With our three-year-old boy Jaysin keeping our hands full, my hubby Nick and I were excited to grow our family. So when we found out I was expecting, we were over the moon.
But our first scan at eight weeks and three days uncovered something that broke our hearts.
‘It’s twins,’ the doctor said. ‘They are conjoined.’
It was like the world went quiet, and my mind became silent with worry and fear.
The next few months were a blur, as specialists offered opinions and statistics about this rare phenomenon.
‘Forty to 60 per cent of conjoined twins arrive stillborn,’ they said.
Recommending abortion, we were told even if I did go to full-term, the babies most likely wouldn’t survive 24 hours.
‘I want to give them the chance to fight for life,’ I announced, with Nick nodding in agreement.
Joined from the belly button down, my two girls had their own major organs and four healthy arms. But they shared a pelvis and had just two legs.
Going to check-ups every two weeks, I’d hold my breath, hoping they’d be okay.
And they always were – my two girls were fighters!
‘We are really happy with how your pregnancy is progressing,’ the doc told us.
We might make it to delivery day! I thought excited.
Knowing our girls probably wouldn’t survive out of utero, Nick and I didn’t purchase any new baby things.
Not a dress, pram or cot in sight – we just wanted to hold our girls while they took their last breath.
In January 2016, I was filled with nerves as I was wheeled into theatre for my planned C-section.
Squeezing Nick’s hand, I held my breath while watching on screen as a team of doctors surrounded my belly.
Then we caught a glimpse of two heads with tufts of brown hair, before the room quickly erupted in screams as Callie and Carter greeted the world.
A huge smile crept on my face as they were cleaned up.
‘They made it,’ I whispered to Nick.
That night I stayed with them, cooing over their tiny fingers and toes, watching their bellies rise and fall.
Over the next few days I barely left their side… and their hearts continued to pump.
After hundreds of tests, the doctor sat Nick and I down to view the results.
‘They are completely healthy, you can take them home,’ they said. ‘We don’t recommend separating them.’
Perfect in every way, separating them could be fatal.
I never thought I would hear those words, I thought tearfully.
Shocked, Nick and I started filling our home with baby necessities.
A nurse even sewed three outfits specially made for the girls by joining two onesies together.
With a custom-built car seat to fit the bubs in, I let out a huge sigh of relief when we arrived home.
From the day they were born, my smile didn’t disappear.
Learning to hold the girls became second nature.
Nick would bounce them on his knee as Callie napped and Carter played.
I purchased my own sewing machine and began filling their wardrobe with unique outfits.
Doing everything double became easier every day, from feeding with both hands to rocking them to sleep, we had a rhythm.
The girls passed every check-up with flying colours and we were told again and again that separation wasn’t the best option for them.
After chatting with Nick and the specialists, we were all in agreement.
The girls would stay conjoined.
Every year we revisit the option of separation surgery but unless the girls or doctors tell us any different, we aren’t splitting up the twins.
Now two, the girls have physio to help with movement and learn which body part belongs to who.
The girls have separate intestines but joined below the below button, they share everything else down below. Rolling around in laughter, the girls are not just sisters but best friends.
Their different personalities make me laugh, with Carter bossing Callie around, but Carter protecting her big sister from anyone.
Gurgling to each other, it won’t be long before they start chatting our ears off!
However when it comes to food, Callie is the boss.
Handing Carter a cheese stick I start unpeeling another to hand to Callie.
But within a blink, Callie snatches it from her sister’s hand and starts munching.
‘You’re always hungry,’ I joke.
Walking will be tricky as they control one leg each, but with the help of a physio they are learning more every day. Doctors don’t expect them to learn until they’re about eight, but with their can-do attitude, I think it will be much sooner.
With a walker, the girls are building up their leg
strength, but when they are tired, we push them around in a specially built chair.
For now, the girls lie on their backs and use one arm each to lift up their body, with their legs scooting around like a crab shuffle.
We aren’t embarrassed of our girls and always like to educate people who have questions.
‘They’re happy and healthy,’ I tell people.
Callie and Carter might be joined as one but they have double the strength to keep living life to the fullest.