Article “To mummy with love.” appeared in the January 2011 edition of Thats Life Magazine
To mummy with love.
We helped Nikki publish her real life story and placed it in That’s Life magazine. Photo-features worked closely with her through out the process and made sure it was told in the sensitive manner it deserved.
Nikki’s body couldn’t carry a baby full term and she’d watched two premature babies die in her arms. The grief pushed her relationship to the brink and the couple split. Eventually they got back together and decided to try again. But everyone agreed it was unlikely Nikki’s body would ever be able to carry a baby to term because the weight of the baby caused her cervix to shrink too quickly. So imagine their horror when she discovered she was pregnant – with twins. Her body couldn’t cope with one baby let alone two! A single pregnancy had been a mountain she’d already failed to climb twice, a twin pregnancy was going to be impossible… But after constant medical supervision and hospital bed rest from 16 weeks she finally gave birth to a healthy son and daughter.
‘Cheer up love,’ the barman handed me my change. ‘You’re supposed to be enjoying yourself.’
Scowling, I walked back to where my boyfriend Chris was sitting and slammed his bottle of beer down in front of him.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ he said.
‘What do you think?’ I said as tears threatened. ‘Look, I’m going home.’
Back at our house I got out my treasured photos and stroked the tiny, perfectly formed faces that were indelibly etched in my memory.
‘I miss you so much,’ I wept. ‘Why did you have to leave me?’
It seemed so unfair. For it to have happened once was painful enough, but to lose two tiny babies? Unthinkable.
We’d been over the moon when I’d discovered I was pregnant at 21. And doubly excited when I found out I was carrying a little girl. But then, at 22 weeks, I developed excruciating back pains.
‘Something’s wrong,’ I said to Chris as we raced to hospital.
‘You’re 9cm dilated,’ the midwife said. ‘The baby’s coming. There’s nothing we can do.’
At 1lb 2.5 oz, Zoe was perfect. Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes and the sweetest face. Like a little angel. And as quickly as she’d arrived she went back up to heaven.
We were devastated.
‘I so wanted to be a mum,’ I wept as the nurses took her away.
‘And you will be. In time, you can try again,’ my mum Debbie, soothed.
And a year later, that familiar blue line said we’d been given another chance.
Because of my history, I had a scan every fortnight. And at 16 weeks, bad news. I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix – it was too weak to stay closed during a pregnancy, resulting in a premature birth. It was what doctors had thought had happened with Zoe.
‘You’ve got to do something,’ I begged them. ‘I can’t lose this baby too.’
But all they could do was put a stitch in my cervix to try and hold my baby in.
‘Please hold on just a bit longer darling,’ I prayed, rubbing my budding bump.
But at 21 weeks, I went into labour. Our son Harry weighed a measly 1lb and lived for just minutes. As I kissed him goodbye, I thought my heart would break
Those next weeks were Hell. I could hardly get out of bed in the morning.
‘The pair of you will get through this,’ Mum promised. ‘Support each other.’
Only, we dealt with things in different ways. Whereas I wanted to talk about what had happened with Zoe and Harry, Chris’s way of coping was to throw himself back into things, seeing friends and being social.
‘It’s too soon,’ I told him when he’d tried to coax me out this evening.
‘It’s been six months,’ he shouted, exasperated. ‘We can’t change what’s happened so we need to put it behind us, move on.’
So reluctantly, I tried to do things his way for once. But the evening had been a disaster. I just wasn’t ready.
There was only one thing for it –
‘I think we should split up,’ I told Chris the next morning.
So six months after we’d buried Harry we reluctantly agreed to part. It was just too painful to be together.
While Chris stayed in the house, I moved back in with Mum, 15 minutes up the road. But Chris and I still saw each other every other week – meeting up for coffee, or a quiet drink with friends. We’d been through too much to simply to lose contact all together.
As the months went by, meeting up once a fortnight turned into seeing each other every weekend, then a couple of evenings in between. We started to talk about Zoe and Harry more… and the fact that we still had feelings for each other, too.
And almost a year after we’d split: ‘I think we should give things another go,’ I said.
‘You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to hear that,’ Chris sighed.
After we split we sold our house and Chris had been lodging with friends, so that September we rented a new place together.
‘A fresh start,’ we vowed as we moved in. Babies remained firmly off the agenda though.
After Harry had been born doctors warned us there was a very small chance I could carry a baby to full term, so in a way the decision had been taken out of our hands. Anyway, we were so pleased to have each other again, we decided that was enough to make us happy.
However, my desire for a child was like a niggling itch that wouldn’t go away.
‘I’ve been thinking about babies again,’ I confided in Mum.
‘Well if you’ve found the courage from somewhere to try again, I think you should,’ she encouraged.
But Chris wasn’t ready. I understood his apprehension but inside, I was desperate to try again. Eventually, the following May, Chris suggested we go to see the consultant. I was delighted, but apprehensive.
She repeated what she’d told me six weeks after losing Harry – that it was unlikely I could ever carry a pregnancy full term – and we came away from the meeting feeling deflated.
‘So what now?’ I asked Chris.
Our only hope was a cervical stitch but it hadn’t worked last time and the resulting scarring could make it even less effective this time around. We both dreaded the thought of losing another baby…but yearned to be parents.
‘Once more and if it doesn’t happen then that’s it,’ Chris said.
So we began trying. The following month, I missed my period. I could hardly believe it when the first test came back positive…and the second…and the third.
‘That was quick,’ Chris said when I told him. I could tell he was nervous – we both were – but he was anxious to be supportive.
