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My Unicorn Family by Mummy To Triplets & Bro - 2w ago
Triple The Look

We started posting pictures of our girls paying homage to the gorgeousness that is Holly Willoughby on 27th March in our Triple The Look.

Triple The look is a celebration of the fun, chaos and CUTE, that is having triplet girls. It’s about sharing the joy with those who want to share it with us. We have started doing TTL at the point at which we have ventured into a new chapter of our life as Mummy and Daddy to Triplets & Bro.

This new chapter is free of the pressing major health concerns that we lived with until January 29th 2018, when we got the all clear on Amelie’s biopsy results. Our house arrest expired on April 1st when RSV season ended and we could relax about taking the girls with their pre-term lungs to public places.

Prior to this new chapter we were constantly scared. It was during this time I was diagnosed with Post traumatic stress disorder and I became addicted to shopping and comfort food. The girls wardrobe grew and so did I.

Trauma

We all respond differently to trauma. I hadn’t experienced the type of trauma we’ve had to deal with since that night the girls and I nearly died when they were born. We faced a series of life threatening health traumas that left part of me broken.

My coping mechanism to momentarily escape the fear and anxiety was to online shop. And to comfort eat.

PTSD and Medication

I realised after a few months of repeated trauma, that I needed help.

I went to my GP and said I couldn’t do this by myself anymore. I constantly felt like I was waiting for the next terrifying thing to happen. The fear and anxiety was too overwhelming and I needed some medical intervention to assist me whilst I attended therapy to overcome the trauma we had experienced.

I’d been frightened to talk about how I was feeling, somehow ashamed that I wasn’t coping.

I look back now and think how could you have felt any differently? You nearly died in terrifying circumstances in which you were also scared of losing your babies; you spent 11 weeks visiting your babies in hospital where you had to leave them every night, and the health rollercoaster of ups and downs involved in NICU; once home you had three newborn babies and a 3 year old to look after; your daughter stopped breathing in your arms and was in a coma for 3 days (could there be anything more terrifying?); your smallest girl, who was so poorly it was such a constant worry, then needed emergency heart surgery; you found a lump in your daughters neck that was constricting her airway for which she needed biopsy surgery and you worried for the third time that you could lose her; you were under ‘house arrest’ due to your girls suppressed immunity. Please tell me how a mother can experience all of this and not have her mental health impacted upon?

And yet I was ashamed of how I was feeling – worried that people would think I was weak, negative, not coping. My goodness, we are so hard on ourselves.

Finally I spoke to my GP and I was prescribed Sertraline. This is used to reduce fear and anxiety and so is helpful to treat the symptoms of PTSD.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but as the medication took hold my clothes shopping increased.

Fortunately, and very timely, David and I watched a documentary about research into the impact of this drug. In summary, as one of the intended effects was to reduce fear – the reason for which I was taking it – people using this drug had behaved in ways they might not have done previously because they then had no fear.

Prior to the girls being born I was being extremely careful with money. I was concerned about our finances with the increase in our family and the likely decrease in income if I had to leave work. I barely bought any clothes for the girls. And yet, here I was spending with no fear or responsibility on clothes that we couldn’t afford.

My shopping was getting out of hand. It was really upsetting David as he knew I wasn’t well and he didn’t want to argue with me, but he was becoming increasingly frustrated by my spending.

Having watched the documentary, I changed my medication and the spending slowed down dramatically. I agreed for David to return some of the items. We also came to an agreement that we would enjoy buying things together as a way of being open about what was being bought.

Rainbow After The Storm

We’ve found lots of rainbows in recent years. Our children are our rainbow after infertility. Our girls being well is a wonderful rainbow after prematurity and ill health.

Following the challenge of a shopping addiction, we have used the girls wardrobe to do something really fun in Triple The Look that celebrates all that they have achieved. It’s brought us wonderful opportunities including being able to meet Holly and Phil on This Morning. It just shows once again how something positive can come out of a negative.

Every one loves a rainbow and all that it symbolises. But remember, you can’t have a rainbow without the rain first.

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My Unicorn Family by Mummy To Triplets & Bro - 2w ago

I remember the day we found out Bertie’s heart needed fixing.

I had gone to a support group, Acacia, for the first time. I sat and cried about Bertie being so poorly. I was terrified of what was going to happen.

Just two months before we had nearly lost Bertie and her sister, Amelie, to Paraflu. Prior to that the girls had spent the first 11 weeks of their lives in hospital, after making a shock arrival at 29 weeks gestation in which we had all nearly died.

I had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was scared that I didn’t have the strength to deal with more trauma. But you just do don’t you?

As I cried I told the support worker that I couldn’t be ‘Hospital Mummy’ again. I’d done it for too long. Being Hospital Mummy means leaving your baby/babies on their own. It tears at your heart every time.

