From premature twins in the pandemic to PTSD after a traumatic labour – these mothers reveal why they won’t risk having another baby as told to Eimear O’Hagan
Alice Wright, 30, is a family support officer for the charity Twins Trust and lives in Norwich, Norfolk, with husband Tom, 40, and their twin sons Alexander and George, two.
“Nestled in bed, a baby in each arm, I should have been so happy, but instead I wanted to end my life. After months of terror, separated from my twins by Covid restrictions, I believed my family would be better off without me.
"Two years of therapy later, I’m no longer suicidal, but I’ll never have another child again.
"Becoming a mum was always one of my most important life goals, and after Tom and I met in a pub in November 2011, we both knew that one day we wanted to have a family together.
"I found out I was expecting twins at my 12-week scan in late 2019, and we were stunned but delighted.
"In January 2020, at 17 weeks pregnant, I learned that I had selective intrauterine growth restriction (sIUGR) type 2, which meant one of my identical twins had a smaller share of the placenta and was weaker than his brother. There was a 50/50 chance both could die in the womb. As I broke down, I was offered a selective termination to save the bigger twin, but I couldn’t make that decision and decided to place my hope in the doctors caring for us.
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"For the next 11 weeks, I had multiple scans. Constantly worried, I was haunted by dark thoughts. When the pandemic hit, my anxiety rocketed. Staff were wearing PPE and it was so scary knowing this virus was all around.
"On April 5, 2020, the twins were born at 28 weeks by C-section – Alexander weighing 2lb 7oz and George 1lb 15oz – after a scan revealed George would die within 48 hours if not delivered. I was allowed a quick glance before they were whisked off to the NICU. Tom had to leave immediately because of Covid restrictions and I spent the night on the maternity ward, alone and distraught.
"Visiting the NICU was restricted to two hours a day, and Tom and I weren’t allowed in together. After I was discharged, I spent the rest of the time at home, trying to express milk and crying.
"It was pure agony. With the country in lockdown and Tom and I strictly isolating, we were totally cut off from all our family and friends.
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"Alexander was discharged on June 1, 2020, but George spent a further two months in hospital. By then, I was experiencing blackouts – where days would go past and I’d have no recollection of what had happened – intense flashbacks and nightmares that the boys had died. After George finally came home that August, I was referred for specialist trauma-focused CBT. Even though the boys were home and doing well, I was so broken, I wanted to die.
"I was honest with Tom about how I was feeling. It was so hard for him to hear, but he was incredibly strong, telling me we would get through this together.
"It took seven months before I stopped feeling suicidal and the nightmares and flashbacks subsided. After months of having to shut down my bonding instincts to survive being separated from the twins, I had to slowly open up again. It was wonderful to be with them 24/7, but also painful to reflect on all the time we’d spent apart.
"In May 2021, I was discharged by the NHS therapist, but decided to carry on paying privately. I’m still in therapy and remain on antidepressants.
"Today, Alexander and George are beautiful, energetic two year olds. When I see someone who has a child their age and is pregnant again, I can’t help but feel angry. Why did that have to happen to me? The experience was so brutal, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully recover, and I fear having another baby would risk terrible mental upheaval. Tom is supportive – he doesn’t want me to endure anything like it ever again.
"I’ve been asked by people when I’m going to have another child, and I reply: ‘I’d love one, but don’t think I’d survive it.’ I feel so lucky to have my sons – but I grieve for the third baby I’ll never know.”
Amelia Shaw, 36, is an executive assistant and lives in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, with her fiancé Craig, 40, a site manager, and their son William, three.
“Watching William play on the beach by himself this summer, I felt a pang of sadness. While I know it’s the right decision not to have another baby, I struggle with the fact that he’ll grow up an only child.
"Craig and I met at the gym in September 2017 and began dating. We soon knew we wanted to have a baby, and I found out I was pregnant in early 2019.
"After a straightforward pregnancy, I went into labour on September 4, 2019, but eight hours later, when it came time to push, William grew distressed. The atmosphere in the delivery room turned frantic and lots of staff rushed in. I was put in stirrups and an episiotomy was performed, before William was delivered by forceps.
"When I was told he was breathing OK and weighed a healthy 8lb 7oz, I thought the worst was over. But within minutes, I began haemorrhaging. In theatre, my placenta was delivered, the bleeding stopped and I was stitched up, before I was reunited with William and Craig. I couldn’t believe what I’d been through.
"Later that night, things took a terrible turn. A midwife wasn’t happy with William’s colour and breathing and whisked him away. After what felt like forever, we were taken to the NICU, where William had stopped breathing and was on a ventilator. It was like a nightmare. As the consultant explained he had meningitis, caused by a bacteria called group B strep, my world fell apart.
"We were told that if he did survive, he could be left severely disabled or deaf, and that the next few days were critical. William spent two weeks in hospital and Craig and I stayed in the Ronald McDonald House on site so we could be with him every day.
"He was discharged on September 20, 2019, in good health, but we were told he’d be monitored for a year. Leaving the hospital with him, I felt like a different woman – I was shaken to my core. I didn’t sleep well over the next six months and there were days I felt very low. I couldn’t bear to watch any TV programme set in a hospital as it gave me flashbacks, and when I heard other mums talking about their drama-free deliveries, I felt resentful. I didn’t even confide in Craig, because I found it hard to admit I wasn’t coping.
"In March 2020, I went to see my GP about my episiotomy scar and fell apart. She diagnosed me with PTSD and referred me for counselling, which I had online for six months due to the pandemic. I also had support from the charity the Birth Trauma Association.
You’re Not Alone
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
- Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk, 03444 775 774 Monday-Friday 9.30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-8pm
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"William is now three and there have been no lasting health effects, thank goodness. He’s a healthy, precious boy. People often ask when I’m having another, and I’m always honest – the prospect fills me with such anxiety, there’s no chance. Thankfully, Craig completely supports my decision. Other people often insist I’ll change my mind, but I know I won’t.”
- For support and advice visit Birthtraumaassociation.org.uk and Twinstrust.org
- Follow @Alice_and_pikelets_siugr on Instagram
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