She’s a new mother who has just welcomed twin daughters and former Fair City actress Jenny Dixon is full of the joys of newborn life.
‘It’s a little like a conveyor belt and you just keep going,’ she laughs, when I ask how her cherubs Capri and Bella are settling in.
Welcoming a new baby home is always an incredibly special time, but for Jenny and her husband, former Limerick TD Tom Neville, this memorable event was doubly so – and a long time coming. Their little girls were born on February 20, seven weeks before their due date, and spent six weeks in neonatal care in the Rotunda before the new parents were allowed to bring them home a week ago.
‘They’re sleeping well and eating well thankfully. You’re so nervous at the start, you’re like poking them, you know,’ she says of the natural worry that comes with bringing a new baby home.
She already has ways to tell her identical girls apart, with their slightly different complexions, cheeks and facial expressions.
‘Bella is a little character already,’ she says, explaining how her tiny daughter was named after the lady who raised her grandmother, while a distant aunt had a similar name.
‘My grandmother’s sister was also called Belle, and I remember as a kid just thinking that’s a gorgeous name. Capri was the island where myself and Tom got engaged,’ she explains of her other little baby’s namesake.
Happily, her husband is only too glad to share the load when it comes to looking after them.
‘Tom is amazing with them, we both feed them together – they do synchronised burping, this is our normal,’ laughs the besotted new mum. ‘We have so much joy and happiness and appreciation… you know. You’re in the shower in the morning thinking, gosh, they’re here, and you just have to go and look at them.
‘They hold hands and if they are crying, they stop as soon as they touch each other,’ Jenny reveals of the magical bond her little girls have. Then again, their closeness is no surprise, given the type of twin pregnancy Jenny had.
Her daughters are monoamniotic twins, which means they shared the same amniotic sac through pregnancy, and also the same placenta. Jenny’s pregnancy was rare and, as such, high risk – it’s thought that 0.1% of all twin pregnancies are monoamniotic. As a result, she had to be monitored very closely.
‘At the seven-week scan, they told us there were two babies in there and that just floored us,’ she says, smiling at the memory. ‘Then they said that they thought they were in the one sac, and a couple of weeks later, we had that confirmed.
‘The way I looked at it, they were roommates instead of flatmates,’ she says, when asked how she handled the stress of a high-risk pregnancy, which meant she had to be scanned daily as her twins grew. ‘Initially [the Rotunda] were going to keep me in for the last three months, but I was able to go in for daily scans and go home afterwards, although some nights I was kept in overnight for observation.’
Despite having a high-risk pregnancy, Jenny says she was not worried about her babies, as she felt safe under the care of Dr Jennifer Donnelly and her team at the Rotunda. She adds that she became ‘hugely appreciative of technology and medicine and attention’ at the hospital.
‘Any day they thought there was any distress signs they kept me in overnight. I think I was just so grateful that I was blessed with two healthy twin girls that that’s what I was concentrating on all the way through – my eye was on the prize,’ she says of her relaxed attitude in her situation.
She laughs that she ‘made friends’ with all the midwives as the weeks passed and she spent so much time in the hospital.
‘The team just didn’t allow for any risk and I just put getting a scan as part of my daily routine – like going to the gym or for a walk,’ she shrugs. ‘The first time I was scanned it took four hours and that was more difficult, but from then it became much quicker to track them so it was about an hour or so daily.’
It’s hard to imagine having to spend so much time under observation, and what makes Jenny’s attitude even more admirable is that she navigated a lot of it on her own, as former Limerick TD Tom now works for TikTok and had to spend time working in London. On top of this, Jenny also suffered from severe sickness through her pregnancy and was prescribed Cariban for her symptoms.
‘I ended up in A&E on Christmas Eve because I had… um… I had skipped the Cariban by accident,’ she recalls sheepishly. ‘I thought it was OK because I was way past the first trimester but I vomited continually for 12 hours. I couldn’t keep anything down.
