Sarge gave me permission to take one of our squad cars, & I used the sirens to get through the traffic until I approached the hospital carpark. I find a park, & quickly get out. I jog inside.
I come out of Paige's room to get more shaved ice for her, & cross to the nurse’s station.
“Erin!” Mark says, & I look up to see him hurrying over.
“Heyyy!” I reply, before giving him a hug.
“How's she going?”
“Hanging in there,” I reply. “She's freaking out, but I think that's more over the fact that she's barely 32 weeks than anything else.”
He nods. “Thank you for being there.”
“No worries. I said I would be on call if she ever needed me,” I reply. “Anyway, let's get you in there.”
He nods. “Wait, weren't you doing something?”
“Just getting ice, it can wait,” I reply, guiding him towards her room.
He opens the door just in time to hear her screaming.
“Hey,” Mark says, stepping past Jay as I shut the door.
“Mark!” Paige exclaims, reaching out to grab his hand.
He presses a kiss to her forehead as she grips his hand.
“I’m scared,” she says. “They're not meant to be coming yet.”
“I know, babe,” he replies.
“I was scared too, Paige,” I say. “But you have Mark. I had no one. In fact, Felicity was almost a premature. I got put on bedrest in hospital for a fortnight cause they gave me drugs to slow down the labour to give her a chance to develop more.”
“Why… Why can't they do that now?” She asks, looking between me & Mark.
Mark looks at me.
“Doctor Brooke says she is too far into the labour for the drugs to do anything,” I reply. “She says the best course is to let it go, & have them in NICU.”
“No, no, no, NO!”
“Hey,” Mark soothingly says, running his hand through her hair. “You’ve done what you can for them, Paige. You have to let them come out.”
She shakes her head. I walk around to her other side & sit down on the edge of her bed. I take her hand.
“It's scary, but you need to relax & just let it happen,” I say. “You getting stressed is going to make you tired, which not only will make it harder for you to give birth, but it's going to cause your little ones distress. It's more of a risk you being stressed than it is for them to be premature. So just breathe & relax.”
She looks terrified, but slowly nods.
“Okay, so just do the breathing that you’ve learnt,” I say, giving her a reassuring smile. “Why don't Mark & I do it with you?”
She nods. Paige & I start doing it, & Mark joins in, carefully watching us to pick up on what to do.
After a while, Dr Brooke comes in.
“Oh, good! Nice to see you made it, Mark,” She says. “I just came to check how things are going?”
“I’m going to wait outside,” Jay says.
I nod. “Me too.”
“Stay!” Paige pleads, squeezing my hand. “I need you here. You know more than I do.”
I smile. “Okay.”
I look at Jay. He smiles at me before exiting the room. Dr Brooke checks Paige.
“You're almost fully dilated,” Dr Brooke says. “Which means soon you’ll need to push.”
Paige looks scared again. Mark kisses her temple.
“You can do this, Paige,” he says.
“I’m not ready,” She replies, on the verge of crying.
“You are,” he replies. “I’m here with you.”
“Hey,” I say, smiling at Jay as I step away from Paige's room.
“Hey,” he replies, standing up & giving me a hug. “How's it going?”
“They're just waiting for her to be at the stage to push,” I reply. “It could be minutes away or an hour…”
“Well, the troops are here,” he says.
I turn around, seeing Lauren, Brad, Aaron, Tyler & Piper with Felicity in her arms coming over.
“What's going on?” Lauren asks.
“I was just filling Jay in,” I reply. “She's almost at the stage of pushing. She's also terrified because it's too soon for her to give birth.”
Lauren wrings her hands. “I don't know whether I should go in.”
“Actually, I think you should,” I reply. “She could do with seeing you. It might calm her down a bit. I’m concerned her stressing out will affect the birth.”
She nods. “I will go in.”
I nod & point towards Paige's room. She disappears inside. Felicity is reaching for me, so I take her.
“Tyler & Piper were telling us how good you’ve been with Paige since this started,” Brad says. “Thank you.”
I smile. “Happy to help her out, especially since I have the experience.”
“Well, I’m still thankful.”
“So what's going to happen?” Tyler asks.
“Since their babies are underdeveloped, they’ll be staying in the NICU,” I reply. “That's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They’ll be there for about a month & a half, maybe more.”
“That's where Matilda was,” Piper says.
I nod. “But these two will probably be in the NICU for a longer time than Matilda,” I reply. “They're younger, so will need a longer stay.”
