This was the second time I had travelled in an ambulance with the sirens blaring but this time it was for me. The ambulance drivers made me smile and the midwife who came with me was reassuring. Not long into the journey, I began to feel tightenings and mild contractions. The midwife just assured me it was likely to be the journey. I remember feeling terrified. It was me who was in the ambulance. It was me who cars were pulling over for. I didn’t cry. I tried my hardest to ignore feeling faint with fear and to keep upbeat. I tried to make jokes with the midwife that I might have got her out of work early. I asked her about her career. I tried to focus on anything but what was actually happening to me. We arrived at Leeds General Infirmary about 6pm. The ambulance drivers were giving off about the idiots on the road at rush hour and told me we had killed a pigeon. They were funny. Connor was going back to my parents, collecting my things and then travelling in with them.
I was wheeled straight to delivery suite where I was met by another midwife. Before Connor arrived, I had met the consultants and had a scan on a portable machine. They said it wasn’t very clear and they couldn’t see what exactly was going on so I would have to wait until tomorrow to have another one on the larger machine. Tomorrow felt a very long time away. The consultant did tell me that, the scan at Harrogate did show Twin 1’s waters had gone, which meant my baby was not protected from the outside world, so was quite likely to catch an infection. I could feel myself getting dizzy, I could feel the tingles starting in my hands and feet again, my throat going dry and the sickness returning. I wanted them so badly to tell me everything was going to be ok, that the girls were safe and going to be fine. But they couldn’t because no one can tell you what the future holds. I was still experiencing mild contractions which meant I still might go into labour. Please no! Please let my girls stay safe in my tummy.
If you know Leeds, you will know it’s a nightmare for parking, especially for the hospital. My Dad managed to find the last space available in the multi-storey car park. Connor, Mum and Dad arrived about 8ish and we spent most of the time sitting in silence with me saying there’s another tightening or every time I moved a bit more water came out of me. A feeling that made me feel a bit sick every time. I kept thinking there’s a little more water escaping from protecting my baby. We all managed to stay calm and Connor and I were grateful for my parents’ company.
At about 10pm, we were transferred to the antenatal ward where they had a private room for us. Connor was able to stay with me, which I was extremely grateful for. The midwife was incredible and did her best to put our minds at ease. I had my second dose of steroids to help with the girls’ lung development. The midwife left us to try and get some rest and said she would be back to take my observations or ‘obs’ as they were called. This involved taking my temperature, blood pressure and listening to the girls’ heart beats. At first this was done every few hours and then as the days, weeks went past they took my ‘obs’ twice a day. As I tried to relax and keep myself together, my contractions stopped. It was unbelievably warm in the room and I remember feeling just so uncomfortable. The nurses had brought in a fold out bed for Connor. We just lay in silence, listening to the sounds of the city, footsteps, the entrance buzzer and the ward doors opening and closing. We could hear a distant sound of a baby crying. The minutes went by so slowly and felt more like hours. Every time I moved I felt more waters trickle out of me. I dreaded to see how much had leaked or what state the pads would be in. It was awful. Was my little girl ok in there?
I remember just lying there with feelings of fear and helplessness shaking my body. The entire day felt so surreal. That morning felt like a lifetime ago. I was still in the first 24 hours of my waters going and I had more than another 24 hours to go before I was out of the ‘risky’ 48 hour period for going into labour. I’ve never known time physically stand still before. How was I going to survive this? It was like living a real life nightmare in which I had to come to my senses and realise that this was now my life. I kept having anxiety attacks where I would suddenly feel dizzy, faint, see stars and experience waves of sickness. I was never sick but needed the toilet often.
I was so relieved to see the morning and still be pregnant. A huge wave of relief passed over me. My girls were still safe inside me. I remember being absolutely ravenous having hardly eaten anything the previous day. I went to see if I could find any breakfast and was told there were some cereals in the kitchen. Whilst raiding the kitchen at 6am, I was stopped by a nurse (who I later found out was the manager). She asked what I was doing and I explained I was looking for some cereals. I felt very naughty. She told me that the breakfast team should be round shortly and they would have cereals, toast, fruit, tea and coffee available. Ahh so that’s how it worked. It was the start of getting used to the hospital way of life. I walked back to my room with no cereal and my tail between my legs!!
After the breakfast trolley came round and I’d had my Rice Crispies and a sugary cup of tea, I felt a little more human. We managed to get the TV working and watched it without taking anything in, just grateful for a distraction away from what was happening. With the heat of the room, the buzz of the TV and the comfort of knowing I hadn’t gone into labour, I managed to fall asleep. A few hours later I was woken up to a crowd of medical people entering the room. This included the consultant, registrar, junior doctors, midwife and nurses. With the fright of waking up to this, I immediately thought something was wrong and panicked (I later found out this was ‘ward round’ and happened every day).
They introduced themselves and I remember the consultant saying I still wasn’t out of the 48 hours. She then went onto explain what would happen if I was to go into labour and reminded me that my girls might not make it due to me being only 24 weeks pregnant. At this point I nearly fainted. My eyes began to see black dots and stars and my hearing went, all I could hear was a whistling sound. Luckily the midwife was keeping a close eye on me and calmly said I needed a bit of time. I’d broken into a cold sweat and wanted the toilet. Connor managed to calm me down and we started going through the positives. The main thing was I hadn’t gone into labour and Twin 1 could survive without her waters for many more weeks.
