Family Affair: `The baby's heart stopped' Then the consultant turned up the monitor so `We heard the other baby's heart still beating strongly'

Kelly Carter, 21, and John Sutton, 30, were thrilled to discover she was expecting twins. But they only had a moment to savour the news before learning that one of the foetuses had not formed properly and could put its healthy twin in danger
Click to follow

Even though John and I had not been planning to have children yet, we were really excited when the pregnancy tested positive. We waited a day before we told anyone, to collect our thoughts. Both sets of parents were delighted. We went to hospital to have the first scan when I was 13 weeks pregnant. The person scanning us said: "It's twins."

We were stunned and I was thinking how will I cope? Then all of a sudden, she said: "There is a problem with one. It's deformed but we can't really tell what's wrong." We were transferred to the foetal medicine unit at University College Hospital but the appointment was not for a week, which seemed forever.

We came home from that first scan and kept asking ourselves why it had happened. I spent that night just crying. John was saying: "It's going to be OK."

When we got to the unit, the consultant obstetrician said the baby's skull was caved in and the stomach was on the outside of the body. He was very surprised the heart was still beating. He was absolutely straight with us but very gentle. He gave us the options. We could continue with both pregnancies but run a high risk of miscarrying both babies, or we could have a selective termination which carried a much smaller risk of miscarrying the healthy baby.

We thought about it overnight and talked through the options and cried. It was a terrible decision to have to make but we knew we had to do our best for the healthy baby. I rang the next day and was booked in for a selective termination.

I was terrified. I couldn't look as the needle was going into my stomach. The baby's heartbeat stopped. Then the consultant turned up the monitor so we could hear the other baby's heart still beating strongly.

I was told to go home, rest and relax. But I was worried about losing my other baby and still grieving the loss of its twin, so it was a very hard time. I took the week off work and John would ring every morning from his work and bring me lunch home. I did sometimes feel the need to get it off my chest to a friend rather than keep putting all the misery on to John - but I didn't, and it really strengthened the bond between us. We decided to keep the news to ourselves. We didn't want our families worrying and it would have made me feel worse having everyone fussing around. It was difficult when friends asked about the scan, whether we had seen the baby move. I would be smiling away but go home and burst into tears.

Alexander was born in an emergency Caesarian because the placenta collapsed, which was really frightening. He weighed only 4lbs and had to stay in hospital for 17 days because he had breathing problems. It was awful leaving him there. Neighbours who had seen me with a bump and now saw me with no baby, no pram, would cross the road to avoid us because they didn't know what to say.

We kept putting off telling our families about his twin, almost to blot it out. I do look at him sometimes and think there should be two babies there, but it was not meant to be.


The two weeks between finding out one of the babies was deformed and deciding what we should do were terrible. We were both worried sick, knowing something was wrong but not knowing how bad it was, knowing something would have to be done but not knowing what. We just talked all the time. I kept saying: "Just wait and see, don't panic."

In the end, there wasn't much of a choice. The deformities were terrible - too bad for the baby to live. It was almost a relief when we made the decision to have a selective termination so we could start concentrating on the healthy baby.

We've been told off a lot for not telling our families about it, because they wanted to share it with us. But it was the right thing for us because it meant we could keep each other strong without worrying about how others were feeling.

What helped was the way the obstetrician explained what was wrong and what our options were. He was very direct but very sympathetic. Our thoughts were on each other and what we had to decide.

The week after the termination was terrible, worrying if the remaining baby would be all right, looking out for signs that something might be wrong. When Alexander started coming it was terrible. I scrubbed up to be with during the Caesarean but then they said it was an emergency and I must wait outside. I was pacing up and down when they rushed the baby to the neo-natal unit.

I didn't see him, but 's dad caught a glimpse and said he was beautiful but pale. One of the doctors finally came through and said was OK and we had a boy and I burst into tears. It was awful when I went back to work and Alexander and were still in hospital, but I went each day as soon as I had finished. was brilliant, she never felt sorry for herself. Even at the worst times, she could make me laugh.

I don't feel Alexander is a twin. For me, once the doctor said we should start concentrating on the healthy baby, I put what had happened quite far back in my mind. I just wanted to make sure was all right.

Alexander will know everything when he is older. It is said twins can be telepathic but you can't go down that road, thinking what might have been, because it wasn't to be.

`Maternity', a BBC2 series about University College Obstetric Hospital, starts on Thursday at 9pm