Born at 33 weeks – wow, what a surprise...

Everything about this pregnancy was a surprise. 

With Covid in our midst, we decide that we will rather “wait for Covid to be over” – much like the first 21 days of lockdown that we had… Uninformed like everyone else, we believed that Covid will be over soon! So, life happened and soon we realized Covid is here to stay. We decided to take the leap of faith and soon I fell pregnant.

Due to the fact that I have had a miscarriage before, I was super nervous for our first scan. I was so delighted to see my gynaecologist again, who delivered my son in 2017.

The moment he started the scan he spoke words that I will never forget – THERE’S TWO BABIES!!

Everything went exceptionally well throughout the pregnancy and from 30 weeks I had to see my doctor every week. So, I went for my regular follow up, not thinking much… this is when things started to go a bit pear-shaped, extremely difficult if you have not prepared yourself mentally… as I mentioned earlier – full of surprises. 

At this scan, suddenly, my doctor could not really scan twin B and struggled to monitor her heartbeat. In an instant he confirmed, amazing and caring doctor that he is, that I will be admitted to hospital immediately – chaos ran through my mind… I have a three-year-old at home, who I have not even said goodbye to officially, I need to go for a Covid test, my bag is not packed, Hubby is at work (yes, due to Covid he missed most of the scans) the list goes on. I was in pure shock when my doctor said I must know that my babies can be born today if necessary. He picks up the phone and gets hold of the specialist who squeezes me in for a scan, right there and then – low and behold, twin B is fine, just very restricted in terms of space and extremely difficult to monitor.

So, the days went by where I basically just held on for those scans to see that both babies are still fine and growing as they should. I always said to my doctor he should not worry about me, I will live with the aches and pains and discomfort, if they are fine, and we can keep them in for as long as possible. 

He knew this and one day he spoke such true words – well in hindsight, very true words… that he needs to decide whether the babies are better off inside or outside… They must have heard him, because two days later, at 04:45 in the morning, my water broke – and the first thing he said when he saw me… See, babies always know better!

Hectic, hectic times with Covid… I got admitted into isolation pending my results, and babies and contractions were monitored. I got the most painful steroid injection and meds to keep the contractions away, and doctor gave his blessing that we can wait until we have our Covid results, so that Daddy does not miss the birth of his two girls. Little did I know what blessing this was, as Dad stood by the girls’ beds and held their little hands when I could not. 

Just as I settled for a quick nap, I am told that our results came, both negative and that I will be prepped for theatre soon. At 15:43 and 15:45 our two little girls were born. I prayed SO hard that both just cry… and boy, they did! Within five minutes they were whisked away to NICU. Minutes later the sweetest midwife comes back and brings the best news ever – both girls are fine, and both weigh 2.5kg… So small but so incredibly strong. She witnessed the spinal and c-section and ‘orders’ the theatre staff to “give that woman a Bells”… Man, they just know how to keep you sane!

Unfortunately, I could not see my girls at all, until 09:00 the next morning, as I was still on oxygen and had low blood pressure so I could not move. It was the sweetest moment when I went to see them. NICU is such a humbling experience… To see your own babies lying there, so vulnerable, machines and beeps and pipes everywhere… This is something no one will ever be able to prepare you for. NICU was, by far, the most difficult journey for me in my entire life. Due to Covid we could only visit twice a day for an hour at a time. I could only hold my girls for the first time on day 5 and 6. This is something that I really regret – I never insisted on holding my babies earlier, purely out of ignorance and fear, as I was told that I need to wait until all the lines are out, which I accepted. It was so difficult to stand next to their beds, not being able to just pick them up and hold them tight and tell them everything will be ok! This is something that I want other mothers to know – tell them you want to hold your baby, 99% of the time it is possible!

At first, this made me feel very distant, like they are not mine, as if I could not connect with them, and then I read about bonding hearts of littlelittleprem. I would wear them for hours and take them to the girls and take the ones they had with them – this made such a big difference, as silly as it might sound, as I could smell them and get the positive vibes going. It made my heart a bit lighter to know they can smell mommy, even when I am not there. This also assisted greatly with my breastfeeding journey as I had to express from the day they were born, almost 15 weeks later and we are still going strong.

I am grateful to everyone that played a part in the journey of my beautiful little girls, from the hospital staff to family and friends, and littlelittleprem that has such well thought through things that makes the journey so much easier ♡

Love from one NICU mother to another,

Anel Oosthuizen 

Pictures of the twins then