Please enjoy the guest post written by my daughter, Kristen, in honor of the twins' second birthday. I know many of you lived this story with us. Just push the "play" button and enjoy the song as you read her memories.
My dear, sweet, precocious, mischievous, ornery, precious, beautiful gifts from God, Katie and Emma:
This is my letter to you on your 2nd birthday. A birthday that many cynics never thought you would see!!
When I was a child, I read a series of books called "Sweet Valley Twins". The books were about two blonde haired, blue eyed twin girls. I immersed myself in those books and the adventures of those two girls. I often wished I had a twin sister of my own, but since that hadn't happened, I longed for blue eyed, blonde haired, twin girls of my own. I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would actually come true.
I found out I was pregnant with you mid-summer 2007. I already had two daughters and was also raising my step-son. Things weren't the best around our home and I was not at all prepared to have another child. I went to my first ultra-sound . At the time I was pregnant with you, I was 32 years old. I am now 35 and I can honestly say that the biggest shock I have ever received to date is when the ultra sound tech turned to me and said, "Do twins run in your family?" All I could do was lie there and let the shock of what she had just said sink in. No one asks you that question lying on an ultra sound table unless they are about to inform you, "Well, I see two heart beats here!" Before I was able to even process or absorb that information, the doctor came in to inform me that you, Katie, had a growth on your neck that indicated you had either trisomy 13 or trisomy 18.
The situation, in their minds, was serious enough to get in touch with a world renowned perinatal specialist in Denver and get me in right away the next day.
The next 24 hours of my life were a blur. Not only did I find out I was pregnant with twins, I found out that I could have one that could potentially have severe genetic abnormalities or not live long after birth. All I can remember is feeling numb.
The prognosis from the specialist was no more promising. Not only did he determine that you, Katie, were more than 99% chance likely to have one of these conditions; he also said that you, Emma, would most likely not survive within the womb until the next appointment a week later because you were so tiny.
I was scheduled for an amniocenteses to determine your diagnosis for certain and to discuss my "options" should the worst come true. I want you to know, my sweet baby girls, that there was no "option" in my mind. I would carry you to term, if possible, and give birth to you, and love you despite any "abnormalities".
After that appointment, I immediately went home and posted your story on my blog and sent a prayer request out there for you. The response was overwhelming. People from all over the country and the world spread the news about you and you were covered in prayer throughout the globe!
The day of the amniocenteses came. I will not lie and say it is a fun procedure. And I got to do it twice! And waiting for the results was beyond any kind of torture I can even describe. The doctor looked at me in earnest after the amnio was over and said, "Now what are you going to want to do if these results don't turn out well? Because we are 99% sure of severe genetic abnormalities." With absolutely no hesitation I informed him that abortion was NOT an option for me.
I waited and waited for the call for the results and at 5:55 p.m. on a Friday night, the nurse from the specialist's office called me. She had specifically stayed an hour late that night because she knew the results were coming, and she knew it would be torture for me to have to survive the weekend waiting to hear. I will never, ever forget the next words I heard come from her mouth; the sweetest words I've ever heard (other than your adorable twin language babble!): "We don't understand this, and it makes no sense, but NEITHER of your baby GIRLS has any sign of any genetic abnormality. They are as healthy as they can be!" I felt like I was going to faint right there on the spot. Not only because of the FANTASTIC news that you were HEALTHY, but also because you were both GIRLS!! WOW!
The relief washed over me like you wouldn't believe. But it wasn't easy going from there. I was working full time, I continued to have to see the specialist in Denver just to "monitor" you and make sure you continued to thrive. Most food made me sick and it was hard to eat. I wasn't gaining enough weight. There was a lot of stress at home. Eventually it was determined that it was necessary for me to be on bed rest because my doctor didn't believe you were thriving in utero and I needed to be off my feet for the remainder of my pregnancy.....which at that point was supposed to be 3 months! Unfortunately, I wasn't getting the needed and mandatory rest I needed at home and my doctor decided, the day after Christmas, that she was putting me on hospital bed rest. "Rest" sounded great, but unfortunately your mama had severe issues trying to rest in the hospital, unable to be aware of what was going on in the outside world with your other sisters. In the end, they decided to take you via c-section 7 weeks early because you just weren't growing and they thought you would be better off out in this tough world.
