Just four months ago, Jonnie and Jacqueline Hoy were left devastated when their much-wanted pregnancy of twin boys ended in stillbirth.
Jacqueline (Jac), an early childhood educator, was 37 weeks pregnant. She and Jonnie, a GP, live in Port MacQuarie, NSW, and have since become ambassadors for the Australian Stillbirth Foundation to honour the memory of their boys, Henry and William.
They’ve shared their story with Georgina Dent.
I'm a GP, and I was working at my rooms in Port Macquarie when the call came.
Earlier that day, Jac, who was 37 weeks pregnant, had texted to say she hadn’t felt the babies move for a while and that she was thinking about going into hospital to get checked.
So when I saw that Jac's mum, Cheryl, was calling me, I answered immediately.
Cheryl was hysterical and, at first, I couldn’t make much sense of her. I finally interrupted her to say: "What’s wrong?”
“They can’t find a heartbeat," she said.
I told her I was coming, and I got my bag and walked straight out.
It’s a seven-minute drive from my office to the hospital and I was in shock all the way. All I could think was: “There’s nothing I can do. I just need to get there”.
I knew something very bad was unfolding…. and as I arrived my fears were confirmed when I saw that Jac had already been walked down to the ultrasound department with the midwives.
They got her up on the bed and placed a doppler probe on her stomach.
I could see that one heart was not moving at all - and that was Henry. They then moved the probe to look for William. I could see a weak feeble, heartbeat. But it was very slow. I knew it wasn’t a good sign.
The registrar didn’t sugarcoat it. He said that William's only chance of survival was an emergency C-section.
Things then moved crazily fast.
In less than a minute we were in theatre. As Jac was wheeled there a midwife undressed her, and another nurse met us with gowns.
There was an anaesthetist waiting in theatre, and people were coming from everywhere.
Someone stayed with me to get me changed into theatre attire. Then I was taken to the theatre waiting room.
Monday the 13th of February started like any other day. I was 37 weeks pregnant with identical twin boys and was due to induced in two days. I dropped Lachie, our eight-year-old son to school, and our two-year-old, Edward, stayed home with an au pair who had just moved in.
Later that morning I realised I couldn’t feel the boys moving. I ate some ice and lay down on the sofa because that usually made them both move around.
But this time it didn’t. So I sent Jonnie a text saying I couldn’t feel them any movement. I asked him if it would be too paranoid if I went into hospital to get things checked.
He said what he always said: “You’re not being paranoid. Go into the hospital for peace of mind.”
I’d had a pre-planned scan on the Saturday which showed the boys, who we’d already named William and Henry, were doing well. I was 100 per cent certain it would be fine but wanted to be sure.
I joked to Mum, who came with me, that the poor midwives at the hospital would be so sick of seeing me. At the hospital they took me straight into the birthing unit and I was on the bed being fitted for a cardiotocography which is how they monitor the fetal heart rate.
They put the monitor on to find Henry’s heartbeat first. Because he was lower his heartbeat was always the easiest to find.
The registrar came in with an ultrasound machine and couldn’t see either of their heartbeats.
As soon as that happened I knew what was going on. It was crushing. It was the worst experience. My whole body was shaking. I couldn’t lay still. The doctor was asking me to lie still but I couldn’t.
When they confirmed that Henry had died an overwhelming pain took over my body. I froze and went into a state of shock.
They took me down to the ultrasound unit, and by then mum had called Jonnie who met us there.
I remember lying on a bed as they rushed me to theatre for an emergency C-section. suddenly it seemed as though there were 30 people standing over me, telling me that I was okay, and to keep breathing.
I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare and I needed to wake up. But I couldn't escape.
Because it was an emergency c-section I wasn't allowed in theatre so I waited outside. After they had delivered both the boys the doctors came and got me. The paediatrician said that Henry had already passed away but that Will had a heart beat. However, it was very weak and he wasn’t breathing. He’d already been intubated and was in a resuscitation crib.
I can't remember how I held it together at this point but somehow I did. It almost felt like this wasn't happening to me.
He told me it wasn’t looking good but we’d wait and see.
After that, Cheryl and I went to the special care nursery with Will while Jac was still asleep.
Then they brought Henry up as well. He was wrapped up and we held him. He looked so perfect.
Half an hour later the paediatrician came over. He said there were no viable signs of life. They had called the John Hunter hospital in Newcastle and the medical consensus was that they had never seen anyone in Will's condition survive.
They asked me if I wanted to stop resuscitation. I couldn’t make the decision without Jac.
I went down to recovery and waited for Jac. She was in a lot of pain and came to slowly.
I was sobbing when she woke up, and she knew.
“As I came to, I could hear Jonnie crying. I didn't want to open my eyes. I didn't want this to be real. It couldn't be real.
I didn’t need to be told that William hadn’t made it. I just knew. I had lost my twin sons.
It was horrific. I was recovering from major surgery and my body didn't know what had happened. My milk was coming in, only I wasn't able to feed the two babies it was supposed to sustain.
We kept the boys in our room for the first 48 hours. When I held them it was as though they were just sleeping. It was just unbelievable. They were warm and looked so perfect and alive.
We dressed them and read stories to them, and Lach and Ed met them too.
We had them baptised in hospital, which was quite important to me. Their funeral was held in the same church where we got married, and where Ed was baptised. The morning of the funeral was the last time we saw them.
The weeks after their deaths were really hard. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed and where Jonnie would physically put me through the shower. He was amazing. He had a rule that we had to leave the house once a day. Even if only for half an hour. I still make that my rule.
After a month, a lot of our friends and family had left and that was when reality started to sink in. All of a sudden we were alone.
It’s been four and a half months now and I still visit the cemetery where they are buried every day.
I can’t fathom that this happened. Being their mother I still blame myself. I think somehow I should have been able to save them.
Everyone, including all the hospital staff, were so shocked. The boys were healthy. Throughout my pregnancy they were growing on track and everything was so fine. William was six pounds and Henry was five pounds.
We know now that Henry was diagnosed as an "unexplained stillbirth" and William died because of the shared placenta.
Until we lost the twins I had no idea how common stillbirth is.
When Jac showed me the statistics on stillbirth I was blown away. Even as a doctor I had no idea how common it was.
If you’d asked me a year ago I would have guessed that stillbirth was as common as SIDS.
It’s actually 35 times more likely to happen than SIDS.
A few months ago I saw that a guy I used to play rugby with was an Ambassador for the Stillbirth Foundation Australia.
We became ambassadors because we want to raise awareness and champion greater investment in stillbirth research and education. It’s a way we can honour William and Henry.
To us it didn’t matter if Henry and William were 1 day old or 15 years of age, they were our boys.
I am exercising more and seeing a psychologist who is a miracle worker. She has taught me skills to cope with the anxiety of it all. I had a lot of nightmares in the beginning and she helped me deal with that.
I talk about the twins the same way I talk about Lachie and Edward. When I go to visit the boys’ graves I pick up a chai latte before I get there.
Now when I’m at the café the lady who serves me always asks. “Are you off to see the twins?”
I don’t mind if people think I’m crazy. They’re our boys.
Jacqueline and Jonnie Hoy are running in this year's City2Surf as the Hoy Angels team, raising money for the Stillbirth Foundation Australia.
They hope to raise awareness and funds in honour of their sons William and Henry which will hopefully make an impact and change the future for another family.