‘The midwives would say to me, “god, you haven’t had it easy”, but I never looked at it that way because I was just in that moment, I just had this overwhelming gratitude for being pregnant with these beautiful little girls,’ she says.
Her stoicness is also perhaps down to her background in science Jenny has a degree in biology and has taught reproduction to students in the past. She says that since becoming pregnant with her twins, her passion in science has been reawakened although she is still drawn to TV work, so watch this space.
‘I came out of this thinking, women’s bodies are amazing,’ says Jenny. ‘We can grow these humans and your body just adapts – I just have so much respect for the human body.’
Jenny and Tom knew that their daughters would have to be delivered a bit earlier, and she says she was prepared ‘in as much as you can be’ for them to spend time in the neonatal unit. ‘They were seven weeks early, born on February 20, and a good size, 4lb 1oz each, which is good for twins,’ Jenny says of her little babies.
‘The birth was beautiful, one of the most beautiful days of my life. There was no pain, just joy,’ she says. ‘Everyone has a different birth story but I loved mine a lot.
‘Leaving them the first week was hard,’ she says, of having to go home without her babies following a few days recovery from her C-section. ‘But we were lucky, being Dublin-based, we could see them as much as we could; there were lots of parents with babies in there who lived further away and couldn’t do that.’
Looking at Jenny’s Instagram, it’s clear that herself and Tom – who met at an Irish film festival in Australia in 2016 and married at the end of 2019 – celebrated their daughters even before they met them, hosting a gorgeous gender reveal party for family and friends featuring plenty of pink. Another important detail of that day was some ribbon that Jenny wore in her hair.
‘Tom had this dream years ago – before he even met me – and he told me about it when we started dating,’ she recalls. ‘He dreamt that he saw his twin girls in a garden, with ribbon in their hair, so the gender reveal details were a nod to that.
‘When he found out we were having twin girls he just put his head in his hands and was like, “there is a God”. He is so, so in love with them,’ says Jenny.
‘It’s just been a fairytale as, you know, we just didn’t know which way it would go.’
While Jenny is happily celebrating her new motherhood, it has been a journey for the couple, and this is not something she takes for granted. ‘We have had a journey, there’s been ups and downs,’ she says candidly.
‘We did avail of assisted fertility and we have had losses. Thankfully there’s now an awareness there that people going through a fertility journey know they are not alone, in fact, they are not even in a tiny minority.
‘It’s very prevalent, it affects so many and for a long time it’s just not been spoken about. But now fertility journeys are being normalised and we are talking about them and supporting each other.’
Jenny says she has been in contact with expectant mothers from all over the world, some who are experiencing the same type of twin pregnancy and others just connecting and offering support. It’s a welcome sign of the times, she says. ‘That support network is really important,’ she says. ‘Pregnancy and birth is beautiful, but just to know that there’s myriad things to factor in, and everyone is different. There’s not a recipe that suits everyone.
‘That’s the beauty of life and birth – you just have to do what you can and know that you’re not alone. I think it helps knowing that if you have a difficult pregnancy, there’s millions of others perhaps going through and have been through tough times ‘But we can learn from each other. I’d like to think I’d know what to do now for other mothers, the practical stuff, you know realising that it’s hard to find time to cook. My fancy chickpea recipes are going by the wayside. It’s toast all the way,’ she laughs.
‘I think my message to mums undergoing a tough pregnancy would be try not to worry, keep the faith, know you are in good hands with our healthcare services and there’s a bit of what’s meant to be will be.
‘We can be healthy and positive but a lot of that power is not in our hands, I suppose, it’s in those esoteric genetic codes that make us up.
‘You can keep that good energy flowing and the positivity and light the candles and manifest great things, but if it doesn’t go ahead, it wasn’t meant to be. And if it does, it was. That’s what got me through, keeping the faith, taking it day by day.
‘Each day our little ones were getting stronger and now they are home with us.’