Take it to the limit
Luci’s twin terrors
The office loos, my knickers around my ankles, and a shout from the other side of the locked door… ‘Well?’ my mate, Vicky, was calling. ‘I can’t go back to the warehouse until I know!’
She needed to know? I was the one whose whole future was on the line. Would a second blue line appear in the little window of the plastic stick I held in my trembling fingers?
I was 24 and I’d been with my fella, Joseph Barker, 24, for three years. We’d got together when we were both 21. He’d been my saviour when I’d lost my mum, Debbie, to lung cancer two years later. He showed me I still had everything to live for.
A year on, we were jangling the keys to our first home together – a lovely little flat, all open plan.
We’d had the talk. Kids? Definitely. Some day…
Well, it looked like some day had just arrived…
How had this happened? Well, the usual way of course. But I was on the Pill! Had I missed one?
I rearranged myself and slid back the latch on the loo door.
Vicky and my other mate, Lynsey, knew the answer to the big question the minute they saw my face.
‘Oh, my God!’ they hissed. I carried the tester home in my handbag and tucked it into a box of Smarties to surprise Joseph.
‘We’re going to need a bigger flat!’ he squeaked when he could speak again.
But, once the shock subsided, we were grinning. It didn’t take long to get used to the idea.
I’d always loved kids. When I was a teenager, I used to babysit my brother’s little girl, Chloe, every Thursday after school.
There were a few shaky moments. I put her nappy on back to front a couple of times! But I soon got the hang of it.
As she grew, I loved taking her to the park and rustling up fish fingers for tea.
Joseph was a complete novice, though. He’d hand his nephew over to me when we detected eau-de-poo wafting from his Babygro…
And the surprises weren’t over for us yet. At our first scan, our midwife said, ‘I’ll just check
there’s not another one.’ ‘Another one?’ I goggled. ‘Ah, that’s OK...’ she went on. Phew!
‘... There’s only two.’ TWO?
Joseph’s eyes went glassy. ‘We’re definitely going to need a bigger flat!’ he stammered.
‘And what about my Mini?’ I wailed. My grey and black Mini Cooper wouldn’t fit a double buggy in the boot!
‘I suppose that explains why you already look like you’ve eaten a massive roast dinner,’ laughed Joseph. He was right. Three months gone and I was already starting to show.
But the 16-week scan detected twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. One of my babies was getting more nutrients than the other, so I was booked in for regular check-ups.
Four weeks later, we were told they were identical little boys.
As I ballooned, we picked the name Charlie for twin one and Harvey for twin two.
At 22 weeks, I was due to walk our local Race For Life in memory of my mum. But that morning, when I got up, I felt fluid gush between my legs.
At Leeds General Infirmary, the doctors had worrying news. Charlie’s sac had burst.
‘We need to keep you in,’ a medic told us. ‘All we can do, really, is make you comfortable.’
If the twins arrived now, they probably wouldn’t survive.
But they hung on, stayed put. After five days in hospital, I was discharged for bed rest at home.
‘Don’t overdo it!’ cautioned the midwife. ‘No work, and definitely no sex!’
I spent the next week on the sofa, hardly daring to move. ‘I’m so bored,’ I moaned. ‘Let’s go to the caravan for the weekend,’ Joseph suggested.
Our family had a caravan near Scarborough. The perfect retreat. But, when we sat down in the on-site café, I felt a familiar leak. The chair was soaking wet!
‘People will think I’ve peed myself,’ I hissed as I waddled back to the caravan.
The next morning, there was blood in my knickers, so we drove back to Leeds and went straight to hospital.
I was 24 weeks and one day gone. Just a day over the legal abortion limit.
‘It’s still too early,’ I blubbed to Joseph as sudden pain crashed over me. ‘But I need to push.’
I was bundled into a wheelchair and the midwife literally ran me down the corridor to the delivery suite.
‘I can see Charlie’s head,’ she gasped. The room was suddenly full of people.
At 9pm on 21 May 2017, Charlie was born, weighing 1lb 6oz. Harvey followed 16 minutes later, even tinier at 1lb 4oz. Then the room cleared.
Joseph and I stared at each other in shock.
‘Did that just happen?’
I asked him shakily. I hadn’t even seen my babies before they were taken away.
At midnight, we were shown to neonatal intensive care. Both boys were covered in wires and hooked up to ventilators. Harvey was under a UV lamp, like a baby chicken!
Our boys looked so tiny and fragile…
The next few weeks were a blur of scans, blood tests and injections. The punches just kept coming. The boys were so premature that they had problems with their eyes, their lungs and their hearts.
At four days old, Harvey suffered a bleed to the brain. We sat numbly as doctors warned they might have to switch off his life support. Miraculously, he pulled through.
After four-and-a-half months, we were finally allowed to take the boys home. But weeks later, on Halloween, Harvey collapsed.
As I looked on, crying, he stopped breathing in the ambulance. It felt like a life time, but was only a minute until he started again.
He was still in his tiny orange-and-black jumpsuit with ‘My First Halloween’ on the front. His lungs were so weak, he was in hospital for seven more months.
It was agonising to see Charlie meet his milestones, sitting up and starting on solid food, while his brother was on oxygen in the children’s ward.
Bringing Harvey home again for good, in May 2018, was the best feeling ever.
Now, at 17 months, they’re both thriving, despite having weak lungs. Harvey has to be given oxygen at home, and his sight is impaired.
But I smile whenever I catch the pair of them holding hands in their pushchair.
Charlie is a cheeky little devil who likes to pull at the tubes on Harvey’s face, giggling like Woody Woodpecker.
Harvey is a contented, happy little boy. Maybe he knows how lucky he is?
Me and Joseph have talked about having another baby, but not for a long time yet. I’m back on the Pill and making sure I take it properly!
Knowing our luck, we’d end up with another two. Double
double trouble! For now, my beautiful boys are all we need.
Luci Hall, 26, Leeds
I was one day over the abortion limit
Seeing double! I had a huge baby belly
Against all the odds, the boys pulled through
We had to wait four weeks to hold them
Charlie (left) and Harvey are doing well
The first picture of our boy Charlie, 1lb 6oz