Re­united at Christ­mas: A fes­tive mir­a­cle

Af­ter giv­ing birth to twin girls pre­ma­turely, Kirsty Hughes’s wish came true when her fam­ily was fi­nally re­united on Christ­mas Day

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Christ­mas has al­ways been a very spe­cial time of year for my fam­ily. My mum, Sharon, would help me and my two sis­ters to write let­ters to Santa in Novem­ber. By Christ­mas Eve, we’d laid out milk, cook­ies and car­rots for Santa and his rein­deer and were so ex­cited that we could barely sleep.

On the morn­ing it­self, we’d tear down­stairs to open our presents and spend the day with fam­ily, play­ing board games and eat­ing un­til our py­ja­mas strained at the seams.

So, when my son, Mad­dox, ar­rived in 2012, de­spite be­ing a sin­gle mum, I vowed to make Christ­mas just as mag­i­cal for him, too. And I was suc­cess­ful – as he grew up, he was just as ob­sessed with the fes­tive sea­son as I was.

Then, in Oc­to­ber 2016, I met Dar­ren O’Brien on­line. Equally laid-back, we were the per­fect match. He was a re­cruit­ment con­sul­tant and adored Mad­dox, and we didn’t want to waste any time in try­ing for chil­dren of our own. So, the fol­low­ing April, I came off my con­tra­cep­tion. Just a month later, I was preg­nant.

Dar­ren was so ex­cited but, while I was also de­lighted, some­thing felt dif­fer­ent to my pre­vi­ous preg­nancy.

Even in the first few weeks, I was in pain. I ended up in the early preg­nancy unit at Lu­ton and Dun­sta­ble Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal.

But, in­stead of look­ing wor­ried, the sono­g­ra­pher smiled. ‘The rea­son you don’t feel right is be­cause there’s two ba­bies in there,’ she said. ‘And they’re both per­fectly fine.’

Twins? Dar­ren and I both had them in our fam­i­lies, but I’d never dreamed we’d be blessed with two ba­bies.

I called Dar­ren, who was out of the coun­try. Af­ter a long pause, he fi­nally gave a shout of joy. We couldn’t wait to meet our lit­tle ones, and Mad­dox loved the idea of be­ing a big brother twice over.

Dar­ren, now 32, was very at­ten­tive, run­ning me a bath ev­ery night and rub­bing my achy feet for me.

Then, at 20 weeks, I started to bleed. I was ter­ri­fied as Dar­ren rushed me to hos­pi­tal, and I gripped his hand as I was as­sessed. ‘They’re fine,’ I was told even­tu­ally. The re­lief was over­whelm­ing.

We dis­cov­ered we were hav­ing non-iden­ti­cal girls. I did my Christ­mas shop­ping early, know­ing I’d be heav­ily preg­nant when the day ar­rived.

I bled in­ter­mit­tently dur­ing the next few weeks. As doc­tors didn’t know why, I was given pre­cau­tion­ary steroid in­jec­tions at 28 weeks, to help de­velop my ba­bies’ lungs. Then, on 17 De­cem­ber 2017, my wa­ters broke late at night – six weeks early. A neigh­bour looked af­ter Mad­dox, while Dar­ren’s mum, Liz, drove to our place and we headed to the hos­pi­tal. ‘It’s too soon,’ I sobbed. My con­trac­tions started, but when the labour didn’t progress, doc­tors had to in­duce me be­cause the ba­bies were at risk of in­fec­tion.

On 19 De­cem­ber, at 10.06am, baby Karis ar­rived, weigh­ing just 3lb 8oz.

‘She’s tiny,’ I whis­pered, as she was placed briefly on my ch­est be­fore be­ing whisked off to the high de­pen­dency unit. Brooke was born 25 min­utes later, weigh­ing in at 4lb 6oz.

I couldn’t see her through my tears, but we had a quick cud­dle be­fore she was taken away, too.

Dar­ren ran af­ter our daugh­ters and sent me pic­tures, but it wasn’t un­til three hours later, wheel­ing

my drip with me, that I saw our girls again.

Both had oxy­gen masks and needed help with feed­ing, as their suck­ing mo­tion hadn’t de­vel­oped yet. They were so small – it scared me.

And things got worse when Brooke was taken to spe­cial care. De­spite be­ing the big­ger twin, she was strug­gling.

Dar­ren and I would spend an hour with each daugh­ter, be­fore pass­ing in the cor­ri­dor to swap over. It was dif­fi­cult and fright­en­ing. They’d spent eight months to­gether in my womb. Now, within days of be­ing out in the world, they’d been torn apart. Alone, they looked even more frag­ile. ‘They need each other,’ I’d fret, stroking their lit­tle arms as they lay in their sep­a­rate in­cu­ba­tors on dif­fer­ent wards. And I was wor­ried about Mad­dox, who I’d barely had time to see at what was usu­ally our favourite time of the year to­gether. Thank­fully, on the day be­fore Christ­mas Eve, we were granted our own lit­tle mir­a­cle. De­clared well enough to re­turn to the high de­pen­dency unit, Brooke was wheeled in and placed next to Karis. ‘They’re re­united,’ I wept. In­stantly, the pair seemed more set­tled.

On Christ­mas Day, I spent the morn­ing at home with Mad­dox, who tore open his presents with glee. Then he was in for an ex­tra-spe­cial treat. ‘Do you want to meet your sis­ters?’ I asked.

Chil­dren weren’t usu­ally al­lowed on the ward, but the doc­tors made an ex­cep­tion be­cause it was Christ­mas.

The hos­pi­tal was dec­o­rated with tin­sel and twin­kling lights. When we ar­rived, Dar­ren dressed up as Santa.

‘I wanted to do it for Karis, Brooke and Mad­dox,’ he ex­plained. We had a lovely time hold­ing the girls and singing car­ols. It may not have been tra­di­tional, but at least we were all to­gether.

Six days later, on New Year’s Eve, the twins were dis­charged from hos­pi­tal. I was ner­vous about tak­ing them home and, for those first few weeks, we didn’t get much sleep.

But the girls went from strength to strength. Karis was the go-get­ter, while Brooke was more laid-back. They’re al­ways side by side and, as Karis learnt to crawl early, she’d bring toys back for Brooke to play with.

Mean­while, Mad­dox is the doting big brother. He sits them on his knee and reads them his school books. They think he’s the best thing ever.

Now 34, I’m look­ing for­ward to this De­cem­ber more than ever. I’m so grate­ful for my two lit­tle Christ­mas gifts – it’s more than I could have ever asked for.

Brooke and Karis: frag­ile and pre­cious Big brother Mad­dox with his tiny twin sis­ters

All to­gether now: Dar­ren, Kirsty and the chil­dren Christ­mas Day in hos­pi­tal, with proud dad Dar­ren dressed as Santa

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