Unless you are very far from home it is unlikely you will have access to hospital accommodation, which has to be prioritised for those most in need. And as for many, I had family at home to care for too. David had to work and I found it very difficult to leave our babies with anyone else.

Based on medical advice, I couldn’t take Bertie’s sisters into hospital. I was keeping them away from public places and people in general to reduce their risk of viruses. As such, I knew the logistics would mean Bertie spending time on her own. I couldn’t bear it.

Grumpy Gnome

We had taken Bertie to the GP several times. She looked grey and would scream as soon as she saw her bottle. To try and feed her would be to torture her. She was hungry but couldn’t bear to drink and would scream. I didn’t know if it was her reflux or her heart. The GP prescribed reflux medication.

We had already been told that Bertie had a PDA, that was likely to need surgery when she was big enough, around age 1. We had been warned that if the operation was undertaken before then Bertie would need open heart surgery.

To try and feed her was really upsetting. It would take up to two hours of repeat trying so she could rest in between. I had a 3 year old and her baby sisters to care for too.

The situation felt impossible at times. We had a nickname for Bertie. We called her GG, which stood for Grumpy Gnome. She was just upset so much of the time. It was really sad, but also very difficult when you’re trying to take care of four children. In lots of those early pictures, Bertie can be seen crying.

We would try everything to get her to take her feed. We could be seen trotting round the Kitchen island as somehow we learnt that a little movement helped her.

Amelie also had reflux and would take a long time to feed. I found the situation extremely worrying and anxiety inducing. Bertie was failing to thrive and I was scared.

As we waited for her referral as a heart outpatient we started to raise our concerns with our health visitor, who was very supportive.

On the day that I went to Acacia for the first time, David waited in to see the health visitor. I came home to be told that Bertie needed to be taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital straight away.

Hospital

David took Bertie to Ward 11 in Birmingham Children’s Hospital whilst I stayed at home to look after her sisters and Felix.

Bertie didn’t come home for a month.

Diagnosis

My baby girl had an enlarged heart, an enlarged liver and first degree chronic lung disease. All because her little heart was working too hard. She was immediately given a feeding tube so that she could rest.

Bertie was failing to put on weight because she was expending more calories than she was gaining in the effort it took her to drink her milk.

When it felt like we were torturing her in trying to feed her, we really were. It had been torturous for her to drink her milk because she couldn’t breathe properly as her heart was failing and the fluid was going into her lungs. This is why she’d scream as soon as she saw her bottle.

My poor, poor baby girl.

My heart broke. But now I knew she was safe. The consultant informed us that the operation couldn’t wait until she was older. Bertie now needed her heart fixed to save her life and she wouldn’t be going home until it was done.

Ticking Time Bomb

When we learnt how poorly Bertie was, it felt like we’d been living with a ticking time bomb in our house. How had this been allowed to happen? It transpired that on discharge from her initial 11 week stay, the hospital had failed to refer her as an outpatient to cardiology.

After having amazing life saving care from the NHS, we felt incredibly let down. I say this with a heavy heart because I have enormous gratitude to the NHS. This was simply a human error, but it could have cost my daughter her life.

Cuddle Rota

David and I became a tag team. I would wait for David to come home from work before racing out of the door to see Bertie in hospital. Meanwhile, I arranged a cuddle rota for her with friends and family.

That didn’t stop me feeling hugely guilty as I arrived on the ward. I couldn’t help but think that people would think ‘here comes that awful mummy who doesn’t stay with her daughter’.

I remember the fear of parking in Birmingham city centre on my own and walking in darkness around streets I didn’t know to get to the hospital. As I was there until late I started asking security to escort me back to my car, particularly as a big group of men started..

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My Unicorn Family by Mummy To Triplets & Bro - 2w ago

On the night the girls were born, I knew I was dying. I screamed. I cried. I begged the Doctors to save my babies. And then I lay back and hoped with all my will that the Doctors could save us.

They did.

Hospital

I was fortunate to be in the hospital under observation when I haemorrhaged and lost nearly all of the blood in my body. Doctors told me if I’d been at home, there wouldn’t have been time to save us.

I’d had a smaller bleed in the early hours at home 24 hours before.

That night Worcester was the only place with NICU beds, should my girls be born. I lay in an ambulance bewildered as I waved my 3 year old son and husband goodbye. My son equally bewildered at what was happening to Mummy, but excited by the blue lights.

At Worcester I was kept under observation. There had been no further bleeding during the day. As the evening drew in, I begged the Midwife to remove the cannula from my hand as I couldn’t bear it. The Midwife informed me that I should keep it in as per Doctors advice, but I insisted it was taken out as I wouldn’t sleep otherwise. That Midwife will never say yes to the same request again.

Shortly after my cannula was removed, I was surrounded by medical staff as they desperately tried to attach cannulas to me. There were needles in my hands, arms. My worst nightmare.

Humour

During the terror, there was a moment that I can reflect on with humour, a dark humour, but humour all the same.

