Our Preemie Story – Introduction
This is our preemie story, it will give parents hope when dealing with a premature baby. The journey to parenthood for myself and Olivia was not an easy one. It was paved with heartache and despair as we battled through infertility and IVF treatment. It was a long and arduous two and half years and when Olivia fell pregnant in May 2016, our luck had finally begun to change. We thought that once we passed the three-month mark, when it is safe to announce the pregnancy, it would all be plain sailing. We were wrong. 6 and a half months after the positive pregnancy test we were faced with yet another challenge.
Infertility – Our Preemie Story
We had been together for 10 years and were destined to spend the rest of our lives together. Our fertility doctor told us that our health insurance would cover the cost of IVF if we got married. Needless to say, we tied the knot within a couple of months. For each of our three IVF treatments, we transferred two embryos to increase the chances of getting pregnant. We never in our wildest dreams believed that we would have twins.
We never thought we would have Twins – Our Preemie Story
The long journey to pregnancy had pushed our marriage to its limits and we nearly split up. Fertility treatment is the hardest thing that we have ever had to endure and now that Olivia was pregnant we were overcome with joy. A month after the positive pregnancy test Olivia made an unplanned visit to her Gynaecologist. I was working, she called me asking “should we wait and do the first scan together, or should I do it here now ?”. I replied, “I would love to be there, but go ahead and do a scan”. She called me back and screamed, ” WE ARE HAVING TWINS”.
That moment will stay with me forever. The good news could not stop coming for us. We had been so unlucky in the last couple of years and it seemed that our lives had finally taken a turn for the better. For a man that is infertile to hear that he is having two babies is like a homeless person winning the lottery twice.
The First and Second Trimester
The first 6 and a half months of pregnancy were a dream. It was summer time and we enjoyed every day. We felt blessed to have come so far. There were a few minor complications though, one, in particular, caused us both to panic.
We were on holidays in Andalucia and Olivia started bleeding heavily. Our initial reaction was that we had lost one or both of the babies. It was the last night of our trip and we decided to wait until we got back to Germany to see what the problem was. Luckily, when we got back to Germany the tests were all clear. Heavy bleeding is common with a twin pregnancy.
The Third Trimester – Our Preemie Story
At the beginning of November, after six months of pregnancy, Olivia went for a check up. She got the all clear and, the 31st of December was the forecasted date for giving birth. This was three weeks earlier than the full term, but early births are normal with multiples.
Water Breaking – Our Preemie Story
On the 13th of November, at 3 AM, Olivia woke suddenly and the bed was wet. We were both confused and didn’t for a minute think that it could be her water breaking. It was two and a half months befoe the full pregnancy term. We had just been to the hospital and were told that the babies would be born on new years eve. A quick google search informed us that it might just be leakage. We decided to go back to sleep and get it checked out in the morning. Looking back that was a stupid idea.
The next morning, Olivia felt okay, and she decided that she could go to the hospital alone. She had no contractions and there was no point in me missing work. After I left for work, she took her time and enjoyed breakfast before setting off on the bus to the hospital. She got to the hospital and they told her that her water had broken. She could have given birth on the bus.
In our minds, it was too early for her water to have broken. If I am honest, we were both very naive and could have harmed our unborn babies. We should have gone to the hospital the night before. To our surprise, Olivia would have to stay in the hospital until the babies were born. It all became very real and the babies were on their way.
We had nothing prepared and this stressed the shit out of Olivia. We had no names and the nursery was not ready. If you are reading this and are pregnant then I wold recommend having everything ready at 6 months just in case. Also, make sure that you have a bag packed and ready to go to the hospital.
It was just shy of the 30-week mark, which meant that the babies would probably not be able to breath unassisted as their lungs were not developed. They immediately injected Olivia with cortisone to build up their lungs as quickly as possible. The fact that their lungs were not ready and they could come any day was scary for both of us.
What was even scarier was the fact that Max’s heartbeat was irregular. He was really struggling inside his mother’s womb. It was too early for him to be born, and with reason, we were very worried. Our unborn son was having a difficult start to life and he had not even left his mother’s womb.
The Birth – Our Preemie Story
On the Wednesday morning, as I was standing naked in the bathroom when Olivia called. “THEY ARE COMING”, she shouted. “Who is coming”, I said, thinking she was getting visitors to the hospital. ” THE BABIES” she screamed. I jumped under the shower for a matter of seconds and rushed up to the hospital. I was there in 21 minutes. By the time I reached the hospital, she was already in the theatre.
