They were the first twins to be delivered at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Alliance, which opened Sept. 19.
“We were trying for four, but the Lord had us figured for five,” Christopher said. “Twins were an extreme surprise. We were not expecting that. There aren’t any twins in our family. When we were told it was twins, we were both trying to take it in.
“They remarked, ‘You’re taking it really well.’ I said, ‘I don’t know how else to take it.’”
Their delivery also came unexpectedly.
After the routine 32-week checkup with Rachael’s doctor, Gladys Tse, the two trekked down the road just to pre-register at the hospital. Eight hours later, the babies were born, eight weeks shy of their Nov. 26 due date.
“The doctor told us the hospital had been approved to provide 32-week care,” Christopher said. “Apparently the boys heard her.”
As they registered, Rachael grimaced. But she contended it wasn’t the pain of contractions.
“I had had contractions before, so it’s not like I didn’t know what they felt like,” she said. “They just didn’t feel like contractions. I had some back pain, but mostly I was just really uncomfortable. There was no real pain.”
The registrar insistently asked if they needed to call the doctor, and each time the couple declined.
“We had just came to register,” Christopher said.
But the boys had plans of their own. Levi, who weighed 4 pounds, 4 ounces and was 16.5 inches long, came first at 8:37 p.m. Two minutes later, Asher arrived, weighing 4 pounds, 4 ounces and 16.9 inches in length.
Conveniently, Rachael’s mother was coming in from Louisiana that afternoon to help her daughter prepare for the arrival of the babies.
“I had just enough time to pick up the kids from school (Prairie View Elementary, where Jacob is in second grade, Caleigh in first and Andrew in kindergarten), hand the kids off to Grandma at home and head back to the hospital to be with Rachael,” Christopher said.
Rachael was discharged Friday, Oct. 5, but the babies remain in the neonatal ICU at the hospital.
They lie in an incubator to regulate their body temperature and are connected to several machines, including cardiac monitors to track heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation, and a Bubble CPAP, a machine that, via nasal prongs, delivers pressure to the infant’s airway to make breathing less work.
“They use this as they learn to remember how to breathe so that their lungs don’t collapse,” registered nurse certified Tammie Silva said. “It’s really great. It’s less invasive, which decreases the risk of infections, and lung development is better. It’s only started being used in the last four to five years.”
Nurses tend to the babies every three hours – feeding them, changing them, checking their vitals as needed.
Since being discharged, the parents visit once every day to hold their babies, even if for only an hour. For much of their stay, each parent “kangaroos” a baby, nestling them under their shirt for essential skin-to-skin contact.
“That little bit of therapy really helps,” Rachael said. “After being discharged Friday, all Saturday I was sulking, in pain. We actually considered not coming up here. But we came, and I’m so glad we did.
“After, I bounced right on out of here,” she continued. “I had extra milk, I was in a much better mood. After we left, I was not tired at all. It’s amazing how much it helped. You could see a notable difference.”
“It’s refreshing for both the babies and the parents,” the nurse pointed out.
The family anticipates their newborns to remain in NICU up until their scheduled due date.
“We hate not having them at home, but we know they are being cared for well,” Rachael said.
“We come up here at different times of the day and see a different entourage of nurses,” Christopher added. “Everyone we work with is very courteous, very helpful and personable.”
Although they take comfort in the quality of care their babies receive, the couple anxiously awaits the opportunity to take them home. In the meantime, Rachael, always the planner, and the rest of the family can prepare for the next surprise.