Here we are again! My second blog post. I have been a bit slow with this upload, but I am back and will make sure I regularly post new blogs.
The 24th March was the day we could take a pregnancy test which came back positive! We were so excited about the next 9 months. We could not wait for this new chapter in our lives. Well, we really didn’t have any idea what this pregnancy had in store for us.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant I suffered with severe hyperemesis gravidarum. I was constantly back and forth to the doctors and hospital to find the right anti sickness tablet for me and to also have drips on a regular basis to keep me hydrated. Most of the anti-sickness tablets didn’t work for me so in the end the hospital finally decided to try me on metoclopramide.
On the 11th April 2017 I had felt so strange all day. I couldn’t quite figure out why I didn’t feel myself, but I didn’t let it stop me from going to watch Joe play a big football game. My friend picked me up as I didn’t want to risk driving. When we got to the football ground I started to feel tense, my neck started to feel like it was poking out, so I walked over to my mother in law to ask her if I looked ok. She started to panic and told my sister in law I needed to go to the hospital as soon as possible. The drive to the hospital felt like it was going on forever, when we got to the hospital I told my sister in law not to worry about me and to just drop me home. She wasn’t having any of it and spoke to the ambulance man who was parked up next to us. He explained when you are pregnant if you have any neck or back pains you should be checked over. The two paramedics kindly got me into a wheelchair and took us into A&E, explained to reception what was going on and sat with us whist we were waiting for me to be seen. Well then, this huge wave of hot air travelled through my body, I started to feel sick and I then could not control my body. I can’t really remember much but I was told my body was bending in half and my eyes were rolling in my head. Everyone started to panic, and I was put onto a bed and rushed into the main hospital and given injections with diazepam in to try and relax my muscles.
The next day I had some spotting, I immediately started to panic and wanted to have a scan as soon as possible to know whether the baby was ok. We managed to get a private scan in that evening. So off we went to see what we thought was ONE baby. We got to the clinic, filled in the necessary paperwork and then went in for our scan. As soon as the sonographer put the scanner onto my tummy I shouted “oh my god there is two” I had spotted that it was twins before the sonographer and Joe. At this scan (which I was 7 weeks pregnant) a size difference had already been picked up between the babies.
A week later we met with our IVF consultant for our first scan, I explained what had happened the week prior and gave over the scans. I was laid down on the bed and scanned again. The consultant then said “there is a big size difference, in an ideal situation the smaller baby will disappear to make this an easier pregnancy”
It’s safe to say I never went back to her again!
From here the complications started. I was sent to the early pregnancy unit to be scanned weekly to see if it was a genetic size difference or if we could be possibly looking at TTTS. When they mentioned TTTS to me, I didn’t ever realise the severity it can have on a multiple pregnancy. When I reached 12 weeks I was able to be seen at my local hospital for weekly scans and I was also referred to a fetal medicine consultant.
We met with our fetal medicine consultant and she explained TTTS to us and what the ins and the outs of the disease are. We were scanned once or maybe even twice a week sometimes; no scan was ever a happy scan. I finally hit 16 weeks, this is where everything started to go downhill, the TTTS had been diagnosed and we had to be referred to St George’s Hospital in London. I was scanned twice a week for three weeks, when we went to the scans no one really spoke to us or explained what was going on, it was a guessing game. On the 7th July we had a scan and after was asked to come into a room with the consultant, he explained to us the TTTS was stage 3. We had a few options – 1. Carry on the pregnancy and possibly loose both babies. 2. Have the laser ablation and possibly loose one baby. 3. Have the laser ablation and loose both babies. As you can imagine after this scan I was broken, I couldn’t stop crying and I just didn’t know what to do. I felt as if these babies’ lives were in our hands which I didn’t find fair at all.
We got in the car to travel home, I rang my mum and explained what had just happened. She told me to get a second opinion, at this point I was exhausted I had no fight left in me and I said I didn’t want to see anyone else. Luckily by the time we got home my thoughts had changed, we had until Monday to make a choice on what we were going to do (it was Thursday) so I googled “best fetal medicine consultant in England” and my search came up with Professor Nicolaides. I found a number for him and begged his secretary to try and get me seen by him and that I was willing to pay anything. I had to send over my notes to her and then she was going to speak to him, around 20 minutes later I got a call back to say “he will see you tomorrow, go to your doctors in the morning and get a referral for us and we will see you through the NHS” I couldn’t believe my luck, I had called at around 4pm on the Thursday and was being seen the next day in the afternoon.