I had spent the evening sharing a room with a young mother who had a blood phobia: couldn’t write it, right? We’d had quite an intense, and I thought helpful, conversation about how she could deal with her phobia. She then went to sleep and was snoring loudly as I struggled to sleep.

As I lay there I watched my stomach rise upwards twice. I was shocked by it. I assumed it was braxton hicks contractions and thought I would mention it to the Midwife.

Feeling agitated and rather annoyed by my roomies snoring, I took myself off to the toilet.

As I came back to my bed an explosion of blood hit the floor. I screamed for help. Trying not to slip over, I managed to press the alarm.

My Midwife rushed into the room. I remember the look on her face as she looked down at the floor. And then she ran out of the room. Very quickly the room filled with bright lights and medical staff. There was a rush of noise and people running around.

I looked over to see the mother next to me curled up in the foetal position rocking with her hands covering her ears. Any contribution I had made to healing her blood phobia had most definitely been undone. The poor girl was terrified and surrounded by screams, shouting and a sea of blood.

I still shake my head with a wry smile that I haemorrhaged in a room with a blood phobic. That poor poor girl.

Theatre

I was raced through the ward corridors towards theatre. I remember people’s faces filled with pity as I went by, leaving a trail of blood behind me. I just remember so much blood everywhere. I was terrified that I was losing my babies as blood and debris came away from me. My whole body shook uncontrollably as I went into shock.

I remember during the chaos of the race to theatre, the bed was paused momentarily. As it did so I noticed a Midwife standing in a doorway. We locked eyes. I remember appreciating that connection with another human amongst the panic and chaos. I felt my eyes were almost pleading with her to help me; to send me good will. I was to meet her again a few days later. She said I’d looked so calm considering. She told me what a fright I’d given everyone that night and that someone was looking over me.

The doctors couldn’t do anything to stop the bleed and told me that they would have to deliver the babies to save my life. I was 29 weeks pregnant.

Emergency Caesarean

Anyone who has been prepared for emergency surgery will know that the process is torturous. The anaesthetist has to make sure you don’t choke on your own vomit. They do this by pressing down on your throat with significant pressure.

Due to my babies being born too early they also wanted to fill me with as much oxygen as possible to give the girls lungs the best chance. There had not been time to give me the second steroid injection to support the girls lungs.

They pumped oxygen into my system by holding down a mask over my face. When I struggled in panic they told me they had to do it for at least 10 minutes. I knew they were doing everything to save us, but the claustrophobic feeling was immense in the context of all that was happening. I could still feel the blood loss. I was terrified.

General Anaesthetic

Finally, the anaesthetist shouted for everyone to be quiet. The theatre was full as each baby needed a doctor and a Midwife, as did I. At the anaesthetists instruction the room stood still.

My midwife took my hand. She looked into my eyes and told me that it was time. She said to think of something calm.

I looked at her and wondered if she’d be the last person I’d ever see. Then in my minds eye I visualised a wise old oak tree. It was the same oak tree I’d used as my safe place in my visualisations when doing hypnotherapy to help me get pregnant. It had always represented a calm, peaceful place for me. For months after I couldn’t think of the old oak tree without experiencing overwhelming flashbacks of terror.

Later I was to chastise myself for not thinking of Felix and David. I thought I was dying. Why did I not think of my family? It could have been my last thought.

And then I realised. It was precisely because I was fearful of dying, that meant it was far too painful to think of the most precious people in the world to me. If I had thought of Felix and David, I would have been inconsolable, and I needed to focus on surviving.

Alive

I remember the joy of coming round from the anaesthetic. I was alive. I don’t remember being told that the girls had made it, but I just knew they had. I remember thanking the anaesthetist profusely and telling him he was so kind. He probably thought I was bonkers. I was just so happy to be alive.

David

Seeing David was incredible. I held him close. He’d had a call telling him to get to the hospital. He’d arranged childcare for Felix in the early hours for the second night in a row.

When he arrived at the hospital he was shell shocked to learn what had happened. The hospital did not tell him of the urgency of the situation on the telephone for his own safety in making his way there.

He was sat down on his arrival to be told that his wife and babies had all made it and were doing well.

As he heard various staff talk of the fright we’d given them and how someone must have been watching over us, he realised just how close he’d come to losing us. I learnt later that Amelie and Maya-Albertine had been resuscitated in theatre.

I was glad for him that he hadn’t been there. It would have been terrifying for him. He didn’t have to experience the not knowing if we were going to survive or not. In the time it had taken from receiving that call to dropping off Felix with family and making his way to the hospital, the doctors had already saved us.

I think it was probably best for me too. I would have gone to pieces if he’d been there. As it was, I went into survival mode.

NHS Superheroes

I remember the kindness of the staff looking after me as I drifted in and out of consciousness with David by my side. The gentleness at which the midwives spoke to me will always stay with me. They told me that they would arrange for a de-brief of the birth as I would need help to come to terms with what had happened.

