Brisbane mum gives birth to premature twins whilst dad is stranded abroad

Brisbane mum gives birth to premature twins whilst dad is stranded abroad

Wife, Tina Tautiepa, 26, was pregnant with twin boys when her husband, Lance Junior Tautiepa, 26, studied overseas in Samoa.

Dad, Mr Tautiepa, planned to be present for the birth of his firstborn sons in September 2021, except the twins had other plans arriving eight weeks premature.

The twin boys, Titus and Tatum, were born at 32 weeks on 27 July 2021.

Mrs Tautiepa made the difficult decision to travel from Samoa to Australia without her husband after having a scan in March and learning her twins had twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), instantly deeming her pregnancy high-risk.

Director of Neonatal Critical Care Unit, Dr Pita Birch explained TTTS is a condition that affects approximately 10 per cent (one in ten) of identical twins that share a single placenta.

“Usually, in a twin pregnancy, each twin will have its sac of amniotic fluid and its own placenta. When twins share a single placenta, we call them monochorionic.

“Blood vessels can form in the single shared placenta that connects each side of the placenta and allow blood from one twin (the donor) to flow into the other twin (the recipient). Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome occurs when there is a lot of flow one way across those blood vessels and this can cause problems with both the donor and the recipient twin, in particular, this can result in a big size difference between the two twins,” said Dr Birch.

“In our case, baby Tatum was the donor and baby Titus was the receiver,” said Mrs Tautiepa.

Tatum was born smaller than his twin brother Titus. Titus weighed almost double the weight of his twin brother at birth. Titus weighed a small 1718 grams, and Tatum weighed an even smaller 987 grams.

“The average weight of a full-term baby is about 3500 grams,” said Dr Birch.

The little miracles were born via c-section. As soon as they were born, the premature twins were immediately rushed from the birthing suites to Mater Mothers’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  

Both Titus and Tatum needed respiratory support after they were born. They each received special preterm intensive care within Mater Mothers Neonatal Critical Care Unit, before being transferred to the hospital’s Special Care Nursery (SCN).

Except Tatum needed intensive care for more time than his brother.

Mrs Tautiepa said, “Titus needed respiratory support for the first 48 hours of his life, whereas Tatum needed it for 19 days.”

The twins progressed on different timelines. Titus transitioned from special preterm intensive care to the special care nursery quicker than Tatum. 

“This was stressful for me – to see one progressing sooner than the other. Particularly with my husband still abroad and not by our sides,” said Mrs Tautiepa.

“Thankfully, I had the support of nurses, doctors and family throughout this journey.

“I’m very grateful for the care they gave to me and my boys.

“It also helped knowing that we weren’t the only ones going through this experience.

“Being in the NICU alongside other parents with premature babies was comforting in a way. 

“Tatum shared a similar journey to another baby within the unit.

“I took comfort in knowing we weren’t the only ones. I was not alone,” said Mrs Tautiepa.

After 43 days in the hospital, Titus was deemed ready to go home, whilst Tatum needed to remain in the hospital for close observation and additional support, mainly because he was slower to progress with his oral establishment of feeding.

Neonatal Nurse, Chloe Ahearne, said, “Naturally, the journey of having a preterm baby is challenging. In Tina’s case, she had the additional stress of having one baby at home and the other in hospital.

“Titus accompanied his mum on some visits to hospital to spend time with his twin brother. But this was also difficult on Titus, as each visitation would disrupt his daily routine, and we know the importance of establishing routines for babies and young children.

“This didn’t stop Tina from visiting Tatum every day that he was in hospital without his brother.

“Despite her husband being overseas, Tina would travel to the hospital every day and express milk by the bedside.   

“Mrs Tautiepa had a wonderful support network around her, allowing her to be in hospital with Tatum, whilst Titus could stay at home with the support of loved ones,” Mrs Ahearne said.

Tatum remained in hospital for an additional 44 days. After a total of 87 days in hospital, Tatum was finally ready to go home for the first time and be reunited with his twin brother, Titus.

On Thursday 21 October 2021, Mrs Tautiepa arrived at Mater Mothers’ Hospital ready to take her twin son home. 

“I remember feeling excited in this moment. Very thankful and relieved,” Mrs Tautiepa said.

Tatum went home with a nasogastric tube, a thin, flexible tube inserted into the nares and passes through the oesophagus and into the stomach.  

“These [nasogastric] tubes are utilised when infants are unable to adequately feed by breast or bottle, to sustain adequate growth and development. 

“With the tube in place, preterm babies can preserve their energy and avoid burning calories when feeding,” Mrs Ahearne said.

Before leaving hospital, Tatum was referred to Mater Mothers’ new HOPE program; an early discharge program for SCN patients, which is aimed at decreasing length of hospital stay, resulting in reduced risk of acquiring hospital associated infections and reducing the financial burden on families visiting the SCN daily.

“A designated HOPE nurse works with the family to ensure they are prepared for discharge and supports their ongoing journey through daily telehealth consultations and a home visit on day two.

“We know from literature and research that babies tend to thrive in the home context. We hope that Tatum will thrive being at home with his family,” Mrs Ahearne said.

Mrs Tautiepa said, “It’s so good having Titus and Tatum home.

“Seeing them together, strengthening their bond, brings me joy.

“I’m hopeful that my husband will be able to travel home next month. He’s very excited to meet our boys face to face.”

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