Dale is the proud grandmother of twins, Sasha and Ivy. She shares her story for the Proud Grandparent's Project.
"Our miracle family journey started 10 months ago, and looking into my granddaughters’ eyes today, I realise it is now difficult to recall those initial few months. The girls are now 10 months old, healthy robust and uniquely individual whilst being identical twins. Their Mama, my daughter Amy, is incredible - full of love for her daughters which is reflected in every moment of every day- from the moment Sasha awakes at 5:00am, until she carries Ivy to bed at 10:00pm. My grandbabies are awash with love from morning until night, surrounded by care, warm conversations and thoughtful experiences which Amy embeds in their days. I am so, so proud of this woman and the Mother Amy has become. She has taught me so much - to focus on the positives, to stay strong, be brave and invite others in when you need them and importantly, the gift of being patient and kind to others.
If I am pressed to characterise those first few months of Sasha and Ivy’s lives, terrifyingly joyous would be close to the mark, with a huge dose of gratitude thrown in. The complexities of not just having twins, but having twins with differing special care needs, resulted in the babies being separated shortly after birth, as they were moved to different special care units in NICU and SCBU. This was a very difficult time for Amy and Beau, having different worries for each of their precious daughters, dealing with an influx of medical information, making sometimes BIG decisions, whilst all the while learning to be parents in a very foreign environment. Yes, you are welcomed by staff, but as a parent have no control and at times, feel in the way. Dividing time between the 2 babies, frequently opting to separate from each other to maximise the bonding time with Sasha and Ivy, Amy and Beau had a very challenging start to parenthood. Often with aching hearts these new parents managed by focusing on those tiny precious bundles who were delivered at 34-weeks by caesarean. Amy had been asked by staff to leave after the second night of her stay in hospital. Fortunately, Beau was able to convince them to let her stay one more night, not only for her own health but for her emotional well-being as she wanted so much to stay with her newborns.
As a FIFO worker, Beau had to leave for weeks at a time, and this was an extra strain on both new parents. When Beau was away, I was only too happy to fill in, always with a camera and my beloved Winnie the Pooh poetry book in my handbag. I loved singing to the babies and reading them one of my favourites, Us Two by AA Milne.
Amy and I developed a sort of routine, visiting the hospital daily, with me at the steering wheel, as Amy was still unable to drive. On the good days, we’d chat on the way to the hospital and on the other days the trips were silent, filled with anxious thoughts never expressed aloud. On every trip however, we kept our fingers crossed, hoping we’d be in luck to find a parking spot!
On one occasion when I returned from moving the car to another 2-hour park, I returned to NICU where I had left Ivy, and Amy’s face said a thousand words. There had been another non-breathing event and the incredible staff had milled around to stabilise her precious baby in the time I was gone. Amy focussed on the outcome, not the experience, reassuring ME, the baby was now fine. Terrifying!
When Sasha was 10 days old we arrived to find her in SCBU 2, having been moved from 3 during the night. A nurse poked her head out of the inner doorway, “ I am so glad you are here Amy, the baby has been throwing up this morning and needs a hug from mum”. The nurse explained that the morning had been frantic and she simply didn’t have the time to give the child the love she needed. Whilst Sasha was still connected to the cot by various tubes, Amy quickly took her distraught daughter in her arms, holding her vertically in front of her. Sasha threw her head back as far as she could, to gaze at the face of the person now holding her. She repeated throwing her head back five more times in rapid succession, pausing each time to intently focus on the face for a few seconds, searching for and finally affirming through vision, smell and touch that it was truly HER mum. The child relaxed, snuggled into her mother and promptly went to sleep. Having settled a now content Sasha, Amy left the baby after 90 minutes - not to go and have lunch or a break, but to see her other precious twin who had undergone surgery the morning after the girls were born and had another 3 yet to come.
With absolutely no criticism of the staff or the hospital, my professional voice now needs a brief airing! Attachment, relationships and the necessity of the maternal/paternal-child bond to baby’s long-term development, health and wellbeing has been documented and evidenced overtime by many a researcher- why is it that the nurturing of humanity always seems to take second place to economics and the mighty dollar? If the voices of our youngest citizens were truly listened to, families and loved ones would be with their babies, and not asked to separate from them repeatedly each and every day. It is heart wrenching for the babies AND their parents.
It was great when Amy was approached for permission to have Volunteers visit her babies, to hold them and read to them, which Amy was very grateful to give. Amy never left the hospital until the girls were asleep, as she hated the thought of them needing her and she wasn’t there. The Volunteers would provide that precious and all-important human touch which the babies craved in Amy’s absence. We were filled with gratitude for these selfless people.
Sasha was discharged at 4 weeks of age, so we continued bundling her into the car daily to visit her ward sister who was discharged at 11 weeks of age. When Ivy was finally home it was pure joy for Amy and Beau to have the complete family - dogs and all.
As Granny, I cannot express to Amy and Beau how much being invited to share in their journey has meant to me. Words seem inadequate and THANK YOU does not convey the deep emotions I feel at having been able to grow to know my granddaughters from their very beginnings - it is pure joy. I love visiting them as often as I can and seeing how they have developed - something new to share with Granny every time we connect. I have nothing but gratitude; for the people who cared and continue to care for my granddaughters; for the fact that they were born in this time and in this place; for the nurses who went out of their way to enable Amy to have both girls together on several occasions and for the loving family they find themselves to be a part of. I am certainly looking forward to our next chapter."
What advice or tips would you give other grandparents travelling this journey?
"Be the rock your child needs you to be. This journey is enormous - they need you. Don't take offense at anything. They are doing the best they can in dire circumstances. Love those babies. Don't be afraid to touch them when their health allows - it's a vital form of communication, as is the sound of your voice: sing, read and chat. Go with an appreciative mindset. If your child hasn't eaten, feed them; move their cars and love them unconditionally and bestow that same gift on your grandchildren. It's an amazing investment, as the love you put in now, is returned 10-fold later. Enjoy."
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