Elly will never for­get the twin she lost

When the un­think­able hap­pened, Eve Read was dev­as­tated. But she had to carry on fight­ing…

Woman (UK) - - Real Life -

As I watch my seven-year-old daugh­ter, Elly, tin­kling away at the pi­ano, I can’t help smil­ing. She’s play­ing Chop­sticks, her favourite song. But she needs a part­ner to play the sec­ond part of the melody. ‘Mum, come and help me!’ she calls. But as our hands jump across the keys, I feel a sad­ness swell in­side me. You see, as much as I love our duets, they’re also a re­minder of the per­son who should be perched on the stool next to Elly. Some­one who’s so very im­por­tant, but will al­ways be miss­ing.

The day I found out I was ex­pect­ing Elly, I was sup­posed to be test driv­ing a car with my hus­band, Andy, then 32. But half­way through, a wave of nau­sea rip­pled through me. ‘Andy, I re­ally don’t feel well,’ I said.

So we cut the test drive short and stopped by the phar­macy on the way home. Pass­ing the preg­nancy tests, a nig­gling voice in the back of my head com­pelled me to grab one – just to see. We hadn't been try­ing for a baby, but for the past few weeks I'd sensed some­thing was dif­fer­ent. Like my body had changed, although I couldn’t pin­point why. Back at home, I locked my­self in the bath­room and did the test. My hands trem­bled as I turned over the stick. Then I saw it, that faint blue line, and my heart leapt with ex­cite­ment. Step­ping into the kitchen, I held the test up to Andy. He burst into laugh­ter. ‘We’re go­ing to have a baby!’ he cried. Although we promised to keep it to our­selves for the time be­ing, sit­ting around the din­ner ta­ble on Christ­mas Day sur­rounded by my fam­ily I couldn't think of a bet­ter time to make the an­nounce­ment. Nat­u­rally, ev­ery­one was ec­static. In Jan­uary 2010, we went for our 12-week scan. Run­ning the mon­i­tor across my belly, the sono­g­ra­pher grinned. ‘You’re go­ing to have twins,’ she said. Andy and I were as­tounded but happy. A closer look re­vealed the ba­bies were shar­ing a pla­centa, which meant they’d be iden­ti­cal. But be­fore we left the hos­pi­tal, a mid­wife handed us a stack of leaflets on twin preg­nan­cies. ‘You need to have a read through these,’ she said. ‘There are more risks with twins.’

Her words bought us both back down to earth with a thump. Why was she telling us this? Did she think the twins were in trou­ble? ‘No, no!’ she ex­claimed. ‘It’s just some­thing to be aware of. We’ll mon­i­tor you closely.’

Four weeks later, in Fe­bru­ary 2010, I had my first ap­point­ment with Dr Elly Tsoi, a con­sul­tant at the mul­ti­ple births unit in King’s Col­lege Hos­pi­tal, Lon­don. Dur­ing the scan, she told us there was a slight dif­fer­ence in the size of the ba­bies.

‘It could be a warn­ing sign of twin-totwin trans­fu­sion syn­drome,’ she said. ‘It’s a rare syn­drome where the blood flow be­comes im­bal­anced be­tween the ba­bies. But it’s still too early to know for sure, so I’ll need you to come back next week for a fol­low-up.’

On the morn­ing of the ap­point­ment, I went for a shower and thought my bump looked dif­fer­ent some­how, flat­ter.

As they scanned me at the hos­pi­tal, I could tell some­thing was wrong. Dr Elly and the sono­g­ra­pher were mum­bling to­gether. Then Dr Elly turned to meet my

‘i could tell some­thing was wrong’

gaze. ‘I’m so sorry, Eve,’ she said. ‘But one of your ba­bies no longer has a heart­beat.’ Im­me­di­ately, the tears started to stream down my face. But there was more.

‘Your other twin isn’t get­ting enough oxy­gen ei­ther,’ she con­tin­ued. It was de­cided my sur­viv­ing baby needed a trans­fu­sion of my own blood. It was a risky pro­ce­dure, but we had no choice.

Four hours later, I was taken to surgery, where doc­tors in­jected a tea­spoon­ful of my red blood cells through my womb, into a cham­ber of our twin’s heart. I’d been put un­der lo­cal anaes­thetic, and Andy gripped my hand as we watched our lit­tle baby fight­ing for her life on the mon­i­tor.

Later that evening, we were sent home for the week­end. We’d have to wait un­til the scan on Mon­day to find out if the op­er­a­tion had been a suc­cess. Back home, I rested my hands on top of my preg­nant belly and wept silently as I thought about how only one of my ba­bies was still grow­ing in­side me. If the pro­ce­dure worked, I’d have to carry my other twin un­til the sur­viv­ing one was born. The thought made me wince, but then I re­alised I had to stay strong for the sake of my un­born child who was still fight­ing for life.

On Mon­day, when I heard my baby’s heart thump through the mon­i­tor, my whole world lifted. Although I knew there were still risks – there could be se­vere brain dam­age from lack of oxy­gen – I al­lowed my­self this mo­ment of joy. As long as my baby was alive, there was hope.

Af­ter that, we re­turned to the hos­pi­tal for fort­nightly check-ups. Andy and I be­came very prag­matic, tak­ing each day as it came. Then at 35 weeks, I felt a gush­ing sen­sa­tion as I walked to the bath­room. My wa­ters had bro­ken.

Andy drove me to the hos­pi­tal, and just three hours later, on 26 June 2010, our daugh­ter was born. Cradling her in my arms, she looked so pink and per­fect –

with a tiny scar on her chest from the trans­fu­sion. But I’d barely had time to cud­dle her be­fore she was taken from me. My body was re­tain­ing the pla­centa, so I had to be taken to surgery to have it and my re­main­ing twin re­moved. I asked to see her once she was born. The mid­wife bought her doll-like body over to me wrapped in a blan­ket. It was up­set­ting to see her so un­der­de­vel­oped. But back on the ward, I cra­dled both twins in my arms. They de­served to be to­gether with me, even it was just the once.

A few days later, I was dis­charged, and soon af­ter we de­cided to call our baby Elly – af­ter our won­der­ful doc­tor. We named her sis­ter Abby. Although she’d barely lived, it was hard to ac­cept Abby’s death. My heart twinged every time I opened a card to find only Elly’s name in­side. Three weeks later, we buried Abby in a tiny ser­vice, just Andy, Elly and I.

Soon af­ter, I started of­fer­ing sup­port for women go­ing through the same as I had, through TAMBA, the mul­ti­ple births char­ity. And as I watched Elly grow into this won­der­fully gig­gly and cu­ri­ous lit­tle baby, I re­alised how I lucky I was.

In Jan­uary 2014, we had a baby boy named Joshua. Overnight, Elly trans­formed into a proper lit­tle girl, al­ways check­ing on her brother and re­mind­ing ev­ery­one to be care­ful when they held him. ‘He’s only a baby,’ she’d say.

Now, at seven years old, she knows all about Abby. ‘My sis­ter’s in heaven,’ she’ll say. Although I’m sad­dened Abby can’t be with her now, play­ing dress-up or chas­ing but­ter­flies around the gar­den, I know she will al­ways be a part of our fam­ily. In that, I find com­fort.

‘there were still risks’

Eve with new­born Elly in hos­pi­tal

Elly’s grown up to be a lovely lit­tle girl Fam­ily cud­dle: Eve, Elly and Andy

With brother Joshua Show­ing her scar from the pro­ce­dure that saved her life

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