McNamara family smiling at camera

Reflecting on Multiple Birth Awareness Week

Multiple Birth Awareness Week celebrated 12-19 March focuses on the vital support provided to multiple birth families by the Australian Multiple Birth Association and local clubs around Australia.

Shaune McNamara, who works for the Department of Human Services, said it was one of the happiest and saddest moments of his life when his wife Sarah had a multiple birth of 26 week old twins, Madeline and Emily, in 2012.

“Sarah was admitted to hospital at 22 weeks and had a few complications,” Shaune said.

“At 26 weeks Sarah’s waters broke and she went into labour. Madeline and Emily were born at a tiny 825 grams and 901 grams respectively.

“I wasn’t able to be in the delivery room for medical reasons but the nurses ran my girls past me while I was in the waiting room and rushed them straight to the lift.

“They asked if I wanted to come but I knew I needed stay there to make sure Sarah was ok.”

Sarah lost a lot of blood during the C-Section, she needed two blood transfusions and wasn’t allowed to see Madeline and Emily for two days.

“I spent those two days going back and forth from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to Sarah’s room,” Shaune explained.

“I’d take photos of the girls for Sarah, as that was the only way she could see them until she was allowed to walk.

“I remember asking myself why, over and over again. They were so young and innocent, they didn’t deserve the tough start to their life they were handed.

“I remember in those first 20 minutes thinking, will they make it? Instinctively, I thought if I stayed positive they’d be ok.”

It wasn’t easy sailing though, Emily had a hole in her lung and was hooked up to a machine for the first three weeks.

“I’ll never forget my first cuddle with the girls, it was amazing,” he said.

“I used to sit there having kangaroo cuddles and singing songs to the girls. Occasionally I’d pop them under my shirt so they knew Dad was fighting with them.

“I still remember the first time I felt their heart beat against mine and it was beautiful.”

Shaune’s voice was shaky and he held back tears as he recounted how difficult those early weeks were.

“I didn’t share much of what was happening with my family and friends,” he said.

“I knew if I talked about it everything would become a reality and I didn’t want people to experience what Sarah and I were already going through.

“We were each other’s support network and that worked for us. This entire process has made our relationship stronger and we were the best support system for each other.”

Madeline in hospital.p
Madeline in hospital.

Shaune remembers Sarah and himself splitting their time between the girls in the beginning.

“Sometimes Sarah struggled to spend time with Emily when she was connected to the oscillator that was mending her lung. It was quite heart wrenching the feeling of helplessness.

“She often spent more time with Madeline so I found myself spending more time with Emily.

“After a few weeks, once Emily’s health improved we were sharing our time equalling between to the two girls.”

Shaune noticed the differences between Sarah’s first pregnancy and her second with a multiple birth.

“When I looked back to our first pregnancy with our son, Riley, it was a completely different experience.

“You don’t get those small moments sitting on the lounge next to your wife feeling the babies kick when they come that early.

“As a Dad that’s one of the great bonding moments and missing out on it was hard.”

In the girls 40th week—their original due date, they finally went home and they haven’t looked back!

“Emily thunders down the house and is as loud as they come,’ Shaune said.

“Madeline loves jigsaw puzzles and is a little reserved. They are like chalk and cheese honestly, we wouldn’t change them for the world.

“Every time they say ‘I love you Daddy’, it makes everything worthwhile. All the tears, all the late nights and all the struggles are forgotten with those four words.”

More information

Read more about Multiple Birth Awareness Week.