20 December 2023

Frank Fallon and his fiancée Frankie welcomed their twins in July 2022. Frank reflects on their rollercoaster journey and how the twins arrived the day before the couple were due to get married.

Everybody is on a journey and for some, their mental health and experiences can add detours and bumps in the road. With a good support network and awareness of help and opportunities, some of those barriers are more easily navigated.

In January 2022, my partner and I discovered that we were going to be having a baby. Our path to that point had been difficult and the route we took was demanding on our well-being as we undertook a round of IVF. That stressful route definitely made the news even more positive. As the babies were IVF, we were having early scans at our clinic. On the third scan we were taken aback when the doctor said "there is one baby with a healthy heartbeat and hold on... here's another one. Congratulations, there's two!". We found out it was twins. We had only transferred one embryo during the IVF cycle.

There was only 3% chance of the embryo splitting and becoming identical twins, so a very big surprise. Quite the miracle.

Going through a round of IVF is more demanding, physically and mentally, on the female but we were both going through it together and it's a very stressful time. Trying to balance one or two appointments a week at a clinic before or during work as well as the mental challenge and balancing everything within the day is so hard. My employer, Twining Enterprise, was so supportive during this time. They offered whatever I needed and stood by me while things were getting busier. It's a mental health organisation and I felt we practised what we preached.

A father sits holding twin babies

The miracle and small percentages continued when we found out we were having Monochorionic Diamniotic twins (MCDA). These result from one fertilised egg splitting in two early in development, meaning the twins are identical. The twins were in two separate sacs but the placentas joined to each other. They needed more monitoring as they were effectively sharing a placenta. I was able to attend most appointments and make up work hours when needed. From week 24 we were being regularly monitored. We were then told that twin A wasn't getting enough from the placenta and there was resistance in the cord. For a while, this seemed to go away but on week 29, we went for what would be our final appointment and Frankie was admitted to hospital for a c-section within 24 hours. This was due to all three blood flows (to the brain, heart and bladder) either showing resistance or low levels of fluid going to twin A.

This also happened to be when we were due to get married! On 30 July we had 100 guests booked to celebrate our special day with us, however instead we had two beautiful identical boys, Theo and Ezra, born on 29 July at 11.45pm. Guests obviously understood and we had lots of kind messages. It was such a whirlwind time and scary with what trauma lay ahead. We felt in good hands and the doctors and nurses continued to reassure us. Both babies needed special respiratory and feeding care in the neonatal unit. They had a long journey ahead. I work for a mental health charity. Working for an organisation that supports you through whatever you're going through is so important. I know what levels of support are needed to make people feel safe enough and comfortable enough to open up, to step out of their comfort zone and push themselves to achieve their goal. Increase their confidence and put themselves in situations which may affect their mental health even further. I now was on the other side. I was the person needing help and support and my partner and I felt worried, felt vulnerable and didn't know what the next days or weeks had ahead. The doctors and nurses' main job was to look after our babies but they also did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and happy. Neonatal wards are scary, noisy places but that was now going to become our safe space. 

Going through a round of IVF is more demanding, physically and mentally, on the female but we were both going through it together.

Little did we know we were going to spend a week at Queen Charlotte's Hospital and then six weeks at Hillingdon. We didn't know the ups and downs we would face. It's completely different for every baby's journey. We didn't know what milestones they needed to reach - coming off oxygen, getting to over 5lbs, being able to regulate their own heat. We didn't know what we could do as parents to support them - lots of skin to skin/cuddles, story time, singing and giving them lots of love. It was such a testing time, the amount I couldn't control far outweighed what I could and I was so grateful to being aware of how to look after myself during challenging times. The seven weeks were tough but certainly worth it. Taking the twins in their car seats and driving them home and settling them in our flat was the most special moment. It came with a new set of worries about the nights and days ahead... and then what the next 18 years look like.

A mother and father at a birthday celebration each holding a twin baby

I still feel there's a long way to go for people to look at both parents when going through pregnancy. The mother will always have the physical bearing of the child and everything that comes with it, whether sickness, aches and pains. I'm blown away by how much physical stress the body goes under and how much can be managed by mothers. I'm also aware of all the support that's needed and how much the partner will worry. Throughout our journey, most people would ask how mum was doing, but more and more people would check in with me. I've raised awareness and I always try to be a hands on, supportive dad. I listened to podcasts focused on the mother, which gave me a huge insight to the journey Frankie would be on and where and how I could support her with that. Frankie and I did the Twins Trust online antenatal course, which was virtual, with several other parents expecting twins. This helped so much thanks to the content and resources shared. Now more than a year on after the course, we are still in touch with the other parents as a support network for us all.