I found out I was pregnant in September 2021, although we didn’t know it was triplets then. These were the first grandchildren for both of our families, and they were so excited. People were saying I was quite big even early on, but having never been pregnant before I thought it was normal. When we went to our first scan the sonographer told us that there were three heartbeats, my partner, Rob, said ‘are you joking?’ The sonographer said ‘no, we don’t joke about things like that in here, sir!’
It was huge news to process, but after we did, we were ecstatic. However, we didn’t realise the ramifications of it all. That all changed when we were referred from Selby to York Hospital, where we were given the full spiel that this was a high-risk pregnancy, something we had no idea about until that moment.
Becoming too high profile for York, I was referred to Leeds General Infirmary (LGI), around an hour from our home in Selby. We discovered that I was carrying identical twins, and a singleton, all girls. With identical twins there is a condition called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), where they were not getting an even share of the placenta and one of them having foetal growth restriction. Our wonderful doctor at LGI, Andrew Breeze, then referred us to Professor Mark Kilby, one of the leading surgeons regarding twin-to-twin syndrome, meeting with him in Birmingham every week for six weeks. The possibility of laser surgery in the womb being the viable option if he felt it was required, but with significant risk to all three babies we were thankful that this wasn’t needed.
At 26 weeks, one of the twins’ heart rate dropped worryingly low. The options were discussed with us by the LGI doctors, including an early delivery, but with odds of all three surviving below 50%, we couldn’t risk it, we had to endure the weekend not knowing if she would make it through. Luckily, she did, and we made it through to our 28-week scan, but with increased concern around the heart rate, a decision was made for delivery by emergency Caesarean section. It all happened so fast, with the smallest twin weighing 1.5lbs and the other two weighing 2.5lbs each, being born around 4.30pm.
It was around midnight that I saw my babies for the first time, receiving vital care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I couldn’t touch any of them because they were still so small and vulnerable.
Initially, my girls were known simply as Baby A, Baby B and Baby C, from the first scan and then also from the order in which they arrived. This proved to be the inspiration for their names, with Baby A becoming Adeline, twin sister Baby B being named Beatrix and Baby C, taking the name Clementine.
A couple of days after she was born, Addie had a chest haemorrhage at 3 o’clock in the morning. I called Rob, who was at home in Selby, and he drove over immediately. I was still on the ward recovering from my op and couldn’t move around much, so I was desperate for Rob to be near the girls. Thankfully, he stayed for a couple of nights in a parent room on NICU.
On the day I was discharged from hospital, the girls were still very ill. As well as her chest haemorrhage, Addie had also suffered a brain bleed. Because of her tiny size, we were told to expect the worst, contemplating a move to comfort care and switching off life-support.
We’d just received the most devastating news and had nowhere to stay. But thankfully The Sick Children’s Trust came to our rescue. The charity gives families with seriously ill children in hospital a place to stay free of charge, and a room had become available at their Eckersley House ‘Home from Home’, just minutes from where our girls were being treated.
To get the room just hours after being told we might lose Adeline was so important. It gave me and Rob a private space where we could talk it all through, away from the staff and the constant beeping machines of the NICU. On what was probably the worst day of my life, I cannot explain how much that was needed. We ended up staying in the same room for three months, an incredible lifeline for us.
We always think of Addie as the most unwell, but Clementine was also extremely ill, at times worse than Addie. She had numerous lumbar punctures, contracted NEC which is a serious condition of the bowel and can be fatal to premature babies. She got this on three occasions, spending three weeks nil by mouth. There was talk of possibly removing part of her stomach and intestines, and even now she’s still having stomach issues, not forgetting three hernias as well.
To boost my spirits, I’d occasionally meet friends and family in Leeds. However, I physically and mentally couldn’t face the thought of going back to Selby, so far away from the girls. The thought of leaving them was just so upsetting for me, but I didn’t have to thanks to Eckersley House.
Eckersley House was such an amazing base for us, a place where we could look after ourselves, eat healthily and get the rest that we needed to look after the girls as best we could. Because of the kitchen and lounge area, we could have an actual nice meal together almost every evening, which provided a small element of normality. Our friends and family were cooking food for us that we could heat up in the microwave or the oven.
We got into such a good routine. Rob works for his family’s business in Selby, so after work he’d head over to Eckersley House where we’d have dinner together before seeing the girls. He’d then stay over and head over early to the hospital for the ward round so I could get a bit of sleep, as I was up much of the night expressing milk. He’d then update me before returning to Selby for work, then I’d be at the hospital with the girls most of the day.
The girls have been home nearly six months now, and it is wonderful to have them here. Beatrix and Clementine came home a week earlier than Adeline, who eventually came home on oxygen. Since then, they have all been doing amazingly. Due to the brain bleed and foetal growth restriction, Adeline is a few weeks behind her sisters in terms of her development. We were told that there was a very high chance of her being disabled, but so far, she is doing brilliantly, trying to sit up, grabbing things. We are so incredibly grateful to Eckersley House and The Sick Children’s Trust for allowing us to stay close to our wonderful girls, they made such a difference to us and our new family in one of the most difficult times of our lives, we will be forever grateful to them.
Lucy Beilby, Adeline, Beatrix and Clementine’s mum