We called the hospital and made an appointment with the consultant. Eager to do everything to keep me pregnant as long as possible, this time they decided to put a stitch higher up the cervix when I hit 12 weeks.
But four weeks later I had a bleed. I was sent for a scan at the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary. Sure I’d had an early miscarriage, I sobbed as I sat in the waiting room with my pregnant sister.
As the radiographer searched for a heartbeat, I watched her face for reassurance but instead she frowned and called for a colleague.
My heart sank. So that was that. I’d lost my third baby already. But in fact, the truth was even more shocking…
The scan had showed not one heart beat, but two. I was pregnant with twins.
‘What?’ I cried. My body couldn’t carry one baby, let alone two.
‘This can’t be happening,’ I sobbed as my sister put her arm around me.
I went straight to see Chris at the residential care home where we both worked.
‘Is everything OK?’ he asked, rushing into reception.
‘Not really. We’re having twins!’ I announced.
He laughed nervously. But it was no joke.
We saw our consultant the next day. She confirmed our fears, saying we’d be lucky to deliver one healthy baby, if any. I was signed off work, told to take things easy.
The next month passed in a blur, as I analysed every twinge. I kept hoping there’d been some mistake but at 12 weeks another scan confirmed two tiny heart beats. Still, they put in stitch as planned and I went for weekly scans so they could monitor the length of my cervix for signs of shortening.
The next month, back and forth to the hospital with cramps and bleeds, things didn’t look good. At 16 weeks I was admitted to hospital for total bed rest but inside I was sure it was only a matter of time before I went home empty-handed.
When I reached 20 weeks we found out we were carrying a boy and a girl it seemed so perfect and made the thought of losing them even more painful. We’d even chosen names – Ruby and William.
When 22 weeks came and went I could hardly breathe. It was the longest I’d ever been pregnant. I was delighted but frightened. Each day I was growing closer to my babies so to lose them now would be so hard. Every morning I woke up wondering if today would be the day my body would give in…but nothing. I started noticing stretchmarks on tummy and began to feel my babies kicking, not just the butterflies I’d felt with my first two.
‘It looks like this is really happening,’ I whispered to Chris. ‘Can you believe it?’
At 26 weeks a swab of my cervix even showed I was unlikely to go into labour in the next fortnight. I was so relieved. Every day my babies were growing stronger, more likely to survive.
It wasn’t until 33 weeks that I started to get a strange feeling. Turns out the stitch had come loose and my cervix had opened. I was 3cm dilated. They needed to remove the stitch before my cervix tore. My babies were on their way.
‘Go home and pack a bag,’ my consultant said. ‘We’ll have the labour ward on standby.’
At home we sat and waited but nothing happened. We started giggling. It all seemed so unreal.
One week passed, then another. Every day was a bonus.
‘Seems these two aren’t going anywhere,’ the consultant laughed.
I sighed. I never dreamed I’d say it but I actually wanted them out – now. I’d put on three-and-a-half stone, my waist had expanded to a massive 60 inches, I had searing heartburn and I couldn’t walk properly. But more than anything I wanted to meet my babies.
Then at 36 weeks, tests showed I had cholestasis, a common liver disease that only happens in pregnancy. It was releasing dangerous toxins into my bloodstream which could lead to stillbirth. I was given Vitamin K to reduce the symptoms and booked in to be induced two days later.
After having had my waters broken and put on a hormone drip, things started fast and furious. Soon I was 10cm dilated. And –
‘Push!’ the midwife said.
So I did. But Ruby’s heart beat was decelerating with each contraction.
Then they discovered she wasn’t in the right position to be born. They got me ready for a caesarean but at the last minute managed to turn her head with forceps. She was born in theatre at 8:57pm, a beautiful 5lb 12oz bundle of joy. Her brother William, again weighing 5lb 12 oz, screamed his way into the world 15 minutes later.
As I stroked Ruby’s dark head and gazed into her blue eyes, tears streamed down my cheeks. ‘We’ve done it,’ I said. ‘We’ve actually done it. I’m a Mum!’
‘I know,’ Chris whispered as he nestled William in his arms. ‘We’ve got our babies.’
I’d never given birth to one healthy baby before, and here I was with two little miracles. It barely seemed possible. It was almost as if my angel babies had been looking down on me granting my wishes.
I half expected someone to come and say there’d be a mistake.
So when Ruby’s blood sugars were low and she was whisked off to special care, the consultant’s words – ‘you’d be lucky to deliver one healthy baby, if any’ – came back to me. Were we going to lose her?
Thankfully, my worries were unfounded. She was fine. And four days later, we brought her and her brother home.
That evening, as Ruby and William lay in their identical moses baskets, Chris and I kept looking at each other. We didn’t want to go to bed in case something happened so we stayed up watching them all night long.
‘That won’t last,’ Mum laughed as she saw our exhausted faces the next morning.
It didn’t. We needn’t have worried. They were the perfect babies, feeding like troopers, putting on weight and even giving us the odd few hours of sleep!
‘You’ve made me the happiest man on earth,’ Chris beamed one night as we watched the gentle rise and fall of their chests.
I couldn’t agree more. In fact, there was only one thing that could make things even more perfect. And then –
‘Marry me?’ Chris said.
So last August, just after the twins had turned two, Chris and I tied the knot. It was the perfect ending – or should that be beginning? – to everything we’d been through together.
Looking back, I can hardly believe everything’s that happened. I was devastated when I was told I was carrying twins because I was sure I was going to lose another two babies. But in fact it was the best thing that could have happened. I never thought I’d get to be a mum so to give birth to not one but two healthy babies has been a dream come true.
My family – and my life – is now complete.