looked from side to side trying to catch a glimpse, and although I couldn’t see him, I was hoping he would be okay. They immediately started working on him to keep him alive at the bottom of the bed where I lay. Twin two was then taken out and I could briefly see him to the right of me with neonatal teams working on him pumping his little chest and hooking wires into him. Laying there with my stomach cut open, with a million thoughts running through my head and tears flowing down my face, a doctor approached the top half of my body. He told me that they are trying the best they can but they can’t get twin one to respond to resuscitation and they may have to let him go. I howled with tears and squeezed my mums hand as tight as I could. I felt helpless and scared… I cried out “don’t let my baby die”. I was so unsure if he would make it out alive while I was helplessly laying on the operating table, cut open while people were moving my guts around like they were doing the dishes in my stomach.
After what felt like a lifetime, the same doctor approached me again. I had prepared myself as much as I could to hear the worst news. And then he told me they ‘got him’. Relief rushed through me but I knew it would not be the end. They wheeled my babies to the neonatal intensive care unit where they would remain.
After I spent between 1-2 hours in recovery, I was now allowed to be taken in to see my babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). There I met my identical twin sons.
Twin one, Kalani Archer born 766 grams (1 lb 68 oz) and twin two, Keanu Elijah born 742 grams (1 lb 63 oz).
Locked away in an isolate. Small, fragile and hooked to machines barely clinging to life.
Though you know your baby would be preemie… There is nothing that could ever prepare you for what you’re about witness.
Every night and day I’d sit at my babies bedsides trying to hold myself together. Scared to touch them or even look at them. I thought If I loved my babies it would be harder to say goodbye. I remained there but I also kept my distance. I was still in major shock and I would find myself wandering around the hospital ward wondering if I was having a nightmare.
Motherhood was new to me, but this was a different type of motherhood than the norm. The one thing that shocked me was the way I had to feed my babies. My babies would be fed by tube through their mouth to their stomach, I’d hold the tube above them and let the milk drip down. At this point they were tolerating just 1ml of milk/colostrum.
On day 4 I was taken into the room on the NICU ward where a doctor had told me that Keanu had a perforated bowel, which is common in micro-preemies born at his gestation. Their organs have not completely developed and many issues could evolve because of that. As I sat staring at the x-ray of my poor darlings belly, they were preparing to take him to the children’s hospital for bowel surgery. It was not even 6 hours after Keanu that Kalani also perforated his bowel, and was transferred to the children’s hospital to have surgery as well.
It occurred to us that maybe if one twin does something, the other soon would follow. And that’s what happened on a few occasions. Keanu had a stoma placed, and Kalani had his bowel reversed back in. I was still in shock at having such small babies and my life completely turned upside down, that I didn’t understand how severe their condition or operation was. I sat by their bedside for hours upon days talking to them, wiping away tears and trying to look after myself in recovering from a C-section and expressing milk every 3 hours to feed my sons.
Both my babies were sick and recovering as much as they could and were clinging onto dear life when Kalani perforated his bowel again at 10 days old. The surgeons had told me that it was now that I should pray for my baby, as there is a very low survival rate for how sick he is and that he will most likely die during his operation.
I knew I’d be naive if I didn’t prepare myself for the worst. I knew my baby was going to die. He was little, sick, fragile and he had already gone through one surgery.
We had a photographer come in to take photos of Kalani for safe keep.
Their father and I were taken into a room to discuss the twins survival rate which was below 50% before the operations, and now 25% given how sick they had gotten.
We waited for what felt like hours for that call. And then it came. I wanted to answer it but I didn’t want to know my baby had passed away. The surgeon told me that he made it through the surgery and he now has a stoma like his brother Keanu. I was told that he’s okay, but for the next 24 hours he could still be at danger.
If one twin did something the other would too. So I still felt uneasy about Keanu doing the same thing as his brother, so we watched him carefully.
Kalani proved to be fighting through and both the surgeons and the doctors were stunned that he proved them all wrong. He survived surgery number 2!
