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A dad writes: "The day my twin boys were born was the worst day of my life."

Mamamia logo Mamamia 1/08/2017 Adam Bennett
Adam with his twins. © Mamamia Adam with his twins.

WARNING: this post deals with mental health issues and may be triggering for some readers. 

The day my twin boys were born was the worst day of my life.

I’m not entirely sure but I don’t think a parent should have to feel or say that, ever. It wasn’t the worst day of my life because I didn’t want children, I have wanted nothing more in my life than to be a dad. It was the worst day because they came early, extremely early, four months early, born at 23 weeks and four days.

My partner didn’t think she would ever get pregnant, she had a lot of past medical conditions (endometriosis, adenomyosis and one ovary) that all have an impact on your chances of conceiving a child, we had only been together a short time but we were both at that stage and age in our lives that we wanted to start a family and we had been talking about it, but maybe in about six to twelve months. We decided that the chances of us actually conceiving were very low and it would take months and months and we would almost definitely need to start Ovulation Trigger Shot Injections or in the end begin IVF.

We tried earlier than planned knowing it would take time and a lot of patience and possible disappointment if we tested and had no result over and over again for months and months.

We planned what we could, we worked out that we could save enough money and have leave from work so we could both be home when we had the baby.

We began to check ovulation times and had ovulation testers. One of which was smashed against a wall in frustration.

We thought f--- it, lets just try and see what happens... literally... f--- and see.

We did and we were pregnant the first time. We were ecstatic, absolutely beside ourselves happy. We couldn't believe it, we had our first scan at six weeks and the sonographer asked if it was a natural conception, my partner said "yes why?" He said "because there's two". The audio on the DVD we got at the end of the scan is my partner and I saying "are you sure?" About 56 times between delirious laughter. F---ing twins!

Then we had a scan at 12 weeks here we can find out the sex, they're boys! Unbelievable, I'm going to have two boys. Two boys to raise, watch grow up, teach and do everything with.

They're sharing a placenta.

"Wait, are they identical twins?"

The doctor replies "They are identical twins yes."

What the f---? Twins! Identical twins!

Now, we're speechless.

In November of 2016 I posted a picture online of my partner during her 20 week scan, the elation and the excitement we were erupting could fuel a billion F-35s into the bowels of Saturn and back for a decade.

But we were quickly hacked at the knees when it was discovered that my partners cervix was shortening. At that time it was a monitoring the situation. 

Adam and his partner with their twins. © Mamamia Adam and his partner with their twins. But within two weeks it wasn't, my partner was put on bed rest, no real movement and no work. The monitoring got more intense, my partner had to do a number of things to prevent any further shortening (everything apart from hanging upside down). It didn't work, she was admitted into hospital. One night in I was at home getting drunk to wipe away the thought of the babies coming early, I was absolutely terrified. And my partner was alone in hospital. I spent the night reaching out to people hoping to be put at ease but no luck.

I woke up in the morning with a demonic hangover. There was a missed call on my phone, as I went to check the voicemail it rang again. It was someone from the hospital and they said, "Sorry I have to call you like this Adam but your partner is going into labour and you need to get here now".

I ran to my car and hammered it to the hospital, I got out of the lift on the fifth floor and as I turned the corner towards my partner's room she was being wheeled out on a bed by nurses. I never ever want to see the look on her face ever again. The look of absolute terror and fear in her tear flooded eyes. And through a shivered broken voice she said, "They're coming, they're not meant to come yet".

We hugged and bawled and we froze.

They took my partner down to a birthing suite and started asking questions.

I don't remember much about this moment but some things I heard that flashed like lightning in the absolute chaos.

"Do you want to resuscitate?"

"Probably born with a disability."

"Unlikely to survive."

"Cesarean is probably the best option."

We were asked if we want to go ahead with a cesarean and resuscitate the boys but were told they'd more than likely be disabled, or do we say no and let them die in the birth canal?

Everything and everyone in the room became muffled in my head, almost silent.

