Born at just 22 weeks, Jade Crane’s twins were given a 0% chance of survival.
Derbyshire-based Jade, 40, and her husband Steve, 52, were told their newborns were “medical waste.” But now, at eight months old, Harley and Harry are thriving.
Here, their determined mother tells their story of fear, hope and happiness…
“A flurry of doctors and nurses usher me into a stark-looking bereavement suite at the medical centre. Lights flash and sirens sound as another contraction rushes through my body. “The babies are medical waste – there’s no chance of survival,” a doctor explains, gruffly.
I’m 22 weeks pregnant and my waters have broken. I watch as two tiny cots appear by my bedside. I’ll get an hour with my babies, then I’ll plan their funeral…
My husband Steve and I spent 11 years trying to start a family. In 2008, I suffered an ectopic pregnancy. Then I had six miscarriages – one after each round of self-funded IVF.
My unconventional upbringing in foster care instilled a deeper desire in me to be a mum and give my children the life I didn’t have.
Every time we lost a baby I was heartbroken. I read books about life without children and tried to convince myself I would fill the void with nice cars and fancy holidays. But I felt empty.
Our last hope was ARGC in London’s Harley Street, one of the best fertility clinics in the world. In 2014, we froze seven embryos… then I had a brain haemorrhage. I collapsed while on shift as an addiction services nurse for the NHS, and it should have killed me. For seven years, my baby dreams were parked while I recovered.
Finally, on 18 June 2021, our lives changed forever. Two weeks previously, two embryos were implanted in my uterus – I had a mother’s intuition.
At 4am, with a shaking hand, I took a pregnancy test. I’d done a lot of them in my life, but I’d never seen those two pink lines look so strong. I knew I was having twins.
Steve and I squeezed each other tightly, but we couldn’t get carried away. I had become pregnant seven times before and lost my babies too soon.
I had a perfect pregnancy (my only complaint was heartburn) until I hit 20 weeks. I was a bit wet down below and thought I’d weed myself. But in fact, my waters were slowly leaking and my babies were in danger.
At 22 weeks, after two weeks of praying they’d hold on, I had an examination at the medical centre and went into labour.
In the UK, a baby isn’t considered viable until 24 weeks’ gestation. A nurse told me, “You’re having a miscarriage. You won’t need painkillers. Let’s get this over with.”
At 6.30pm on 26 October 2021, our daughter Harley was born, weighing 500g. I knew if she didn’t cry, the nurses wouldn’t intervene to help her. I said worriedly, “I can’t hear her cry,” and a nurse replied dismissively, “Don’t be silly, she won’t.”
Then, right on cue, my little girl let out the sweetest sound, like a tiny kitten. The whole room fell silent. They then scooped her straight into what looked like a tiny sandwich bag to keep her warm.
An hour later, Harry appeared, still cocooned in his membrane. The nurse cooed with twinkling eyes, “This is so magical.”
Fighting for life
I wasn’t allowed to hold my newborns but I was too scared to touch them anyway. They were perfectly formed in miniature with bright red skin – I could see their organs moving inside. What if I hurt them? I couldn’t bear it.
I watched my fragile babies fight for life in little glass boxes and wondered, “If they die, who’ll clear the nursery?”
We got through each day minute by minute as Harley and Harry suffered brain bleeds and infections. At two weeks old, Harley became so ill she had to have stoma surgery – the surgeon had never worked on a baby so small. Meanwhile Harry’s skin turned from bright red to pasty grey.
“This is it,” a nurse said softly. “Call your family and say your goodbyes.”
Those goodbyes were traumatising and yet my babies continued to defy the odds. Four weeks after their birth I finally held them, and it was the strongest love I’d ever felt.
They were connected to so many tubes – I often refused cuddles to keep them safe. ”Just let them fight through another day,” I’d pray.
Harley and Harry had my breast milk injected into their tummies eight times a day. I’d lift their tiny bodies as a nurse changed their sheets – that was our bonding time.
We even had special milestone cards to mark their firsts like “today I doubled my birth weight”.
Overwhelmed with joy
Steve and I stayed at the hospital in the adjacent room. We were shattered but on Christmas Day 2021, we heard the news we’d dreamt of. Harley had pulled out her ventilator and was breathing on her own. Harry, who was already thriving, came home first. His sister followed a week later.
After 140 days, weighing 7lb each, our beautiful twins were lying on our sofa, in our own home, smiling. I felt overwhelmed watching our babies share a cot together and hearing their little coos.
At first I was too scared to have visitors, terrified my babies would die. I made my dad wear a mask on his first visit – the risk of Harley and Harry catching a cold or worse, Covid, was so high. But I don’t have to worry any more. Even the doctors can’t believe how healthy the twins are. They really don’t look like premature babies at all.
They’re now eight months old and hitting every milestone for four-month-olds – the age they should be. They’re both off oxygen and have been discharged from almost every clinic – it’s a miracle.
In the UK, it’s legal to abort a pregnancy until 23 weeks and six days. My twins were born at 22 weeks – nobody can tell me they’re medical waste.
I’ll always worry about my babies, but I’m not scared they’ll die any more. I want to launch a charity in their names and be an advocate for 22 weekers – it’s my life’s purpose.
Doctors said my twins had 0% chance of survival. Now I can’t imagine my world without them. They had a desire to survive and I’ll make sure they live their lives to the fullest.”
Follow the twins’ journey on Instagram @twins22weeks