So I’ve been putting off writing this post for a very long time, knowing that it’s going to open up the flood gates again. Today I woke up, felt strong, and thought today is the day. I’m going to write. It can be part of my own therapy. To share what I’ve gone through with all of you.
Nearly a month ago, on 18th February, my waters broke when I was only 32 weeks pregnant. I still had another 8 weeks to go. I was pretty calm about the whole thing now that I look back on it. Sheldon was in the lounge building the twins’ pram. I had just bent down to plug the router in to the wall when I stood up and it felt like I’d wet myself! That usually only happened when I coughed, sneezed or laughed too hard! So I thought it was a bit strange. Ran to the loo and it happened again – at that stage I shouted from the loo and said to Sheldon, “Um, I think my waters have broken!”
We called our gynae, picked up my bag for hospital (thanks for thinking so far ahead sister) and headed out the door.
By the time we got to the hospital, the nurses were running around sorting stuff for me. They told me I was going in for a caesarean as soon as the anesthetist arrived! I wasn’t expecting that at all. Somehow I thought they might try keep the twins in there for longer. Pump me with steroids, force me to stay in bed – I don’t know what they do but I was worried they were coming out so early. Anyway, you listen to your doctor and know that they know best.
I’m not going to go in to too much detail when it came to the actual caesarean because it wasn’t the best experience of my life – but the twins were delivered safely.
Max came out first – it was his waters which broke – he came out at 2.19pm. I got a quick glimpse of him but the paediatrician took him straight away to clear his lungs of any fluids and to do all the other necessary check ups. They put him in a plastic bag to retain his body heat. Poor little thing – I could hear him screaming and I was so relieved. They cleaned him up a bit and brought him over to me so I could give him a quick kiss on his forehead and then they took him to NICU. He only weighed 1.77kg (3.9lb).
Two minutes later, his sister, Freya, was delivered. I heard her scream but I didn’t get the chance to give her a kiss. They rushed her straight to NICU – she weighed 1.79kg (3.95lb). You see, another reason why I’m not keen on caesareans – you don’t get to bond with your babies. It’s heartbreaking. I just lay there with both my arms stretched out, belly cut open, doctors working on me, husband had left to be with the twins and there I lay – didn’t even have a chance to hold the twins, to cuddle, to bond. I know it’s for their own good but it’s still awful.
I was so drugged up on morphine that I couldn’t see the babies that day/night. The next morning, I forced myself out of bed – I was in so much pain but I did it to show the nurses that I was well enough to go to NICU. They let me go but made me go in a wheelchair.
Sheldon got to hold Max and I held Freya. They were both so tiny! They had tubes coming out of their noses for their drip feed and they also had another thing strapped around each of their feet and this kept track of their pulse/heart rate. So when you picked them up, you had to manoeuvre all these tubes/wires – it’s really scary. Not only are you scared of holding something so small and fragile but now you’re scared you’re going to pull the tube out their nose or disable their heart monitor.
The next day, Max took a turn for the worst. His skin colour changed drastically – he went really pale. His breathing was rapid and he was making these horrible grunting noises. His stomach was also really bloated. The nurse called the paediatrician straight away. Dr Manjra came rushing over and did a quick check and called another nurse to get the X-ray machine over to NICU.
He was put on another bed where they did the X-ray and once he got the results he saw that he had a perforated bowel – extremely rare with a newborn. So all the gas was trapped in his stomach which caused his stomach to bloat terribly. He called a surgeon down so he could pierce a hole into his stomach to release the gases and fluids trapped inside him.
So there’s our boy, lying on this bed, completely exposed with this hole in his stomach and all this horrible stuff coming out of him. His skin colour improved but he still looked so sick. He was so small. Poor little Max. I couldn’t even hold him. Now that I look back, I don’t think I held him at all. Sheldon seems to think that I must have held him on day two at some stage but it all feels like such a haze when I look back on it. I hate that I can’t even remember. All I could do was hold his little hand, touch his head and his feet. I spoke to him all the time. I tried to make sure that he knew I was there, that he wasn’t alone.
Dr Manjra came and spoke to me and said that he had improved slightly but they were worrying now that his kidneys might be failing him too. He hadn’t urinated in a while and the liquid coming out of him was really dark which wasn’t a good sign at all.
The next day, Dr Botha was on call. He was there all day with the babies in NICU. Both these doctors are just so special. I can’t tell you what a special bond they have with these babies. Watching them work is just incredible. They treat each of these babies like they’re their own.
