“I nearly fainted,” says the Ulysses, Kansas, 23-year-old. “I was in absolute shock since neither of our sides of the family had twins in them.”
Having identical twins in a family with no genetic history of multiples can mean serious complications for babies and mothers-to-be.
Because the nearest hospital, Kearny County Hospital in Lakin, is not equipped to care for high-risk deliveries, Claudia was referred to Michael Wolfe, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with Ascension Medical Group Via Christi.
Upon examination, Wolfe discovered that “Baby B” was significantly smaller than “Baby A” and recommended further examination by a specialist in Denver, Colorado.
The parents traveled to Colorado and were relieved to find that their babies were not affected by the relatively rare twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome that stems from babies sharing a single placenta. Instead, the nutrients from “Baby B’s” umbilical cord weren’t flowing as fast and there was very little fluid in the babies’ amniotic sac, which meant that all three would require constant monitoring.
“It was scary for us, but we were blessed to have the support of our families and community,” says Claudia, who hoped to keep her babies in the womb until 32 weeks.
Too soon to deliver
For the next two months, Claudia made the six-hour round trip drive to Wichita to see Dr. Wolfe and his team twice a week.
It was exhausting, but necessary.
“I couldn’t even cook standing up and things were becoming more difficult for me,” says Claudia. “I said, ‘If anything happens to me, it’s because I’m not resting.’”
At her April 1 appointment, Claudia, then 26 weeks into her pregnancy, learned that she was five centimeters dilated and could go into labor any time.
But the babies needed more time in the womb to develop and grow. So Dr. Wolfe recommended that she not return home, but instead be admitted to Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph’s NewLife Center for observation.
Lerma, who was working as a librarian’s assistant, asked about going home first to gather her belongings, but the risk was too great.
“Dr. Wolfe made it very clear to me that I could deliver at any moment and in my area that would mean having to be airlifted back to Wichita.”
For the past month, the twins’ activity has been monitored twice a day during hour-long scans performed in her hospital room.
“Basically I’m just waiting until my due date or until the babies are ready, which could be any day now,” says Claudia, who misses her husband and son Luis, Jr., who are unable to visit as often as they would like. The nurses and other staff on the unit have stepped in to serve as surrogate family members, helping her stay in a good frame of mind.
“I stay positive for my girls and look for the little things so that the girls are good,” she says. “Being here, I learned how hard it is for some women to get pregnant, so I appreciate every blessing I have even more.”
After her babies were delivered on May 14, this time via C-section, they were admitted to the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit just down the hall for monitoring. They are expected to remain there until July 19, her original due date, or until they have sufficiently developed in order to go home.
“Baby A,” now Yarethza, was born at 4 lbs and 4 oz, and “Baby B,” now Yareth, was born at 3 lbs and 2 oz.
“At 32 weeks, their ability to breathe was the biggest concern for everyone,” says Claudia. “They’re happily breathing on their own and are beginning to show interest in suckling on bottles already.”
Although smaller, Yareth already is exhibiting a fighting spirit.
“She’s squirmy and wiggly and the nurses tell me she’s attempted to mess with the tubes and cords she has on her while she’s here,” says Claudia.
Claudia says she and Luis won’t be able to stay or visit every single day, but will be returning each weekend. In between, they will be relying on regular communication with the NICU nurses and the unit’s secure live stream bedside camera system to stay connected.
“When we’re not here, the cameras fill in the time we would love to spend next to them,” she says. “If we can’t see them on the camera, the nurses happily adjust the angle.”
As she has this time to transition, she recognized how impossible it all would have been without help.
“You can’t do this without family support,” she says, noting that she’s been blessed with great support from relatives on both sides of the family.
Her gratitude extends to her care team as well.
“I’m especially grateful for Dr. Wolfe and all the nurses here taking care of me,” she says. “I’m not just a person here in a bed.
“I’m treated with kindness like I’m part of their family.”