I first met my girls in a photograph.

As I became more aware I would ask David to go and spend time with our girls. I couldn’t bear to think of them on their own. I wanted them to hear a voice they’d recognise.

It was strange knowing that David had met our girls. We hadn’t met them together. I hadn’t met them. We were not with them.

I was told that when I was well enough I would be taken to see my girls. Until then, I was sent a photograph of each baby. I so appreciated the thought, but the photographs horrified me – they still do. To see my tiny babies covered in blood, wires and breathing apparatus was devastating. It looked so clinical, painful, and lonely.

I felt an overwhelming maternal ache that I wasn’t there to hold them and comfort them. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be for them. This feeling would remain with me for their entire initial stay of 11 weeks in hospital. I will always be saddened by it.

I have those first photos by the side of my bed. I can’t share them. They are for the girls. The pictures below are of the girls when I met them two days later.

Maya-Albertine Amelie Clara Mae

Etta Gwendoline Rose

Now when I think of their time in hospital, I feel overwhelmingly grateful that they came home and that they now know what it is to be at home. All of the time they were in hospital, that is all I wanted for them. To know the comfort of home. To not be surrounded by beeping machines and alarms. To be in the care of their family.

They are such happy contented babies. I didn’t want them to ever be in hospital again. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the case in the months that followed, but my girls have proven that they are born survivors.

The day after the caesarian, a doctor told me that I must be made of strong stuff as I was making a remarkable recovery. I want to meet my babies I told him. Is there any greater motivation? They needed me and I wanted to hold them, comfort them, and be there for them.

My First Visit To NICU

I met the girls when they were two days old. My memory of meeting them for the first time is limited. I was still very poorly and overwhelmed by the trauma of what had happened. As I was wheeled into the intensive care ward, I burst into tears. I tried so hard to be brave but it felt such an alien situation.

I felt so sad for my babies that their first experience of life was on their own in an incubator, instead of in my arms. That I’d been too ill to be there for them. That I couldn’t give them the intensive medical care they needed to be safe and instead was totally reliant on others to do so. That I couldn’t give them a cuddle without asking for a nurse to take them out of their incubator to ensure their safety.

The only thing I could do usefully was to provide my breast milk.

The one saving grace was that when I met the nurses I knew the girls had been in safe hands. That they spoke to them gently. That they stroked their skin if they got upset. My sadness is that nurses are busy. With the best will in the world nurses cannot attend a baby every time they cry. It’s sad but true. This was my biggest sadness when I had to leave them in hospital. I knew they’d cry and I wasn’t there to hold them.

I remember Amelie’s cry from her incubator, she sounded like a little kitten. It felt like she needed me the most at that moment. I held her first. Felix was there to meet her with me too. I love how her face is responding to him.

It would be four days after she was born that I held Etta for the first time. As I placed her skin to skin she wrapped her little hand around my little finger and held on.

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My Unicorn Family by Mummy To Triplets & Bro - 2w ago

One of the key motivations for starting my blog was to share our happy ending following years of fertility challenges.

I do so in the hope that we can extend a huge fertile hug to anyone who needs one. If it can work out for us when it seemed impossible, then it can work for others too.

Getting Hitched

Our fertility journey started in 2006 when we got married. I remember overlooking the Mediterranean Sea as David and I exchanged our vows.

Anticipation and excitement overwhelmed me at the thought that we would soon be a family. I’m growing up, I thought: me, a mummy.

I was so happy for our future children to give them David as a Daddy.

David and I were embarking on an exciting, magical new chapter in our lives and I couldn’t wait.

Infertility

And then it happened, a tidal wave of infertility that lasted for over 6 years and changed me forever.

During this time we lived a monthly rollercoaster of emotion in tandem with my monthly cycle. One of absurd hope and loss, on repeat. Somehow, still being hopeful, only to feel like a fool for having had hope when my period arrived.

Every month we weren’t pregnant was a loss: a monthly cycle of hope, loss and grief. My maternal yearning for a baby occupied my waking thoughts and permeated my dreams. There was no escape, but ultimately this is what drove me on. I would not give up.

Thank goodness my husband and I were able to talk to each other. David was, and is, my best friend. I loved him as my husband.

But, I wanted to love like a mummy does, to give and to care like a mummy does, to celebrate my children like a mummy does. I wanted to share the wonder of parenting with David.

I just wanted to be a mummy.

Gratitude

A key lesson I have learnt through the challenges of the last few years is to be grateful. Life will always throw challenges at you, but there is always something, or lots of things, to be grateful for. Sadly, I have found, there is always someone worse off than you. As such, I have learnt to be grateful for the problems I don’t have.

Through challenge I’ve learnt an intense appreciation of the simple things in life, and the not so simple.

Gratitude to David

Infertility can put a huge pressure on relationships. Not all relationships survive infertility, which is so sad.