I went in to NICU to visit the twins. I would go see Freya first because she was doing well and I wasn’t too worried about her. So I would go see her for a bit and then go over to Max. When I look back now, I have to admit that I dreaded going to see him. It made me so nervous seeing him like that. It didn’t look good. I could see that for myself and I was already fearing the worst.
I spoke to one of the nurses that afternoon and said that I wanted one of the doctors to come and talk to me and just wanted the truth out of them. I didn’t want it sugar coated. Just let me know what his chances are. I couldn’t bear the thought of him lying there in pain. They promised he wasn’t in pain but he was still lying there getting pumped full of morphine. What an introduction in to this world hey?
Sheldon left the hospital at about 9pm that night. I went to bed and my gynae had prescribed a sleeping pill because he knew what I was going through and wanted to make sure I was getting some rest too. At about 10pm, Dr Botha came to my room to have a chat about Max.
He was so good to me. I sat on my bed sobbing while he broke the news that there was nothing more he could do for Max. He said the only thing he could do was make sure that he wasn’t in pain during this time. He wasn’t well enough for surgery to fix the perforated bowel. His kidneys had failed and now his potassium levels were really high. He was honest with me and held my hand throughout our conversation.
I phoned Sheldon as soon as he left the room. We both cried on the phone, finally acknowledging that we might lose our baby boy. I took my sleeping pill and thought that I would see Max in the morning.
Just after midnight, the NICU nurse, Tabatha, came in to my room to tell me that Max had had a seizure and he had passed away. I was in such a deep sleep so when she told me this, I registered the news and cried but my brain was still a bit fuzzy from the sleeping pill. She asked if I’d like to see him and I said yes. She asked if I’d like a cup of tea and again, I said yes. I must have fallen asleep when she left because when another nurse came in the room with a cup of tea for me, I was so confused. It was about 12.30am and I remember sitting there, wondering why I was drinking a cup of tea in the middle of the night. I couldn’t work it out. I fell asleep after my tea and when Tabatha came back in with Max, I just burst out crying again. I remembered why I was awake now.
Days later, Tabatha was talking to me about that night and she said that I just kept saying to her how I thought I had dreamt she came to see me and that I couldn’t believe it was really happening.
She brought Max to me and I held him. He was wrapped up in a little blanket and for the first time, I got to see our boy without all the tubes coming out of his nose. He looked so perfect and so beautiful. I couldn’t believe that this perfect little being was dead. That I wouldn’t get to take him home and hold him and bring him up. I wouldn’t get to see him grow up and play with his sister.
The other nurse had called Sheldon for me, so when he got there, Tabatha gave us some time alone. We both sat on the bed, held him, kissed his forehead and cried a lot of tears. I had asked Tabatha if it would be possible to take Freya out of NICU and bring her to us, so we could all be together as a family. I wanted Freya to say goodbye to him too. I got to hold both my babies – something you always think of when you’re carrying twins. It was a special moment and Freya was wide awake (for a change!) She was so alert.
Tabatha took Max from us and we had to say our final goodbyes. We sat in the room holding Freya for a bit longer – hoping that time with her would help heal us somehow.
Sheldon stayed with me that night. The two of us shared a single bed but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We needed to be together. There was no way I could have slept alone in hospital that night.
Writing about this now and reading over it, is quite a freak out. It’s like I’m reading someone else’s story. This sort of thing only happens to other people. It’s crazy that we’ve gone through all this already. It seems like we’ve started parenthood on the other side of the spectrum. Going through heart ache and hell first and then moving on to all the good stuff and happiness next.
If we didn’t have Freya, we would be dealing with the loss of Max in a very different way I’m sure. She makes me get up in the morning and she makes me smile every day. I’m so thankful and grateful that she’s here with us. So when she wakes up crying – I’m happy because she has lungs that work. When she has a big, full nappy – I’m happy because I know her bowels are working. When she has a wet nappy – I’m happy because I know her kidneys are working and so on . . . Everything that failed him, is working for her.
I get angry and think why give him to us and then take him away? What was the purpose of that? Then I think that he was here to bring her safely to us. That was his purpose. He’s her protector.
He’s been cremated and we have his box of ashes in her room. Once we buy a home of our own, we’d like to plant a tree in memory of our boy. I’d also like to get a nice wooden garden bench for near the tree. I’m going to take the plaque off the box and put it on the bench as a small dedication to Max.
I would just like to thank my husband, Sheldon, my sister, Jo, my brother-in-law Steve, my Mom and Craig, my Dad and Isobel, Aunty Barbs and Aunty Colleen for all their love and support throughout this time. Not to mention all the staff at NICU at Westville Hospital and all our friends in London and SA – can’t thank you enough. You’ve been our strength during our time of need.