A nurse came to me and told me that my wife was giving birth next door, but I could not go into the room. It was an emergency C-section under full anaesthetic. The ten minutes that I had to wait were the longest of my life. There were so many different emotions running through my body. Fear, anguish and uncertainty had caused a knot in my stomach. I felt helpless and guilty that I was not there holding Olivia’s hand while she was giving birth to my children. The sounds of screaming babies were adding to my panicked state, so I tried some breathing techniques to calm my nerves.
After what seemed like an eternity, a doctor came to the room and told me that I could see my babies. He escorted me to the post birth room, where two tiny babies lay surrounded by two teams of doctors and nurses. My babies had arrived and they were tiny. Mathilda was born 3 minutes before Max and they weighed 1490 and 1495 grammes respectively. “What are their names,” asked the doctor in German. We did not have names 100% finalised at that stage. It was 10 weeks before their anticipated birth date. This was something that we had expected to discuss in the months leading up to the birth. We were toying with the names Conor and Emily. “Conor and Emily” I replied. We ended up with the names Max Conor and Mathilda Emily.
They were the most beautiful things that I had ever seen. They were perfect. A tear of joy rolled down my face, but the joy as short lived. They were very premature and would have to be put directly in an incubator for the foreseeable future. Mathilda was well, all things considered, but Max’s lungs were so underdeveloped that he needed a machine to breath. This broke my heart. Not only could we not hold them but whether Max would survive or not was touch and not guaranteed.
From Bad to Worse – Our Preemie Story
The next 6 weeks were tough. We spent 8-12 hours every day in the hospital with the Max and Mathilda. Mathilda was doing well, but Max was struggling. Two days later I was back in work. It hurt me so much to be away from new born babies as they lay in intensive care. On the Friday afternoon, while at work my phone rang, it was Olivia and she had bad news. Max’s lung had collapsed and he needed an operation.
My world seemed to stop at that moment. We had been through so much and fought so hard and I thought my son might die. Within minutes, I was on the train to the hospital and couldn’t hold back the tears. I’m not a religious person, but I prayed that Max would be okay. The feeling of desperation left me feeling helpless. When I reached the hospital I found Olivia outside Max’s room weeping inconsolably. Despite the fear that had engulfed my body, I put on a brave face and told her that everything would be okay.
An operation on a baby that can fit in the palm of your hand is a scary experience. Luckily, we were in the best neonatal ward in Germany and Max was in good hands. They operated on him within the hour and he was put on a more invasive breathing mask. It took a couple of days and was touch and go at times, but slowly he started to recover. We worried so much during those couple of days and we are forever grateful to the staff at Virchow Clinic for their help.
Our final month in hospital – Our Preemie Story
The next 6 weeks were tough. Under recommendation from the doctors, I was given a sick leave while the children were still in the hospital. We spent 8-12 hours at the neonatal unit every day. Every day we were kangarooing with the babies. Click here to find our more about Kangarooing. Skin to skin contact is scientifically proven to improve premature babies health.
Germany is an amazing country when it comes to health care and how they look after their citizens. After 5 weeks, we were given the good news that we could leave in one more week. Before leaving the hospital, it was recommended that we try rooming in. At the courtesy of our health insurance, we stayed with full room and board in our own room in the hospital. This gave us the chance, as a family, to learn how to feed and change the babies. A nurse and midwife were on call should we need one. It was like training for handling the children at home. It was a great experience and made the transition from hospital to home much easier.
Thank You to the Fertility Doctors & Neonatal Nurses – Our Preemie Story
Neonatal nurses and children’s doctors have in my eyes the most important jobs in the World. They are kind, hard working and often underpaid. This post gives me the platform to thank the fertility doctors and staff at the Westend Fertility Center and doctors and staff at the Virchow Clinic for all of their help. They created and saved our children’s lives.
Coming Home For Christmas – Our Preemie Story
Just in time for Christmas, and 42 days after their birth, we were blessed with the greatest Christmas present of all. Max and Mathilda were given the all clear and we could spend first Christmas at home as a family. Finally, after years of fighting, pressure and hardship our journey had taken a positive turn. The hardest times were behind us.
We are one of the lucky ones, our twins survived being born so early. Not all preemies survive. I count my blessings every day that I live in Germany and the healthcare system here is as good as it gets. If Max and Mathilda had been born 30 years ago or in another less developed country, then they woul not have survived.
If you have premature babies then try not to worry. They have been born earlier than you would have liked, but that is just the way it is. You have to accept it and understand that they are in good hands. Technology and medicine are so advanced these days that there is no better place for them to be than the neonatal unit. They are in good hands and in the words of Bob Marley “You do not know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”
Do you have premature babies? I would love to hear your story. Email me your story and I will publish it on the blog.