However, through this time of challenge I was to discover even more so what a special man I have married, for better or for worse.

David never once made me feel responsible. He’s never been blaming in any way, though it was my low egg reserve that was causing our fertility challenges.

David made it clear that that I must never feel at fault and that ultimately he wanted me – for him, a family would be a wonderful bonus. He was very protective of me.

As a result, I’ve never had to carry the burden of blame – he shielded me from it, though I’ve had my private moments.

Blaming Myself

I would beat myself up that I must have done something to be punished like this. For years I thought it.

And then I realised: all sorts of people get pregnant. Some not so nice people, unfortunately. For me, this was just something physical. I was born with a low egg reserve. It is as simple as that. It wasn’t because of anything I had or hadn’t done.

I look at where I am today and it’s clear that our fertility challenge was not a punishment. It brought me four beautiful children.

I admired and respected David’s kindness to me in not blaming. It could have been very different. And for that I am grateful.

I learnt to value David in a way I hadn’t had to before because I hadn’t known this challenge before. With challenge can come the beautiful gift of  a deeper recognition and appreciation for all that you have.

Umbrella

For years David was my umbrella, and I learnt to trust that he always will be when I need one. The support he provided and the protection from blame, made the challenge much more manageable than it could have been. Through this challenge my trust in his love and friendship to me, for better or for worse, was cemented.

Sadness

That’s not to say we didn’t struggle. Shortly before we fell pregnant we both got really sad.

After  more than six years of repeated failed IVF and monthly disappointment, we were emotionally and financially exhausted.

We went to a close friends wedding in the April of 2012. It was a beautiful event in a very special place. David got very drunk and I had to lie down with a migraine. I wasn’t sleeping well.

I felt so frustrated that our lack of wellbeing due to our fertility challenges was impacting on every part of our lives. I worried we were letting our friends down and that people would lose patience with us.

The fact that David had unusually got so drunk showed me he was struggling, and that made me sad. I didn’t have the energy to be his umbrella and I felt guilty for that.

Being IVF Ready

The always being prepared for IVF or fertile ready dominated our lives, this included not drinking too much alcohol: another reason I was upset David had drunk too much at the wedding.

In hindsight his lack of practice at drinking alcohol was probably the reason he got drunk so easily.  But we were approaching an IVF treatment a couple of months later, so at the time I felt he was being neglectful of our priority.

Little did I know we’d get pregnant two months later, despite David’s temporary alcohol indulgence.

Please Be Gentle On Yourself

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As Maya came home from her heart surgery, we started April 2017 with relief and expectation. Expectation that with better weather we were likely to experience better health. I longed to stay out of hospitals, other than our standard check ups. We just wanted to enjoy our family at home. It was a wonderful thought.

We had a few weeks of just the beautiful chaos that is parenting four little people and then we found it: Amelie’s lump.

Time for change

In July I had decided that I wanted to move the lounge furniture around and David had disagreed, as he was concerned the babies could bump their head on the newly exposed radiator. I pushed ahead with my aesthetic hankerings and within half an hour Amelie had bumped her head on the newly exposed radiator. On this occasion Daddy knew best. However, sometimes things are supposed to happen. In attending a crying Amelie, I noticed a lump in her neck.

These photos had been taken shortly prior to us finding the lump. On looking at them again the lump seems so obvious.

Back to Hospital

We immediately took Amelie to Birmingham Children’s hospital. An ultrasound scan was arranged within days. We were relieved that things were moving fast. And then all four kids came down with horrendous chicken pox.

We weren’t able to take Amelie during the infectious period of the chicken pox and it was possibly the most nervous two weeks of my life as my brain mulled over the various scenarios as to what the lump could be and obviously landed on the worst possible one.

Ultrasound Scan

Finally we were able to have the initial scan and we were told that the lump appeared to be a second cleft branchial cyst and was most likely to be benign. This is a congenital condition that occurs in the early embryonic development.  Our initial huge relief that it was likely to be benign was quickly replaced with worry as to what this condition meant for Amelie. We were referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant.

Stridor Breathing

The Doctors advised that due to the lump’s position it was compromising her airway, so if she presented with stridor breathing we should call an ambulance immediately. This was terrifying advice because we had nearly lost Amelie in January when she had stopped breathing in my arms and was put into an induced coma.

Associated Risks

There is also a risk that it is not possible to remove the whole lump and that it will grow back, meaning repeated surgery for children with this condition.

Following a consultation in the ENT clinic at BCH, we were told that the lump was growing faster than Amelie, and needed to be removed urgently.

Not only was it compromising her airway, but in time it would stop her from being able to eat and drink. In times gone past babies with this condition would have deteriorated through lack of nutrition and passed away.