All I could hear is pulse and blood sloshing in my skull.

ADAM! "What do you want to do?"

I had no idea. No f---ing idea.

Somehow an answer fell out from my partner's mouth.

So we decided to do the cesarean and resuscitate.

Everyone in the room scrambled like an insecticide had been sprayed on an ant's nest.

The air in the room was almost immediately replaced with panic.

As my partner was taken away in the tide of scrubs I was walked down to a waiting room and given my own set of scrubs, they told me to wait and put them on, it will take a while to set up in there.

And silence.

I was on my own and had no idea what was happening through the doors. I had a vague projected idea of what would happen soon, soon I would lose my two boys and for someone who has almost no fear I was extremely scared as to how my brain and my body would deal with this loss. I called my parents and told told them what was happening they immediately made their way down from the country 300kms away.

After about half an hour someone came through the doors and told me I could come through. Before they took me into theatre they stopped and said, "Now I just want to tell you there is a lot of people in there, it may be a bit confronting".

As the doors opened about 40-50 people in blue scrubs and masks turned their heads in unison and looked directly at me. It was like the worst surprise party ever.

My partner was in the middle of the room with a green sheet covering her bottom half, she looked at me, her face looked like it hadn't stopped crying for weeks.

I went straight to her and sat down next to her, our foreheads touched and we bawled. She said, "We're going to lose them". We told each other we were sorry this was happening. The doctors asked questions but I don't remember anything that was said.

After what seemed like five to ten minutes someone said "that's one out".

Then after a bit more "and there's the other".

Silence.

Babies are supposed to cry when they're born, we heard nothing.

The look on my partners face was like everything and everyone she loved had been swept away in a historic flood. All I could think was how does my life actually continue now? How?

Then we heard a noise, it was one of our boys, he cried, only once and only for a second.

"Was that a cry?" My partner asked.

I said, "I think so, I don't know".

They asked me to come up and cut the umbilical cord of one of my sons and take some photos. Here I see them for the first time, they're tiny, they're thin, they're extremely red, they're under plastic, they look like small aliens been dissected in a lab.

They do not for a second look like babies.

They're not moving. My first babies, my twins... my lifeless, dead, nothing, first babies.

They say that they're helping them breathe with some oxygen and then they will move them in an isolete/humidy crib up to the ward.

I hug and kiss my partner and I'm taken out of the room. Things are said to me but none of it registers. It's a fog.

I'm shown to an elevator and taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU.

Things just get more and more intense. There's tiny cribs and cots everywhere. It's a rabbit warren of babies, screens, alarms, nurses, doctors and parents.

I'm asked to sit on a chair with a nurse and my partner's mum, as she asks me questions they wheel my babies in through a door in what looks like two giant versions of the traps they use in the movie Ghostbusters.

The nurse tells me that my babies are "Very, very, very sick" because they were "Very, very, very premature".

She misspells my sons' names twice and can't understand why I'm shaking and with that I had to leave the NICU and get some air.

I find out where they have moved my partner and go and see her. It's horrible, we just cry and then somehow talk a little about what has happened.

A nurse comes in and tells us the weights of our twins in a surprised tone she says, "653 and 643 grams, pretty good!".

I don't really know what babies are meant to weigh when they're first born but it sure as sh*t isn't that.

They're not meant to weigh less than a kilo or a little bit more than a tin of tomatoes.

It's December 15th and my twin boys are here, they're extremely early but they're here, they may not survive but they're here and their names are Wolfie and Willoughby.

Looking at your children in a clear box as the condensation collects on the perspex is not how you imagine standing over your newborn children for the first time. But this is what we will do for the next who knows how many days, weeks and months.

The next few days are spent together up on the maternity ward, I slept in a fold out bed next to my partner I would go down from level five to two every morning and stand by the isoletes. After some time I could bring my partner down in a wheelchair to see them also. We would talk to them through the perspex box, we would read stories to them and play them music anything to let them know we were there and they weren't alone.

