Sunday, 9 October 2011
Happy 2nd Birthday Maggie and Alice!
Maggie and Alice are two-years-old today. Amazing. I know everyone says it about their kids but really: where does the time go?
I was going to write about this past year but, truthfully, I haven't had the time. So instead I'm going to repeat part of what I wrote last year (below). It does us good, occasionally, to remember the terrible time we went through and how grateful we are that Maggie is with us.
I will say though that things have improved quite a bit recently. As mentioned in the last few posts, Maggie has been a lot happier and more settled. She's not been throwing up, she's been sleeping better and she's starting to put on weight. And she's still doing well with eating through her mouth (despite the cold she currently has).
As for Alice: she's just the most amazing little kid. Bright, funny, clever and as happy as the day is long. She's an absolute joy to be with and doesn't give us a single moment's trouble.
The nice thing about this year is that the girls' brothers and sister (Tom, Louie and Isaac) are here to celebrate their birthday with them. I'm so very glad about that.
As with last year, I've had some badges made which we'll be passing out to friends and family (if they want them, of course). Maybe this is a thing I could do every year. As you can see, they've really grown:
Oh, and despite me making the badges and writing this post, I have to say that all of the birthday preparations (including present selection and buying) have been done by Shannon. I had very little to do with any of it. And I just want to say how proud I am of her - not just for sorting their birthday but for being an utterly wonderful mother. The girls are very lucky to have her. So am I.
From October 2010:
The girls will be a year old this Saturday. A year. We can't work out whether it seems longer than that or shorter than that. It depends what mood we're in.
So it's their first birthday and, of course, this in itself is a big deal. But the thing about Maggie celebrating her birthday is that she very nearly wasn't here at all. If you recall, in those first couple of days we were told that she would die. And then when she didn't die, we were told that her quality of life would be so appalling that perhaps it would be better if she didn't make it.
So Maggie celebrating her birthday is a very big deal indeed. Right?
Remember also that up until that last hour of labour (when Maggie stopped breathing, starving herself of oxygen to the brain) everything was absolutely fine. Shannon had a very good pregnancy, the girls (we didn't know they were girls then) were very healthy. It was just that moment in labour that cruelly robbed Maggie of a good and proper life.
Of course, I say 'moment in labour' as if it were just one of those things. It wasn't just one of those things. As you may know, women carrying twins are supposed to be in the 'high risk' category. Which means they should be monitored and cared for more closely. That didn't happen with us. What we got was a midwife who, while pleasant enough, clearly wasn't that bright or competent. On top of that, she kept nipping out to see to her 'other woman'. For a lot of the time, when Shannon was hooked up to the monitors, we were alone. Initially, this didn't concern us too much because the labour seemed to be going fine. When it started to look as though all wasn't well, however, this midwife proved to be next to useless. There just wasn't enough urgency or focus. At one point she even joked to Shannon about not being able to find Maggie's head when she clumsily shoved her hand up in order to attach a probe.
The details of all of this are a bit painful to recall, to be honest. Doctors came in, they pissed about a bit more. Scanning machines were casually wheeled in, they pissed about a bit more. They tried to find Maggie's heartbeat and when it plainly wasn't there, they finally banged the emergency button.
As I stood there like an idiot, a team of doctors rushed Shannon out.
If there's one thing guaranteed to make me cry, it's recalling Shannon's bewildered, hopeful face as she was wheeled out, as she mouthed to me that everything would be okay.
Within minutes I knew that everything wasn't okay. I was left in the labour room alone for a couple of hours. I called Tom who came straight up and we waited together for news.
At one point, our midwife rushed in with a bundle: Alice. She passed me my daughter as if she were hoping that I wouldn't ask about the other one. But I did ask. Her face fell, words were muttered and pretty soon we were alone again.
Shannon had an emergency caesarean. She was knocked out cold and basically ripped open. They pulled Maggie out and desperately tried to revive her. They somehow brought her back to life and she was rushed off for emergency treatment.
All I wanted was to see Shannon. I'd been told by this point how bad things were and I was working out how best to let her know.
I've always had this attitude - and I always used to say it to Shannon - that whatever happens in life, it'll be all right in the end. You know: what's the worst that could happen? Shannon repeated this to me, obviously hoping I'd tell her that yes, everything would be all right. But I couldn't do it. I tried to tell her, gently, to prepare for things not being all right. I mean, I was half expecting us to be told that Maggie was dead.
For the next few hours, Shannon kept telling me not to worry, that everything would be all right. She kept saying things like: "Come on, you always say it'll be all right - and it will be. I know it will." That, too, when I think back to it, breaks my heart. Shannon trying to be hopeful and optimistic and repeating back to me all the casual, stupid things I say - like how very bad things only seem to happen to other people.
A few hours later we were told that Maggie's condition meant she would be unlikely to make it through the night.
We fell apart.
We were told that Alice was fine, but with a few problems, and that we could go and see her. We were also told we could go and see Maggie who was in the intensive care unit hooked up to every machine going. We decided, after much agonising, that we would go and see Alice and not see Maggie. Bear in mind we were told that she only had a few hours to live. We thought perhaps it'd be best not to see her in the state she was in - so we wouldn't always have terrible memories of her.
So we went to see Alice and it was devastatingly sad. As we left her, we passed the room where Maggie was. We could see where she was in the far corner of the room. At that moment we knew we had to see her.
So we saw Maggie and it was as heartbreaking and as soul destroying as you can imagine it was.
That night we cried so much that I couldn't believe it was possible to cry that much. We just didn't know what to do. We talked about how you go about arranging a funeral for a baby. And then we realised that our girls didn't even have names.
We'd always liked the name Alice. So we decided that, as she was going to live, she could have that. We struggled with a name for Maggie because what we were doing was naming a dead baby.
The next morning we were visited by Maggie's consultant who said that, against expectations, she'd made it through the night. But now we were faced with the prospect of her having a quality of life that would be so low that she'd be better off dead. Both Shannon and I agreed that we would go for that option, if that option presented itself, to relieve her suffering.
Things start to get a bit blurry now.
The following day, I think, we were told that again, defying expectations, Maggie was looking a little better. It turned out she was a fighter.
It was around this point that we gave her the name Maggie. It was on our list, that name, but right at the bottom. We'd already rejected it. But for some reason it seemed to fit. Maggie seemed like a name you would give to a fighter. So of course there's Thatcher; but it wasn't just that. There was Maggie Bell, the gravelly-voiced, hard-living Scottish singer who my dad loved when I was a kid. And, of course, there was Rod Stewart's Maggie May.
It seemed to fit perfectly. And it seemed, in a daft way, that if we gave her the name Maggie she might somehow live up to it.
The days that followed were just really bleak and upsetting and nightmarish - in the sense that it all seemed utterly unreal. We cried all the time. I mean, all the time. We saw Alice a lot, of course, and we also saw Maggie who was still fighting. But for a lot of the time we were alone in our shabby hospital room.
I say 'our' hospital room. I shouldn't have been there. But they let me stay - as a favour.
So the days turned to a week and...
You know, in all the time we were there nobody from the hospital - and I mean nobody - took a single moment to say to Shannon: "Are you okay?" Nobody there thought to themselves to just ask this frightened, devastated new mum how she was. Nobody at all. The midwife who was there during her labour - we never saw her again. Not a peep. Nobody offered counselling or advice or anything at all. Like I say, not even a "Are you okay?"
Of course, with it being the girls' birthday we're going to be looking back to that time. And thinking about this past year. We've documented a lot of it on this blog. But even there I think we've failed to get across just how terrifying and lonely and sad it's been. And still is.