By Stephanie Laskoskie
Inevitably, when I tell people the story of our twins, their first response is, “Wow, there were truly angels watching over them.” Two years later and that response still makes me smile.
When we found out we were pregnant with twins, we were truly overjoyed, as well as a bit overwhelmed at the thought of adding two babies to our family of four. We dreamed of what having four kids would look like and took turns suggesting names. At 20 weeks, we learned our twins were a boy and a girl. It seemed like all of our dreams were coming true. We could have never imagined that a short three weeks later, we would be meeting our sweet babies.
On Monday, June 20, 2016, at just 23 weeks pregnant, I started bleeding. While our doctor said it is not uncommon with twins, we went ahead and made the trip to Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center to be safe. When we got to the hospital, the triage nurse did a routine exam, but her expression quickly turned concerned. She told me not to move a muscle, instructed the team that no one else should perform an exam and that they needed to call the doctor right away.
It was then that we found out I was in full-blown labor and my daughter’s umbilical cord was through the cervix. After spending nearly 10 hours trying to stop my labor from progressing, my obstetrician told us the babies had a better chance of surviving outside the womb than they did inside. He gave the team from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) two hours to prepare for their arrival. Then we headed to the operating room.
Gage was born weighing 1 pound 9 ounces, 11 inches long and Sadie was born one minute later weighing 1 pound 7 ounces, 11.22 inches long. They both cried the tiniest little cries that sounded very similar to a newborn cat. It is hard to explain how pain and joy can coexist with such fierceness, but that was now the war within us. Gage and Sadie were so tiny, so perfect, so beautiful, yet so sick.
While our time in the NICU was incredibly stressful, the medical staff was so welcoming. They took time to explain the circumstances our babies were facing as micro-preemies. They warned us that, under the best case scenario, the twins would remain in the NICU until their due date – a total of 17 weeks. No one ever discussed the worst case scenario, but we knew there was a possibility we would have to go home with no babies. They also prepared us for the scary times ahead by explaining that micro-preemies often experience a “honeymoon period” where they appear to be doing very well, when in reality, they are using every bit of energy they have to stay alive.
On day 10, the honeymoon ended. Both twins went into complete respiratory failure and maxed out on life support. Their bodies were failing. The neonatologist explained how sick the twins were and allowed us to the stay the night at the hospital to be near them.
Moments like that change you. We will never forget the pain and helplessness we felt, but what changed us as people was the overwhelming love, abundance of prayers and kindness shown to us by complete strangers. The nurses stood vigil with us all night, answering our questions and allowing us to spend as much time with the babies as we wished.
The image is forever etched in our brains of the joy on the faces of the day shift nurses when they returned to work to see that our babies were still fighting. In that moment we realized just how much they truly cared. They explained complex medical information in painful detail, and then took the time to re-explain it when our brains just could not absorb it all. They even allowed me to touch my extremely fragile babies so I could have that memory in case our worst nightmare came true.
As the babies became more stable, the nurses perfectly rearranged the room so I could hold my miracles with all the cords and wires still attached. The care team talked to us like family, told us stories and made us laugh when we didn’t think we would be able to laugh again. They knew exactly when to hug us tight and when we needed a funny distraction, like some of their stellar dance moves. They also anticipated my late night and early morning calls, and were ready to ramble off every stat I needed so I could try to get some sleep. They even made special stuffed animals who wore the footprints of our twins, so our big kids could always have their babies with them since children are not allowed to visit the NICU.
Our tiny 1-pound miracles grew to be 2 pounds and then 3 pounds. After a few months, the nursing staff included us on their unit lunch orders. The parking garage attendant knew where we parked and waved to us daily. The security guard would come into the NICU to chat with us and check on the babies, and the cafeteria workers knew what I would request for my afternoon snack.
While we spent most of our waking hours in the NICU, there were many late night hours when we could not be there. We took comfort knowing that the NICU nurses sang to our babies, held our babies, fed our babies and prayed over our babies. They showed them non-stop love when we were unable to be there to love on them.
Thanks to that non-stop love, our micro-preemies who were born at just 23 weeks gestation, beat all odds and got to come home together after 151 days in the NICU. The staff didn’t just save our twins during that five months, they saved us too! They picked up the pieces of our broken hearts and put them back together more beautifully than we could have ever imagined.
There were indeed angels watching over Gage and Sadie, and they walk the halls of Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center.
Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center has the first designated Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Montgomery County. The Level III designation indicates Memorial Hermann The Woodlands’ ability to care for and address the needs of critically ill neonatal babies experiencing complex and congenital conditions. The NICU provides specialized treatment in a patient and family-centered care environment with an open visitation policy.