reality tv

'My heart shattered.' MAFS star Melissa Rawson shares her twins' premature birth story.

Melissa Rawson attained instant fame when she got married on TV for reality experiment, Married at First Sight.

She was matched with groom Bryce Ruthven, who would go on to become her IRL husband – and the pair welcomed twin boys, Levi and Tate, on October 16, 2021.

The twins were born prematurely, 10 weeks before their due date, and spent seven weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Now, two years on, Melissa has detailed what the entire experience was like.

Watch: Melissa and Bryce get some difficult feedback from their families on MAFS. Post continues below.

Video via Nine.

This is Melissa's birth story, in her own words.

Premature labour.

I was 29 weeks (+1 day) pregnant and I'd been experiencing crippling back and groin pain for a month.

On Saturday, October 16, at 7am, I woke to go to the bathroom. Before I stepped out of bed, I wet myself slightly.

I brushed it off, thinking the twins were lying close to my bladder as I had ballooned recently.

After going to the bathroom and walking back to our bedroom to change my underwear, it happened again – just a trickle.


On the fourth occasion of changing underwear, I said, "How am I going to do anything if I can't move without peeing myself?" I sobbed to Bryce.

I hadn't considered I was in labour. I thought I had simply lost control of my body and would be wearing adult nappies before buying nappies for the babies.

I went to the toilet again around 8:30am and noticed a distinct scent and colour.

While sitting there, I found this article on the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website: "Oh my goodness, babe, I think I might be in labour…"

"Should we go to the hospital?"

"Nah not yet, let’s get a smoothie and we’ll pop into Mum's, I'll ask her."

Typical millennial.

Melissa Rawson before heading to the hospital. Image: Supplied. 


Doctors warned twins were a high-risk pregnancy and I could go into labour early.

After the smoothie and on the drive to Mum's place, I started cramping. Like period pain, it was uncomfortable but not unbearable. At Mum's, I went to the toilet again and I had started to bleed. 

By 11am, Bryce had me in the Frankston Hospital maternity ward examination room. A doctor performed an internal. They explained I was in active labour, a centimetre dilated and would be having the babies that day.

They noted that only one of my waters had broken, though. 

Levi, Twin A, was ready to enter the world.  Tate, Twin B, was still enjoying his cushy waterbed and had not been forced by his twin brother to break his water yet.

In the examination room, I started having full-on contractions. 

I always thought, in movies, where someone was preparing to give birth, the contractions you saw were exaggerated. Turns out, they’re not. They’re very painful.


For the next hour, the pain skyrocketed. 

I was crying out in agony like a banshee. I felt like I was going in and out of consciousness, I was sick (goodbye smoothie) and my stomach felt like it was being ripped open from the inside out – clearly, I’ve also watched too many horror and alien movies.

The nurses were quick to act and provided me with my very own relaxation pipe as I called it, or more simply, the 'gas'. What a pleasure that was! I felt little pain and almost delirious, in a very good way. (I wish the gas was around now while I’m dealing with twin toddlers!)

By 12:30pm, I had a follow-up internal and had dilated another two centimetres, so into the maternity suite I was taken.

As I was wheeled down the maternity ward, I felt high as a kite. I 'queen-waved' to staff as I was pushed down the corridor, cracking jokes and asking when I would get my celebration cake. I was in good spirits thanks to my relaxation pipe.

The next few hours, I mentally prepared myself while Bryce took care of my every request and also called our immediate family to inform them of what was happening.

My mum and sister headed straight down to Baby Bunting, where they almost bought out the store of clothes and baby accessories.

Silly me, I didn't think to pack a hospital bag for myself or the twins before 30 weeks. 

Here's a tip: pack your hospital bag as soon as you can. You never know what could happen during your pregnancy.


Melissa Rawson in hospital. Image: Supplied. 

Once I started becoming immune to the effects of the gas, an anaesthesiologist administered an epidural. It took a little time to get the injection in the right spot and I was panicking at the expected pain. Thankfully, it hurt no more than any other injection I’ve had during my pregnancy – which I might add, feels like way too many needles for an expectant mum.