That afternoon, I was wheeled downstairs to the radiology department for my ultrasound. I felt such a mess and remember other pregnant ladies in the waiting room staring at me with sympathetic looks, grateful that they weren’t me. I looked heavily pregnant, I had the tags on my wrists, my compression socks on and a tear stained face. I was petrified. What was this scan going to reveal? Luckily, I didn’t have to sit in the main waiting area but just outside the scan room. Whilst waiting for the consultant, the feelings of panic began to rise. A hot sensation rose from my feet, my hands began to shake and the room began to spin and my hearing kept going. Connor managed to get a nurse and before I collapsed on the corridor floor, I was carried to the scan bed. I was grateful to be lying down but just couldn’t shake the feeling of being terrified. I’ve never been terrified before or truly understood the meaning of the word until then; what was I going to see? Were both my babies still alive? Was only one going to be moving? What had happened to Twin 1?
Time had stood still again. Where was the consultant? Connor and I held hands and waited in silence. The consultant hurried in, apologised for being late and explained she had been called into surgery. I thought, ‘What is this new world I have been brought in to?’ I uncomfortably lay there as she applied the jelly. I couldn’t work this lady out. I was studying her every move. Was she nice? It was the same lady who had done ward round that morning and had seemed so abrupt then. So sharp and harsh with how she explained what might happen. News that stung so badly, I didn’t want to believe it was the truth or about me. She seemed more gentle now. Softer with her approach. The scan was on a large screen in front of me and I didn’t have to break my neck, turning to the right, trying to see my babies. They were both ok. They were sandwiched on top of each other. I cried with relief. She explained how vital each day was to their development that I kept them inside me. We got told in rare situations Twin 2 can share her waters with Twin 1. She was pleased with them and explained it was a waiting game. She would try and arrange a visit for us to go and look around the Neonatal Ward. I wouldn’t be getting scanned again for another two weeks. I could barely survive half a day let alone think about two weeks away. It felt impossible to imagine my life in two weeks.
Early that evening I was moved out of the room and into the ward. The ward was empty, apart from two beds taken and I got to choose mine. I chose the bed at the end of the ward, next to the window. This meant that Connor could no longer stay with me but was allowed to visit between 8am-10pm. Luckily, he went and stayed at the house of one of my close friends five minutes away. He left at 10pm and I hated it. I could barely keep a sane head on and not go into a panic attack with him being by my side let alone being by myself. Saying goodbye was the hardest part and watching him walk down the ward whilst I lay helpless in my hospital bed. I immediately started messaging all my family and girlfriends to keep me busy and for support. They made me smile, filled me with hope and eventually I drifted off into an uncomfortable night’s sleep.
The night wasn’t as bad as I thought. The nurse came in to do my observations at 11pm and then left me to rest. I woke up regularly either to hobble to the toilet or with horrendous heart burn and continued to swig my Gaviscon. A few times during the night I was woken by women coming onto the ward, waiting to deliver their babies, and one woman going into labour. I just prayed my girls weren’t listening to the mother’s painful cries and desperate for her baby to come out whilst I wished and prayed they would stay inside for a while longer.
In the early hours of the morning, it dawned on me how unprepared I was for giving birth. I hadn’t been to any antenatal classes (my first class was on the 7th July), I had no hospital bag packed, our house was a building site, I had nothing for the girls apart from some clothes, I had no birth plan (we hadn’t reached this point with my hospital appointments), I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I panicked and began to feel really scared. I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready to be a mum. I wanted to be the best mother possible to my girls and I had nothing ready. This was the first time I googled ‘premature babies and babies born at 24 weeks’. I was frightened of the images that would pop up on my phone. Would this be what my girls looked like? Would I bond with them? Would I love them with all my heart even though they looked so poorly? The images scared me a lot and I had another panic attack. I decided this was not a wise idea. It was doing nothing for me other than scaring the sh*t out of me. By this point it was 5am. I decided this was a sensible enough time to get up and find some cereals and make myself a cup of tea. It was also Connor’s birthday so I made him a card (he still has it) from a page in my notebook (arts and crafts resources are pretty limited in a hospital but I managed to borrow the midwife’s pen when she came to take my morning observations). In our first year of dating, I learnt he likes ‘good quality’ cards and I didn’t want him to be disappointed this year. When I was younger I always used to make my family birthday cards. It passed some time and kept me focused on something else. I also messaged my Mum and sister to see if they could buy him the new Guy Martin book as I had nothing for him to open.
Connor arrived at 8am and I was so relieved to see him. He loved his birthday card and told me, my friend had made him a ‘birthday bacon and sausage sandwich’ with a candle on top. What a star! She had also sent him in with some posh goodies in a cute little bag. I love that girl. It had an eye mask, ear plugs, Laura Mercier moisturiser, minty lip balm and posh shower gel (I can’t remember the brand but smelt luxurious). I was so grateful. It really cheered me up, just smelling everything, and I realised, after reading her card, I had not had a shower since Wednesday (it was now Saturday) and I needed to start looking after myself. I was scared of going into labour whilst in the shower so I made it a quick one. After having a shower and moisturising I felt utterly pampered. Crazy hey! There I was, in hospital, my waters had gone, the possibility of having extremely premature twins and I felt the most pampered I had in a long time. I was clean and smelt incredible.
That morning, at 9am, 48 hours had passed. I felt an enormous sense of achievement. I had done it. I hadn’t gone in to labour and had had two lots of steroids to help with the girls’ lung development. All the support I received from friends, family and of course Connor was unbelievable and I can’t thank them enough. From this point I knew I now had to be brave. I had survived the first 48 hours, I could do this. I had to remain strong for my girls. If I didn’t, then I felt like I would be letting Connor and my girls down. My little family needed me to have a positive mind set. If I knew I could stay strong, then they would hopefully believe that too. They would know and feel that everything was going to be ok. It was up to me to do this. I had to keep my brave face on, to keep hoping and praying that my little girls would stay safely inside me.