Leah McBride couldn't wait to be a mom, but when her baby's heart monitor was rapidly beeping, she and her husband couldn't help but worry. However, they couldn't believe what would happen next…
What's Going On?
As a momma-to-be, Leah was nervously awaiting the news of her unborn children as she waited nervously in the delivery ward. They were arriving too early, but the doctors would do everything they could to hold off.
But in a flash, things escalated. One of the twins' heart monitors began to go off, and doctors began investigating the developed situation. Considering the signal was coming from the smaller fetus, doctors soon understood this was a much different circumstance than they could have ever predicted…
Let's go way back to the beginning - 2019, to be exact. Leah and Austin McBride from Lake Jackson, Texas, were trying to get pregnant ever since they tied the knot. They dreamt of becoming parents, so when the time finally came that the pregnancy test read positive, they couldn't believe their time had come!
However, it took a while. After trying for a year, they were becoming less and less hopeful that they would ever become parents. But now that they were finally able to get pregnant, they couldn't wait to start the planning! So first things first, visiting the doctor for an ultrasound.
Austin and Leah attended her 12-week check-up excited and ready to hear some good news! As first-time parents, they just wanted to ensure that their baby to be was in good health. However, when it came down to hearing the heartbeat, they couldn't believe their eyes (or ears).
When the monitor turned on, and the ultrasound began, they saw two babies on the screen and heard two heartbeats! They just needed to confirm with the doctor what they saw, but it was true! They were having twins. "I was really excited!" Leah told SWNS.
Leah and Austin were so excited by the news; they couldn't believe after trying for so long, they would have not just one but two children! What a blessing. However, the doctors warned Leah of the potential complications associated with twins.
Within the first five months, Leah visited the hospital twice a month for ultrasounds and regular check-ups. Doctors were carefully examining her and her babies, and each time, things were looking regular, and she was told everything was going smoothly.
The ultra-sounds were going as planned until an in-depth scan at 21 weeks revealed information that would forever alter the couple's life. As their doctors examined the results, they couldn't believe what they saw, which automatically triggered Leah and Austin's response to think something was wrong.
So what was going on? Leah and Austin began asking a million questions, but the doctors couldn't share anything until they were sure what it was they found. Leah said, "They told me to come back to the doctor the next day." They were in for a tough evening of uncertainty ahead.
Leah's Deep Dive
Like most parents-to-be would, Leah and Austin went into true panic mode. Leah couldn't even begin to imagine what the doctors had found, but her mind began to wonder, and when that happens-it's game over. There were just too many possibilities and no answers.
"Of course, I was Googling everything that might be wrong and came across twin-to-twin transfusion," Leah recalled from that evening. We know all too well what it means to deep dive down the Google rabbit hole. But she knew she would have to wait for the doctor's final word.
"Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is a rare pregnancy condition affecting identical twins or other multiples. TTTS occurs in pregnancies where twins share one placenta and a network of blood vessels that are not evenly dispensed," according to Hopkins Medicine.
"When there is an imbalance in the blood exchange between the twins, one twin — the donor twin — gives away more blood than it receives in return and runs the risk of malnourishment and organ failure. The recipient twin receives too much blood and is susceptible to overwork of the heart and other cardiac complications."
A Mother's Instincts
So when the next day arrived, Leah had her expectations set. And after speaking with her doctor, she was officially diagnosed with Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. "The doctor said he could barely see one twin, and the other twin was surrounded by so much fluid," Leah told SWNS.
Upon hearing the news, the parents-to-be were both nervous and shocked. Immediately, they thought about the safety of their babies and what would come next. This was an extremely tough time for Leah and Austin - and unfortunately, there was more tough news to come.
The Hard Truth
"There was already a 48% difference in the girls' size, and they were worried that baby A would have a heart attack as she was passing all the nutrients to baby B, and they thought baby B might have a stroke," Leah explained of the situation. So what did the doctors recommend?
The doctors told the couple they suggested terminating the pregnancy of Baby A in order to give Baby B a better chance. Leah and Austin's whole world turned upside down upon hearing the news, and they had absolutely no idea what they were going to do. This situation had no right or wrong; they just had to trust their gut.
This was a lot for Leah and her husband to think about, but after much thought, she knew she just couldn't choose between her babies. As hard as the decision was, she told her doctors she was going to go against their advice and keep both unborn children.
"I didn't want to choose one baby over the other," she recalled. Thinking into the future, Leah knew she wouldn't be able to come to terms with the idea of 'choosing' one child over the other. This was the biggest decision she would ever make, but she knew she had to do what felt right.
