When Melbourne couple Laura-Jane and Shaun Hargreaves decided 2020 would be the year they’d start trying for a family, they never could have imagined what was in store.
Not just one baby, but twins. And a pandemic.
But this eternally optimistic couple was determined to make the best of their journey to parenthood, even if it looked very different to what they’d imagined. This is a birth story of hope and pure joy.
‘Congratulations, it’s twins!’
Laura-Jane and Shaun had made the exciting decision to try for a baby and were thrilled when they fell pregnant straight away. Carrying their little secret, the couple were itching to have their first ultrasound and decided to get it done at nine weeks.
“We went in together and started the ultrasound,” Laura-Jane told Mum’s Grapevine. “The abdominal ultrasound wasn’t showing much and the lady decided it would be best to do an internal. She told us it would only take five minutes. After she turned the screen away from us and took about 10-15 minutes my husband and I were getting anxious. I was cracking my knuckles and biting my nails and starting to convince myself, ‘it’s ok if it’s not good news this is ok, we will be ok’.
“Then she said ‘congratulations’ phewwwww we both thought. ‘It’s TWINS!’ All I could do was burst into hysterical tears and throw multiple profanities at the poor ultrasonographer. My husband had to say ‘LJ stop swearing at the lady’.”
The couple walked around in a happy baby fog for the next three weeks, not quite believing they had twins on the way. But their happy news coincided with the arrival of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“As we are in Melbourne and had just gone into the first lockdown we, unfortunately, had to tell all of our family over FaceTime. We are very close to both of our families and it was very difficult not to announce in person. Our families were all over the moon and in absolute shock when we turned the ultrasound over and you could see TWO little babies!
“These would be the first grandchildren on both sides. We were lucky enough to celebrate with them in between lockdown one and two where we revealed we would be having a boy and a girl at a gender reveal party! That was at 20 weeks and that was the last time we saw a lot of our family before the babies arrived.”
A pandemic pregnancy
It was a time of overwhelming happiness and incredible stress for the mum-to-be, who had to temporarily shut her business due to the lockdown.
“We had to work hard to try and create a stress-free environment for the babies to grow well. I had a dream first trimester with no morning sickness which was lucky. Shaun was able to come to the early scans which was great, although after 24 weeks all appointments had to be attended alone. This was so hard for first-time parents.”
The parents-to-be had to rethink their pregnancy plan, changing to online antenatal classes and found their local hospital to be a huge support.
“We were super lucky to be accepted into the caseload program at Sunshine Hospital where we were under one or two midwives who looked after us and came to all of our appointments with us. We had the absolute pleasure of having Kylie and Louise. They helped keep us informed and lead us in the direction of evidence-based research and to make our own decision not just be lead into a decision based on the doctors or midwives opinions were.
“Our ‘birth map’ main destination was ‘one healthy mumma two healthy babies’, with our preferred ‘route’ being no induction, no epidural, vaginal delivery with natural tear opposed to episiotomy and no forceps or vacuum. As both babies continued to be head down the hospital and my amazing midwives fully supported a vaginal delivery.
“At our 20 weeks scan, it was found twin B had a velamentous cord, a marginal insertion and the cord went through the membrane. We were told by an obstetrician to prepare for a c-section and a potentially early delivery if baby B didn’t grow at the next few scans. It was a very stressful time, we prepared and researched NICU and what to expect with prem babies. We were so nervous and so cautious over that eight weeks.
“At each scan baby boy continued to grow and was bigger than his sister at every scan. We were then discharged from MFM back to our amazing caseload midwife at 34 weeks. We celebrated each and every extra week they were in their baking!”
A lockdown labour
On Monday, October 19, at 37 weeks, Laura-Jane went in for a scan, and the news wasn’t great.
“Twin A has deceased fluid around her and it was decided to be induced that night if we wanted the best chance of vaginal delivery, if we left it she might get too distressed and end in a c-section.
“I went home and told my husband ‘I think we are having the babies like tomorrow’. It was very surreal I went to my acupuncture appointment then We had a nice dinner together and made sure the hospital bag was fully packed. Then we headed into the hospital.
“The balloon catheter induction took place that night, my cervix was already soft. Tuesday morning the balloon catheter was taken out and I was 3cm dilated. We moved to a birthing suite and settled in to get ready for go time. The syntocinon drip had been placed to help with the contractions. I was having contractions but couldn’t feel them we only knew we were having them by looking at the monitor. Then they moved to a very low grade ‘period pain’ contractions from about 12pm.
“The epidural was placed but not active which is not what I originally wanted but the hospital recommended due to twin B’s cord and because he was the bigger of the two. Ultimately I was more passionate about having a vaginal delivery than doing it with no pain relief so it was an easy decision.
“At 3pm contractions got hectic, I made it from 3cm to 8cm using breathing, movement, stamping my legs and horses breath and without the epidural and I was so damn proud of myself. I then begged for them to give me the epidural when it got too much! The epidural helped ease the intensity of the pain slightly but could still feel the contractions and move my legs.
“My midwives were AMAZING! My husband was AMAZING! I had so much positive energy and support in that room I knew I could do it! I birthed on my side with a peanut ball between my knees for baby girl, she flew out in one push after about 40 minutes of pushing. We were overwhelmed by emotion when she got lifted on my chest with a full head of dark hair. We could not stop staring at her.
“I then had to turn onto my back and get legs in the stirrups to monitor baby boy, he was still head down and doing well, they turned up the syntocinon drip again and I started feeling the contractions again. We got pushing with baby girl still on my chest and husband on the side ready to help lift baby boy up to me. Five pushes for his head out and I had to slowly breathe out his shoulders, as he was bigger, 20 or so more tiny pushes and breaths and his shoulders and body finally came out and was placed next to his sister on my chest and we didn’t know where to look! We were so instantly in love.”
Twin A, Ayla Rose Hargreaves arrived at 5.57pm, weighing 2.49kg and measuring 47cm. Her brother Levi Jack Hargreaves was born not long after at 6.16pm, weighing 3.09kg and measuring 50cm.
“We then had the most amazing hour with our beautiful babies in skin to skin with me and daddy whilst the placentas were delivered and I was stitched up due to my second-degree tear caused by baby B’s shoulders. I was up and showered within an hour and a half and all of us went up my room shortly after that.”
The couple soaked up every minute of their baby bubble bliss, until Shaun had to leave, due to Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions.
My husband had to leave two hours after that as we are in Melbourne and Covid policies were in place. I spent the next two nights in hospital learning what to do with not only one but two babies as a first-time mum. It was tough not having my husband next to me for those two days and we decided if all checks were good for me and the babies then we would go home ASAP.
We were then discharged two nights later altogether.
“I cannot believe how powerful I felt in those moments delivering my two babies. It really is an out of body experience. I think it’s important not to have a ‘birth plan’ and have a ‘birth map’ instead. Have a ‘destination’ and have a preferred ‘route’ but know at any time there may be roadblocks or traffic and you might need to take a detour. It’s frustrating and can be disappointing but if the destination is achieved give yourself a pat on the back you did it.
“To all current mummas, well done. This first week has been the hardest week of my life. Juggling being a first-time mum, breastfeeding and everything seeming to take ‘double’ as long. It was harder than labour! But oh so rewarding when those two little faces look up at you!
“To all future mummas …you can do it.”
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