A couple of days in I got sick, and I couldn't go down as I was a risk to them, so I would record my voice onto my phone and my partner would take it down and play it to them.

Willoughby seemed to be the stronger of the two, they're born with CLD (Chronic Lung Disease) which can get better or worse but hopefully through development they will get better.

They both could have bleeds on their brains, bi lateral, uni lateral, categories 1-4 we will have to wait and see what the ultrasounds say when they have them.

Just for an idea one is bad but not horrible and four is horrible and all can have a massive effect on the babies development and life.

Both my partner and I work in disability support and we work with the parents of people with mild to severe disabilities and we know first hand the guilt and the struggle attached to being that parent.

It is beyond difficult to be that parent.

Wolfie does have a brain bleed it sits between a category 1-2 uni lateral.

They have to wait and see if it gets worse.

A week after his birthday we came into the NICU to see Wolfie lying there bloated, a dark bruised purple, he looked more like a toad than anything remotely close to a baby.

He had developed an unknown condition in which his belly had distended to the point where it was either going to break his skin and he'd bleed to death or... the plan the specialists had in place would work, and his blood would clot and it would somehow resolve itself.

We had stayed at the hospital overnight and had been awakened at 1am Christmas Eve to speak to a surgeon with 25 years experience who had come over from the children's hospital.

He told us he had never seen anything like this and that even if he did perform surgery it is highly unlikely that Wolfie would survive. We waited and waited, we cried uncontrollably we took meds to get some sleep... we didn't sleep. The next day we somehow got up, no calls through the night meant he was still here but we still had to face this horrendous bleak canyon of suffering again.

We waited all day with our close family, heads in hands crying, sometimes laughing and comforting each other.

We had a meeting with the specialists and they weren't confident in a positive outcome, so we were asked if we wanted to hold him.

Our first time holding our son would also be our last.

They organised a photographer to come and take photos of him, the photos to remember him by. We went with it because none of it seemed real. Even the photographer was struggling with how our baby looked.

After four to five blood transfusions and clotting agents pumped like a raging torrent into his system it was time to be taken into a room, a private room where you get given bad news, the worst news.

The specialists said that if this latest blood test comes back and his blood is low it's his way of saying he's had enough, and if it comes back normal? Then they'll continue their treatment. We waited again, we cried uncontrollably again. One of the specialists stepped out and came back with a piece of paper, she looked at her colleague eyes widened and said "It's normal".

So now what? We ask.

Well, we will continue treating him the way we are and monitor his progress.

"OK so can we f---ing go home now?"

New Year's Eve was much the same story. Watch and wait, wait and watch, the next 24 to 48 hours are crucial, we'll call you if you need to come in. No call.. he scrapes through again.. we collectively breathe.

Early January this year the doctors discovered via X-ray some free gas in Wolfie's abdomen. Surgeons are called again and this time it's decided that they will move him from the mercy to the children's for surgery. The process to move him takes two to four hours. He gets to the children's around 7pm.

So now our twin boys are separated, Will stays at the Mercy while Wolfie goes to the Children's.

Will at this stage had been doing OK. He did require a PDA ligation which is where they close a valve around the heart that doesn't close naturally in most premature babies and that had gone well. But he was recovering from that and was expected to have a rough time over the next few days after the surgery.

At the children's we were again taken to a room, a private room, a room where you cry and make impossible decisions. The surgeon, a different surgeon also says he's never seen anything like this before. But he's going to open him up and see what happens. There's a very high chance that he will not survive this surgery. And so I sign the consent form saying that I understand Wolfie will possibly die tonight.

They begin surgery at about 10pm.

Willoughby and Wolfie at home. © Mamamia Willoughby and Wolfie at home. And we wait in a room, we talk, we make jokes, our legs don't stop shaking.

At 2am we're told he survived the surgery.

