Meeting Holly & Chloe
I had just returned from visiting a friend who told me she was expecting her third baby. Even though I knew it would be too early for me to take a pregnancy test (seeing as my husband Glenn and I had only decided we were happy to fall pregnant again just weeks earlier) you bet I took that pregnancy test. Two lines. Pregnant for the fourth time.
Our previous birth experience with our third baby, Sophie, in November 2018 ended up in an emergency due to shoulder dystocia aka she got stuck on the way out. The trauma surrounding our birth with her didn't hit us until a few weeks later and has always been hard for me to comprehend. So it didn't surprise me when I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test that my first thought was, "Oh no, I have to give birth again." I know that sounds crazy, but it was an instant fear that I knew I would have to work on.
Fast forward to 8th April 2020 to our dating scan. I had to attend on my own due to COVID restrictions which we didn't mind, as long as the baby was okay. It's always so nerve-wracking staring at that screen waiting for the sonographer to ensure you that all is on track. I looked up to the screen and given I was only around eight weeks, there wasn't much to my eye that was recognisable as a baby, so I lay there waiting for the sonographers input. After a short silence, she placed her hand on my shoulder and said: "Okay sweetheart, there are two babies!"
It actually gives me goosebumps writing that as it is a moment I will never, ever forget. I always get asked what my reaction was. Well, I burst into tears!! Purely out of shock as this is what you hear happen to other people, never yourself! Our 4th and final baby were now babies number 4 & 5!! It does bother Glenn and I that we didn't get that moment together, but it was also a bit funny to watch the colour drain from Glenn's face the moment he realised what 'baby A' and 'baby B' meant on the scan picture!
The Royal Women's hospital in Parkville is where I spent a lot of time throughout my pregnancy due to the high-risk nature of carrying identical twins. Without going into too much technical info, they both shared the same placenta, so we had fortnightly scans to ensure they were growing equally. I was very lucky that we had no complications throughout the pregnancy. However, having experienced pregnancies in 'normal times', being pregnant throughout the thick of Melbourne's lockdowns this year, it was a whole different world. I truly feel for all parents who had pregnancies and births during covid and a particular shout out to first-time parents!
The full-term gestation for our twins was between 36 – 37 weeks, so I was booked in to be induced on Wednesday 28th October 2020 at 36 weeks and four days. I did find most people assume twins means c section birth, but it all depends on the positioning of the twin closest to the cervix. I was lucky enough that our twin one was head down, ready to come on out.
Our induction date rolled around very quickly. I spent the week leading up to it barely sleeping, going in and out of every emotion and just pacing the house. I was terrified. No matter what I did or tried to do to overcome this fear, it was just too strong. So at 4 am on the day of the induction, I was awake and preparing to go into hospital. We arrived around 8 am, and things moved pretty quickly. I had Twin 1's waters broken at 9.50 am – I presented at 2cm dilated, the syntocinon drip commenced by 10.40 am, and the ever so amazing epidural was kicking in by 1.30 pm. I had felt all my other labours and births so that plus the recommendation of the obstetricians considering the different manoeuvres they may need to do in a twin birth, I was signed up for that epidural 110%!
My induction with Sophie (number 3) was relatively quick – around 5 hours. We all thought we would be looking at similar timings for the twins. How wrong were we all. Hours went by, followed by many more hours. The drip had been turned up consistently, my cervical checks were four hourly with no change to the 2 cm dilation. My poor husband was on a very uncomfortable couch too apparently (read with sarcasm).
Not long before midnight, after over 12 hours of trying to get my body to actually commence labour, they decided to do a 'wash out' which meant to switch off the syntocinon drip, flush my body out with fluids and then restart the process. Thankfully our babies were happy and well throughout this entire ordeal which is why the staff were happy to keep trying, but my mind was slowly losing the battle of wanting to continue with a vaginal birth. We were told I would be checked at 2.40 am. At around 2 am, I said to Glenn that I wanted a C section. I was done. The fear, anxiety, exhaustion all mixed together was a cocktail of I give up!! I called the midwife in and expressed my thoughts, so she told the doctors to come check to see where we were.
After a lengthy silence whilst the obstetrician checked me, I actually said to her "I'm assuming I haven't progressed then" which we then got the response of "you are actually 10cm so let's have these babies" Glenn and I were honestly shocked. I wasn't expecting that at all as I could feel contractions the entire time – pain-free – and just didn't feel like they were getting any stronger or longer.
The plan was to push within the hour, but only 20 minutes later, they could see that our babies were starting to get distressed. Particularly Twin 2. So just like that, it was time to push. Around 10 minutes in, they very calmly told me that Twin 1 had to make an entrance very soon as Twin 2's heart rate was showing signs of increased distress. They decided to place a vacuum on to help get Twin 1's head past her sister, and once that had happened, I got to reach down and pull our first twin onto my chest. Holly Rose Robertson.
An overwhelming relief came over me to be holding her and knowing she was safe in my arms, making some beautiful crying sounds. Not even five minutes later, while holding Twin 1 on my chest, I was pushing out her sister who was coming very quickly. Too quickly that her waters didn't even get broken and she came out en caul. Given her distress, her waters were broken as she came out, and she was held up for us to see. Chloe Hart Robertson.
We all knew she needed help straight away, so she was taken across the room to receive oxygen. The staff were so calm and reassuring as they worked on her. They constantly provided verbal updates to us, and after a few minutes, they informed us that they had decided to call a code blue so she could be transferred safely to NICU to continue help. That is something we will always appreciate as we felt somewhat prepared to see extra staff and equipment enter the room. As they transferred Chloe to the incubator, they let me touch her little body. This was very overwhelming for me. My babies have always come straight to me, so I felt like a part of me had been removed. I actually had to pass Holly into the closest person's arms as the shock of everything caused me to vomit everywhere.
Glenn went with Chloe to NICU, and I lay there alone with Holly on my chest, waiting for Glenn's updates through text message. I could barely keep my eyes open, and my entire body was shaking. I got up to have a shower not long after which helped and waited to be transferred to the maternity ward. It was there we spent nearly six days, three of those we spent just sitting with Chloe in NICU then special care. She kicked goals and transitioned away from oxygen, feeding tubes, drips etc. so quickly.
We know we are so lucky that nothing was wrong with her; it was simply her transition into the world was a bit too much for her. We will always be proud of her strength in those early days as well as the strength of both babies to grow so well throughout the pregnancy.
Holly Rose Robertson, born 3.07 am weighing 2.62kg & Chloe Hart Robertson, born 3.12 am weighing 2.87kg on 29th October 2020. What a journey it was to grow and birth you both. They are so loved by their big brother Jaxen, aged 6, big sisters Ella and Sophie, aged 4 & 2. Our family is complete.
Thank you to all of the midwives and obstetricians at the Royal Women's Hospital Melbourne – you are all incredible.