After a Russian Roulette pregnancy, Elaine and Dean Wilson's girls emerged with an unbreakable bond and, as Jodi Bryant discovers, is stronger than ever nearly five years on.
When in trouble, most siblings would be quick to point the finger at each other but not Abigael and Maria. These two are tight and have each other's backs.
Abigael and Maria's close bond began in the womb they shared over five years ago. But it wasn't plain sailing for these twins - theirs was a tumultuous journey of survival from day one after their parents, Elaine and Dean Wilson, were told that either one or both twins was unlikely to survive in utero.
The Whangarei parents to Lucy-Joy, then one, were told at their six-week scan that Elaine was carrying identical twins.
"We both just started giggling," Elaine recalls.
However, the tone soon changed when the sonographer told them to keep the news to themselves as it was a monochorionic-diamniotic (MCDA) twin pregnancy, meaning a shared placenta, putting the babies at high-risk of cord-entanglement.
"That was the beginning of a pregnancy journey with a lot of heartache," says Elaine.
The couple was thrilled when the 12-week-scan showed the babies had their own sac, lowering the risk of cord-entanglement. But that happiness lasted only a month when they were told the pregnancy needed to be closely monitored for Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). An IGUR (a condition causing delayed growth) was confirmed from an abnormality in the placenta preventing enough nutrition and blood flow to Twin A. A cord occlusion was advised as continuing the pregnancy might result in the loss of both babies or, if the smaller baby was still-born, then it could cause a rush of blood to the surviving twin with a 25 per cent risk of brain damage which wouldn't be determined until 30 weeks.
"This pretty much flattened us to say the least."
Umbilical cord occlusion is when an instrument is used to stop the flow of blood to the smaller twin's cord, resulting in termination and thereby significantly increasing the remaining baby's chance of survival. However, due to the placenta's size and position, there was no access to perform this procedure - a blessing in disguise for the fraught parents.
Elaine came to dread the weekly routine Whangarei and Auckland appointments.
"The sonographer would move the instrument around and my heart would just drop because I knew if they were looking for access then we were still in that zone. But after week 24 it was too far into the pregnancy to terminate."
They then went into 'survival mode', concentrating on saving Baby A.
At 35 weeks, their daughters were born via caesarean on October 24, 2012. Twin A - Abigael weighed 2050g (4.8Ib) and Maria 2815g (6.3Ib).
Abigael spent the first month in Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).
"Maria seemed to miss her twin sister and we could sense this peace with Maria when I put them both on my chest."
Abigael developed complications, resulting in emergency surgery at Starship. This set her back further growth-wise. But Elaine described her as a 'little trooper'.
"I believe that the mind strength is created in the womb and Abigael has this real sense of survival, happiness and appreciation."
Both girls have no health issues as a result of their start to life. Abigael is still smaller than Maria but has caught up developmentally.
While Maria lives up to the role of big sister - a combination of the extra size and her motherly nature - Abigeal regards herself as the little sister, allowing Maria to mother her. However, Elaine is noticing Abigael becoming more resistant of late.
"She sticks up for herself and, although she is around 80 per cent the size of Maria, she is able to more than hold her own during the daily wrestling play the girls have developed."
The girls attend kindy together twice a week and a further day each separately, which allows their independence, as well as one-on-one time with mum at home.
But despite their evolving individual personalities and, at times, competitiveness, Elaine recons their close bond will never wane and the girls are fiercely protective of each other.
"If they feel there has been an injustice to the other, they will voice it loud and clear. They always cuddle when watching a movie and share everything. They tuck each other into bed and kiss each other good night. Whoever wakes first in the morning will wake the other to get up and be a play mate."