The day of your birth was surreal. I had never given birth via scheduled c-section, so to know the hour and minute you were coming was a little un-nerving. People began to arrive to be among the first to see you when your tiny little beings arrived. My hospital room and the hallway were full of people anticipating your arrival.
Your grandma was in the operating room with me supporting me and holding my hand and would be the one to escort you to the NICU when I went into the recovery room after the surgery. It was really great to have her in there with me!
At 1:10 p.m. I heard the doctor announce, "Baby A is out!" and less than one minute later, "Baby B is out!" I got a tiny glimpse of you as they wheeled you away to the NICU in your incubators. I remember feeling emotional and teary as I remembered the special bonding time I had with both of your older sisters after I gave birth to them and got to hold them to my chest and kiss their sweet little heads.
It was several hours before I got to be wheeled into the NICU to see you because I had some complications after delivery; my body temp went dangerously low and I had to be stablized. Eventually I got to see you and I will never forget my initial shock at seeing you and how utterly tiny you were. Katie: 3 lbs 5 oz, Emma: 2 lbs 15 oz. Emma, you had an oxygen tank hooked up to you and it was so big it almost took up your whole face; but stubborn little girl you are ripped it out within 12 hours and they never put it back in!
You were in the NICU for little over a month. I visited you 3 times a day, every day to hold you, nurse you, love on you and make sure you knew who your mama was. When I was at home I pumped breast milk for you to give you your best shot at thriving and getting out of there as soon as possible!!
Eventually, Katie came home on a Friday, Emma the following Monday. Life was difficult. I love(d) you more than anything in the world but adjusting to the new dynamic was tough and I did most of it on my own (except Grandma and Grandpa helped me a LOT!) There were many sleepless nights.
At age 4 months, mommy made a decision that changed our lives forever. We took a long trip to North Dakota for a month and when we came back we moved and started a new life for ourselves.
It's been a challenge, but there are so many people who have helped me and made sure that you have the best life possible! I don't think you're suffering any!
Despite the doctor's initial prognosis for you, I believe you are two WALKING, RUNNING, TALKING, MESS MAKING miracles who have blessed me beyond anything I could ever possibly imagine!
In fact, other than a little minor stint for Katie in the hospital with a mild case of RSV last January, I have not had to take you to the doctor at ALL for any illnesses. In 24 WHOLE months!
You are amazing, precious little fighters who refused to let that doctor and his tests win! You are true miracles. No other words for it. And you have blessed so many lives; you will never know!
I am proud, and honored, and unbelievably blessed to be the mama of such beautiful girls! YOU, and your precious sisters who adore you more than life itself!
We girls....we're gonna be fine!!
Love you more than you will EVER know....
These pictures were taken by the NICU nurses (who were fabulous, by the way) the first time they took the girls out of their incubators at age 12 days.
This is Grandma Dawn bringing you pictures of the party last Saturday. Last August, my blog friend, Nancy (who has since ceased blogging), shared pictures of her twin grandnieces' second birthday party. I loved the idea so much that I asked if I could "borrow" the theme. They said go for it, so we had a similar Noah's Ark party - two by two, you know?! We had so much fun getting ready for the party, and the girls seemed to totally understand, both on their actual birthday on Thursday, and again on Saturday, that the day was all about them.
I love this one of Aunt Grace with the girlies - she adores them, and the feeling is mutual.
Wouldn't you love to know what Katie's thinking at this moment?
Emma's going to at least attempt to be tidy!
Oops - it didn't work out too well!
Better clean off the frosting before playing with the new toys!
They had lots of fun opening their gift bags (Kristen didn't have a chance to do much because Care Bear wasn't feeling well at all and totally appropriated her mom's time and lap the whole time - poor little thing didn't have much fun at her sisters' party).
Emma, always the little helper - picking things up.
They faithfully went to say "thank you" to everyone - this is Sandy, their beloved nursery attendant at "chuch"
They both had so much fun with one of their cards - it played the theme to "Winnie the Pooh." They carried them around for the longest time, dancing to the song. (Note Feisty in the background playing with one of their toys - a little "bug" car (not VW, but a real bug).
Wearing it around her neck.
So now it's onward and forward to conquer more mountains. They are more fun every day. Their personalities are developing and they are becoming their own little people - we must not call them "the babies" any more. And we need to try to call them by their separate names instead of lumping them into "the twins" or "the littles." They are such gifts from God.