'The only time I got to hold Louie was when he passed away in my arms'
When Letty Taylor became pregnant with twins against all the odds after IVF treatment, it seemed like her dream had come true.
The 38-year-old suffered from polycystic ovaries and ultimately had to have her fallopian tubes removed, leaving a “test-tube baby” as her only chance of the family she and husband Robert so desperately wanted.
The fertility treatment in Oxford was an emotional rollercoaster, but a pregnancy test revealed the second cycle was successful.
Letty, a former Hillmead Primary School and Birchwood High School pupil, said: “When those lines appeared, it was like a miracle had happened.”
Her happiness lasted just 26 weeks.
Letty began bleeding and went to Harlow’s Princess Alexandra Hospital before being transferred to Hammersmith Hospital, where two intensive care cots were available.
After five days, her son and daughter were born. Skye came first, delivered by forceps and weighing 1.2kg (2lb 10oz). Louie followed at 1.1kg, just over 2oz lighter than his stronger sister.
Letty said: “I didn't get to hold them – they held them up and then whisked them away.”
Both infants were precious beyond words, but Louie was the first boy born in both families for some time.
It was more than six hours before Letty could see her children again, separated on opposite sides of a room as the medics worked to save them: “That’s when they told us Louie was fighting an infection and he was weak.
“All I could see was wires really. I couldn't even hold them – it was a good five or six days before I got to hold Skye.
“The only time I got to hold Louie was when he passed away in my arms.”
Louie was baptised as the couple’s family watched and Letty tenderly changed his nappy. She said: “I was looking after him.”
Her little boy's lungs were simply not strong enough and he faded away just two days after he was born.
Letty said: “I just wanted my little boy to come home with me. You just don’t think this is going to happen to you.”
In the midst of her grief, there was no time to mourn as Skye, who had breathing problems, needed her mum.
Letty said bluntly: “If it wasn't for Skye, I wouldn't be here.”
After three weeks in Hammersmith, Skye was transferred to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford and Letty took the agonising decision to hide her bereavement from the other new mums on the neo-natal unit so they would not be scared.
“The only people who knew about Louie and that Skye was a twin were the staff,” she said.
A stay at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London followed when Skye needed cardiac surgery.
Today, the Summercroft pupil, who will be five on Tuesday (October 14), still has a small hole in her heart which will be fixed when she is older, but is an otherwise healthy and energetic little girl.
Letty said: “She knows she's a twin and I talk about her brother. He's in her and is part of her. You cannot break that bond.”
Skye's first day at school in September was a poignant and painful moment as Letty prepared just one little uniform for the big day which Skye should have been sharing with her brother.
Letty and Robert had two frozen embryos remaining from their first, unsuccessful IVF attempt and decided to try for another baby. Their daughter Ava is now two, born on July 17, 2017. She weighed in safely at 8lb 6oz after a normal delivery. Letty said: “We didn't tell anybody until I was 20 weeks' pregnant.”
Despite her joy at Skye’s recovery and Ava’s safe arrival, the grief of losing Louie is still raw.
Letty, a full-time mum, and Robert, an aircraft engineer at Stansted Airport, are separated, although he remains a fully-involved dad to his daughters. Letty said their difficulties were rooted in the trauma they both suffered.
Letty said there was little support and help for fathers affected by stillbirth and neo-natal death, and both parents are isolated by the taboo around talking about the death of a child.
She said: “The only people who really understand are the people who have been through it.”