PREGNANCY is many things, all at the same time — from that initial excitement to a growing awareness, literally, of the responsibilities you have just, irreversibly, taken on.
For first-time parents that can often be multiplied by a factor of 10.
The next nine months will be an overwhelming ride as hormones run rampant through the mother’s body while her mind will switch from delight to a desperate need for a comfortable night — from excitement to uncertainty.
Samantha Schade got to double the delight and the demands when she realised she was carrying twins.
Before it all plunged into a crisis after reaching the halfway mark of her pregnancy without the slightest sign of trouble.
Her routine pregnancy was now anything but — after a discovery during her routine 20-week scan.
What most mothers get 40-41 weeks to prepare for — with one child — Samantha and husband Simon were forced to squeeze into just 25 weeks as doctors and specialist support staff fought to keep the Kyabram couple’s children in the womb as long as possible to make the coming caesarean section as safe as possible.
The 20-week scan was last September.
“Up until then we hadn’t had any problems and we found out quite early we were having twins,” Samantha said.
“They noticed my cervix had shortened to just below 2cm, but the ideal length is meant to be 2.5cm. So, we got sent straight to Echuca hospital.”
After a meeting with the obstetrician there, Samantha was told she had to go Bendigo hospital the next day.
“When I got checked out there I was told I couldn’t leave the hospital,” Samantha said.
“We didn’t really understand what was going to happen.”
What did happen was they were suddenly on a roller coaster of emotions, risks and setbacks in a medical environment about which they knew almost nothing, facing an outcome with absolutely no guarantees.
After spending a week in Bendigo, and another back home, Samantha was then sent to Mercy for Women Hospital in Heidelberg, where she would spend the next four months.
Cervical insufficiency, also called incompetent cervix, means the cervix dilates too early during pregnancy and can result in premature birth and miscarriage.
There is roughly a 50 per cent chance of having a premature birth.
And in many cases, if a baby doesn’t get to at least 24 weeks in the womb, they can’t be given a caesarean.
With twins, the chances were even at 24 weeks they would be smaller and more vulnerable than a single pregnancy at the same stage.
“By the time we got to Melbourne we were at 22-and-a-half weeks, and we ended up getting there — but only just,” she said.
“We had an emergency c-section on October 31, and they were 24 weeks and five days old, which is almost four months early.”
While the fact Kyah and Izaac were out in the world was a cause for celebration, it also marked the beginning of an even greater struggle.
“When they came out they were basically skin and bone … they looked like a baby, but their organs hadn’t formed properly,” Samantha said.
And that meant Samantha had to wait a week to hold her newborns in her arms for the first time.
Kyah and Izaac were instead placed in incubator pods that simulate a womb, as their brains and lungs were still a long way from being developed.
They were under 24-hour surveillance from the hospital’s medical staff, with up to two looking after one baby at a time.
Samantha was put up in a hotel five minutes from the hospital and visited every day.
“Every day for three months all I did was get up, go to the hospital and sit with them,” Samantha said.
“Gradually as time went on we could get them out, but it was all in the hospital’s hands. There was nothing we could do.
“At times it felt like they weren’t really here, or even yours. It doesn’t really feel like you have a connection with them because if they cry you can’t feed them or settle them.”
Back in Kyabram, Simon stayed home to work and look after his sons through a prior marriage, Tyler and Jaxon, but took any opportunity he could to make the trip to Melbourne.
“I reckon I did 30 or 40 trips to Melbourne in that time, usually two times a week,” Simon said.
“Sam was away from her home, her husband and step kids. My life was reasonably normal to an extent because I still had to go to work.
“The change for me was going up the freeway two or three times a week and not being able to be with her and the kids.”
Simon said it was difficult at times, but he was always certain things would work out in the end.
“We were sort of living separate lives for four months,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say it put a strain on us but there were certainly hard days. We just kept our eyes on the prize and knew it would be a long road.
“It’s been an experience and not one we’ll ever forget, that’s for sure.”
And now she and her twins are finally home, Samantha said she was enjoying the relative normalcy of being a parent.
“It doesn’t seem normal because we’re up all night with them, but it’s pretty nice to be able to do that,” she said.
“Now we’re home it feels like forever ago we were down there.
“Kyah is the dream child, very relaxed and chilled … Izaac will let you know when he’s there. They’re polar opposites.”
For the next two years, Kyah and Izaac will have to be closely monitored for any complications and that means regular eye and paediatrician appointments, as well as tests for cerebral palsy.
And much to Simon’s relief, they will only have to travel to Bendigo.
The couple have been quick to thank all the people who supported them across so many months — especially their families and friends, as well as the Kyabram residents who would constantly ask for updates.
But they reserve special gratitude for the medical staff of Mercy for Women Hospital, who they said supported them impeccably from the moment they walked into the hospital to the moment they left.
“We were scared when we were in Bendigo that we were going to lose them, but once we got to Melbourne, we didn’t have any worries at all. The staff down there were amazing,” Samantha said.
Almost as amazing as the two little fighters the couple got to bring home.