Dr Gemma Ambrose
Dr Gemma Ambrose bravely shares her story of her twin pregnancy in 2010 , who were both at 26 weeks.
I found out I was pregnant in Australia in 2010, it was my first pregnancy and I had no experience of preterm birth before this. I had monochorionic diamniotic twins, so there was a risk of twin-twin transfusion. I had 2 weekly scans during my pregnancy to monitor their growth and at 24 weeks, I was admitted with threatened labour and transferred to a larger hospital in the middle of the night. They had 2 NICU beds available just in case. Nothing happened and I was told I had an irritable uterus.
We had discussed premature birth but only for an elective C-Section at 35 weeks, after my previous admission, I was told the goal was to reach 28 weeks +.
“I felt my body had failed me and I had no idea why. It was nothing like I imagined having a baby would be.”
One morning, I woke up after an uncomfortable night with no sign of regular contractions and had a show when fluid was running down my leg. Labour pains started very quickly! From calling the labour ward ahead and getting there in 20 minutes, I was 8cm on arrival. This was so unexpected so I was scared, I had no idea what was going to happen in labour; let alone with premature babies afterwards. I was in tears wondering if my babies were going to die. I kept apologising to my husband at the time for not being able to keep them in. I felt my body had failed me and I had no idea why. It was nothing like I imagined having a baby would be.
My twins were born at 26+3 weeks weighing 1lb 11oz and 1lb 12oz. Both my girls were intubated straight away. After a time of stabilising them in the theatre, I was asked if I wanted to look at them before they went down to NICU. I remember vividly saying, “No” as I didn’t want to get attached in case they died. I did not look at them for hours and it was only until I was given a photo of them from NICU that I saw what they looked like. For some reason, I put them in. the bible in my room even though I’m not religious. My girls were in NICU for over 100 days.
“I couldn’t cope with not knowing the outcome, every morning coming in an anxious mess to hope the night went OK. Going home in the evenings and leaving them there, I hated every minute of it.”
Both girls had to be intubated because they couldn’t copy with just CPAP and they were transferred to a tertiary centre in Portsmouth where they had to be weaned off the ventilator and put onto CPAP. We then went back to Winchester to be weaned off CPAP and then establish feeding. They were both treated for infections, luckily their PDAs closed and their bowels and eyes were OK.
I am a Doctor and at the time I was working on adult ICU. I struggled massively with having some knowledge as I knew what things meant, what was bad etc. I was a complete mess as I had two babies, I sat between them every single day with alarms alternating between them. I couldn’t hold them and I couldn’t feed them for a long time. I couldn’t cop with not knowing the outcome, every morning coming in an anxious mess to hope the night went OK. Going home in the evenings and leaving them there, I hated every minute of it.
During this time, I kept thinking this could be other parents or NHS staff. The nurses on NICU did try to approach me with their concerns but I was very low and very agitated when people tried to talk to me about my wellbeing as I had decided that I would be better when my girls were. This was not the case. My parents came every days and I lived with them whilst the girls were in hospital.
We still don’t know why my twins were born preterm and I was just told it was spontaneous labour. I wanted to share my story as I don’t think many people understand the trauma or premature birth. Most people assume the babies lie in the incubator and grow until it is time to go home. Most people only think of babies being born prematurely as a few weeks early. Being born at 26 weeks is life threatening and the most awful journey. Some babies are left permanently disabled affecting the rest of their life. Parents are also massively affected and I feel this can go unnoticed.
I am forever indebted to the NHS for the care my girls had (Royal Hampshire County Hospital and Queen Alexander Hospital). I am very lucky as my girls do not have any lasting issues or disabilities at all from their early start in life. To look at my beautiful babies you would never know. I however, am scarred for life.