Baby, you can fly

Birds do it, bees do it… And when Ni­cola Bai­ley and her hubby, Todd, de­cided to do it agian, some­thing very beau­ti­ful was the re­sult, as the 32-year-old mum-of-three from Sh­effield ex­plains…

Real People - - OUR MAD WORLD! - As told to Christa­bel Smith & Lucy Laing (sto­ries@re­alpeo­

Truly twin­spi­ra­tional

My dar­ling Harper,

When will you read this let­ter? Maybe when you and your sis­ter, Quinn, are cel­e­brat­ing your 18th birthdays, or even a wed­ding day? How will you feel when you look at the pho­tos of when you were just eight months old? You’ll be sure to no­tice some dif­fer­ences. I just hope you’ll see that right from the start, you were ev­ery bit as beau­ti­ful as your twin.

Your story be­gan one night at New Year when I met your daddy, Todd, 18. I was 16 and it was only the third time I’d been al­lowed out with my friends, but right there, on the dance floor, some­thing spe­cial be­gan.

We started go­ing out to­gether, though we were so young, your grand­par­ents had to drive us around. Af­ter a few months, your sporty daddy went to do foot­ball train­ing in Amer­ica and we split up. I missed him ter­ri­bly, be­cause, some­how, I knew we be­longed to­gether. I threw my­self into my stud­ies and qual­i­fied as a nurse.

At the cin­ema one day, when I was 22, I bumped into your daddy, and we in­stantly be­came close again.

Four years later, we had an Alice In Won­der­land- themed wed­ding, like the Mad Hat­ter’s Tea Party, with big play­ing cards ev­ery­where and a cake shaped like a gi­ant teapot. I wore a clock neck­lace and Daddy, who as you know is very soppy, cried with hap­pi­ness when he saw me walk­ing down the aisle.

Your big brother, Lu­cas, ar­rived two years later. He gave us a scare when he stopped breath­ing three times on day one, but af­ter a cou­ple of weeks, he was fine.

I went back to my job as a part-time com­mu­nity nurse a year later, but by the time Lu­cas was nearly three, we started try­ing for an­other baby.

Af­ter three months, I was get­ting im­pa­tient. I took a preg­nancy test even be­fore my pe­riod was due and it was pos­i­tive.

It seemed too good to be true, so I kept it quiet and did an­other test a cou­ple of days later. Pos­i­tive again.

Lu­cas and Daddy were watch­ing TV while hav­ing break­fast in bed, so I took it to show them.

Lu­cas looked awestruck, like he’d just seen Fa­ther Christ­mas. ‘I’m go­ing to be a big brother,’ he said, clap­ping his hands.

Within a few weeks, I was suf­fer­ing bad morn­ing sick­ness and my tummy was so big, I feared some­thing might be wrong.

When we went for the 12-week scan, I was ter­ri­fied and clutched Daddy’s hand so tightly, his fin­ger­tips went white.

It seemed too good to be true

The sono­g­ra­pher spent ages star­ing at the screen, then she turned it to­wards us and said, ‘There are your ba­bies.’ ‘Ba­bies?’ I re­peated.

‘Yes, look, two heart­beats.’ I started laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cally, while Daddy, 32, went as white as a piece of pa­per. There were twins in our fam­ily, but it had never crossed our minds we might have our very own set.

When I rang my mum, your granny, she thought I was jok­ing. It took weeks be­fore she be­lieved me.

A month later, a scan told us you were both girls.

Back at home, I gave Lu­cas two big boxes. He opened them up and two pink bal­loons floated out. ‘Girls!’ he squealed. ‘I’m hav­ing sis­ters!’ He was soon plan­ning all the games you would play. I had scans ev­ery three weeks. They told me all was well.

By 20 weeks, my bump was so mas­sive, it was painful to walk, so I had to stop work. Twelve weeks on, I went to bed early, feel­ing ex­hausted and sick. I woke up in the night to go to the loo and my wa­ters broke. Daddy called his mum to come and look af­ter Lu­cas, then we drove to hos­pi­tal. They told me your wa­ters had bro­ken, but Quinn’s were still in place, so they gave me some drugs to stop labour and an­tibi­otics, and then sent us home.

It was a bit nerve-rack­ing, but at least it meant Daddy and I could cel­e­brate Valen­tine’s Day. We shared a ro­man­tic M&S din­ner for two, but by 8pm, I had a headache.

Three hours later, my con­trac­tions started and we headed back to the hos­pi­tal. A con­sul­tant ex­am­ined me and said, ‘I can’t imag­ine you’re go­ing to give birth to­day,’ but by 4am, the pains were fierce and reg­u­lar.

I had no pain re­lief, ex­cept a TENS ma­chine and gas and air, and by 7am, I cried, ‘I need to push.’

The room sud­denly filled up with mid­wives, pae­di­a­tri­cians and nurses. Daddy and Granny hardly had room to stand up!

At 8.02am, you were born, weigh­ing 5lb 1oz, which was a bril­liant weight for a 33-week-old pre­ma­ture baby. Nurses rushed

you away for checks.