What the surgeon described as a "mess" when he opened him up was the result of Necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC. Which is a disease that affects the intestine of premature infants. The wall of the intestine is invaded by bacteria, which cause local infection and inflammation that can ultimately destroy the wall of the bowel.

Now Wolfie has an ileostomi a surgical operation in which a damaged part of the bowel is removed from the ileum and the cut end diverted to an artificial opening in the abdominal wall. Because it bypasses the intestine, to take feeds through his stomach he wasn't able to absorb it and had high losses from the stoma so most of the nutrition is intravenously administered and takes the form of TPN (Total Parental Nutrition) which is vital vitamins and nutrients needed to liv. However this is not a natural form of nutrition and impacts on the major organs especially the liver.

Australia Day comes. We left the house heading out to meet some friends to do something "normal" that doesn't involve constant hand sanitiser and the incessant noise parade of alarms.

Halfway on the drive the phone rings, our stomachs collectively bungee jump into an abyss.

"You better come in he is slipping away".

Through the NEC and the surgery Wolfie had developed sepsis and it was causing acute renal failure. Sit, wait, watch, bawl your f---ing eyes out.

Another day and night in hospital.

They throw the medical kitchen sink at him in a desperate hope he responds. He responds, he pulls through.

We breathe for a moment.

And now we're told he will also need his PDA valve closed, so it's another surgery.

We're hoping this will help him turn a corner. He pulls through and he slightly turns a corner... then he hits a wall. He's not budging on his ventilation so he is given a 12 day course of steroids to help his lungs work on their own a bit.

Both of our boys didn't cry, you can't just pick them up and hold them or kiss them, they have masks on their faces to help them breathe they have lines coming out of their legs and arms.

The detachment is heavyweight, we didn't  feel like parents. We didn't feel like a mother and father. We felt like visitors to a relentless nightmare.

We would hurt everyday, we cried everyday, together and alone. We punched things, we punched ourselves. Then what we said to each other when we're at our lowest and most desperate is that we blamed ourselves for this, for the pain they were in. It's our fault.

We hated ourselves and we hated this sewer full of dead horses situation we were in.

The fights became brutal, the absolute decline in your stomach travelling between two hospitals, walking into the NICU everyday is like a citywide blackout and then every building is imploded and a titanic sinkhole opens up and swallows everything you love. We have almost giving up on each other and the relationship because of this.

We should've been putting up pictures of us holding them In our newly decorated nursery but instead we were putting up pictures of incubators and wires and masks. We were drinking constantly and taking anything to fill the void of not having our children home in our HOME.

We were at each other's throats sometimes, but most of the time we were just each other's support, when one was down and felt like there was no point the other would drag them through the mud and hoist them up and not let them fall. We were travelling between two hospitals everyday caught in traffic, late to meetings, late to appointments and paying up to $100 a week in parking. We hardly ate and when we did it wasn't healthy and we were beyond the point of exhaustion.

As we got further along Willoughby progressed well, he made it to HDU (High Dependency Unit) he started looking more like a baby and was beginning to seem more like he'd actually be OK, then we were told he would need laser eye surgery to prevent ROP (Retinaplasty of Prematurity)

We were advise that it would be better if he would have this done at the children's.

So in a bittersweet way he would be reunited with his brother.

They move him the same way they moved Wolfie.

So now they're both in the same hospital, same ward. It makes things a tiny bit easier... a tiny bit.

Wolfie spends the next couple of months see sawing, trying to come off a ventilator and onto cpap, he does this, but stays on cpap for a long time.

Willoughby is on oxygen and stays on it.

They both recover well from their eye surgery.

My partner and I had both absolutely obliterated every amount of leave at our workplace - sick/rec/paternity/long service/TIL/compassionate all of it. I haven't had a normal pay since the day they were born.

We scrape through every month.

So I went back to work it was so unbelievably hard to go and perform my job while my partner is going to visit our boys in intensive care. I would receive texts from her updated me on the boys. It wasn't always good news and that was when it was horrendously hard to be at work.