“How do you remember all of this stuff?” Tyler asks.
“Felicity was almost one,” I reply. “Thankfully the doctors were able to hold it off until she was full term, but I spent two weeks in hospital & had a lot time to research about premature babies. I wanted to have an understanding of it as best I could.”
“And you went through that all on your own?” Aaron asks.
“Can we not discuss it right now?” I reply.
The door to Paige's room opens, & they wheel her bed out. Mark’s still holding her hand, one hand on the top of her bed. Lauren follows them out, but comes over to us.
“Doctor Brooke says Paige is stressed & there's a chance her babies are about to go into distress,” Lauren says. “So she's moving Paige to a birthing suite that's closer to the NICU, just to be on the safe side.”
“Okay, Paige, get ready for one more push,” Dr Brooke says. “And… Push.”
Paige pushes, screaming from the effort & grips my hand.
“Okay, relax now Paige,” Dr Brooke says. “The first one is out.”
“Why… Why aren't they crying?” Paige asks, resting her head back despite looking very worried.
“He's not able to yet,” Dr Brooke replies, handing our baby son to a nurse.
I watch the nurse take him to one of the special cribs waiting across the room, where she & another nurse work on keeping him alive.
“Is he okay?” Paige asks, her panic clear in her voice.
“I don't know,” I reply, turning back to her.
“He's in good hands,” Dr Brooke replies. “Now focus on your other one, Paige. You’ll need to push again soon.”
“I can't,” Paige says, closing her eyes.
“Paige,” I say softly. “Look at me.”
She turns her head to me, eyes barely opening as she breathes heavily.
“I know you're tired, but you need to keep going,” I tell her. “You need to find the strength to help our other little one into the world.”
“I can't,” She says.
“You can,” I reply.
I hold her face in both my hands. She's so tired & drenched in sweat. And my heart aches to see her like this.
“Just a little bit more, okay, Paige?” I ask. “Just hold on a little bit longer. You can do it.”
She takes deep breaths, still breathing heavily & eyes drooping shut.
“Come on, babe,” I say, rubbing my thumbs over her cheeks. “You can do it.”
“I can't,” She whispers.
“You can, Paige,” I reply. “Where's that strong-willed, fighter that I love?” I grab the damp towel they gave us & place it on her forehead. “Just a few more pushes, & then you can rest.”
She leans into my hand & I can sense that she's summoning the strength to keep going.
“Okay,” she whispers, lifting her head up.
I smile. “That's my girl,” I say, leaning in to kiss her temple.
“You should be feeling another strong contraction in a minute,” Dr Brooke says. “I want you to push when you feel it, okay Paige?”
She nods & I see her struggling to keep going. I hold her right hand with my right hand, slipping my left arm around her shoulders to give her head some extra support. She cries out as she pushes, gripping my hand tightly as her left hand grips the sheets.
“Good, Paige!” Dr Brooke says as Paige relaxes. “Okay, baby number two is crowning. Just one more push should do it!”
“Hear that, Paige?” I ask. “You're almost there!”
“I don't know if I can do it,” She replies, leaning her head back on my arm. “I feel weird.”
“Talk to me,” I reply. “How?”
“Sick…” She mutters. “Dizzy…”
I look at Dr Brooke for help.
“That's normal for a woman in your position, Paige,” Dr Brooke replies. “You just need to give me just one more push, then you’ll be done & you can recover.”
Paige screams out much louder this time. I watch as she forces every inch of her strength into the push.
“Relax now, Paige! Baby number two is out!” Dr Brooke says. “We have a girl!”
I look over as Dr Brooke hands our daughter to the nurse & cuts her umbilical cord. The nurse hurries her over to a special crib next to her brother's.
I smile as I turn back to Paige. She panting, head drooped forward.
“Paige?” I ask, worried. I put my right hand under her chin & lift it up. “Paige?”
“I…” She whispers. She swallows hard. “I can't… I can't breathe.”
“Relax, Paige, okay?”
But her eyes roll… Flickering at the top of her eye sockets.
The monitor hooked up to her beeps out of control- flatline.
Dr Brooke & a Nurse rush over. The Nurse guides me back & Paige slips from my arms. Another Nurse rushes in as they lower her bed so she’s flat & Dr Brooke starts compressions.
I look towards our babies- two small, fragile shapes fighting for their lives- & then turn back to Paige. I cover my mouth with my right hand.
This is meant to be the most joyful day of our lives.
Instead, I’m watching three members of my family fight for their lives.