A MOTHER has spoken of her mixed feelings of joy and terror after one of her twin girls was born – but the second did not arrive until 87 days later.
Maria Jones-Elliott told how Amy was "fighting for life in an incubator" while Katie was struggling to survive in her womb.
The 34-year-old from Glenmore, Co Kilkenny, was in her third pregnancy when she went into labour – four months early – last May. She gave birth to Amy on June 1, but it was 87 days before Katie was born.
The sisters' staggered arrival is now set to become a Guinness World Record as the "longest interval between the birth of twins".
"I call the girls our little miracles," said Ms Jones-Elliot. "As I held Amy for the first time I stroked my bump and prayed to God for a miracle."
She and her husband, Chris, a psychiatric nurse at Waterford Regional Hospital where the babies were born, were thrilled to learn they were expecting twin girls. "We were so excited when the doctors told me at my first scan at seven weeks," said the proud mother, who has two other children, Olivia (13) and 11-year-old Jack.
The pregnancy went smoothly, until at 23 weeks and five days Ms Jones-Elliot went into labour.
"I felt extreme pressure on my abdomen, but I thought that must be normal as I was having twins," she said. "But I was worried enough to get an appointment at my GP who told me to go straight to hospital. When I got there just hours later my waters broke."
She was in labour for two days before giving birth on June 1 to Amy, almost four months before her due date of September 21.
"Usually you experience joy at the birth of a baby, but it was so bittersweet as both of their lives hung in the balance," she said.
Weighing only 1lb 3oz, Amy was taken to intensive care.
"I was exhausted, but I thought, 'It's not over yet, there's another child to come'," said Ms Jones-Elliott.
But instead of Katie being born straight afterwards, the contractions stopped. Doctors tried to induce, but nothing happened.
"Amy was fighting for her life in an incubator and Katie was struggling to survive in my womb," said Ms Jones-Elliott. "After hours, Chris and I said, 'Enough is enough. Let nature take its course'. It was the hardest three months of our lives. But Chris kept saying, 'Where there's life there's hope'."
Ms Jones-Elliott decided she would not leave hospital until she had both her babies. "Even if it meant I had to lie in bed for the full three months I had left, I would do whatever it took," she said.
She was finally induced on August 27 at 36 weeks and three days. She gave birth to Katie, who weighed 5lb 10oz, after just over an hour.
"They put Katie in my arms and she smiled at me. Chris and I both cried with relief," said Ms Jones-Elliott.
The current record is held by American Peggy Lynn from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
She gave birth to Hanna on November 11, 1995, but did not deliver the other twin, Eric, until February 2, 1996 – 84 days later.