10million to one miracles: Nestling together in their crib, the first quads ever born in Britain who are two sets of identical twins.Sean and Lisa Kelly can barely tear their eyes away from the four babies snuggled up together in the Moses basket beside them. They describe the girls as their New Year miracles — and it’s easy to see why. For Heidi, Annabelle, Hannah and Jessica have made British medical history. They are the first set of quads made up of two sets of identical twins born in Britain — the odds of this happening are ten million to one. Until their four tiny daughters were born last Sunday, the couple hadn’t dared to assume they would arrive into the world safely, let alone with four sets of such powerful lungs between them. Bleary-eyed but smiling, Lisa, 35, says: ‘We’ve been through so much to have these babies — we’ve suffered miscarriages and so many disappointments. ‘When we heard we were expecting four, and that the risks to their health were so high with it being a multiple pregnancy, we didn’t dare to imagine the day we’d see them all. But looking at them now, it seems real and totally fantastic.’ The Kelly quads, like most quadruplets, were conceived through IVF, on Sean and Lisa’s third attempt. The couple had desperately wanted a sibling for their eight-year-old son, Cameron Had the babies been conceived naturally, there would have been a one in 70 million chance of two sets of identical twins being born. Four little sisters is probably not what young Cameron had in mind at first, but since they were born he has barely left their side. ‘He is over the moon with them,’ says Sean. ‘Lisa and I have trouble telling them apart, and remembering which nappies we’ve changed and which ones we haven’t. But Cameron is keeping us in order. He’s completely besotted, as are we.’ The girls were born by Caesarean section at the Victoria Royal Infirmary in Newcastle, an hour after Lisa’s waters broke at 31.5weeks. For the babies’ safety, had she not gone into labour, doctors would have induced her at 32 weeks, on New Year’s Eve. ‘Despite all the risks involved in multiple pregnancies, mine has been problem-free,’ she says. ‘In fact, it’s been easier than when I was having only one. ‘Quadruplets are usually so premature I never thought I’d make it to 31.5weeks, and that they’d all be born at such healthy weights.’ Lisa was given a steroid injection at 25 weeks to help the babies’ lungs develop. Now, all four can breathe unaided and are ‘fighting fit and giving no cause for concern’. At this age, they are still prone to infection and are on a precautionary course of antibiotics. Sean says: ‘The C-section was over in minutes, and they took them out so quickly they couldn’t say for sure which baby was twinned with which.
‘We won’t know until we get blood test results when they are about ten weeks old, but for now we’re assuming Heidi and Annabelle are twins because they weighed exactly the same and look alike, and Hannah and Jessica, the smaller two, are also twins.’ Lisa adds: ‘We’re already used to thinking of them that way, so it’ll be strange if we’re wrong. Not that it matters, really. They’re all sisters, and they’ve all got the same little temper — which is a daunting thought at this stage.’ At present, parents undergoing IVF treatment are 20 times more likely to have a multiple pregnancy, and a quarter of IVF pregnancies result in twins. Most of those twins are non-identical, born as a result of two embryos being implanted at the same time. ‘Fighting fit’: All four can breathe unaided and are ‘giving no cause for concern’ But the transfer procedure, when the embryo is implanted in the womb — for reasons that are not fully understood — encourages the embryo to split in two, creating identical twins. In the Kellys’ case, both implanted embryos split in two. Sean, an electrical engineer, and Lisa, a nurse, were shocked to discover they had fertility problems after their first child was born. The couple, who met in 1999, conceived Cameron naturally 18 months later. ‘Cameron was a happy accident,’ says Lisa, who married Sean, 34, when their son was ten months old. ‘When you have conceived naturally, it’s very hard to accept that you can’t do it again.’ Cameron was born by emergency Caesarean section, and although there did not appear to be any complications with the surgery, Lisa’s natural cycle never returned afterwards. ‘I went to my doctor a few times about it, but he said sometimes it took a while for everything to go back to normal,’ she says. ‘When Cameron was about two, we really wanted to try for another baby. ‘But you can’t get pregnant if you’re not ovulating, so that’s when the worry set in for me. Over the next few years, the doctors investigated properly. They did all the tests, but found nothing to explain why everything had stopped. ‘I was referred to my local NHS hospital, where I was put on treatment to stimulate ovulation.’ In 2006, Lisa started taking Clomid, the most commonly prescribed fertility drug. It jumpstarts ovulation in 80 per cent of cases, and almost half of patients achieve pregnancy
