Susie & Grace’s story
April 7th 2017, 30+1 weeks of pregnancy, was the day our world changed forever; the day we welcomed our beautiful twincess, Susie, and our angel, Grace, into this world rather suddenly and unexpectedly. It was largely an uneventful pregnancy that even at week 28 showed no sign of the dreaded Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), a condition that I had never even heard of prior to my pregnancy.
However, on the morning of April 7th I presented at the maternity hospital with reduce foetal movement and following a Doppler scan and full ultrasound the consultant confirmed that I needed to be brought straight to theatre in order save twin 2. I asked: “What about twin 1?” and got the response, “She is gone”.
My twin girls were delivered at 6.51am and 6.52am, just 40 minutes from when I had arrived at the hospital. My first memory upon waking after the surgery was seeing my husband, Mark with tears in his eyes, but also his phone in hand to show me the first photo of Susie who had been transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Shortly afterwards, I got to hold Grace, who looked so perfect, but was stillborn as a result of an acute TTTS.
A volunteer professional photographer, Denise, met us in our hospital room to take the photos of Grace. I am so grateful that photos were taken that day when Grace looked her best. We will always be grateful to Denise for helping us to have the confidence to hold our beautiful Grace and to admire Grace’s petite hands, feet, body. She was so perfect. Feileacain arranged for us to get Grace’s foot and handprints which were presented in a lovely memory box, along with teddies, a lock of Grace’s hair. They also provided us with a cold cot for Grace, in which she was able to lie, beside me, in our hospital room for five days before we brought her to her final resting place. The importance of those five days cannot be underestimated. My time was divided between wanting to spend as much time as possible with Grace and also trying to be with Susie, and just willing her to get stronger. The hospital provided me with a computer tablet that allowed me to see Susie in NICU while I stayed with Grace. In an odd way, it was easier to see Susie on a screen, as she looked bigger and less stressed from all the machines she was connected to.
On the day we left the hospital with Grace, Susie had her own special journey from NICU to the High Dependency Unit, when she came off the ventilator and CPAP machine within her first week. The whole NICU experience isn’t easy, but Susie made it as easy as possible for us, as each day of the six weeks she was in hospital she continued to improve. We were so scared to bring her home as she was still so tiny, but the one thing I have learned is that preemie babies are so strong and little fighters, and Susie continues to surprise us each day.
At times I wonder if I am torturing myself imagining how life would be with Grace. Would she and Susie really be absolutely identical? Would I be able to tell them apart? It makes me smile to wonder and imagine how things could have, and should have, been. But alas, that is not our reality.
One of the hardest aspects of losing Grace has been dealing with other people’s reactions to our loss. And of course, we are so grateful for our Susie Sunshine. People seem to struggle with understanding that it is possible to both be grieving for Grace and happy about Susie. I just wish that is was easier to talk about Grace, safe in the knowledge that she is treated like our other daughters. I will always celebrate Grace on her birthday, but my heart aches on family occasions, and will continue to ache on each and every milestone along the way; her absence will be forever felt. I will continue to talk about her to her twin sister; tell her big sister all about her; tell strangers when they ask how many children I have. I will always acknowledge that she existed.
Death does not erase a life, nor does it erase our love. I am very proud to be a twins’ mum. I will always want to honour Grace’s memory. Both Grace and Susie lived in me. Grace changed my life. She mattered.
Grace will always be in our hearts and is with us everywhere.