There are a multitude of reasons why the birth of my twins was so memorable. For now, I’d like to share just one of them with you. It was an experience that struck a very personal cord within me. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t reflect on it.
My girls were carried to full term (something almost unheard of in respect of twin pregnancies in this country [South Africa]). I had no problems during my pregnancy, save for the fact that my system was so flooded with progesterone that I suffered from severe morning sickness during my first trimester – to the point that I actually lost 8 kilograms. This was, however, dealt with efficiently by a protein shake drink which was prescribed by my general practitioner.
My labour started at 7.15am in the morning and I slowly made my way to St Georges Hospital in Port Elizabeth. By 9.00am dilation was at 6.5cm and twin A had settled neatly into my pelvis, ready to be born, despite the fact that (purely for safety reasons) I had elected to have a caesarian section. A spinal block was administered and the girls were delivered by caesarian section at 10.15am and 10.16am respectively, weighing 2.4 and 2.6 kilograms (quite a healthy weight for twins). The operation itself was uneventful, both girls were 9/10 on their apgars and it took my Gynae/Obstetrician longer to close the incision than to deliver both my babies! By 11.30am I was tucked safely into bed and waiting for the spinal block to wear off so I could see my daughters and nurse them for the first time.
Once the spinal block had worn off and I was able to get around, I excitedly made my way to the nursery. As I reached the nursery doors, there were a number of tearful people milling around the entrance. Not one to interfere or make a scence, I made my way through them to collect my gorgeous daughters and wheel them back to my ward. As I wheeled their bassinet out of the nursery, a chilling silence fell over the people waiting outside and I sensed what I can only describe as a feeling of “hostility”. It was some 24 hours later that I learned that they were anxiously awaiting news on a relative’s newborn, who was in the NICU. Apparently the little one was born with only a partial brain, and had been on life support since delivery. [The baby’s twin brother had been stillborn]. And so it happened that, for the next 48hours, every time I wheeled my healthy, full term babies down to the nursery for a bath or so that I could take a nap, I had to pass around or through this group of people. Despite my joy at the delivery of my babies, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of guilt?, every time I visited the nursery.
According to a nursing sister that I chatted to, the little one was not expected to survive and the doctors and staff had done all they could to keep him comfortable and pain free until he passed away. She said that they were bound to prolong his life and all that remained was the parents’ decision as to how long they would keep him on life support, as he wasn’t even able to breathe by himself. I believe the parents made a decision [to remove him from life support] late that night.
The following day, as I rode the lift down to the ground floor, on my way home with my girls, the mother of the little one who had passed away stepped into the lift on the 2nd floor. Instinctively, we embraced each other and I whispered to her that I really had no words for her, but that my thoughts were with her and her family. We left the lift together, both of us in tears, me on my way home to begin a new life with my girls and she on her way home, to an empty nursery.
What happened that day changed me in so many ways. It gave me a new reason to be grateful for every day I have with my children, and re-instilled in me a capacity for empathy and selflessness that I thought I had lost.
To that mommy: If you ever read this, know that you, your sons and your family are still in my thoughts and heart, even now that my girls are almost eight years old. It seems like only yesterday that we rode that lift together, a short journey that would lead us to the rest of our lives. Wherever you are, God bless and take care.
Jacqui has a website located at http://myweb.absamail.co.za/jacqui_t/