The day was here, I got up in the morning went to my doctors and got the referral I needed. In the afternoon myself and Joe got the train to Harris Birthright Centre where I was going to see Professor Nicolaides. We were firstly seen by consultants and then the Professor came in to discuss with everyone what their thoughts were. He then sat next to me and said “if you want to have at least one baby you need to have this laser ablation” we didn’t know what to do, so we called a few family members for advice and in the end decided to go ahead with the laser ablation. We were sent off into a room to read all the paperwork and sign it. A little about the surgery –
This procedure is performed under regional analagesia or local anaesthesia with maternal sedation. Under ultrasound guidance, a cannula and needle are inserted through the maternal abdominal wall, uterine wall and into the amniotic sac of the recipient twin. The needle is removed, and a fetoscope with a thin fibre to carry the laser energy is then inserted through the cannula. The fetoscope is used to look at the blood vessels on the surface of the placenta. Vessels that are found to communicate between the twins are then coagulated using the laser. After completion of surgery, excess amniotic fluid in the recipient twin’s sac is removed to achieve a normal volume.
I had the procedure, all had gone well. We were sent into a room for a while, so I could recover and then sent home. Well what a nightmare the journey home was, I collapsed getting off the train and when we got home I was rushed into hospital as they thought I was in labour (it was severe trapped wind due to all the fluid that was removed)
Let’s just say the next months were horrific, it was a waiting game to see whether the twins had survived the laser ablation or not. We were sent back to our original fetal medicine consultant where we were scanned once a week. This was to make sure both babies had a heartbeat. Not only did the boys have TTTS, Teddy only had one artery and one vein in his umbilical cord and he also had fetal growth restriction. We felt as if every week we had a scan and both babies were alive was a blessing, even though every week we had heartbeats it was never a happy scan.
On the 14th September 2017 we went for a routine scan, I felt more nervous than usual for some reason and I just couldn’t understand why. During our scan I turned to Joe and said, “she is going to deliver” and then those very words came out of her mouth. The amniotic fluid around Teddy had significantly decreased and she feared that the TTTS had come back (it was only then that I realized the laser ablation was not 100% full proof). Teddy was only showing at 575g and his blood flow was just nonexistent but our consultant suggested that if we were going to stand a chance of saving the bigger twin, the one with the higher chance of survival (Ronnie), then we would have to deliver the twins straight away.
As Teddy was so small we needed a level 3 NICU unit with two bed spaces for us, the hospital called everywhere and the only NICU which could fit us in was Portsmouth (a blessing in disguise) once the beds had been confirmed I was blue lighted to Portsmouth, sent down onto the maternity ward and ahead of me was a long night of monitoring as my cesarean had been moved until the 15th September due to complications with my bloods that were being sent off.
The morning of the 15th came, I was taken down to theatre and then everything started. I had my spinal blocks which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was laid down and sprayed with cold spray to check I was completely numb. The room was filled with staff, there was around 15-18 people in the theatre room. My surgery finally started but surprisingly I was coping quite well considering the circumstances. This came as a shock to me as I am usually one to faint at the sight of a needle. The procedure came and went quickly. At least I thought it did until I looked at Joe and he was as white as a sheet and he told me it felt like it lasted a lifetime.
At 9.28am and 9.29am the boys were delivered I always imagined having the babies held up over the screen and me crying with happiness – oh how I was so wrong. I didn’t have the babies held up to me nor did I hear babies crying, all I kept saying to Joe was “are they alive” imagine after a traumatic pregnancy all you want to see if your babies which I wasn’t able to. The boys were taken off to NICU straight away, I was sent down to recovery and then wheeled back to my room. Around half an hour later I was given two photos of the boys, I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy I had both of my boys but sad because I couldn’t see them, touch them or kiss and cuddle them. I sent Joe and our mums to see the boys as I didn’t feel well after my cesarean, so I slept until the morning and first thing I got up and went to see my boys.
I knew this wasn’t the end of our journey and that we had a tough few months ahead of us. We had so many ups and downs, but we got through them as a family and now we are stronger than ever.
NICU mums, just remember your time will come. There is light at the end of the tunnel, yes you may see families come and go quicker than you but when the time is right you will be home in your happy place.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”
Teddy David Smith Ronnie Kenneth Smith
15th September 2017 15th September 2017