One day while at work I received a text from my partner saying that they're going to try Willoughby on a bottle feed so I spent my hour break at work driving from one side of Melbourne to the other to see it. I walk into the room as they're about to start, my partner wasn't expecting me to be there, it was an amazing moment to see that.

These amazing moments were very rare, the majority of the time that walk towards the ward was nerve shattering. The phone calls in the middle of the night would jolt my heart like a taser. Every time I hear the marimba ringtone on an iPhone out in the street or a shopping centre I sweat from the inside out.

So within the months endured as a family all up my boys had six surgeries between them. Four for Wolfie, Laparotomy, Stoma reversals, PDA ligation, Laser eye, two for Will, PDA ligation and Laser eye.

We were told we'd lose Wolfie four times all up including Christmas Day, NYE, Australia Day. So public holidays are ruined.

So many blood transfusions that we literally lost count. Wolfie was on TPN (Total parental nutrition) the majority of his stay. Oxygen/ventilation/Cpap Sepsis and infections.

Then Wolfie made it to HDU which was unthinkable to us but he did. For about a week we were able to have them in the same room which was closer to some normality, we were able to have our fist cuddle as a family and some days we were able to put the boys in the same cot so they could be together for the first time since coming out of the womb.

Things were starting to look somewhat better. You never really knew if they would be 100% OK or 100% "normal" but you go in everyday, you talk to them, you hold them when you can and you show them as much love as possible even if it seems pointless which the majority of the time it did, you still try.

Just as things were starting to look better for them one night a fellow was putting a peripheral line into Wolfie's leg to give TPN. Which later we found out you can't do. The line came out and severely burned Wolfies foot. We were not told that this was the case initially. We were called later in the night and told he'd be going into theatre to have a central line stitched into his neck. So that went ahead and when he came back on the ward within the week he had developed an infection, turned grey and ended up back in intensive care.

Willoughby had just progressed so well that eventually and to our utter shock and surprise he was able to be discharged but into 'care by parent' which is still in the hospital but my partner and I get to stay in a hotel like room for two to three nights and care for Will like we would if he was home until everything is OK and you can take your baby home. It was a trying experience, we weren't used to him and vice versa. It was exhausting but we did it. On the second day he was weighed on the ward and he had lost weight, we weren't able to go home. Another night in care by parent.

Eventually he put on weight and he was able to come home. 109 torturous days in hospital had ended and we were able to take one of our boys home. He came home on oxygen, so we had a unit and tanks delivered to our house and everyday and night he would be on oxygen to help him breathe.

Wolfie remained in hospital for a further 37 days, 146 all up. He made his way back to HDU and the doctors were happy with the progress he had made enough so that he was discharged, no need for care by parent just home. And he came home without oxygen. But he did come home with an NG (Nasal Gastric) tube, so whatever Wolfie can't take in the bottle the rest gets poured into a tube directly into his stomach.

Amazingly our boys, who were born at 23 weeks and four days on the edge of viability, are healthy. They obviously will have the chronic lung disease through their childhood up until about seven or eight.

Willoughby's brain is clear and Wolfie's brain bleed didn't spread or increase. It remained a category 1 which we were told is really nothing to worry about and it will resolve itself.

So the boys are coming home. We put them in their car seats and drive them home. This is all we've ever wanted to drive our newborn children in our car to our home... together as a family. It takes 146 days but it has arrived.

Do we celebrate when we walk through the door? No. We cried we held each other and we cried. I don't think it was due to happiness, it was tears of exhaustion and relief. We had crawled through hell, swam through a river of sh*t, scratched our way out of being buried alive.

The boys were home.

Now a lot of messages we received and things that were said were that we must be so happy that they're home or it must be such a relief to finally have them home. Well, it wasn't we were suspended, now we have to be parents not only parents but parents to twins. And we have to do it right now, and we have to do it while for the last five months we haven't even remotely felt like parents.

The detachment still weighed heavy like having a monolith welded to your spine.

