MISSOULA — Mia Castillo, all of three days old and just 2 pounds, 6 ounces, flails her tiny limbs about and gently cries in an effort to get cozy on her mother’s chest.
“It’s OK,” Sarah, her mother, softly coos back at her newborn daughter. “I hear ya.”
It’s the second time Sarah has gotten to hold her baby daughter since Mia and her twin sister, Chloe, who weighs 3 pounds, 2 ounces, were born Monday. Within seconds, Mia settles right in and falls asleep – comforted by the sound of her mother’s voice.
The twins are literally one in 10,000. While in utero, the twins shared one amnimotic sac and one placenta – a rare condition called monoamniotic. Sharing one sac could cause complications, like tangled umbilical cords which can cause babies’ heart rates to drop.
The twins also had twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, which made them even rarer. That condition occurs when identical twins have a blood vessel connection and one baby gets more blood flow than the other.
Thankfully, the girls were born healthy – albeit a bit premature – this week.
Sheltered in two separate isolettes, the rare sisters have settled in at the neonatal unit at Community Medical Center in Missoula, where they will likely stay until their original due date of Aug. 29. As of Thursday, the girls had a litany of medical contraptions hooked up to their tiny bodies to help them develop, including wires that monitor their respiration, heart rate and temperature.
It’s clear that Chloe and Mia still have a long way to go.
“I’m patient,” Sarah said Thursday, peering into Chloe’s isolette, while the baby girl clutched her mother’s index finger. “I just want what’s best for them.”
Since learning they were expecting in December right up to the time Sarah’s water broke early Monday morning, it’s been a journey chock-full of surprises.
It was a surprise to learn they were having twins and then another surprise that the twins were identical and monoamniotic.
Last week, with help from the hospital staff, the Castillos were married in the Community Medical Center courtyard. Sarah already was in the hospital because of the complexity of her pregnancy, and was given just 30 minutes before she had to return to bed rest.
Two days later, the doctor told the couple to plan for a caesarean section in July. No one expected Sarah to go into labor four days later.
“I didn’t expect that three hours after Father’s Day they would be here,” Matt Castillo said.
But the girls were ready to go. In fact, Mia had recently flipped – joining her sister in the headfirst position.
After calling Matt at least three times Monday morning around 1 a.m., Sarah was frantically writing him a message when he called.
“He said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ and I said, ‘I think we are having babies tonight,’ ” she said.
In about eight minutes he was there, as were her doctors, who were getting ready in the operating room.
Sarah said she was awake for the procedure and tried to distract herself by talking to the anesthesiologists, nurses and Matt, who was busy filming the birth.
“It’s probably about the scariest thing about having babies,” she said.
Chloe came first at 3:31 a.m., followed a minute later by her sister Mia, who cried a little louder.
“Mia was a little more ticked off than Chloe,” Sarah remembered, calling their cries beautiful.
Sarah says she feels good after the surgery, but she winces as she moves about. She is ready to go home Friday and hopes the girls will come home sooner than later.
“That’s really up to them,” NICU nurse Katie Clifton explained.
Until that time, Sarah and Matt will have to make do with designated “touch times,” when they can touch their babies through the holes in the isolettes and hold them once in a while.
On Thursday, as Sarah talked softly to Chloe, the baby’s oxygen saturation monitor started beeping.
It’s because she’s relaxed and happy when she hears her mother’s voice, Clifton explained.