On day 17 I got to hold one of my babies for the first time. Keanu was placed on my chest as I let go a sigh of happiness. It was such a heartfelt moment for me and one that I’ll never forget. One of my many dreams of childbirth was holding my baby for the first time. For mums of full term babies, this happens so soon after birth and it’s one of the things that makes the mother feel complete. I felt robbed of that.
We had spent a total of 2 weeks in the Mater Mothers intensive care before returning to NICU at the Royal Brisbane. I was living at Ronald McDonald house across the road to be closer to my sons.
On October 14th I got to have my first cuddle of my babies at the same time. One month after their birth. I felt completely overwhelmed with joy. All of us, together again. You see, my babies were born together but were now cared for separately, so they’ve never touched or felt one another since being in the womb. It was such a wonderful moment for all of us, to be close again.
As time went on we gained so much.
They were 30 weeks gestational age and both babies reached 1kg. They were improving but then… Kalani took a turn for the worst as his body wasn’t responding to his stoma as well as we hoped.
Because of where the stoma was placed, all of his food that was meant to be digesting was coming out without digesting completely, causing him to have to be fed every hour and on TPN supplements to give him the nutrients he was lacking. The doctors recommended we put them on formula milk to try and help him absorb nutrients as my breastmilk was too thin to keep, but it was no use.
Kalani was slowly but surely fading. He was getting sicker and sicker and we now had to have another surgery to reverse his stoma back into his tummy. Great, another surgery. The sadness, the fear and the uncertainty. Again. For the 3rd time.
It felt as though it would never end and there was no hope for my sick babies. Despite that, I stayed strong for my sons and kept my head high, even if I wanted to just put it in my hands and cry (which I did as soon as I left the hospital every day).
We were booked in for neorescue to come retrieve Kalani and take him to the children’s hospital for his surgery on a Friday. We had time to prepare, and knew what was to be expected. Which did kind of make things a little easier. Two nights before we were off to see Kalani for surgery, Keanu’s stoma prolapsed spontaneously. It happened at 9pm on a Wednesday night.
I was staying at Ronald McDonald house a majority of the time but would go home (a one hour drive away) every now and then to see my dog Charlie, eat a nice meal and sleep in my own bed.
The night I decided to do this, I got the sickening phone call. Every time I got a phone call I’d think the worst. That someone on the other line would tell me my baby had died. It was 12am and the surgeon on the other line had told me that Keanu had prolapsed and will need to have emergency surgery tonight at the children’s hospital. Half asleep I asked “Keanu… What? Kalani is booked in for Friday!” It was like Keanu said ‘no way is Kalani going for surgery first!’
In a state of panic I got dressed out of my pyjamas as fast as I could and we drove the one hour drive to the children’s hospital to meet the team with my baby boy to say goodbye and give him a kiss and wish him good luck. I was so mad at the thought I already had one twin going for surgery on Friday, and then his brother had to put more emotional strain on us all. But at this stage, I was deeply in love with my babies and could not see life without them and just prayed for it all to be over.
After pulling an all-nighter at the children’s hospital, sleeping in armchairs waiting for Keanu to come out of surgery, the surgeon finally rang to say he’s out of surgery and we can come and see him. It was 5am and I remember being dressed in horrible clothing, with crazy hair, bags under my eyes standing over my babies cot whispering how much I loved him and how well he’s done. As soon as I felt I knew he was okay I made the one hour trip back home at the break of dawn to catch up on sleep before I made the trek back to the hospital to be by my babies sides.
As Friday came around it was time for Kalani to have surgery. The Mater didn’t have enough bed space for him so we had to wait until Saturday for the surgery.
I was sitting next to Keanu’s cot when they wheeled in Kalani to be placed in the same room for prepping for surgery. I gave Keanu a kiss on the forehead and told him I’d be back soon. I walked with Kalani to the children’s hospital to see him off. I held his tiny hand and kissed him so gently. I told him I loved him and I’d be waiting for him. I told him to be strong and that I’d see him soon.
The most hardest part about having my sons go for operations is not knowing the outcome until it’s too late. To have their life in the palm of someone else’s hands. Having no control and no voice for my babies. I can’t scream out for them “save them!”, “don’t let my baby die”. As a mum you do everything in your power to protect your children from harm so when it is out of your control, you feel inadequate.