I don't think I even loved them.

We were struggling, we had no help and we had no idea, we're both pretty intelligent people so we started routines and worked together well early on, then the sleep deprivation hits you like a Kenworth at 150kms an hour. And things start unravelling. You bite at each other you get frustrated at the babies you think you can't do it.

For me personally I started to fall very fast, for someone who already has clinical depression going on 21 years I wasn't coping I would lose it at the littlest things and not really be able to come back. I started hearing self loathing voices telling me I was a sh*t father or that I was just a failure.

"You are s---, you are s---" on loop if I couldn't get Willoughby to burp or couldn't settle them after crying.

Sometimes I was inconsolable I would cry a lot. My partner was not immune she was also struggling to this point and we'd both, as we did while in hospital try and drag each other out of the quicksand and tell each other how well we're doing.

It worked for a bit but it wasn't the cure.

After some very rough weeks I went to the doctor and was diagnosed after experiencing PTSD with post natal depression.

Hard to comprehend that men get this as well, but they do. And it's horrendous, some of the thoughts I've had have been indescribable and I needed to work through them and find strategies to get back to normal.

I started seeing a psychologist who specialises in PND. As my regular psychologist was hospitalised with blood pressure issues right before the boys were born, so that was convenient.

At my first session, she told me I was in a safe place and I could say whatever was on my mind and I was willing to cooperate to work on strategies to get well.

The last session I had I told her that I had a thought that I was not comfortable with and that may endanger the boys. I wanted to know why my brain heads in that direction and what I could do to prevent it. And instead of giving me strategies the psychologist said that she would be calling DHS and that I may have my boys taken from me.

I'm battling a depression unlike anything I have carried before it's at it worse. Because the love I feel for my boys now is unearthly. It's beyond love, it's a need to see them to hold them to kiss them, they have been through an unbelievable amount of suffering in the first few months of their lives, they have had the absolute hardest start to life and I have no doubts it will only get harder for them. And what I feel for my partner is beyond love it's nourishment, it's water, it's food. If I don't wake up next to her I'm deprived, I'm lost, I'm malnourished. I need her more than anything in the world.

After the psychologist said that, I had an episode. I don't even remember what happened but my brain fell apart. I was destroyed.

The CAT team was called and I met with a psychiatrist and after that meeting another breakdown. It was like being run over by a garbage truck and then having it reverse straight back over me. The CAT team came again.

And now I've ended up here. I'm in a psych hospital.

I want to get help, not just help but the right help. I want to be back in my bed at home hugging my partner who is now since the 21st June my fiancé. I want to wake up in the middle of the night and feed my twins, I want to hug them, kiss them, play with them, sing them silly songs, play them music, dance in front of them, read to them, hear them talk, hear them cry, watch them try food, watch them watch and be amazed by things.

I want to live happily as a happy family and I really hope I can get help.

At the moment I feel lost, helpless and alone. But if it's worth anything I'm trying my absolute hardest to get that feeling back and to reach that goal of being a happy and healthy father to a happy and healthy family.

I found it very hard to find help for male post natal depression. At one point I was even told that if my fiancé were to say the exact same things I was saying she would get help instantly, but being a male it's a little bit tougher.

Once I make it through this I will do anything to share my experience with people that are potentially going through the same horror I went through from the hospital until now.

Being a parent will always be hard no matter what the circumstances, but being a parent to premature and sick babies is monumentally difficult and takes every ounce of blood, sweat and tears to survive.

I'm here, surviving.

Also both Willoughby and Wolfie are hitting all the milestones and leaps that any normal baby should, they laugh they grab things they talk and they're extremely alert and interesting in everything.

And they love their mum and dad.

If you would like to support the twins you can donate on their Go Fund Me.

Where to get help relating to mental health:

o Need to talk? 1737 – free call or text any time to talk to a trained counsellor
o Lifeline – 0800 543 354
o Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
o Healthline – 0800 611 116
o Samaritans – 0800 726 666

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