When a couple first learns that they have a baby on the way, they are usually filled with bliss and excitement as they plan for their expanding family. There are so many reasons to be excited when it comes to the journey of pregnancy and the new miracle, which is why couples are usually overflowing with joy. Now, when a couple discovers that they are pregnant with not one, but two babies, that excitement is doubled, along with the anxiety of the added things to think about.
When Heather and Riley Delaney learned that they were having twins, they were ecstatic, and then when Heather was 11 weeks pregnant, they got some more news. The two babies that were actively growing, were conjoined. From the moment they discovered the somewhat scary news, they started traveling to the hospital regularly for appointments to monitor the babies.
“I think for me being their mom, I think of them as two separate babies,” said Heather, who sees her babies for who they are and not ‘what is wrong with them.’ “There are times when one of them will be crying and the other one is completely fast asleep and I have to remind myself that I can’t pick them up.”
Riley echoed Heather’s thoughts on parenting conjoined twins…
“As a parent, it doesn’t matter what the issue is or what they do or what they look like, you are going to love that child no matter what,” said Riley.
While there are different types of conjoined twins, baby Abby and Erin share a skull and the coverings of the brain, known as a craniopagus pair which is the rarest of conjoined twins. They also have a vein that goes down the middle of their shared skull, which is called the sagittal sinus. This particular vein is where 20% of the cardiac output goes through.
In order for the twins to be separated a team of 30 doctors had to work together to ensure the surgery was successful. The doctors had to be sure that everyone would know what their role was when it came to the day of the surgery. Considering this was such a rare surgery and a first for the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the doctors informed the Delaneys that this was a life or death situation and they may lose one or both of the twins.
Over the first ten months of their lives, the babies underwent several surgeries to prep them for the separation surgery.
On June 6, 2017, the Delaney’s kissed their girls and prayed before they were sent into surgery.
After a grueling 11 hours the doctor came out to inform them that the girls were separated but they were concerned about Erin’s brain swelling so they were going to keep both girls asleep for two days.
Two months after the surgery the girls celebrated their first birthday and while there is still a long journey ahead of them, the Delaney’s are willing to take on every obstacle along the way and they are grateful for the staff at CHOP.
The girls will need more surgeries as they grow, but the hospital says doctors are optimistic
said Heather. “As their parents, it is very neat for Riley and me to have a front-row seat to this and watch them overcome these incredible obstacles. We cannot wait to see what their future holds!”