A Second Chance
The couple wasn't ready to give up quite yet and decided to get a second opinion. They were referred to a doctor at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, who told them there was a potential new surgery that's seen some success so far. So, Leah and Austin decided they wanted to give it a chance.
The Memorial Hermann medical team spent time reviewing their case and told Leah she could be a candidate for the Laser Ablation surgery. "We spent the night in shock at the day's events and praying we would still have two heartbeats the next day," Leah recalled.
As hopeful as they were that everything would be okay and go as planned, they also had to manage their expectations. Regardless, Leah knew in her heart there was something she had to do before going under. She wanted to name her babies.
"I remember laying there most of the night trying to finalize the girls' names because I couldn't imagine something happening to them and not already having names picked out," Leah later recalled. After going back and forward with names, they decided on Poppy (Baby A) and Winnie (Baby B).
Things Were Looking Up
After landing on two beautiful names, Leah went in for surgery. The goal of the surgery was to correct the blood imbalance that existed between the two foetuses in order to give them both an equal chance of surviving. The surgery was deemed successful, and Leah was put on bed rest.
She would be monitored very carefully over the next few months until the birth. But with high hopes, Leah shared on Instagram, "I still can't believe that just 24 hours before [the surgery], I had never even heard of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, and I was already stage 3 with a low chance of survival for my donor twin!"
An Alarming Update
But things took a sharp turn when Leah hit 27 weeks and 6 days. To much surprise, one morning, she woke up to find her water had broken much earlier than planned. She instantly panicked, especially considering the surgery and everything that had been happening. What would to her babies? Would they be okay?
Leah and Austin immediately rushed over to the hospital as they imagined every possible situation that was awaiting them. Upon arriving at the hospital, the doctors were concerned over the news and told the couple that the babies needed more time in the womb before they could be delivered.
Delaying the Labor
As terrifying as the situation was, the medical team was well experienced with cases like these. Her doctors decided the best way to delay her labor was to give her steroid injections to slow down the delivery process. Luckily the medicine was working, and she was sent to the antepartum unit.
Now that she was in the antepartum units, the doctors closely monitored her in case the babies decided they were ready to come out early! "We needed to buy as much time as possible because 28 weeks was still too early to deliver them safely," she told SWNS.
31 Weeks & 5 Days
The twins were still in the womb, and things were going as planned. But at 31 weeks and five days, things got complicated. Poppy's heart rate began to waver, and the doctors had to take the next steps. They explained to the couple the waver of the monitor was a distress signal, and they had no choice but to deliver the babies.
Most full-term pregnancies are usually 40 weeks, so delivering the twins was coming much earlier than planned. But, the doctors believed this was the right thing to do. There were previous similar situations where the babies had survived the complicated birth, and although it might not have been ideal, it was their only solution.
The Girls Are Born
Leah gave birth to her beautiful identical baby girls on May 24, 2019. Winnie was born at 3 lbs 8 oz, and Poppy was a lot smaller at 1 lb 11 oz. The girls spent nearly 32 weeks together in the womb and, upon birth, were immediately separated for the doctors to examine and take care of.
Since Poppy sent distress signals from the womb, doctors were more concerned about her condition after labor, especially after she was born at only 1 lb 11 oz. However, once the girls were finally taken and they examined them both, they were shocked to see the results.
Poppy the Trooper!
After examining both babies, they found that Poppy's heart was completely fine, and she was a healthy little preemie baby! "Poppy just needed a little bit of oxygen, but she was OK," Leah told SWNS. "She was smaller than a little elf on the shelf, but doctors said she was feisty."
Since she was so tiny and underweight, the micro preemie diaper was too big and didn't fit, but she "needed virtually no assistance," according to Leah's Instagram update. "Her nurses laughed when they told me she kept pushing them away from her when they would check on her," she shared.
Worried About Winnie
Poppy had been doing just fine, but it was Winnie that needed urgent attention. "Winnie, the bigger of the two, who I had never been concerned about, was very unhealthy," Leah explained. "Her lungs were underdeveloped, and they weren't sure if she was going to make it."
"The doctor said he didn't think there was anything else they could do for her," Leah recalled. "He said they had an entire team working so hard on her but that her lungs were fully collapsed and severely underdeveloped, and it didn't look like they could save her… he said they had tried everything."
An "Absolute Miracle"
"So much time passed," Leah recalled of the situation. "He came in and said, by an absolute miracle, she was still alive… he let us know that they used non-FDA-approved methods, and she was now on a ventilator and had a chance. He said the team did not want to give up on her and that they just kept going and going."
"With the trauma she had at birth, she developed stage 3 brain bleeds resulting in the fluid build-up, and she needed surgery at 14 days old to place a reservoir in her brain! After a month of pulling fluid from the reservoir, her brain started regulating the fluid on its own, which happens less than 10 percent of the time!"
