Baby Sends Out Distress Signals From the Womb Leading Doctors to Startling Discovery
| LAST UPDATE 12/15/2022
When an unborn baby began beeping rapidly on the heart monitor, the doctors began worrying about her well-being. Little did they know, she had an incredible and unexpected reason for acting up…
As Leah sat there in the delivery ward, she prayed for the safety of her unborn children. They had almost arrived too early, and now the doctors were doing everything they could to keep them in.
Then panic erupted. One of the twins' heart monitors began to beep chaotically. Considering it was coming from the more underweight fetus, this was sadly the expected outcome. However, upon further investigation, the doctors understood the situation was far beyond anything they had ever imagined…
Back to the Start
Taking it back to January 2019, Leah and Austin McBride from Lake Jackson, Texas, US, could not believe their eyes when their pregnancy test read a positive result. Ever since they got married, they had dreamt of the day they would discover they were going to become parents.
After a year of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, they were starting to lose hope. This news marked a new chapter in their life together, and they could not wait to get started. They immediately booked an appointment with the doctor to schedule an ultrasound.
As Leah sat down for her second check-up at 12 weeks, she and her husband were hopeful and excited. Most importantly, they wanted to be sure the fetus was in good health, and they couldn't wait to hear the heartbeat. They had no idea that another major surprise was in store.
They gasped when they saw two babies appear on the monitor. Then they heard the two heartbeats, and they began to cry. Worrying they had misunderstood the results, they waited for the doctor to confirm what they had already suspected: it was twins. "I was really excited!" Leah told SWNS.
Although the couple was incredibly excited about having two children at once, they understood the natural complications associated with double pregnancies. The doctors told Leah she would need to be on top of everything, coming in for regular check-ups. She could never be too cautious.
For the first five months, Leah visited the hospital twice a month for ultrasounds. With each visit, the doctors thoroughly examined the condition of her unborn children. Every time, the doctors smiled and told her everything was going well. She prayed it would stay that way till the end.
Something Was Wrong
An in-depth ultrasound 21 weeks into the pregnancy would trigger a chain of events that would forever change Leah and Austin's lives. As the doctors looked at the results, they went pale and silent. The expecting parents quickly understood something was wrong.
But what was it they had found? Although the couple begged the medical staff for answers, the doctors didn't reveal anything on the spot as they wanted to be sure. "They told me to come back to the doctor first thing the next day," Leah explained. It would be a long, agonizing night.
The Search Begins
As with most 21st-century parents nowadays, Leah went into panic mode that night, imagining what the doctors had found. From the second she got home, she allowed her mind to wander into every situation and option of what might be wrong with her unborn children.
Then, she found something, and instantly she knew in her gut that was it. "Of course, I was Googling everything that might be wrong and came across twin-to-twin transfusion," Leah recalled. But before allowing herself to go down a spiral of research and case studies, she would wait for the doctor's confirmation.
Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome
According to Hopkins Medicine, "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."
"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."
Indeed the doctor confirmed her expectations, and Leah 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 recalled of the discovery to SWNS.
Leah and Austin were devastated, understanding this meant their children's safety was at risk. It was an incredibly difficult time for the couple as they dealt with the emotional fallout of the news. Tragically, the worst had still yet to come. There was more heartbreaking news on the way.
"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," explained Leah. With this in mind, the doctors recommended what they thought was the best option.
The parents-to-be were advised to terminate Baby A and give baby B a better chance of surviving. It's the statement every expectant mother fears being told, an unbearable situation with no right or wrong answer. Nothing was certain, and the parents had no idea what they would do.
After much consideration, Leah knew in her heart that she could never choose between her unborn children. She told the doctors that she would be going against their advice because, as far as she was concerned, it wasn't an option for her to terminate one of the pregnancies.
Thinking ahead into the future, Leah knew she would never be able to look at the other child and realize they had taken priority over another one. "I didn't want to choose one baby over the other," she recalled. They didn't know how just yet, but they were committed to finding another way around the problem.
A Second Opinion
Not willing to give up, Leah and Austin decided to seek a second opinion. A doctor who specialized in this condition referred them to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. He told them that a team there had had some success with a new surgery. With nothing to lose and so much to gain, they decided to give it a shot.
After reviewing their case, the Memorial Hermann medical team had promising news for Leah. They explained the Laser Ablation surgery procedure in detail and instructed the couple to go home and rest on it. "We spent the night in shock at the day's events and praying we would still have two heartbeats the next day," Leah said.
Just in Case...
Before they could undergo surgery, Leah knew there was something she needed to do first. As hopeful as they were that everything would go as planned, they were realistic and felt the need to prepare for the worst. If the babies did not survive the procedure, she wanted to ensure they still had an identity.
"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 emotionally recalled. After much deliberation, they settled on Poppy (Baby A) and Winnie (Baby B).
A Promising Plan
The next day, Leah went in for the surgery. The doctors kept her awake while they operated on the babies. The goal was to correct the blood imbalance between the two children, giving them an equal chance of surviving. The surgery was successful, and Leah was sent home and was put on prescribed bed rest.
"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!" Leah later wrote on her Instagram. They would continue to monitor the babies carefully over the next few months.
At 27 weeks and 6 days, Leah was shocked to wake up and realize her water had broken so much earlier than it was scheduled to. With everything she had been through up until that point, she began to panic. What did this mean for her unborn children? Were they in danger?
Of course, Leah and Austin were imagining the worst-case scenario and quickly rushed over to the hospital. Upon hearing the news, the doctors grew concerned. As far as they were concerned, the babies could not come out yet - they needed more time in the womb.
Thankfully, the medical team at the hospital was experienced with cases such as these, and they were aware of labor-delaying methods. They gave Leah some steroid injections to slow down the delivery process and were pleased to see it working as intended. The expectant mother remained in the antepartum unit.
