The following story is from Hand to Hold reader Crystal. If you’d like to share your NICU story with us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What were the circumstances surrounding your children’s birth?
At 23 weeks pregnant with identical twin girls, I was diagnosed with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). We underwent an in-utero laser ablation surgery to correct the problem of unequal distribution of blood between the babies. By correcting the blood transfusion problem, the surgeons created another problem. At 25 weeks my inner twin membrane, the one that separated the two babies, tore. This resulted in both babies being in the same amniotic sac, as well as the same placenta—known as monoamniotic twins—which carried its own host of complications. I was placed on hospital bedrest for a little over a month, and then a placental abruption resulted in the delivery of my girls via C-section at 30 weeks.
What complications, diagnoses or surgeries did you or your children face?
Katie and Lauren had a significant amount of blood in their lungs due to the placental abruption. We were worried that a gastrointestinal surgery would be needed to correct that problem. Luckily everything worked itself out, and no surgery was needed.
Like most preemies, both babies were placed on CPAP to help inflate their immature lungs, but after a week they were taken off and were breathing fine on their own.
How did your whole family cope with this experience? How are you all doing now?
I was calm and relaxed when I was able to return home, but it was counter balanced with a deep sense of guilt for leaving my babies behind. No matter where I was—my house, the grocery store—anywhere besides the NICU, the fact I was not there occupied my every thought.
My family had a difficult time as well, in particular my daughter. She had a hard time when I was on bedrest in the hospital and later when I was spending a lot of time in the NICU. My parents were able to help and that was a tremendous blessing on our family. My family sacrificed a lot to help us navigate through this journey, and as a result it has brought us all closer together.
How old are your children now, and how are they doing?
Katie and Lauren are 2 years old. They are happy, healthy and rambunctious little toddlers. They didn’t have any muscular issues or delays, and have been right on target with all their developmental milestones. They enjoy playing baby dolls and dress up with their older sister.
What did you learn about this experience that you’d like to pass on to others?
After our experience in the NICU, everything was different. I will never forgot the sights, the sounds. It all became a part of me. As I watched my twin girls fight for survival, it gave me a new appreciation for life and the value of it. My preemies are my heros.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
My pregnancy and birth with Katie and Lauren inspired me to write. Songs and poems at first, and some journaling to express all the emotions I was feeling. A few months after the girls came home from the NICU, I realized that their story was too great to not share with the world. I began writing a memoir entitled Twin to Twin. I’m still working on getting it published, but I believe it is an inspiring story—one that touches on many women’s issues. Our story is a tale of resilience, faith, hope and love and learning to never lose hope no matter what adversities you are faced with.
Crystal Duffy lives in Houston with her husband, three little girls and yappy little yorkie. Her writing has appeared in Twins Magazine, Mamapedia, and the Multiples Illuminated blog, and she’s currently working on her memoir, Twin to Twin, which details her high-risk twin pregnancy. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog The Duffy Diary.