within six cycles of use. But it didn’t work for Lisa, who progressed to an ovulation stimulating injection. That, too, had no effect. ‘That was the end of the road for us, in terms of what the NHS was able to offer,’ says Lisa. ‘In any case, we were still holding out some hope that it would happen naturally.’ When it didn’t, they went to The London Women’s Clinic in Darlington to seek private treatment. Lisa says: ‘The minute you start down the IVF road, your emotions run very high. Sean remained optimistic about it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling it would never happen.’ She could hardly believe it when she became pregnant at the first attempt. So when she suffered a miscarriage six weeks later, she says she almost expected it. They had a second, unsuccessful attempt, only weeks later. On their third attempt, two embryos were implanted — and within days Lisa felt certain that the transfer had been successful. In total, the couple had spent £9,000, raised from their earnings and savings, in their quest for a child. ‘All the symptoms of pregnancy were there almost instantly. After eight days, I took a test, and it was positive. I said to Sean: “I think it’s twins. That would be perfect!” It never crossed our minds that it could be more than two.’ Just before the scheduled eight-week scan, however, Lisa suffered a bleed. ‘Having miscarried before, I was convinced I couldn’t still be pregnant,’ she says. ‘Sean drove me to hospital, all the way telling me to be positive, but I had lost all hope.’ Then to Lisa’s relief, the consultant had no problem detecting two heartbeats on the scan. ‘He suddenly said: “Something’s not right.” He looked closely at one of the sacs and said — as if it was bad news — “It looks like you’re having triplets.” ‘Sean and I just giggled in disbelief. We’d gone from no babies to three in the space of minutes. ‘We were so excited that when he found the fourth heartbeat and said, “No, it’s quadruplets”, it didn’t really sink in.’ In truth, the reality hit them only last Sunday when each tiny baby was born. ‘I sat there in awe,’ says Sean. ‘As each baby appeared, they looked bigger and healthier than I’d imagined. It’s amazing. Last week I was a father-of-one, and this week I’m a dad-of-five.’ But it could so easily have been different.
There are almost no reliable statistics relating to quadruplet pregnancies. While this is partly because they are so rare, it’s also because the risk to each baby is perceived to be so high that parents are often advised to elect for ‘foetal reduction’ — a selective termination of one or more babies, to give those that remain a better chance of survival. While Lisa was still on the ultrasound table, their consultant suggested they consider the controversial procedure. ‘He said he’d never seen quadruplets before, and that he wasn’t sure how to advise us,’ says Lisa. ‘He made it sound as though we had a choice between four sick babies or two healthy ones. ‘In those early weeks it felt like every doctor we saw advised us to go for foetal reduction. It’s fair to say that we felt under pressure and under-informed. ‘But while Sean and I were not determined to have four babies at any cost, we agreed that, unless someone could give us a proper medical reason, we’d give them all the best chance of life. ‘Look at them now — all four perfect and healthy. I know we’ve been incredibly lucky, but it just goes to show what we might have lost.’ Lisa was referred to the specialist foetal unit at Newcastle’s Victoria Royal Infirmary, where staff had more experience of multiple deliveries. ‘From then on, although we knew foetal reduction was an option, we didn’t feel anyone was pressuring us to do it. Thankfully, there was no need to interfere,’ says Lisa. It will be several weeks before Sean and Lisa can take their daughters home to their three-bedroom house in Billingham, near Middlesbrough, where they are surprisingly optimistic they will live comfortably as a family of seven. ‘People are shocked at how disorganised we are,’ says Sean, ‘but I didn’t dare assume that we’d have all four babies — not until I could see them. We don’t have car seats, or a four-seater buggy, which we’ll have to order from America. ‘We need a bigger car, too, but that’s not an option right now.’ Lisa adds: ‘The cost of feeding them, clothing them and keeping them in nappies would keep us awake at night if we thought about it too much. We’ve never claimed any handouts in our lives, but we’re going to need every last penny of the little we’re entitled to.’ But nothing, it seems, can take away from their joy. ‘We may lose some sleep. We may have to tighten our belts. We may not have a holiday for years,’ says Sean. ‘But when you look at those four healthy babies, you realise it’s a small price to pay.’ news from dailymail.co.uk
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