Dressing my toddler, Emilia, then one, in a cute tee with Big sister printed across the front, I got her to run into the living room.
‘No way!’ my hubby, Jesse, then 30, said in disbelief.
‘We’re pregnant,’ I gushed, waving my positive test.
High school sweethearts, we’d tied the knot in May 2016 and welcomed Emilia in October 2020.
Hoping for one more bub to complete our family, we had only just started trying.
Feeling equal parts grateful and anxious, my nerves melted away when the whoosh of a heartbeat filled the room at my eight-week scan.
‘Surprise! You’re having twins!’ the sonographer announced excitedly, pointing out our babies, who shared the one sac.
Gripping Jesse’s hand, we couldn’t believe it, but were very excited.
They look like they’re hugging, I smiled to myself.
But afterwards, my obstetrician took a closer look at the grainy ultrasound image.
‘It looks like they could be conjoined,’ he said, as worry coursed through me.
‘But the chances of that happening are so rare. I think they’re just really close together,’ he added.
Trusting his judgement, we pushed the thought out of our minds.
And two weeks later, a blood test confirmed we were having two more girls!
At our 12-week scan though, our worst nightmare came true.
‘It looks like they are joined at the abdomen,’ my obstetrician said gently.
I was devastated.
‘We won’t know exactly what organs they are sharing until further into the pregnancy,’ he added.
But he was very candid about the risks.
‘Often conjoined babies can’t be separated, or one might not make it,’ he prepared us.
‘But don’t worry. I’m going to get you to the best hospital, and they’re going to take care of you,’ he promised.
‘God is going to take care of these babies.
They’re going to make it!’ I told Jesse, stroking my belly.
‘The girls are in God’s hands now,’ my mum, Rafaela, comforted.
At 21 weeks, we made the three-hour drive to the hospital, where I had an MRI on my growing belly to see exactly what organs the girls were sharing.
Results confirmed a best-case scenario – our twins only shared a liver, which could be separated without major health implications.
‘The liver can regenerate,’ a surgeon said. ‘We can separate these babies.’
Beaming, I couldn’t have been happier with the news.
At 35 weeks, I was wheeled into theatre for a caesarean, on March 1 this year, with Jesse by my side.
I was so ready to meet my sweet miracle girls.
Hearing our twins cry, as they were born hugging and joined at the belly, I was so relieved.
As Eliza and Ella were placed on my chest, I cuddled them tight as Jesse stroked the top of their tiny heads.
Moments later, our daughters, who weighed about 2.5 kilos each, were whisked away to the NICU.
‘Once they have grown more and their liver is mature enough, we can do surgery,’ the surgeon said.
Travelling back and forth from the hospital, Jesse and I took turns spending time with Emilia at home and the twins.
‘Hi babies!’ Emilia smiled on FaceTime.
It was tricky to feed the girls, as they faced each other, and we had to move them from side to side to keep them comfy.
When they were four months old, they were big enough to be separated.
While I was petrified, I had faith in the incredible medical team.
Making it easier for the surgeons to tell them apart, we painted their nails different colours – pink for Ella and green for Eliza.
Giving our girls one last kiss, Jesse and I watched as they were wheeled into the operating room.
I was terrified. But within just two hours, a surgeon told us the op had been a success.
‘Everything has gone very, very smoothly,’ she said.
As Eliza’s crib was rolled into the NICU first, it was a shock to see her all by herself for the first time.
Her sister followed soon after – and my heart exploded with happiness.
I officially have three separate girls! I thought.
The next day I held Eliza on her own for the first time, while Ella recovered on oxygen.
And I was delighted to be able to hold Ella a day later.
Amazingly, just a month on, our sweet girls were discharged from hospital!
‘Where are my babies?’ Emilia beamed, finally meeting her little sisters in person.
While Ella is our sassy baby, Eliza is more laid back and happy to wait while her sister is fed first.
Showering them both with love, Emilia is the best big sister.
And even though the girls have been separated, they are still very much inseparable.
Putting them down for a nap, it’s impossible to get one to sleep without the other, and I often find them cuddling in their cot.
Learning how to tell the girls, now seven months, apart has been tricky.
But thankfully Eliza is slightly chunkier and Ella has a little spot on her ear.
Recently they had their first follow up with the surgeon, who was happy with how they’ve healed.Our bubs are living miracles!