Alyssa and Peter Kent's twin girls Madeleine and Charlotte were born at 24 weeks. This is the story of their birth.
My husband and I had been trying to have a baby for about two years when, with a little help from modern medicine, we were delighted to find out we were finally pregnant and even more amazed to learn that it was twins.
I'm not going to lie - I was a little shocked, nervous and somewhat apprehensive at the prospect of twins, but it quickly became something that we cherished. Our girls were our little miracles and we were very excited we were going to be their parents.
I had a completely unremarkable pregnancy; everything was going along exactly as it should be. The girls, which we had already named Madeleine and Charlotte, were the perfect size and developing beautifully. And when I had a scan at 22 weeks, everything was completely ok. I had no symptoms or signs of what was to come very soon.
One week later, I woke feeling 'off' and put it down to being pregnant with twins. But as the day progressed, I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I knew something was very wrong.
The drive to the hospital was horrific, I was riddled with fear, I honestly could barely breathe. I had no idea what to expect. Up until that point I had never known anyone who had extremely premature babies that had survived.
I was rushed through emergency and within minutes I was told I would be having our babies that day and at 23 weeks gestation they wouldn't intervene to save their lives.
It was an out-of-body experience. I fell to bits, we both did. I couldn't breathe, I genuinely wanted the ground to open up and engulf me. Nothing prepares you for these moments.
I finally was able to ask if there was any chance to stop labour and what other options we had regarding saving our girls' lives. We decided if the girls came out fighting, we would fight for them.
They gave me pills to halt my labour and miraculously it worked, I was able to hold off for another 6 days and on the evening of Sunday 29 May 2016, we delivered our baby girls at 24 weeks.
Charlotte was our firstborn (she was 420g, 24cm) and Madeleine was born 8 minutes after (she was 609g, 29cm). The tiniest and most perfect little people I had ever seen.
Our first born Charlotte devastatingly only survived an hour in our arms after she was born but her younger sister, Madeleine, was able to be ventilated and stabilised and sent to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
We spent 115 days in the Royal North Shore Hospital surrounded by what can only be described as the most incredible group of doctors and nurses you will ever meet. It was the toughest thing we have ever gone through, we nearly lost Madeleine three times. We will forever be in debt to the amazing team that saved our daughter's life many times over.
One week after her due date, we took Madeleine home, on oxygen. We are thankful and in awe of her every day.
I honestly don't know how we got through those times but you do, people do, we have no choice – time marches on even when we desperately want to pause it (what I'd give for one more cuddle with Charlotte).
Losing Charlotte is the single most devastating moment that I have ever endured. I will never be the same person I was before she died. We ache for her every day and we'll never be the same as a result of our loss, but she's with us all the time and her little sister Madeleine, has a very special guardian angel indeed.
I hope we can help/inspire people talk to about their stories, raise awareness about prematurity and give hope to families who need it. Any support that brings people together, offers comfort in times of need and/or bereavement is important and Miracle Babies have been a big support to our family.
If you are going through it too hang in there.
Be kind to yourself and know it's ok not to be ok. It's a relentless journey of challenges, fears, frustrations and also joy. It will change you, but it's so worth it.
Madeleine turned two in May this year. She is 90cm tall and 11kg and is walking, talking, running, singing, drawing and playing like any other two-year-old. She is a true miracle.
I can't wait for the day Madeleine says: "Mummy, I can't do that" and I will look her in her eyes and say: "No, sweetheart you can, there is nothing you can't do, I see you make miracles happen every day – you can do EVERYTHING".
I am in awe of her every day, we are beyond proud to be her parents.
Madeleine is also the most divine big sister, as we were again blessed to fall pregnant and last year had a healthy full-term baby girl, Edith. It makes my heart full (and ache) when I see my two girls together, even though I know there should be three.
Alyssa agreed to tell her family's story to raise awareness of the Miracle Babies Foundation Miracle Moonwalk. The 10km night walk, being held in Sydney on 22 September, will raise funds to help support premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals that care for them.