Clinging onto life

Such a little battler, but could you win this fight?

Published by: Amy Thompson and Nicola Skinner
Published on: 5th March 2010

A big white dress, bridesmaids in red gowns, a blanket of snow on the ground… I’d always dreamed of the perfect winter wedding.
So, when your daddy Steve, 27, proposed, I already had the details sorted in my head.
‘We’ll have to get married in December,’ I told him. ‘And I’ll have a bouquet of white roses…’
I had to be prepared. Two of the biggest things a woman has to plan are a wedding and having a baby.
One thing I wasn’t prepared for, though, was doing both at the same time! Just weeks after the proposal, I found out I was pregnant with you and your twin sister Erin. I was gobsmacked. Of course, me and your daddy had spoken about starting a family, but we’d never expected it would happen so soon.
And I’d always planned on being married first – so we’d be a proper family. At least that would still be the case. I’d only be five months pregnant by December. You and Erin weren’t due until April.
Excitement surged through me as I imagined you both snuggled in your Moses baskets as I gently brushed my lips against your rosy pink cheeks while you slept.
In a matter of months, I’d have a ready-made family.
There was so much to organise, though. From bridal magazines to baby books, bouquets to buggies…I didn’t stop planning.
‘You’ll wear yourself out,’ your daddy warned.
‘Relax,’ I told him. ‘I’ve got everything under control.’
And I did. The ceremony at a posh hotel was booked for December 20, the reception in our village hall was sorted, invitations had been sent out.
I’d even managed to pick up Moses baskets.
Everything was going to plan. Until six weeks before the wedding… ‘I told you this dress wouldn’t fit,’ your granny tutted, at my final dress fitting.
I hadn’t expected my bump to get so big so quickly. I’d already had it altered to expand with me.
‘It just needs to be let out a little more, that’s all,’ I muttered.
‘Sorry,’ the shop assistant shook her head. ‘That’s as far as this dress will go.’ Damn!
I had to pick out a maternity dress instead, but it was still lovely. Okay, it wasn’t the one I’d planned on wearing, but all that really mattered was marrying Daddy.
Trouble was, the dress turned out to be the least of my problems. A scan showed you and Erin had developed twin-to-twin transfusion. A dangerous condition, it meant one of you would be getting lots more blood than the other.
Soon, my face and hands were swollen and my blood pressure rocketed. Your daddy rushed me to hospital. ‘You and the babies are at serious risk,’ the doctor told me. ‘We’re going to prep you for an emergency Caesarean.’
My mind raced. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Me and Daddy were due to get married in two weeks. You weren’t due for another four months.
To prepare us, nurses showed us the premature baby unit so we’d know what to expect. The tiniest children blinked up at us from incubators. I fought back tears.
How could anything so small survive?  Everything passed in a blur as I was wheeled into theatre to have you delivered. Before I knew it, I was back on the ward.
But there were no babies snuggled beside each other in a cot by my bed, no piercing cries to let us know you were hungry.
Instead, I was wheeled down to see you both in intensive care.
The moment I clapped eyes on you, I gasped. I’d seen other premature babies, but nothing could’ve prepared me for this.
Erin weighed just 1lb, while you weighed even less at 10oz – you were no bigger than my hand.
Instead of rosy pink skin, yours was bright red. You couldn’t even open your eyes yet.
Worse, we couldn’t touch you. Both of you were so fragile, all we could do was watch as you battled to survive. I ached to hold you, reassure you both that everything would be okay.
Me and your daddy postponed our wedding until March. I was too poorly after having you to go anywhere, let alone get married.
The doctor was hopeful, though.
‘They’re doing well,’ he smiled after a few days. ‘You should be able to take them home by April.’
Relief washed over me.
‘If everything goes to plan, we’ll be married in March and can bring you two home a month later,’ I told you, excitedly.
Watching you open your eyes when you were two weeks old, I cried with joy.
Erin followed your lead moments later. Although she was bigger and stronger, you were the one always kicking your little legs about.
‘She’s a fighter,’ your daddy smiled. ‘Might make a good dancer when she’s older, too.’
I laughed as you gave another kick. Finally, things were going to plan.
Visiting you in hospital one morning, I gently stroked your
tiny arm with my finger.  Then… ‘Oh!’ I gasped, as you curled your little fingers around one of mine.
You gripped so hard, I felt fresh tears welling up. You were going to be okay, I just knew it.
When it was time for me to leave, you held on even tighter, blinking up at me with those gorgeous blue eyes. ‘I’m not going anywhere, sweetheart,’ I promised, waiting until you’d drifted off and your hand loosened.
Weeks rolled by and, as our wedding approached, I began to feel hopeful.
We’d soon be a proper little family at last. Erin was coming on in leaps and bounds.
But… your strength seemed to be fading away. At first, you weren’t kicking your legs or gripping my hand any more.
‘I’m so sorry,’ the doctor sighed, sadly. ‘Without the machines keeping her alive, Sian won’t survive. There’s nothing more we can do.’
How’d it come to this? You’d clung on to life so hard, but your tiny grip was slipping.
I tried holding on for you, willing my strength into you. But it wasn’t enough. Making the decision to let you go was the hardest thing me and Daddy had ever done, my darling.
For the first time since you’d been born three months earlier, we were allowed to hold you. Cuddling you close, I remembered the day you’d gripped my finger so hard.
‘Just a few more minutes,’ you’d seemed to be saying. But there were no more left now. You took your last breath in your daddy’s arms, then you were gone. The first time that we’d held you was also the last.
A month after your funeral, me and your daddy finally got married. It was a beautiful day, tinged with sadness because our family would never be complete without you.
Your sister was allowed to come home last November, almost a year since you were both born. 
Now aged 15 months, she’s doing well, although she still sees a physiotherapist to help with her muscle development.
Every time I look at her, or hear her laugh, I wonder what you’d have been like. I never planned to lose you so soon.
One thing I do know, Sian, is that the happiness you brought us, even for the briefest time, will never ever be forgotten.
Kylee John, 26, Bristol