Barbara Short suffered an unimaginable ordeal last year when twins Ava and Alfie lived only a few hours after being born extremely prematurely at 23 weeks.
The twins were fatally underdeveloped, weighing only 450g and 480g respectively and, according to Barbara, able to fit into the palm of a hand. Despite the best efforts of doctors at the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesborough, neither twin lived through the day.
Barbara was understandably devastated at the loss. "I felt like I was looking in on someone else and it wasn't me," the 32-year-old told the Hartlepool Mail. "I'd had two babies, but I was going home with none.
When she underwent her first ultrasound scan, Barbara couldn't believe her ears when staff told her they had detected two heartbeats - she was expecting twins again.
This time there were no complications. At 36 weeks fraternal twins Frankie and Lilly were delivered by caesarean section, weighing 5 lb and 4 lb 13 oz.
Frankie was unconscious at birth, but after six minutes doctors got him breathing, and after a week in a special unit he joined sister Lilly at home.
Barbara describes the birth of Frankie and Lilly as a bittersweet experience so soon after the death of their brother and sister.
"It's hard to explain but when they were born I was over the moon, but at the same time I was still grieving for Ava and Alfie.
"I'll still always feel an emptiness for the two I lost, especially when I go to the cemetery. They can never be replaced."
Frankie and Lilly are now eight months old and described by Barbara as a handful, with very distinct personalities - Frankie, she says, is stern and serious while Lilly is all smiles.
"Everyone, even the doctors, were shocked at me having two sets of twins in less than a year," Barbara recalls. "It was definitely meant to be that I was given Frankie and Lilly."
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