MRI Scan – Second Cleft Branchial Cyst

The ENT consultant wanted Amelie to have an MRI scan in order to trace the lump entirely in preparation for its removal. It was at this point that we were informed by the consultant that whilst her suspicion is that the lump is a second cleft branchial cyst due to its presentation with a sinus, that there were other possibilities. This upset me as prior to this advice I thought there was only one diagnosis. I also thought it was a surety that the lump was benign. Of course I did google doc – why, oh why!?! The other possibilities were like a punch in the stomach, particularly as I saw the word tracheotomy. However, the most important thing was/is to know that the lump is benign.

Amelie needed to have a general anaesthetic for the MRI scan. I found this terribly upsetting. It’s never pleasant for anyone to have a GA, but the last time she had one was when she had been put into an induced coma in January. As such it was very triggering for me and my PTSD. I really struggle with anything that will cause discomfort or risk to any of my babies.

The Day of Surgery

Having now spent so much time in hospitals, I was once again incredibly impressed with the NHS. We arrived to the ‘Play and Admission’ department.

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Premature Birth

After a premature birth my baby girl had been home for just 9 days when she stopped breathing in my arms. Today is the first year anniversary of that day.

Born prematurely at 29 weeks weighing 2lb 8oz, Amelie spent the first 11 weeks of her life in hospital. She came home on her 40 week due date, the 28th December. Her triplet sisters had come home on the 22nd December, meaning Amelie spent 6 days on her own in hospital, including Christmas Day. It broke my heart that she spent much of those 6 days on her own as we snatched visits to her, between caring for her baby sisters and a then 3 year old brother at home. Each visit she would hold me so tightly, as I did her, and I desperately wanted her home. I asked the nurses to give her extra cuddles in our absence.

Home at Last

We were delighted when she came home on her due date. The relief of being able to care for our babies in their own home, instead of being surrounded by alarms, medical paraphernalia and staff was enormous. I’d happily of never set foot in a hospital again, despite our enormous gratitude to the NHS for saving our lives on more than one occasion.

Looking after 3 babies on a three hourly feed cycle and their big brother was not for the faint hearted. It would take up to two hours to feed them, half an hour to express my milk, leaving just enough time to get ready for the next feed to start. My husband and I grabbed snippets of sleep where we could. Those first few weeks became about survival. We’d occasionally get time to grunt at each other as the days passed in the haze of routine. We were deliriously tired, but deliriously happy, our babies were home and there ensued a beautiful chaos.

The Vulnerability of Premature Babies

The Doctors had warned us of their vulnerability to illness due to suppressed immunity following their premature birth. We did all we could to keep them safe based on their Paediatric consultants advice. Despite this they all became ill and started to drop their feeds. We were particularly worried about Amelie and when David took her to the GP on January 4th, we were advised that her chest sounded clear.

The next morning I felt relief when I managed to get Amelie to take 70ml on her first feed. I thought it meant she was getting better. As David was home I had time to hold Amelie and give her a really good wind whilst he carried on to feed Etta. As I held Amelie with her little chin resting on my shoulder, I became aware that she felt very still.

Amelie Stopped Breathing & My World Stood Still

Everything went into slow motion. David walked into the room at that moment and I stood up and asked him to look at Amelie, explaining that she felt so still. I remember an urgency in his voice as he told me her lips were blue, she’s not breathing. I screamed and lifted her into the air to look at her. She was lifeless.

In that moment I dropped her into a backwards motion. As I did so it was as if she took her first breath. I tried to call 999 on my mobile and fumbled to find emergency services. I screamed as I had to enter my passcode to get the keypad up to dial 999. As I did so Amelie stopped breathing again and I dropped her backwards again.

This was to happen several times during the call and I became hysterical. David took the phone off me and informed the operator of what was happening. When the paramedics arrived, Amelie was breathing and pink.

Back to Hospital

David went with Amelie in the ambulance whilst I looked after Etta and Maya. Felix was with his grandparents. Everything felt surreal. I half expected to be told we’d imagined it and that she was fine. Little did I know that she had stopped breathing in the ambulance and they had called her in as a cardiac arrest as they raced her to A&E.

David kept me updated and told me she was being looked after well. The doctor and nurse on duty wouldn’t leave her side. The nurse telling David “no lunch today, I’m staying with her – I’ve got a feeling about this one”.

Needing Help to Stay Alive

I continued to believe that Amelie would be sent home that day with an explanation and everything would be ok. The next time David contacted me was to inform me that Amelie was being put into an induced coma and transferred to a paediatric intensive care unit.

Amelie had continued to stop breathing. The doctors were worried that her lungs couldn’t cope and whilst she was responding to the staff bringing her back round, they couldn’t let her continue as her little body was becoming too tired. Amelie now needed help to stay alive.

Neighbours rallied round and took me to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital it was to witness a doctor manually operating a machine to breathe for Amelie whilst they waited for the emergency paediatric transfer team. Amelie was being transferred to the nearest PICU bed in Stoke.