Now that Winnie was okay, it was back to Poppy! Despite being born so small, she remained healthy, but there was still much concern over her weight. She had to undergo blood transfusions the first few weeks and then kept in the NICU until she was 4 lbs.
After an intense few weeks, Winnie was discharged from the hospital after her doctors declared her in good shape. At fifty-four days, two days after Winnie was released, Poppy had been cleared and was able to finally go home. She had reached her goal weight, and things were looking up for the McBride family.
Reunited, & It Feels So Good
After months of anxiously waiting, Leah and Austin were finally able to take their baby girls home. With so many ups and downs, the new parents couldn't believe they were in a place where they could finally bring both their daughters home, but they made it.
The twins were also finally reunited after so much time apart, and Leah was able to hold them both in her arms at the same time. Despite the 48% size discordance, the girls were healthy, and that's all that mattered. Leah told SWNS, "I love having a big and little."
Working as a Team
Leah took to Instagram to share that her doctors believed Poppy was "sending out distress signals because she knew her sister wouldn't survive if they weren't delivered then…Our doctors told us, 'I think your tiny twin saved her sister's life,'" she shared.
"Our doctors said she wouldn't have survived if she hadn't been delivered when she was. He said, 'I think your little twin was letting us know her sister was in major trouble!' I believe that's exactly what happened, and my girls have been working as a team since day one!"
3 Years After
Fast forward three years, and the girls are both in great health. Despite the doctor's initial concerns, Winnie and Poppy have shown no long-term health impacts, and "they are as smart as can be," Leah shared on Instagram. "They are almost the same size now!!" according to mom!
Winnie wears glasses, but the twins are both in perfect health! Leah shared that Winnie "is smarter than average. She can read books from memory at three." To think three years ago, they were in an emergency health situation to where they are now is unbelievable.
Following Winnie's brain surgery two years ago, she needed to have an MRI scan to just check everything was okay. "We went for an MRI a few days ago, and although she has some volume loss and her ventricles are enlarged, the doctor said she looks perfect and is proud of all the milestones she just keeps on hitting," Leah shared.
"He decided he would like to follow her for at least two more years to keep checking in on her, which makes me feel a little worried that something could change," Leah told her Instagram followers, "but for now, we will celebrate every day and every new thing she learns."
Poppy and Winnie are each others' best friends, according to mama Leah. "They are so close-it's sweet," Leah happily told SWNS. Scrolling through Leah's Instagram account, it's clear the girls are inseparable and do everything together. From bowling to dressing up and dancing, they are each other's everything.
"I tried to move their beds apart recently, and they weren't having it," Leah jokingly told SWNS. "They are both amazing." Yes, they are! Leah also told her Instagram followers that the girls hold hands everywhere they go. They are truly inseparable.
A Special Connection
Poppy may be the smaller twin of the two, but she still manages to be her sister's keeper. Leah gushed to SWNS, "Even now, Poppy takes care of Winnie, though she is still much smaller." Poppy will randomly tell Winnie, "love you," and Winnie says her sister's name in her sleep.
Twins typically share a special bond, but Winnie and Poppy's experience together just enhances their relationship. "Watching them play is the sweetest thing I've ever been a part of, and I hope they grow to know how special their bond really is," Leah shared on Instagram.
An Emotional Rollercoaster
Looking back on their journey, Leah and Austin couldn't fathom what it would have been like if they had listened to their first doctor and not looked for a second opinion. The McBrides were determined to have children, and they knew even though the process was draining, it would all be worth it in the end.
All those months ago, when they first found out they were pregnant, they had no idea what was in store for them. "I feel like a little piece of me will stay in that place, and that time stood still for our little family in those hallways and rooms," Leah shared on Instagram.
Sharing Her Story
After such an emotional journey, Leah wanted to share her story with people outside her circle. She had such an inspiring story to share, so she created an Instagram account, @tinymactwins, where she openly shared with her followers her pregnancy experience and where they are now.
On her Instagram, she emphasizes how lucky she feels to be a mom of healthy twins. "Sometimes I can't believe I got to keep you both," she wrote alongside a picture of the girls together. With a couple of hundred followers, people are invested in their journey together and see how their bond blossoms.
Spreading the Love
"Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome Awareness," her Instagram bio reads. Leah hopes sharing her journey with others will help parents who are going through similar situations because when she was first diagnosed with TTTS, she had limited places to turn.
As she hoped, her story began to inspire plenty of mothers who, too, had gone through similar experiences. The comments section piled up with women sharing motivational messages with one another and spreading lots of love and encouragement! And we can't wait to continue following along…