Amy and Katie Elliot are twins, but they don’t share a birthday. But it’s not only that – these little fighters were actually born an amazing 87 days apart.
Maria Jones-Elliot and her husband Chris had been thrilled to learn they were expecting twins at their seven week scan. Already parents to Olivia, 13, and Jack, 11, the couple, from Waterford, Ireland, the couple excitedly counted down the days until they would meet their newest family members.
But at 23 weeks and five days, Maria noticed a lot of pressure on her stomach. “I thought that must be normal as I was carrying twins, but I was worried enough to get an appointment to my GP,” she told The Mirror.
Her doctor told her to go straight to Waterford Regional Hospital, but she hadn’t been there long when her waters broke. The 34-year-old was in labour.
“The doctors told me there was very little hope of them surviving as they were so premature,” she said.
“I was sobbing and in shock, but I refused to give up. I kept saying, ‘This is not going to happen – I’m not going to lose them.’ I willed my babies to fight for life.”
As the labour continued over the following two days, the couple prayed for a miracle, knowing the chances of both girls surviving were incredibly low. And at exactly 24 weeks, on June 1, baby Amy was born. She weighed just 530g.
“Amy was rushed to intensive care. I was exhausted but it wasn’t over – there was another child, so I had to focus,” Maria said.
But suddenly the contractions stopped. It was as if she hadn’t even been in labour.
Doctors tried to induce the second twin – which the couple had already named Katie – the next day, concerned about the risk of infection if she remained in the womb. But Maria’s uterus had simply stopped contracting.
“Eventually Chris and I said ‘enough is enough, let nature take its course’,” Maria remembers.
So began an agonising wait. Maria lived in a strange state of having given birth but still being pregnant, and vowed to not leave hospital unless she had both her girls – even if it meant months of nothing but bed rest.
“I knew I could go into labour at any moment. The doctors said we just had to wait but every day was a bonus – I viewed it as a mission to take the pregnancy on as far as I possibly could. There was no room for negative thoughts.
“It was the hardest three months of our lives. But Chris kept saying, ‘Where there’s life, there’s hope.’”
Amy faced a rocky road – because of her early arrival, there was a high chance of long-term problems including blindness, deafness, or cerebral palsy. Doctors said she was on the cusp of survival, but she fought her way through some very tough times. And finally, five weeks after her birth, Maria was finally able to hold her tiny daughter. It was moments like that that kept her going.
“Her little feet rested on top of my bump … Katie immediately reacted, she kicked and started moving, as if she knew,” she said.
Miraculously, day by day, Katie kept growing stronger in the womb. And at 36 weeks and three days, doctors decided it was safe – it was time for her to arrive.
Katie was born healthy at 2.55kg after just over an hour of labour, on August 27. Two hours later she was reunited with her sister when her cot was placed beside Amy’s incubator as they slept.
“Amy immediately smiled. There was no doubt they recognised each other,” Maria said.
Katie’s birth meant the girls beat the old world record for the “longest interval between the birth of twins”, a title previously held by babies born 84 days apart.
But that was far from Maria’s mind as she waited to bring her babies home. Katie was allowed home after five days – and finally, seven weeks later, Amy was able to join her. It was a joyous day not only for the family, but also the medical teams who had helped Maria and the girls every step of the way. As Chris said, “I never lost hope even in the darkest moments. The medical team did an incredible job.”
Now, 11 months on from Amy’s birth, and seven months after Katie’s, the family are thrilled that the girls are healthy and doing well. Not surprisingly, Maria calls them her “little miracles”.
“I’m so honoured to have had these two girls that are so special,” she said.
“For all of us to be here, could I be any luckier?”