No “What Ifs”

I asked the doctor what would have happened if she hadn’t been in my arms when she’d stopped breathing. The doctor touched my arm and said “she was in your arms, we don’t need to think about what would have happened if she hadn’t been”. The thought that in normal circumstances I would have had to place her back into her cot sooner in order to feed her sister made me shudder. We were so fortunate that David had been home that day.

As David left with our neighbour, I waited to be transferred to Stoke with Amelie. I couldn’t take my eyes off her little body lying there covered in tubes and wires. This was so unfair that she should have had such a short time at home before being back in a hospital fighting for her life. I tried to find a private place to cry, but couldn’t find anywhere and broke down in the corridor. A woman came to comfort me.

For 3 days I stayed by Amelie’s bedside whilst family helped David at home. During this time Amelie had her lungs drained by a team of physiotherapists several times a day. Tests revealed that she had paraflu.

Brought out of her coma

Amelie had to be brought out of her coma whilst still intubated as they monitored that she was able to breathe for herself. It was distressing for her and I was relieved when doctors said it was safe to remove her ventilation, though I was advised it may not be best for me to observe its removal. To hold my baby in my arms again as she was able to breathe for herself was magical. It meant we were closer to home, again.

On the day I brought Amelie back home, our smallest triplet Maya was blue lighted from our local A&E to the nearest HDU as her health deteriorated. David and I saw each other briefly whilst I said goodbye to Maya as she was taken in the ambulance. I took Amelie and Etta home and David stayed with Maya in the HDU. Amelie cried all night in pain as the morphine left her body. I felt spent, in shock from what had happened and desperately worried about Maya, who was more vulnerable due to a heart condition.

Living with Post traumatic Stress Disorder

Following a life threatening birth trauma at 29 weeks gestation, I was diagnosed with PTSD. Unfortunately, as a family we have experienced several medical traumas since.

I am only able to write about this experience due to undertaking EMDR and CBT therapy. Prior to both, I could not bear to think about the medical traumas we have endured. I lived in a constant state of anxiety as to what was going to happen next. I want to write more about my experience of managing PTSD in the hope that it can help others with similar experiences.

Amelie’s surgery

As I write this we are preparing for Amelie to have surgery next week. This is to remove a lump in her neck. Amelie is being fast tracked to surgery as the lump is compromising her airway.

Due to the proximity of the lump to Amelie’s airway, we have been informed to call an ambulance in the event of stridor breathing. Despite my best efforts to keep the girls safe from germs and out of hospital this winter,  Amelie and Etta both got croup last week and were blue lighted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital on Christmas Day with stridor breathing.

Clearly the breathing concerns related to Amelie’s lump have meant great anxiety, but thanks to the work I have done through CBT therapy I have been able to take a more mindful approach, living in the day and having an action plan, so I am not overwhelmed by what may happen in the future. As we approach Amelie’s operation I am trying to stay mindful, knowing that we will manage it when it happens.

That’s perhaps one of the valuable lessons of trauma, it can break you or it can make you stronger: we have a choice. And even if there are times that you feel broken, it doesn’t mean you will feel like that the next day. It’s through experiences like this that I have truly learnt the meaning of the cliches we grow up hearing: ‘what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger’. It’s true.

During the birth trauma and the ups and downs of the medical traumas since, my girls have kept surviving. In doing so, I keep learning to believe. I have also acquired a magnitude of gratitude to the NHS for the life saving care we have received and the kindness, just the kindness.

Amelie’s story

During the last few months I have read about the experiences of others and how they have managed trauma. In particular, I found solidarity and comfort in reading Cathy Rentzenbrink’s: A manual for heartbreak. It is enormously refreshing when people of generous spirit are able to share with others, even if its just to say its ok to feel as you do. If I can help another person to feel not alone, then I hope I am able to return some of the kindness I have received.

Most importantly, I want to write about my babies stories so that I can illustrate to them the superhero powers they were born with. I am immensely proud of all that they have achieved in their short lives already.

This is a part of Amelie’s story. Amelie, I hope you are as proud of yourself when you read this, as I am of you when I write it.

My beautiful Amelie and your sticky up hair. I love you xxx

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My Unicorn Family by Mummy To Triplets & Bro - 2w ago

The Due Date

In general none of us take much notice of due dates.  On average only four percent of babies actually arrive on their 40 week due date (according to various Baby experts). My son arrived at 42+2.

For us multiple mommas we have another date – the ‘in between’ date that we all hope we can get to. In that sense the due date in our maternity notes becomes pretty pointless, as we know we will not reach it. My ‘in between’ date was set for 34+2 weeks gestation – unfortunately we didn’t reach it, but that’s another story.

Happy Due Date

Today feels significant to me. My girls birthday is October 15th, their due date December 28th. It illustrates the vast difference between the average gestation of 40 weeks and my girls arrival, 11 weeks earlier: 13 weeks earlier than their brother! As a parent to premature babies, it represents their incredible achievements in their short lives. It also feels reassuring that today they are physically 12 months old and stronger.