I’d been told your twin would fol­low af­ter six min­utes, but now you were out and Quinn had some space, she de­cided to flip over, which meant the doc­tors had to turn her round again.

She came 38 min­utes later, at 8.40am, weigh­ing 4lb 2oz. I caught a glimpse of her be­fore she was whisked away, too.

Daddy and I couldn’t wait to hold you both in our arms, so af­ter hal­fan-hour, when two doc­tors came in, we looked up ea­gerly.

We ex­pected con­grat­u­la­tions, but in­stead one of them said, ‘I’m re­ally sorry to have to tell you this…’

I grasped Daddy. From the look on the woman’s face, I thought she was about to tell me we’d lost one of you, even both of you. But she con­tin­ued, ‘We think one of the girls has tri­somy 21, Down’s syn­drome.’

They handed us some leaflets and left. I burst into tears, be­cause of the scary way they’d de­liv­ered the news and be­cause I knew there could be health com­pli­ca­tions.

‘I just want to see my ba­bies,’ I cried.

Soon af­ter, we were al­lowed into spe­cial care. You and Quinn were both in in­cu­ba­tors, at­tached to tubes, which made me cry harder, be­cause I was aching to hold you, but it was like you were trapped be­hind a glass wall.

The doc­tors said they were go­ing to do more tests to con­firm you had Down’s, but I could see you had the char­ac­ter­is­tics – the al­mond-shaped eyes and gap be­tween your big and sec­ond toes.

All that mat­tered to me was that I wouldn’t lose you. I made the mis­take of googling heart and bowel de­fects.

Fear­ful, I couldn’t take my eyes off you. When you flinched, I anx­iously asked a nurse, ‘Is that be­cause of the Down’s?’

‘No,’ she smiled. ‘It’s be­cause she’s Harper.’

When you were three days old, Lu­cas came to visit. He care­fully washed his hands and Quinn gripped his fin­ger, mak­ing him gig­gle.

‘Why are my sis­ters in fish tanks?’ he asked.

One of the nurses came over with a cloth. ‘Would you like to pol­ish their fish tanks so they can see you bet­ter?’ she asked. He nod­ded ea­gerly. Watch­ing Lu­cas fall in­stantly in love with you both made me feel a thou­sand times bet­ter. I re­alised ev­ery­thing was go­ing to be OK and be­gan to re­lax, es­pe­cially when I could hold you close. There was a worry when a scan showed you had the most se­ri­ous kind of holes in your heart, but when we were re­ferred to an­other hos­pi­tal, tests showed you’d man­aged to heal one of the holes all by your­self.

‘It’s just like a pin­prick now,’ the spe­cial­ist said. It meant you wouldn’t need surgery un­til you were about six.

‘My clever girl,’ I said, surg­ing with pride.

When you were three weeks old, we brought you home. Lu­cas ran around, fetch­ing muslins and wipes. ‘You’re like a staff nurse,’ I told him.

We ex­plained to him that you had Down’s syn­drome, which meant you had an ex­tra chro­mo­some.

‘My sis­ter is ex­tra-spe­cial be­cause she has Down’s,’ he would tell ev­ery­one.

We’d been warned that your de­vel­op­ment would be slow, that you wouldn’t roll over un­til you were 10 months. In re­al­ity, you beat Quinn to it. ‘Harper won’t sit un­til she’s a year old,’ doc­tors said. Wrong again! You were in your high chair at six months, scoff­ing your favourite flaked salmon and wrin­kling up your nose at puréed ap­ple, which you hate. You and Quinn watch each other’s ev­ery move. If she’s cry­ing, you reach out for her hand. You’re al­ways smil­ing and she’s more se­ri­ous, but when you blow rasp­ber­ries, you have her in fits of gig­gles.

You both love Mr Tum­ble on TV and have been known to have a tug-of-war over your favourite teething rat­tle, but Lu­cas is your favourite en­ter­tain­ment. When he does his funny voice, like a car­toon char­ac­ter, he has you both in stitches. If you’re cry­ing in your cot, he rushes off to get your ted­dies.

You’re lucky girls to have him as your brother, and we’re lucky par­ents to have all three of you.

We have been busy rais­ing pos­i­tive aware­ness about Down’s for the char­ity Wouldn’t Change A Thing. We’ve even been on ITV’S This Morn­ing and when Holly Wil­loughby held you, she was be­sot­ted.

You have some chal­lenges ahead of you, but we will do ev­ery­thing in our power to make sure you have the same op­por­tu­ni­ties as ev­ery­one else.

I dream of set­ting up a fam­ily busi­ness one day, maybe some­thing in­volv­ing a bum­ble­bee de­sign. I’ve al­ways loved bum­ble bees, be­cause their bod­ies are so big, they’re not re­ally meant to fly, but they do any­way.

Any­thing is pos­si­ble, Harper. Never for­get that. I love you, Mummy xxx

You are per­fect

I am blessed to have such a won­der­ful fam­ily

Lu­cas helps me and your daddy by en­ter­tain­ing you and Quinn...

It’s lovely to watch you and Quinn to­gether

... he’s the per­fect big brother

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