I felt as though it was just another life lost for the doctors, but for me it would be so much more. He’s my hope and dream, my true love, my life. Kalani had survived surgery number 3. You’d think by now it wouldn’t worry me as much, that it would be easier. But it definitely didn’t worry me less. I felt sick every time they needed an operation. I could only hope it was the last one. I told both of my boys “that’s it! No more!”
Doctors would make continuous jokes about how much grey hair the boys would give me. There was not a nurse, doctor or surgeon in Brisbane that didn’t know the famous Goodwin twins because of how courageous and brave they were. To have so many battles and still come out fighting.
Days had gone by and there were talks of transferring back to the Royal Brisbane. They decided to send back Kalani first, but wanted to keep Keanu for observation as his tummy was still so distended.
I felt so torn having two babies in two different hospitals, it was time consuming and exhausting. I couldn’t not see one or the other each day and night. I had to work around it the best I could. Keanu had been transferred back to the Royal and he was improving so well they sent him to special care. I could finally bath him, hold him when I wanted and tried him on his first bottle. Then things spiralled downwards…
An x-ray showed that Keanu had another perforated bowel.
We were sent back to the children’s hospital for surgery number 3.
In this moment I felt angry. I kept questioning why did this keep happening and will it ever stop!?
Torn between two hospitals again (let me just say that paying for parking is outrageous!! Especially when visiting two hospitals!!!)
As soon as we started heading up hill, we would tumble straight back down again.
The expression ‘having a preemie baby is a roller coaster’ was definitely an understatement for me. I was thrown in all different directions.
Keanu had surgery number 3 and soon recovered as we all hoped he would. At this point, I was suffering major depression. I felt like the only way I’d ever be happy again is if I got my babies HOME. I knew they were in the best hands, but I just wanted it all to be over. For good.
We started to see improvements. We were having eye tests every 2 weeks, feeding orally, keeping body temperature and then… Both of my babies got rotavirus.
NICU was now closed off.
I was so angry at the thought that such a sickening bug could get into the walls of NICU and affect my babies who just previously had bowel issues! As bubs grew bigger, both we’re in special care, having baths, bottles and lots of cuddles all day. We were free of wires and monitors and we had plans to transfer back to our hospital closer to home. The last step. Closer to home. I was hoping we could get home before Christmas. I couldn’t fall asleep most nights from excitement. I packed and repacked our hospital bags 100 times!
It was a Wednesday when we all transferred to Caboolture hospital special care nursery. As soon as I walked in, I let them know who was boss. Gosh I had been doing this for 3 months! I put my foot down a lot and I spent all my days there for about 4 days. Every feed, every bath. No one and I mean NO ONE, would do anything for me, I felt I had to prove that it was time for me to take my angels home.
Christmas Day came around and I was so bummed we hadn’t gone home yet. The paediatrician talked to me and asked me if I would like to room-in with my babes on Monday, spend two nights and then we can go home. I negotiated with them and said I’d prefer one night. After they ummed and ahhed, they said it could be a possibility. At that stage I was going to get my own way. I knew what I was doing and knew what I wanted. I just needed to take my babies home! I had had enough. My babies were as healthy as they could be and they were ready… I was ready!
On Christmas night, I came in to feed bubs and then got offered to room-in that night. I took it. We were taken to maternity ward where I spent one night with my babies alone, and then on Boxing Day we had the all clear to go home. One week before our due date, it all came to an end. I felt more relieved than ever… I was over the moon!
My babies were happy, healthy (as much as they could be) and thriving. With a little persistence with feeds and Kalani’s jaundice, we successfully settled in at home.
102 days in hospital and 2.2kg later.
It now seems like a distant memory.
All we have to remember it by, are the hospital safe keeps we took home and our battle scars… The ones we can see on the outside and the ones we can’t.
They are now 6 months old (2.5 months corrected age) and are doing amazingly well. We have hospital appointments every other week for check-ups, but my babies are as happy and as healthy as they could be.
Born September 15 2015 – Home December 26 2015 – Due date December 31 2015