The doctors kept a close eye on her so if the babies decided to come out early, they were ready. "We needed to buy as much time as possible because 28 weeks was still too early to deliver them safely," she told SWNS. They seemed to be staying in place. For now, at least.
At 31 weeks and 5 days, Poppy's heart rate began to waver on the monitor, and the doctors grew concerned for her well-being. To them, it seemed like a distress signal - and they felt they had no choice but to deliver the babies before it was too late.
Of course, it was still a lot earlier than planned but only on the outside would they be able to give the girls the necessary medical care. There were cases of babies surviving when born at this time, so they were confident they could do it. It wasn't optimal, but it seemed to be their only option.
Meeting the Girls
On May 24, 2019, Leah gave birth to her identical twin baby girls. Poppy was born weighing 1 lb 11 0z while her sister Winnie weighed 3 lbs 8 oz. The twins, who had spent over 31 weeks together in the womb, were immediately separated for separate medical examinations.
Considering Poppy had been the one to send out a distress signal and the fact she weighed even less than Winnie, the doctors had prepared themselves for her condition to be the worse of the two. But when they examined both of them, they could not believe what they had found.
Checking On Poppy
To their surprise, they discovered that Poppy's heart was fine and she was completely healthy. "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."
On her Instagram page, Leah explained that despite being severely underweight and her "micro preemie diaper being too big for her, Poppy needed virtually no assistance." "Her nurses laughed when they told me she kept pushing them away from her when they would check on her," she recalled.
Concern for Winnie
In a shocking turn of events, it was Winnie that needed urgent care! "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." She was rushed into immediate urgent care.
"The doctor said he didn't think there was anything else they could do for her," Leah explained on Instagram. "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."
"So much time passed," Leah recalled on Instagram. "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!"
Winnie vs. Poppy
To everyone's surprise and relief, Poppy continued to stay healthy. That being said, despite Poppy being the healthier baby, there was still a concern about her weight. Poppy had to have blood transfusions and was kept in the NICU until she reached 4 lbs.
Fifty-two days after being born, Winnie was discharged when doctors deemed her health in a good state. Two days after her sister had left the hospital and gone home, Poppy finally reached her goal weight and was sent home to join her. There wasn't a dry eye in the room when the nurses said goodbye.
Reunited At Last
At long last, the moment Austin and Leah had been waiting for had arrived. From the very start of this entire journey, they had dreamed of bringing their children home and introducing them to their new home. At many points in the difficult process, they had thought it would never happen.
After all this time apart, the twins were finally reunited with each other, cuddling up in their mother's arms. The 48% size discordance was still apparent, but Leah was unbothered as long as they were both still healthy. "I love having a big and little," Leah gushed to SWNS.
Her Sister's Savior
Looking back on that fateful day, Leah recalled the doctors telling her they thought "she 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 wrote on Instagram.
"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!"
Where Are They Now?
Now aged three, the girls are both in good health. Despite the doctors' concerns, there have proven to be no long-term health impacts, and "they are as smart as can be... Everyone who knows them cheerfully says, 'they are almost the same size now!!'" Leah wrote on Instagram.
Other than the fact she has to wear glasses, Winnie is in perfect health. In fact, according to her mother, Winnie is beyond her peers when it comes to intellectual intelligence. She "is smarter than average. She can read books from memory at three."
An Important Check-Up
Two years after Winnie's brain surgery, it was time for her to have an MRI scan review. "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 exclaimed on Instagram.
"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, but for now, we will celebrate every day and every new thing she learns." In the picture above, Winnie and her mother are seen together before the scan.
Best of Friends
Now aged three, the twin sisters are each others' best friends. "They are so close - it's sweet," Leah gushed to SWNS. From their mom's Instagram account, it's clear the girls love to do everything together. They enjoy bowling, riding their scooters, dressing up as princesses, and dancing.
Poppy and Winnie are inseparable, just like they had been in the womb. "I tried to move their beds apart recently, and they weren't having it," Leah joked to SWNS. "They are both amazing." She also noted on Instagram that the girls hold hands everywhere they go.
A Forever Bond
Till today, Poppy might be smaller, but she has continued her role as her sister's keeper long beyond the womb. "Even now, Poppy takes care of Winnie, though she is still much smaller," Leah told SWNS. Poppy tells Winnie "love you" randomly, and Winnie says Poppy's name in her sleep.
"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 gushed on Instagram. While most sets of twins have a special relationship, Poppy and Winnie's incredible and unique experience took this a level up.
An Emotional Journey
With the entire experience behind them, Leah and Austin are able to look back on their journey. They shudder to imagine what would have been if they had just listened to the first doctor and not sought a second opinion. Through all the ups and downs, they learned many lessons and strengthened their relationship.
That first time they saw the positive test, they had no idea what they were in for. "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 wrote in a recent Instagram post.
Leah realized that her story of strength was not only interesting but also inspiring. For this reason, she decided to go public with her experience and create a dedicated account on Instagram named @tinymactwins. Starting from the very beginning, she posts photos and descriptions of every step.
Most importantly, she emphasizes how grateful she is that everything worked out. "Sometimes I can't believe I got token you both," she wrote alongside a picture of the girls together. She even prepared a video slideshow of their story. People love watching the girls grow up side by side and seeing how their bond continues.
Just the Beginning...
Leah hopes that sharing her story on the channel will encourage other parents going through similar conditions to stay strong and have hope. "Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome Awareness," the profile bio reads. When she was first diagnosed with the syndrome, she had few resources to turn to.
Just as she intended, the comments section of each post is filled with women who have gone through similar experiences. Leah asks her followers for words of encouragement, and the mothers share motivational sentiments with each other. And we can't wait to see where this next chapter takes everyone...