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
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