Here Emily Stark, 48, tells the story in her own words.
We’d only just found out we were expecting, but I knew.
‘I think it’s twins,’ I grinned to my hubby James. ‘It’s mum-tuition!’
Soon after, we went for our first scan.
‘I want you to do a baby count,’ I told the technician, as she squeezed cold gel on my tummy.
‘You’re way too small to have more than one in there,’ she smiled.
But humouring my idea, she checked anyway. Then she zoomed in on the screen.
‘Well… there’s two!’ she announced.
Just like that we’ve doubled our family, James emailed our loved ones.
Messages of congratulations poured in.
But two weeks later we went back for a routine scan.
This time, the technician called in a doctor who got me to sit up.
‘You’re carrying conjoined twins,’ he said.
He explained they were connected in the lower half of their bodies but it was too early to tell the extent of their condition.
‘No, they’re just cuddling,’ I said in disbelief. ‘If I jump you’ll see them separate.’
That night I didn’t sleep a wink as I tried to make sense of the situation.
More tests followed, where we found out we were expecting girls, then we met with a team of specialists.
‘The chances of both surviving are slim,’ one of the doctors said, as I sat clasping one of their ultrasound photos.
The stats weren’t good – 40 to 60 per cent of conjoined twins are stillborn, about 35 per cent survive only one day.
He said abortion was an option. Then I met the eyes of a kindly expert.
‘Their quality of life is up to you and what you provide for them,’ he said.
In that moment, as I glanced down at my blurry black and white bubs, I knew what to do.
‘We can do this,’ I said holding James’ hand.
‘We can,’ he said.
Wanting to give our girls the freedom to make independent choices, we decided the best thing for them would be to separate them.
We had tests every fortnight. Then at 29 weeks, I was prepared for a caesarean delivery.
I can’t wait to meet these girls who have caused all this fuss! I thought, adoringly.
‘Sydney and Lexi,’ I cooed, as they were placed in my arms.
Lexi was sitting slightly in front of Sydney and they were joined around their hip area. But it didn’t scare me.
‘They’re perfect,’ I said.
Whisked away, we were soon told they shared an anus, tailbone and a circulation system.
But they weren’t connected by any organs, and were perfectly healthy.
After being fitted with colostomy bags, they were allowed to go home at two weeks.
There, we quickly got a handle on having conjoined twins. James could even carry them in one arm and use the TV remote with the other hand!
‘You bath one, you bath them both,’ I laughed.
We had to wait for the girls to grow a bit before surgery, as they needed enough skin to close up the wound.
But we didn’t purchase a second cot or high chair.
‘I don’t want to jinx it,’ I told James. When they were seven months old, Sydney and Lexi were wheeled to theatre.
There were 56 nurses, specialists and surgeons in the room as I gave my girls a teary kiss.
Hold on my two beautiful girls, I willed.
James and I anxiously paced the corridors and every hour someone would come out with information.
‘It’s like there’s a perfect dotted line guiding us where to separate them,’ the last surgeon told us.
After 15 hours – and against all odds – our girls were successfully separated.
Running in to see them, James stood at the ends of their beds.
‘I don’t know what to do… I have to choose one girl to pick up first,’ he said, tears in his eyes.
When the girls were slowly brought out of sedation they both started kicking their little legs.
It was just so surreal to see them in their own beds.
As they recovered, we raced out to buy a second item of everything.
Just nine days later, the girls were back home.
Learning to juggle two non-conjoined twins was a crazy adventure.
Miraculously, they learned to walk aged one, with no problems.
Organising a play date with another set of twins when they were a bit older, Lexi ran in excited to meet her new friends.
‘Where were they stuck together, Mummy?’ she asked.
Laughing it off, I never thought I’d have to explain not all twins are conjoined!
When the girls were five, we welcomed our beautiful son, Anderson.
As the girls got older, they made their own decisions about whether they wanted to be in the same classroom at school, and each year they mixed it up.
Watching them grow up has been incredible.
From Lexi’s love of drawing, Sydney’s impressive rugby skills to their mutual love for the outdoors, my girls are doing what they love apart and together!
Now 17, Lexi and Sydney plan on going to universities hundreds of kilometres away from each other.
So they really are separating for the first time.
We count ourselves lucky they’ve got the opportunity.
Our beautiful girls are living the life they deserve.