December 28th is also the anniversary of the day that we brought all of our babies home from hospital after their birth and a very long 11 weeks initial stay. There are many reasons to celebrate today.

Our babies can have two celebrations to acknowledge how special they are: a very Happy Birthday followed by a super Due Date. It is also another way for us to let them know that they are anything but average.

We love you girls xxx

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I remember the day we found out Bertie’s heart needed fixing.

I had gone to a support group, Acacia, for the first time. I sat and cried about Bertie being so poorly. I was terrified of what was going to happen.

Just two months before we had nearly lost Bertie and her sister, Amelie, to Paraflu. Prior to that the girls had spent the first 11 weeks of their lives in hospital, after making a shock arrival at 29 weeks gestation in which we had all nearly died.

I had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was scared that I didn’t have the strength to deal with more trauma. But you just do don’t you?

As I cried I told the support worker that I couldn’t be ‘Hospital Mummy’ again. I’d done it for too long. Being Hospital Mummy means leaving your baby/babies on their own. It tears at your heart every time.

Unless you are very far from home it is unlikely you will have access to hospital accommodation, which has to be prioritised for those most in need. And as for many, I had family at home to care for too. David had to work and I found it very difficult to leave our babies with anyone else.

Based on medical advice, I couldn’t take Bertie’s sisters into hospital. I was keeping them away from public places and people in general to reduce their risk of viruses. As such, I knew the logistics would mean Bertie spending time on her own. I couldn’t bear it.

Grumpy Gnome

We had taken Bertie to the GP several times. She looked grey and would scream as soon as she saw her bottle. To try and feed her would be to torture her. She was hungry but couldn’t bear to drink and would scream. I didn’t know if it was her reflux or her heart. The GP prescribed reflux medication.

We had already been told that Bertie had a PDA, that was likely to need surgery when she was big enough, around age 1. We had been warned that if the operation was undertaken before then Bertie would need open heart surgery.

To try and feed her was really upsetting. It would take up to two hours of repeat trying so she could rest in between. I had a 3 year old and her baby sisters to care for too.

The situation felt impossible at times. We had a nickname for Bertie. We called her GG, which stood for Grumpy Gnome. She was just upset so much of the time. It was really sad, but also very difficult when you’re trying to take care of four children. In lots of those early pictures, Bertie can be seen crying.

We would try everything to get her to take her feed. We could be seen trotting round the Kitchen island as somehow we learnt that a little movement helped her.

Amelie also had reflux and would take a long time to feed. I found the situation extremely worrying and anxiety inducing. Bertie was failing to thrive and I was scared.

As we waited for her referral as a heart outpatient we started to raise our concerns with our health visitor, who was very supportive.

On the day that I went to Acacia for the first time, David waited in to see the health visitor. I came home to be told that Bertie needed to be taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital straight away.

Hospital

David took Bertie to Ward 11 in Birmingham Children’s Hospital whilst I stayed at home to look after her sisters and Felix.

Bertie didn’t come home for a month.

Diagnosis

My baby girl had an enlarged heart, an enlarged liver and first degree chronic lung disease. All because her little heart was working too hard. She was immediately given a feeding tube so that she could rest.

Bertie was failing to put on weight because she was expending more calories than she was gaining in the effort it took her to drink her milk.

When it felt like we were torturing her in trying to feed her, we really were. It had been torturous for her to drink her milk because she couldn’t breathe properly as her heart was failing and the fluid was going into her lungs. This is why she’d scream as soon as she saw her bottle.

My poor, poor baby girl.

My heart broke. But now I knew she was safe. The consultant informed us that the operation couldn’t wait until she was older. Bertie now needed her heart fixed to save her life and she wouldn’t be going home until it was done.

Ticking Time Bomb

When we learnt how poorly Bertie was, it felt like we’d been living with a ticking time bomb in our house. How had this been allowed to happen? It transpired that on discharge from her initial 11 week stay, the hospital had failed to refer her as an outpatient to cardiology.

After having amazing life saving care from the NHS, we felt incredibly let down. I say this with a heavy heart because I have enormous gratitude to the NHS. This was simply a human error, but it could have cost my daughter her life.

Cuddle Rota

David and I became a tag team. I would wait for David to come home from work before racing out of the door to see Bertie in hospital. Meanwhile, I arranged a cuddle rota for her with friends and family.

That didn’t stop me feeling hugely guilty as I arrived on the ward. I couldn’t help but think that people would think ‘here comes that awful mummy who doesn’t stay with her daughter’.

I remember the fear of parking in Birmingham city centre on my own and walking in darkness around streets I didn’t know to get to the hospital. As I was there until late I started asking security to escort me back to my car, particularly as a big group of men started congregating outside the hospital every night. But what could I do? The evening was the only time I knew I could definitely be there, but it didn’t feel safe. The whole experience felt terrifying.

To Bertie

For..

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