Written by Brisbane baby photographer, Minna Burgess.
Having a baby turns your life upside down, that’s a fact. There isn’t a pregnant woman out there who isn’t aware that everything is about to change, forever. But no matter how many books we read or how much advice we receive from family members there really isn’t anything that can truly prepare us for the profound ways in which a baby impacts our hearts, relationships and routines. Of course when twins come along the emotions, the love and the challenges are even more intense. I spoke to first-time Mum, Katie, about her incredible journey into motherhood, the ups and downs of raising twins and the wonderful ways in which her marriage has been strengthened by having two beautiful little people join their family.
Despite going through three years of various fertility treatments Katie and her husband John did not go into the 12-week scan expecting the possibility of twins. “After a couple of previous scans by our specialist we were under the impression that only one of the two embryos that had been transferred had implanted,” explains Katie.
Katie had taken the Panorama test a few weeks earlier, a non invasive blood test that provides information about the likelihood of chromosome conditions such as Down syndrome, Patau Syndrome or Edwards Syndrome (you can read more here). Unfortunately on the morning of the 12 week scan, the test had come back abnormal. “Our specialist wasn’t optimistic but wanted us to go along to our scan to see if more information could be determined.” she says. “It was the worst 2 hours of my life waiting to go into our appointment to check what could potentially be wrong with our baby.”
Thankfully, due to the way the Panorama test works, it can only be used conclusively on pregnancies of one baby. It had picked up the DNA of a second baby thus throwing the results. “When the ultrasound technician laid the wand on my stomach and we immediately saw two babies – two very separate babies – I could not stop crying,” says Katie. “We were having TWINS!! My husband was in tears too and pretty soon the technician was crying as well. She thought we knew it was twins already.”
“I was very lucky to have a fairly trouble free pregnancy. Being classed as a geriatric pregnancy because of my age meant going in for a lot more scans and tests than most, but it also meant I got to see a lot of my babies on the ultrasound screen,” says Katie. “We found out at our 20 week scan it was going to be a boy and a girl, and were ecstatic. Within 5 minutes we had the names chosen. It just seemed like I was having the dream pregnancy. Even towards the end, being hugely uncomfortable and barely able to sleep, it just kept plodding along.”
At 38 weeks it was decided the best way forward would be for Katie to have a caesarean. She had reached full term for twins and twin one was not engaging. “I was so uncomfortable and tired and it seemed like the best decision,” Katie explains. “I had a trouble free delivery, no time required in special care for either babies and we were home as a family after 5 days in hospital.”
Photos taken by Katie & John
For most families those first few weeks of settling into life with a brand new baby is a bit of a blur, for Katie and John this was no exception. “Ask me to recall the first 8 or so weeks after bringing them home and I couldn’t tell you a thing that happened,” says Katie. “Apart from the fact we got very little sleep. I was very lucky to have my husband home for the first 6 weeks and my sister who stayed his last week at home and his first week back at work. My husband was so amazing. I couldn’t believe how involved he was, so by the time he went back to work we had gotten into a great routine, but I knew that I needed to do it on my own.”
“Those first 6 weeks I cried every day. Our little boy had a lot of trouble digesting his milk and would scream for hours trying to get out the gas. We had no idea how to help him and the constant crying was draining for both of us. I have always been in control of everything in my life – and relinquishing control to a tiny newborn was demoralising. I felt like nothing I did made any difference,” says Katie.
“But slowly, out of the fog we came. After a very positive visit from our midwife and a subsequent visit to our paediatrician, we put new plans in place. Different formula to try… different bottles… increasing amount in the bottles so we had longer between feeds… and eventually a solid 7 hours sleep in a row from both babies at the SAME TIME. After three months our little boy had improved, we were getting much more sleep and were a much happier household. But it didn’t last long,” Katie recalls.
When the twins were around five months of age Katie and John decided to take a two-week family holiday. It turned out to be the end of their new-found routine.
“While away our little boy began teething, developed terrible nappy rash and picked up a horrible cold,” says Katie. “Sleep went out the window, and for the next two months his sleep got steadily worse and worse. We had to separate the babies into different rooms so they wouldn’t wake each other and at our lowest point we were rocking him to sleep up to 12 times a night. My husband and I were absolutely exhausted. I had reached breaking point. My husband had to go away with work for three weeks and the thought of being on my own filled me with dread. I survived… but barely.”
At this point Katie heard about a local sleep school called “The Brisbane Nurture Centre.” – Located at North West Private Hospital it is the only mother-baby unit in a private hospital in Queensland. They aim to provide parents with education and support for some of the difficulties they may experience with babies and toddlers up to 18 moths of age. They write on their website: “This new and innovative centre is designed to give families an opportunity to address the immense physical, emotional and social transitions associated with having a baby and bring about positive changes.”
Katie got a referral from their GP, begged to be put on their standby list and was lucky enough to be called in after only a few days wait when someone had made a cancellation. “It couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Katie. “He had become so used to being rocked to sleep that he had no idea how to get to sleep by himself. The nurses and midwives there were amazing. They did most of the hard work. We weren’t leaving him to cry and cry and cry, but there was an element of leaving him to learn to settle himself, it was still difficult taking a step back and watching him unlearn everything he’d done up until that point.”
On the third and final night, he slept through from 9pm to 5am. “When I got up in the morning and the nurse told me this I burst in to tears,” says Katie. “I couldn’t believe it. When I had gone to bed the night before I felt that it wasn’t working and couldn’t see any improvement. I was so upset thinking that it was never going to get any better. And then to find out that he’d not woken once overnight was just fantastic. I really didn’t expect miracles, but once we got home he slept through every night since.”
“Finally after months and months of lack of sleep I was able to get a good 8 hours each night,” says Katie. “It would seem however that constantly being so tired was masking other problems. Once the tiredness fog cleared I realised I was having anxiety and panic attacks. Not often, but enough to worry me. The smallest thing would trigger one off… not having breakfast ready and both babies crying because they were hungry would make me feel so overwhelmed. I started crying a lot again. I felt like nothing I did was right and I was being a terrible parent.”
“Thankfully I could actually see what was happening and was able to take a step back and think about the little things that triggered off an ‘episode’,” says Katie. “Putting plans in place made me feel more in control again. Things like getting breakfast ready for them as soon as I got up so that if they did start grizzling early then I didn’t need to rush around trying to get on top of it while they cried. Creating a mantra to repeat like “It’s okay, everyone has moments like this – it doesn’t make you a bad parent,” helped and I also found a great technique for refocussing myself by verbalising things I could see, touch, hear and smell. Slowly each day is getting better,” says Katie. “I feel the absolute joy in watching my two babies discover the world and such pride in every new thing they learn.”
“And out of all of this the most important thing I found was how wonderful and supportive my husband is. Throughout the whole pregnancy and everyday since bringing them home he has been there to help with cooking, housework, feeding, nappy changes, putting babies to bed, giving me hugs when I needed them and space when I needed it.” says Katie. “They say a great marriage is a great partnership, but on top of that, a great partnership makes for great parents. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to be by my side on this most amazing journey.”
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Minna Burgess is a baby and family photographer based in Springfield lakes, 35 minutes South West of Brisbane. To book a session call 0432 953 003 – If you have an incredible story linked to your pregnancy, birth or journey into motherhood and would like to to be featured in the Remarkable Mothers blog series please send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org