Around 5pm, I was nearly fully dilated, and the paediatric doctor sat down next to me to discuss having a [vaginal] birth. Due to the positioning, the health of the twins and my own recovery time, they recommended it was the best and safest option.

I started hyperventilating in between tears as they explained what I and the twins were about to go through.

I was in no danger, however as the twins were due to arrive so soon, the concern was for their lungs, which were underdeveloped and their struggle for breath moving forward would be paramount to address.

While I knew it was the best situation to have a [vaginal] birth, to be in a better physical position for the twins, and of course, the medical professional knew better than me – I was terrified. I'd thought I'd be having a caesarean.

The doctor took Bryce outside to discuss it with him, while also gently encouraging him to gently encourage me that this was the right decision. Bryce fought for me though, knowing that I wanted a caesarean.

"This is why I’m marrying the villain," I thought to myself. He had fought for me when I hadn't had the strength to since the first day we met.

It took convincing, but I agreed to attempt a [vaginal] birth. If there was any danger or stress on the babies, doctors had set up the surgical room next door to perform an emergency caesarean.

The birth.

The time came when approximately 15-20 doctors, nurses and medical students flooded my room in preparation for the twins' arrival. That's a lot of people that were able to have a good look at my vagina while I was in the stirrups! 


And trust me, I wasn't shy at all the moment I began pushing for the first time. I joked and apologised mid-pushes for not waxing before my arrival.

Initially, it took me several attempts to learn the rhythm of my body to successfully push Levi out into the world. He was born relatively easily at 7:22pm, weighing a mere 1.2 kilos.

I held Levi for a few beautiful seconds before he was whisked away to an awaiting team of medical staff and machines.

There was a slight reprieve between Levi and Tate being born. However, Tate, I'm sure, felt forced out, as his water had yet to break itself.

So the doctor did it for him using the amnihook.

Once they'd broken my waters for Tate, he began his descent… feet first. Geez, this kid made me work for him. Totally worth it though.

The doctor tried rotating Tate by pushing on and manoeuvring my stomach. Now that was uncomfortable. Not painful… But not fun either. Tate was set on coming out in his own way.

Tate finally arrived into the world at 7:54pm, weighing a tiny 1.1 kilos. The doctor started handing Tate over for a quick cuddle yet changed their mind. Before I got a chance to hold my baby, he was taken away to an incubator to be resuscitated.


I tried remaining calm, but the tears started to flow. Briefly, I thought the worst. After the longest minute of our entire lives, Tate cried.

From here, the medical team ferried the boys to another wing while I was cleaned up.

Levi and Tate in hospital: Image: Getty. 

Bryce was torn on who to go with.

"Go with them, make sure they're okay!"


He didn't need any further encouragement than that to follow them. Not before he kissed me passionately and said, over and over again, how proud of me he was.

You imagine what your significant other is going to be like in this important moment of your lives and Bryce had not stopped encouraging me from the moment I began pushing.

I could only hear his voice over the top of all the other noise.

His emotion, the tears for our sons, the love and elation for me at what I had physically done and how he felt about me in that moment, was the most love, sincerity, adoration and physical connection I had ever felt and will never forget that beautiful moment.

Painful or pain-free?

I can say, I barely felt pain while giving birth. I did feel tremendous pressure, a little 'warm' down there (ring of fire, am I right?!) and frustrated that it felt like it took forever to push those tiny babies out.

The contractions and the cannula in my hand (which administered magnesium sulphate) hurt the most.

My birth experience was otherwise pleasant, memorable and near pain-free. I had no tearing or complications. I was certainly one of the lucky few – a pleasant birth can happen.

Had I known what my exceptionally tiny and vulnerable premature babies were about to go through, I would have preferred to have been torn to shreds and have the most horrific birth.

The first time I saw my sons after their birth was just before midnight on October 16. They were whisked away while I was cleaned up and showered.


I felt pretty good considering I had just pushed two humans out of my vagina. 

Melissa Rawson in hospital. Image: Supplied. 

I dressed while a nurse tended to not one but four injection sites from my epidural, unbeknownst to me.

