A sign from my angels

As they watched over me, a miracle happened...

Published by: Jessica Gibb
Published on: 5 January 2012

Laying in bed, I cradled my bump in my arms as tears slid down my cheeks. Outside, I could hear partygoers staggering home and wishing strangers a happy new year.
But I had nothing to celebrate. The new year was only going to bring me heartache. Because today, January 1, 2009, was the day I said goodbye to the babies that were sleeping soundly in my belly.
Today my twin girls would be taken away from me forever. ‘I'm sorry I couldn't protect you,' I whispered. ‘Mummy loves you so much. I wish we could stay here forever.'
My partner Chris, 28, was laying awake beside me, lost in his own grief.
All we'd ever wanted was a baby - so when we'd found out there were two, we'd been doubly thrilled. Filled with excitement, we'd bought two cots, two walkers and a double pram.
‘I can't wait to see what colour we'll be painting the walls,' Chris had grinned.
‘Me, neither,' I'd smiled. ‘Blue or pink - or maybe half and half! Finding out will be the best Christmas present!'
I'd had the 20-week scan just three days before Christmas. Both me and Chris had had the soppiest of grins on our faces as the twins' heartbeats had thumped out of the screen to us.
But the sonographer hadn't smiled. ‘There are shadows on one of the twins' kidneys,' she'd told us.
I'd had to have a further scan the next day. We'd prayed for a Christmas miracle, but it wasn't to be... ‘The smaller twin has cysts instead of kidneys,' the consultant had explained. ‘I'm afraid it won't survive.'
‘And... and the other one?' Chris had choked.
‘There's something not quite right with the heart,' the doctor had said. ‘You'll need to see a specialist.'
So we'd spent Christmas Day opening presents, but we certainly hadn't felt like celebrating. And four days later, we'd had the appointment with a heart specialist.
‘Your bigger twin has truncus arteriosus, a rare heart condition,' he'd said. ‘Even with extensive open-heart surgery, the baby would only have a three per cent chance of survival. The condition can cause mental health problems, too...'
We'd no choice but to send our little angels to heaven.
‘Can you tell the sex?' I'd asked through sobs. It seemed silly, but I just had to know.
‘Identical girls,' he'd said. The little angels I'd never meet...
And now here I was, spending my last night with my precious daughters. While other people were excited, eagerly making plans and resolutions for the new year, all I could see was grief and pain for 2010.
When morning came, me and Chris drove in silence to the hospital. My mum Denise, 51, came, too. The cruellest thing was sitting in the maternity room waiting for me to be induced.
Down the hall, I could hear people giving birth, newborn babies giving their first cry in the world.
‘I'll never hear that,' I sobbed.
‘I know,' Chris choked. ‘Shall we write our notes now?'
I nodded. He'd brought two little pink teddies for the twins, and we wrote some messages to go with them.
We want you so much, I wrote, tears dropping on to the page. We love you.
Finally, I went into labour and our angels were born. The silence crushed me...
A nurse took them away and brought them back 10 minutes later, cleaned up and wrapped in a white blanket in a Moses basket.
‘Do you want to hold them?' she asked.
‘No. They look too fragile.'
‘They're just bigger than my hand,' Chris gasped. They were gorgeous - there was no hint on their faces of the problems they suffered inside.
‘They look just like you when you were a baby,' Mum wept. I stroked their arms as Chris took photos. We named them Abigail and Jasmine.
The hospital chaplain blessed them, and we put the teddies and messages in with them. ‘Bye my darlings,' I whispered, kissing their cheeks. Then they were taken a final time, to be cremated.
Back home, we made a memory box and put their pictures, tiny hand and footprints, and white blanket inside.
‘I can't believe we're doing this,' I wept to Chris. Every morning, the first thing I thought of was my girls. I kept the door to the half-finished nursery closed - I couldn't bear to see the matching cots and babygros hanging up. ‘It's just too painful,' I told Chris.
We put the double buggy on eBay, and returned the cot and walkers to the shops. ‘Let's keep one cot,' Chris said. ‘You never know when we might need it.'
Yes, the only thing that could numb my pain was a baby. Still, when I found out I was pregnant again four months later, I was so frightened. ‘Say we lose this baby, too?' I panicked to Chris.
‘It'll be fine,' he soothed. But this time, we didn't rush to the shops and buy everything in sight. We were too scared to be excited.
However, one month turned to two... before we knew it, we were at my 20-week scan. ‘It's a little boy,' the sonographer smiled.
‘Is he okay?' I whispered to her. She nodded and smiled - I burst out crying.
‘Thank God,' I sobbed, clinging to Chris as we laughed and cried with relief.
We decorated the nursery in browns and creams, and put the cot in pride of place. We decided on the name Ethan, and he was due on December 18.
Christmas edged closer and, with it, all the traumatic memories of the previous year. Ethan was overdue, so the midwife booked me in to be induced.
‘New Year's Day,' she said.
My chest tightened. The day we'd lost our girls... But... maybe it was a good sign, not a bad omen.
‘It means his sisters will be looking over him,' I told Chris.
On New Year's Eve, we were exhausted, so went to bed before midnight. Suddenly, I was woken up by a fierce cramp ripping through my tummy.
‘Chris!' I called out, sitting up in bed.
‘What?' he murmured groggily as the fireworks for midnight went off outside.
‘The baby's coming!' I laughed. As he jumped up, my phone bleeped with a text. It was from my dad Nick, 51. Happy New Year! it read. I quickly called him.
‘Dad, I'm in labour,' I cried.
‘What? You're joking,' he laughed. ‘Well, good luck love.'
Chris got me into the car and he sped me to hospital. After seven long hours of labour, I gave a final push. There was silence, then... I heard Ethan's beautiful cry. It was the most wonderful sound I'd ever heard. Everything was going to be okay, I just knew it.
My son weighed a good 7lb 1oz. As soon as they rested him on my chest, I was overwhelmed with relief. It felt like a miracle!
‘He's beautiful,' I said, looking at his tiny wisp of blonde hair. ‘Happy New Year, Ethan.'
I know the twins were looking down on us that day, and now I'm glad we also have a reason to celebrate on the day we lost them.
This year, we're planning a party to celebrate Ethan's first birthday. It will be such a happy day, but I know I'll shed a few tears for my girls, too.
So as well as the candles on his birthday cake, we'll also light two candles in memory of his sisters. Because, while we never had the chance to know them, I'll always be a mum of three - and all their lives are worth celebrating.
Suzanne Andrews, 29, Gloucester