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…
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