I then made the slow shuffle in to see my babies.


When I stepped into the prep room swirling with medical staff, my heart shattered. I saw my babies up close and in detail for the first time.

They were tiny, fragile and helpless; 1kg in weight.

Their skin was sticky, they had no hair, eyelashes, and were so skinny and small that they easily fit into the palm of Bryce's hand. 

They had also been sedated and intubated for transport.

At that moment, I knew how selfish it was of me to have been excited they were born early. They should have still been in my tummy for weeks; safe, growing and healthier.

I held each of their tiny hands, no bigger than the tip of my index finger, while the team prepared them for transport in the humidicribs via the PIPER ambulance.

And as they were wheeled out of view, I sobbed hysterically.

I didn't get the chance to have that physical bonding moment many parents get after having a baby. Levi and Tate's first night in the world should have been spent in my arms. Instead, they were inside a machine that took them away from me.

The twins were taken to a hospital an hour from home, where they stayed for the next six weeks, before eventually moving back to Frankston.

We made that trip nearly every single day to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Mercy Hospital for Women.

If you've never been inside a NICU ward, picture this: tiny babies in humidicribs/incubators everywhere – around 50 babies at any given time. The sounds of the cots beeping, alarms blaring when oxygen levels of tiny lungs plummet, babies crying when doctors perform a horrific-looking eye examination or take blood from a baby that weighs less than 1000g.


Parents sitting bedside, having kangaroo cuddles or holding vigil as their baby fought for their life inside a plastic box.

One of Melissa's sons inside an incubator. Image: Supplied. 


Without going into every detail of what happened over those seven weeks, here are the standout points:

The twins spent a significant amount of time in NICU as they had frequent bradycardic episodes. They often went from using oxygen (with a mask) to air-flow (nose prongs) and back as needed.  

They had regular blood tests – a needle puncturing the heel of their foot and squeezed to draw blood. 

They had IVs that were as long as their arms.

The eye examination performed on very low birth rate babies, like the twins, uses a speculum to hold their eyes open. While they were in no physical pain, it would have been very uncomfortable. I was so weak in that moment, I had to cover my ears because their little cries and screams were too hard to bear.

Levi was diagnosed with a Sub Arachnoid Haemorrhage, better known as a brain bleed – I thought the worst. Thankfully, it corrected itself over time.

A gastric tube was fed down to their stomachs to provide their milk/formula in the first month.

Both twins were jaundiced. They spent over a week receiving phototherapy to remove the excess bilirubin from their blood.

Personally, I found it difficult in the first few days to connect with them. Not because I didn't love them or want them. The hormones after birth and emotions from the extensive hospital stay the twins faced were difficult to process. Going home alone without them was nearly unbearable. I was also scared I would not be enough or strong enough for them.


It took two days after the twins arrived at the Mercy for me to hold them individually.

It was two weeks before I was able to have a twin cuddle.

Breastfeeding and expressing (colostrum or milk) was uncomfortable and physically demanding. I attempted several times, at the behest of the nurses, to breastfeed once the twins reached a healthy weight in the Special Care Nursery (SCN).

I felt pressured to breastfeed, and on certain occasions, I could do it with the assistance of staff.

I recall one day where I sat with a twin for 45 minutes and he barely latched the whole time.

We often used donor milk as I wasn't producing enough for even one baby. Also, the blocked ducts were excruciating.

Overall, breastfeeding is a choice. One I personally did not enjoy at any stage, nor felt that 'bond' while breastfeeding. I wish I could have stuck with it. But twins are hard enough. I felt more comfortable and happy to express and bottle feed.

Melissa Rawson after birth. Image: Supplied. 


Two years later.

Looking at Levi and Tate now, you would never know they were premature babies – although they are very small physically, and developmentally they are hitting their targets. Sometimes, things do take a little bit longer, like walking and talking.

Having premature babies was a traumatic experience, more so after the birth than the actual birth itself.

I could not be more grateful to the hospital staff from both Frankston and Mercy who helped deliver and care for my boys when I couldn't.

This article originally appeared on Her Second Shift and has been republished here with full permission.

Feature image: Supplied.