Oh no, not again!

But when the going got tough, that's when my tiny daughter got going!

Published by: Jean Jollands & Kim Willis
Published on: 4th August 2011

They say the best things come in small packages. My daughter Neve was proof of that. ‘Mummy, watch me twirl!’ she trilled, as she performed a perfect pirouette.
‘Well done, you,’ I said proudly.
She was my pint-sized powerhouse. Though Neve was four, she still wore clothes for two or three-year-olds. Why? Because she’d been premature.
Born 13 weeks early, for a while we hadn’t even known if she’d make it. I never wanted to go through something like that again, but it was amazing just how far we’d come…
Me and my husband Andrew, 33, had been overjoyed when we’d discovered we were expecting our first baby.
We’d both loved our jobs as emergency call operators, and had felt the time was right to
start a family.
But I’d had terrible morning sickness, and my face had swelled up. Then, at 26 weeks, I’d become dizzy and weak.
Doctors at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, Kent, had confirmed my blood pressure had rocketed and there was protein in my urine. Both were signs of pre-eclampsia – a life-threatening condition that affects the blood supply from mum to baby.
‘You need to stay on bed-rest in hospital until the end of the pregnancy,’ a consultant had said. ‘You’re in danger of delivering this
 baby early.’
I’d been so scared – at 27 weeks, what chance did my baby have? The next evening, nurses had struggled to find my baby’s heartbeat – and Neve had had to be delivered by emergency caesarean.
Before I’d caught even a
glimpse of my tiny 1lb 12oz baby, she’d been rushed to the neonatal clinic at St George’s Hospital in south London.
‘These next 24 hours are critical…’ a doctor had admitted.
Those days had been my darkest, I’d been convinced Neve wouldn’t make it. ‘She’s so tiny!’ I’d gasped to Andrew, as I stared into her incubator. Her eyes were fused shut and her skin was blue.
I’d been petrified of holding her, too, scared I might hurt her.
Even though she’d been so tiny, the personality I now knew so well had shone out even then. What a fighter she’d been, defying the odds.
When she’d been six-weeks-old, she was taken off oxygen, At 12-weeks-old, just shy of 4lb, she’d been allowed home.
As the months went by, she’d hit every baby milestone – crawling, walking and talking on time.
Now Neve was a feisty four-year-old, still not fazed by life. From early on, we’d told her about her incredible birth and why she was smaller than her playmates.
But instead of
seeing it as something to hold her back, Neve was proud of what she’d overcome.
‘I’m learning to read,’ she’d tell people. ‘And I was premature.’
Her confidence just amazed me.
When she started to learn Irish dancing, she’d proudly tell people: ‘I’ve won medals. And I was premature.’
She was too small to climb or ride her bike like her friends, but she never complained, just picked up her roller-skates instead and did the best she could.
Confident we didn’t need to worry about her, we’d finally decided we were ready to try for another child. When doctors reassured me I was unlikely to get pre-eclampsia a second time, there was no stopping us!
I soon fell pregnant and, at the 12-week scan, we had a surprise.
‘You’re expecting twins!’ the sonographer announced.
Great! Although, hold on a second, wasn’t pre-eclampsia more common with twins?
‘I don’t know if I can go through it all again,’ I confided to Andrew.
‘Let’s just take things a day at a time,’ he said. ‘Now, let’s tell Neve.’
We sat her down. ‘Mummy’s got two little babies inside her,’ I said.
Her eyes almost popped out. ‘Two babies!’ she whooped, her excitement banishing my fears.
But at a 26-week scan…
‘One of the babies is fine, but the other one isn’t growing,’ the consultant explained.
The smaller twin was receiving a restricted blood flow, and had too much fluid around him.
‘We’re going to have to admit you to hospital to monitor you. There’s a chance we might have to deliver them early,’ he said.
No, not again! It was like an action replay of what I’d been through with Neve.
Right on cue, at 27 weeks, my blood pressure rocketed and I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. At 29 weeks, doctors took us aside.
‘The smaller twin’s blood flow is being severely restricted,’ he admitted. ‘We need to do an emergency caesarean. Now!’
Once again, I was rushed in for surgery. And just like Neve, my babies were tiny – Owen was 1lb 15oz and Luke was 2lb 13oz. 
Carefully cradling them, I couldn’t believe how much they looked like their big sister. Two tiny mites in incubators, wired to tubes, eyes fused shut, tiny sparrow-like arms and legs.
What if they weren’t as lucky as Neve, though? She’d faced such a terrible battle – it had been touch and go. They might not be as strong as my spirited daughter.
I worried about Neve, too. If the boys lost their battle, what would it do to her? Still, we introduced her to them within days of their birth.
I expected Neve to be daunted by the wires and tubes, but she marched in holding her toy medical kit, firing questions at the bemused nurses.
‘What’s that wire for?’ she breezed, staring at Owen in his incubator. ‘And why’s that machine bleeping?’
Should have known she’d take it in her stride! The nurses fell in love with her.
When she put her hand into the incubator to stroke Owen’s tiny fist she was so gentle, it was as if she instinctively knew what to do.
‘There, there, your big sister’s here now,’ she hushed.
Then she turned to Luke. ‘When you get home, we’ll have lots of fun playing with my dollies.’
Neve was in no doubt her brothers were coming home, and her enthusiasm gave me hope, too. She had such a ‘been there, done that’ attitude!
She thought of everything. ‘I’ve made my brothers cards,’ she announced one day. ‘We can put them in the incubators, then even when I’m not with them, we’ll be together.’
It wasn’t just me and the boys she inspired, either. Like a poster girl for premature babies, she gave hope to other parents in our situation. She was proof that tiny children could survive and thrive.
The boys proved it as well. Yes, Owen got infections, and Luke suffered a collapsed lung but, by the time they were 12 weeks old, they were allowed home.
‘We’ve got two new dollies for you,’ Andrew winked at Neve, when we arrived back with them.
Her face when she spotted her two little brothers was priceless!
Neve is six now, and Luke and Owen are two-and-a-half. The boys are small for their ages but, following their sister’s lead, they’ve got plenty of spirit and have met all their milestones.
Just as Neve proudly tells people about her own achievements, now she gushes about her brothers. And me? I tell everyone how I’ve got a family of fighters!
Rey Pule, 32, Dartford, Kent