Having Twins: The Bretz Family’s Surprise Turns to Joy Thanks to Special Care
Jennifer Bretz and her husband, Kevin, were excited – and somewhat overwhelmed – when they learned they were having twins. “We knew there was a high probability for twins because I received fertility treatments, so we were thrilled, but also a bit scared about dealing with two babies,” she says.
The Macungie couple learned about the higher risk for complications with twins, including the possibility that doctors might induce labor at 37 weeks instead of the normal 40 to ensure a safe delivery and healthy babies. The pregnancy was easy, though, so neither worried much about problems.
But during a routine checkup six months into her pregnancy, Jennifer heard terrifying news. She was in labor. “We knew the babies might come early and have a short stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), but I wasn’t prepared for 23 weeks,” she says.
She was admitted to the labor-and-delivery unit, and maternal fetal medicine caregivers at the perinatal unit worked to hold off delivery. But two weeks later, Bretz began bleeding heavily and underwent an emergency cesarean section.
Kylie arrived first, weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces, and Zachary followed at 1 pound, 4 ounces. Both suffered from infections, and Zachary’s lungs were severely underdeveloped. “They were so tiny I could fit my wedding ring around Zachary’s leg,” Bretz says. “They were hooked up to ventilators, tubes and monitors. Doctors said only about half of babies born that early survive. It was heart-wrenching.”
The couple visited Kylie and Zachary in the NICU daily. Encouraged to bond with the babies, Jennifer often stayed for hours, holding them, pumping breast milk, singing to them and praying that doctors and nurses could keep their fragile infants alive.
Miraculously, Kylie went home after 72 days, weighing almost 5 pounds. Zachary followed nearly three weeks later at almost 6 pounds. The next months were a blur of appointments with doctors and specialists to monitor their health and development. Now 1 year old, the twins are remarkably healthy. They lag behind in developmental milestones, like crawling, but are expected to catch up by age 2.
“After everything they’ve been through, they’re the happiest, sweetest, most amazing babies,” Bretz says.
To express her thanks, Bretz now raises funds for the NICU and serves on a board that advises staff about additional ways to provide a family-friendly experience. “The NICU team did a great job taking care of the kids and us,” she says. “We are very grateful, and I want to give back.”
What to expect when twins are coming
Congratulations! You’re having twins. Here are the four tips you should know to prepare for pregnancy, birth and beyond.
You might deliver early. Many twins arrive near their due date, but all women carrying multiples are at greater risk for early labor (before 38 weeks). “Some moms may need bed rest, and about 50 percent deliver early,” says Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital neonatologist Wendy Kowalski, MD, with LVPG-Neonatology. “The NICU is here to care for those babies.”
Don’t go it alone. “It’s stressful having one baby, but with twins it’s double of everything,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) pediatrician Kristin Menconi-Drost, MD, with LVPG Pediatrics. “Don’t hesitate to accept offers of help from family and friends.”
Your babies may have health problems and developmental delays. “Preterm infants in particular require close monitoring and care after leaving the NICU,” Menconi-Drost says. “We see them frequently in the office to monitor growth and development and to help them stay healthy. We also refer them to early intervention services for evaluation and to any needed therapies for developmental delays.”
Relish the experience. “Enjoy your pregnancy,” Kowalski says. “Just make sure you’re monitored, and take special care of yourself.” And if your babies are preterm, don’t feel guilty. “You can do everything right and still deliver early,” she says. “With proper care, many preterm multiples live healthy lives.”