I am SO overjoyed to share this post with you! Let me introduce Olivia Marie and her identical twin sister Evelyn Jane. Born February 9, 2018 at 4:34pm and weighing a combined 5 pounds 8 ounces with Olivia weighing just 1 pound 10 ounces!
I first met their mother Jennifer back in October of last year when she contacted me for a maternity session and to schedule a Fresh 48 session. After chatting and coordinating the sessions, she said to me that she had to tell me something they were privately dealing with and that was very hard for her. They didn’t expect Olivia to survive the full pregnancy. So, we were actually planning a maternity session for Jennifer who expected to be carrying only one child by that time, and a Fresh 48 for just Evelyn. As a new mom myself with my daughter just two months at this time, my heart was broken for Jennifer.
Over the course of the coming months as Jennifer and her husband Sean battled a rollercoaster of emotions, Doctors prognoses, and hospital visits, Jennifer kept me in the loop as things changed and I was along for the ride of all the ups and downs.
Just before Jennifer had contacted me back in October, they had found out that their girls had developed Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. The twins are identical, shared a placenta, but each had their own amniotic sacs. Twin pregnancies are already considered high risk, but sharing a placenta increases the risk for complications such as Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. What that meant was that Olivia was giving up all of her blood and nutrition to Evelyn through shared blood vessels in the placenta.
To try to treat this condition, Jennifer underwent in-utero laser ablation surgery to cauterize the shared blood vessels. They were told that without the surgery, BOTH girls would have passed away. By having the surgery, Olivia would no longer send away all the nutrition she needed to grow and instead, hopefully begin to grow herself!
The surgery was successful however Jennifer and Sean were also aware that because the twins shared the same placenta, Olivia would still always get less nutrients than Evelyn. They had to watch closely to see if she would start to grow and thrive now that she had a steady stream of nutrients finally making their way to her.
Following the surgery on November 2, Jennifer, Sean and their Doctors took a "wait and see" approach on Olivia’s status. Evelyn continued to thrive but then they found out that Olivia was diagnosed with a pretty significant intrauterine growth restriction (or IUGR). There was nothing Jennifer or her Doctors could have done to prevent this.
There had been mixed opinions on Olivia’s prognosis at various follow up appointments, and at best she was given a 30% chance of making it to a gestational age and weight that was viable. Once, during an appointment Jennifer and Sean were told to pretty much prepare for her passing in the following couple of weeks.
They tried to wrap their heads around the fact that they were going to lose one of their babies and they prepared for the worst. As the weeks continued to pass, they continued to see her little heart beating away at their bi-weekly ultrasounds. She was still healthy, still feisty, but growing very, very slowly. Each visit they were told she was beneath the first percentile for growth, the 0.1th percentile to be exact.
Right up until a week or two before their delivery, Jennifer and Sean were always reminded that there was a very real possibility that the placenta would fail Olivia before she was big and strong enough to survive out of the uterus.
Jennifer was admitted on her birthday (31 weeks and 1 day) and received ultrasound scans each day to closely monitor the girls and to look for signs that Olivia may be in distress. Jennifer’s Doctors were waiting for signs that Olivia would be better “out than in”. Their doctors wanted them to make it until 32 weeks to be sure that Olivia had grown big and strong enough, and to ensure the risks to delivering Evelyn were also decreased.
Jennifer had JUST just passed that milestone and at 32 weeks and 1 day, her morning scan showed something new. They saw fluid over Olivia’s abdomen. They were unsure of what this meant but this new finding was enough for the doctors to decide they would perform a cesarian section that afternoon.
Jennifer and Sean awaited the c-section and hoped for the best outcome for both girls. Jennifer said it was terrifying.
At 4:34pm, Jennifer heard both girls cry before they were whisked away to the NICU. A successful delivery!
The girls were only together for 48 hours at Mount Sinai sharing a room when it was discovered that Olivia had perforated her bowel. She had a very fragile bowel from her restricted growth in the womb, as it turns out a fetus will prioritize organs when it’s nutrition is restricted. Giving the brain and heart the best opportunity to grow, but at the expense of things like the intestines.
Olivia was rushed to Sick Kids for emergency surgery. The surgeon emphasizing that death was a very real possible outcome of the surgery for a child so small and frail. But Olivia beat the odds again, showing everyone how badly she wants to be in this world, surviving surgery and absolutely kicking butt post-operatively.
For weeks following, the girls remained separated, and Evelyn was able to come home first while Olivia had to remain at Sick Kids while they monitored her recovery.
Finally, just a few weeks ago Jennifer and Sean were able to bring Olivia home to be with her twin sister Evelyn again and also to join her big sister Emma. Both girls are doing incredibly well and although Olivia is still very tiny, she is doing amazing! She is a little warrior and Jennifer and Sean’s little miracle.
I was invited to their home to capture some of the moments just a few days after Olivia was reunited with her family. Here are some of the images we captured of this loving, strong, and amazing family.