Many people sail through their pregnancies and are able to welcome their newborn babies into the world with minimal fuss and unmitigated delight. For others, things are more complicated – some spend the pregnancy in the shadow of a worrying medical issue, others have to watch their newborns being rushed straight into intensive care.
Happily, advances in medical science mean that more and more everyday miracles are being performed in situations like these, giving more families the possibility of the happy endings that they hope for and deserve.
This season, in the second part of our special feature, we meet the Ingle and Hall families, whose babies needed critical surgery at birth, and who now raise money for the hospital that saved their children’s lives; and we also tell the story of the Reynolds family, whose extraordinary twins were given just a 50% likelihood of surviving the pregnancy.
But first, the story of a baby girl, whose sense of timing was so perfect that she managed to be conceived before her parents had even decided that they wanted children – and it turned out to be the most timely unplanned pregnancy imaginable.
hloe and James Reynolds were told that their rare monoamniotic-monochorionic twins had only a 50% chance of surviving, but the baby girls beat the odds to become the best Christmas presents ever.
When Chloe and James discovered that Chloe was pregnant, they were delighted. The Crawley couple already had a daughter, Milly, who was less than a year old and they were keen to have another child sooner rather than later. “We’d wanted to have two close together,” says Chloe. “I believe I used the phrase ‘like twins’ – little did I know I was actually carrying them!”
Then a scare at six weeks brought unexpected news: “I was in extreme pain, and we went into hospital – thinking that it was an ectopic pregnancy. The sonographer said ‘hmm’, and I knew something wasn’t right. ‘What does ‘hmm’ mean?’ I asked, and she told me that she needed a second opinion.” Chloe and James were then told that they were having twins, but that they needed to come back two weeks later for another scan.
Unfortunately, the eight week scan did nothing to set their minds at rest. A consultant confirmed that the babies were Monoamniotic and Monochorionic twins, known as MoMo twins. Like all identical twins, MoMo twins share the same placenta, but unlike ordinary identical twins MoMo twins are also both inside the same amniotic sac – so there is no separation between them in the uterus.
The condition is rare, and potentially life-threatening for the babies. Because they have nothing to separate them, there is a danger that their umbilical cords can become entangled, and there is also a possibility that one foetus can receive the majority of the nutrition, causing the other to become undernourished. “The doctor told us that it was very unlikely that they would both survive,” explains Chloe. “She advised us to have a termination.”
Although Chloe did consider this option, she ultimately decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. “I was so upset and confused. I looked on the internet and found daunting facts and estimations. But, in the end, I felt as though it would be wrong to play God and end two living beings’ lives.”
However, knowing that so much could go wrong made the next few months an extremely tense time for Chloe. “We’d been told that the survival rate for MoMo twins was approximately 50%, so the pregnancy was really scary.”
Because of all the possible complications, the twins were due to be delivered by caesarean at 32 weeks, and, on the first of December 2010, James and Chloe arrived in hospital for their scheduled caesarean – only to be told that the neonatal unit was full, and that they would have to come back the next day.
The following day, they dropped Milly with family friend, Sylvia, and once more headed to the hospital – this time in heavy snow. “As we pulled out down the road, the taxi got stuck. James and three local men had to push it up a hill, but about ten minutes later the car got stuck in the snow again, and James was forced to push it up a hill by himself.”
After the arduous journey, James and Chloe finally made it to the hospital – only to be told, once again, that the operation was not going to be possible that day; this time because the hospital was short staffed due to the snow. Chloe, however, refused to go home again, which turned out to be a good decision, because the following morning the twins’ heart rates had risen to a worrying level, and she was taken into theatre for an emergency caesarean. “James had to drop Milly at Sylvia’s, again, at 6am. They were just wheeling me out when he got here. By then the heart beats had calmed down, and we heard someone say ‘there aren’t enough staff in NICU!’ ‘Noooooo,’ I cried, and the nice man pushing the bed put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘don’t worry, they’ll be here soon’.”
Happily, at 10:30am the first twin, Maddison, was finally born, quickly followed by sister Mia. “I heard Maddy cry, and I was relieved, but when they got to Mia I heard everyone go quiet, and people rush forward and mutter. I asked James what was wrong, and he told me that Mia had the cord wrapped around her neck three times – if they’d been in there any longer Mia wouldn’t have survived.”
The twins, who weighed just over 3lbs each, were whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – where they stayed for just over three weeks. “At first they were doing well, but on day three they both started going downhill and needed ventilation, they then got jaundice, and Mia had a leak in her lung cavity – she had to have a tube inserted through her side to drain it, and also required a blood transfusion. A couple of days later they started to improve again, and, after a pretty horrible two weeks, they were finally able to feed and breathe on their own.”
Finally, after 22 days in hospital, Maddison and Mia were allowed to go home – it was Christmas Day 2010. “It was so exciting,” remembers Chloe. “We opened Milly's presents with her in the morning and, around mid afternoon, we went to collect Maddy and Mia. It was such an amazing Christmas present. We got there to find that cards had been made for us, with the twins’ footprints on, and that Santa had been, and left them little stockings with hand-made blankets, booties, hats and teddies. We didn’t take them straight home – we interrupted Sylvia's Christmas dinner first. They were so tiny, no one could believe they were actual babies!”
Happily, both of the girls are now doing well – and they’re even more exceptional than Chloe had at first realised: “As well as being MoMo twins, we discovered that the girls are also mirror image twins – this makes them 1 in 65,000 to 100,000!