Human Interest

Born at 23 weeks, Imogen and Annabelle are the smallest surviving twins in Scotland

James and Claire Weir were happy to be welcoming a new baby to their family of three. However, at just seven weeks, Mrs. Weir experienced some bleeding, and when they went to the doctor to make sure everything was okay, the couple learned they were expecting identical twin girls.

“We don’t have a history of twins as a family, so it was a shock,” Mr. Weir told the Daily Mail. “We were over the moon and pretty overwhelmed. Claire had to go back for regular scans because she had some other bleeds, but each time we were told the babies were okay.”

By the 20-week ultrasound, the twins were growing well; at roughly 22 weeks, Mrs. Weir’s water broke, and she headed to the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Paisley, Scotland.

“I was told the babies could be born soon, which was a huge shock,” she told the Daily Mail. “At that stage, it was under the threshold for saving them.”

Doctors told the couple that if the babies were born before 28 weeks, they would not resuscitate them. They were told they could transfer to the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow, where the twins would be resuscitated, so the couple chose to switch hospitals to give their girls a fighting chance.

Mrs. Weir knew that her daughters’ best chance would come if they made it beyond 23 weeks’ gestation. She spent each day trying not to move too much, counting the hours.

“I got to more than 23 weeks, but then I got very ill with a sepsis infection and they had to induce me,” she told the Daily Mail. “The fact that they were twins, that I had an infection, and they were so premature, all lowered their chance of survival. I didn’t have a lot of hope.”

At 23 weeks and four days, baby Annabelle was born weighing just 15.5 ounces. Ten minutes later, her twin, Imogen, was born weighing one pound and half an ounce. They were taken straight to intensive care while their mother underwent surgery. It would be six days before she held Imogen, and weeks before she was able to hold Annabelle.

Photo via Just Giving fundraising page.

“They were so tiny they fitted in one hand,” she said. “Annabelle’s foot was about the size of James’s thumbnail. I was petrified when I first held them. They didn’t open their eyes or cry for a few weeks. They couldn’t wear clothes for 100 days, just a nappy and hat. Their skin was too delicate.”

The girls spent six weeks in incubators connected to positive pressure ventilators, and they faced more than their share of challenges. Annabelle had problems with her stomach and struggled to breathe, while Imogen had to undergo eye surgery.  They both needed multiple blood transfusions. Now, at almost 11 months, they are both home and doing well.

“The first big milestone was getting the girls off the ventilator, to know they were both able to breathe with just a small bit of additional support,” Mrs. Weir told The Sun. “That was a huge step because we still didn’t know whether they would survive or not, if they couldn’t cope. There have been so many milestones since.”

Now the twins are happy, smiling, rolling over, laughing, and beginning to eat food. Their parents describe Imogen as “bossy” and Annabelle as “laid back.”

“We got Imogen home first, a couple of weeks before Annabelle, and it was really tough. I don’t think I slept for about three days. I just watched her constantly to make sure she was breathing,” said Mrs. Weir. “[…] When Annabelle came home, after 138 days in hospital, we were more prepared.”

The twins are the youngest and smallest surviving twins born in Scotland, just days before the 24-week abortion cut-off.

“I’d never heard of twins so small surviving,” Mrs. Weir told The Sun. “It didn’t seem possible for one, let alone two. The consultant told us that if the girls had been born just two years ago they wouldn’t have survived—that’s how fast medical technology is advancing. They have surprised everyone. They will always be our little miracles.”

Editor’s Note: With advances in medical technology, the age of viability continues to move earlier. This article describes current viability standards, as well as the fact that Planned Parenthood is aborting babies who could survive, given proper medical care — including babies the same age as Imogen and Annabelle.

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