It’s Twins . . .
Katie and her husband Sean felt extremely lucky to get pregnant almost as soon as they started trying for their first baby. “You know how in the movies when they take the test and there’s this agonizing wait for those tell-tale lines? Well my lines were instantaneous! I was extra pregnant right away,” she laughed. It was just a short while later, at their first ultrasound, that the tech said, “Everything is fine . . .” before trailing off. “But what?” Katie and Sean jumped in fearing the worst. “Well, do you see this baby?” the tech asked. They nodded. “ . . . and do you see this one too?” Twins? The couple was shocked. “Is this a joke you play on all the first time parents? Because it’s not funny.”
It was no joke. They were that rare set of parents who have twins, with no history of fraternal twins in the family and no conception support. In fact, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that twins naturally occur in just about 1 out of every 250 pregnancies. “Twins,” they kept repeating to each other as they drove from the doctor’s office to Katie’s parents’ home. They didn’t know it yet but these grandparents-to-be were already a critical part of their early care team – particularly during those early days with two newborns.
Katie and Sean had always wanted two children. With a boy and a girl on the way, they were delighted to be building the family they had dreamed about – even if it wasn’t quite how they imagined.
One significant weight discrepancy. One significant surprise . . .
Around week 30, Katie’s “incredible” care team noticed a significant weight discrepancy between the twins. Her little girl was tracking much smaller than her boy. After several more weeks of close monitoring, she went in for her 37 week check up. It was then that her doctor announced “I know you were expecting to come back for a C-section next week, but we need you to come back tomorrow instead.” And so the surprises just kept on coming.
With baby Henry now tracking at over 7lbs. and Maddie Mae at less than 4lbs, the doctors needed these little ones delivered right away.
After a very anxious 24 hours, Sean and Katie arrived back at the same hospital to welcome their babies. They were having what is referred to as a “Gentle C-Section.” Growing in popularity, the methodology incorporates as many elements of vaginal childbirth as possible into the surgical procedure. This includes having partners in the room, using a clear curtain so they can see the babies emerge, immediate skin to skin contact and breastfeeding when possible.
Welcoming Twins, Maddie-Mae and Henry . . .
Maddie was delivered first. “As soon I heard her cry, this overwhelming sense of peace came over me. I was so nervous but hearing her for the first time, I knew everything was going to be ok.” Nurses brought Maddie to Katie for a quick kiss before taking her tiny three-pound girl to the NICU for care.
Henry had to be “coaxed out,” said Katie. “He was just a toasty little bean in there.” When he did emerge, he had fluid in his lungs which made it hard for him to breathe. Unlike Maddie, he was taken directly to the NICU for breathing assistance and monitoring. Sean later told Katie that it was “probably for the best” that she didn’t get to hold him right away – Henry was really struggling.
With delivery over, Katie and Sean felt a sense of confusion and longing. The babies had arrived, but they weren’t all together yet. When the nurse switched off the in-room incubators it hit Katie that they wouldn’t get to spend those first hours together, as they had so hoped. Yes, the babies were here but they didn’t know exactly how they were doing.
In the recovery room, the nurse told Katie that she could visit her babies in the NICU as soon as she could safely get into a wheelchair. Still dizzy and weak, Katie summoned that famous willpower of hers (likely turbocharged by a mother’s love) and said she was ready to go.
Boob Donna suggests donor milk . . .
They were delighted to see their little ones. Maddie so tiny but already showing her feisty and fiery personality. And Henry, hooked up to so many machines but clearly a fighter. What a relief it was to see, touch, and be with the babies they had been waiting for. This was the family they had made.
Soon after, Katie met lactation consultant Donna Sinnott (A.K.A. “Boob Donna” – yes, really) who asked if she wanted to supplement with formula or donor milk? Still building her milk supply, Katie was “blown away” by the unexpected option of donor milk. “You mean it’s not just me or formula?” she asked with relief. Thrilled to still be able to exclusively breastfeed (her babies would only get human milk even if not hers alone) Katie chose donor milk without hesitation.
Knowing another mom had chosen to donate her extra milk to help babies in need? “Incredibly humbling.” explains Katie. Even today she credits the donor milk Maddie and Henry received in the NICU with their thriving and growing so quickly.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times . . .
Those first two weeks were the best and worst of Katie’s life. She was delighted to take little Henry home after four days but Maddie needed another week in the hospital. Splitting time between the two, managing Henry’s additional medical care after a jaundice diagnosis, recovering from a C-section? It was all completely overwhelming. And yet, getting to know their babies was also the highest of highs.
Katie began pumping as soon as the twins were born and alternated between directly breastfeeding and bottle-feeding her babies. Of course, with the twins growing so fast, she knew their nutritional needs would grow just as quickly. Naturally, she wanted to make sure she had plenty of milk available as that happened. As her own freezer filled up, she suggested to Sean that they invest in a deep freezer but it wasn’t long before that was full too.
They even had to start storing extra milk at her mom and dad’s house.
Giving back and smashing cakes . . .
Once Katie was certain she had plenty of milk to feed her babies, she began to explore “paying it forward” by becoming a milk donor. She chose Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast to donate because the process was “straightforward and manageable. Even for a working mom with twins.” Describing the support she received from the team, Katie says she could sense, “the warmth and commitment in what we do.”
Most importantly, she was excited to be giving back and providing much needed support for families in need. “I’ve never felt more connected to my body and the amazing things its can do than when I donated milk. I felt such a sense of pride.”
Maddie and Henry recently turned one year old. They had the traditional birthday cake smash party – the first taste of sugar with a special strawberry shortcake just for them. With those little personalities on full display Henry, who annihilated his cake, was immediately ready for more. Maddie, on the other hand, daintily dipped her finger into that whipped cream before carefully licking it off and deciding on another taste. Twins and polar opposites? But of course.
We’re thrilled to know that donor milk was able to help fuel Maddie and Henry’s earliest beginnings. And because of Katie’s generosity, it can fuel so many other babies’ earliest beginnings too.