As anybody who’s ever had a baby can tell you, ultrasounds can be intense experiences. They’re exciting, certainly, but they can also be really scary, especially when you don’t know what to expect. You can imagine the fear that overwhelmed mom-to-be Rebecca Roberts, then, when her sonographer turned to her with a strange look on her face.
Fearing the worst
Rebecca’s immediate reaction was to fear the worst. Why was this medical professional looking at her in such a weird way? It must be bad news. After all, the road to actually getting pregnant had been a rough one up until this point. Maybe more hardship was still to come?
The truth, it would soon emerge, was quite different to anything Rebecca had feared at this moment. She was in for some totally unexpected news, and it would be absolutely life-changing. But it wasn’t to be any of the nightmare scenarios she was briefly envisioning. If anything, what was about to unfold was a miracle.
Over the Moon
It had been a little over a year of struggling to fall pregnant for Rebecca and Rhys Weaver, her partner. So, when eventually the news came that it had finally happened, the pair were understandably over the Moon. They eagerly looked ahead to a future ahead with their new baby.
Ultrasound number one
Still, some big doubts remained. An ultrasound was scheduled, which would be an important moment. This would tell them how the early stages of the pregnancy were going. It was a nerve-wracking moment, but the news was good. A heartbeat was heard, and things looked positive. The couple were ecstatic.
A bizarre observation
Before long another ultrasound appointment was penciled in. This one was scheduled for the 12-week mark of the pregnancy, which would let the couple know how things were progressing. It was during this particular session when things took a massively unexpected turn. The sonographer that day noticed something absolutely bizarre.
Rebecca has spoken to The Washington Post about this moment of unbearable tension during the ultrasound. She said, “I thought something awful had happened... The sonographer looked at me and was like, ‘Do you know you’re expecting twins?’” The answer to that was a resounding no. She’d had absolutely no idea.
What was going on, then? How had there been only one heartbeat during the first ultrasound, and now two during this one? And another question: why was one fetus at a far less advanced stage of development than the other? Well, it soon emerged that Rebecca had experienced “superfetation.” In other words, she’d become pregnant with one baby — and then later became pregnant with a second.
An unlikely occurrence
This is an incredibly unlikely thing to occur. In fact, Rebecca’s obstetrician David Walker had never seen such a thing happen in his quarter-century-long career. He even spoke to The Washington Post about it, simply saying, “It just doesn’t happen.” He’s almost right on the money with such a statement, as the recorded instances of superfetation are incredibly low.
It shouldn’t be possible
In terms of what we have on the records, fewer than ten such cases have ever been noted. Of course, the actual number is probably higher than what we see documented, but all the same, it seems pretty clear that this was a remarkably unusual occurrence. Usually, it shouldn’t be possible because of bodily changes during pregnancy, so getting pregnant again is not a risk most couples ever consider.
A bit of a worry
The news that a second baby was on the way for Rebecca was shocking, and it took a few weeks to get to the bottom of what was going on. As Dr. Walker explained, “We were concerned because the second twin was much smaller. It was only by regularly scanning and seeing that the rate of growth was consistently three weeks behind that we realized it was superfetation.”
So, how had this happened to Rebecca? As Dr. Walker reflected, “Instead of stopping ovulation, she released another egg about three or four weeks after the first one, and the egg somehow miraculously managed to fertilize and implant in her uterus.” If a woman’s body usually prevents such a thing from happening, why did it occur in Rebecca’s case?
No way of proving it
Well, Rebecca had been taking medication to increase her chances of getting pregnant. But Dr. Walker doesn’t seem to think that was what did it. He explained, “She didn’t release two eggs at the same time, which is what the medication normally does. But we have no way of proving it one way or another.”
Combing the internet
Regardless of how it had happened, the important thing is that Rebecca and Rhys were now expecting two kids instead of one. And quite naturally, they were quite shocked about that. Rebecca explained that they immediately started combing the internet for any information about superfetation, discovering how rare it really was.
Rhys reflected, “There is very little information, because this is not supposed to happen. It was just crazy news.” But after some time, the couple managed to wrap their heads around this most unexpected development. It wasn’t what they had envisioned, but circumstances had led to this situation where two babies were on the way.
But even though the couple were now feeling excited about the double pregnancy, their concerns were still very much warranted. Expecting twins brings risks at the best of times, but with one child less developed than the other, those risks multiply. As Dr. Walker said, “Anything that can go wrong with a pregnancy is more common with twin pregnancies. But with a three-week difference, you don’t want to compromise the smaller twin by delivering too early. You have to keep a really close eye. The delivery was crucial in this case.”
Time to go
Rebecca knew that she'd likely give birth before her term was up, which was scary to have looming in the back of her mind. And sure enough, after the 33-week mark had been crossed, there was a complication. The smaller baby was having trouble with its umbilical cord, so Rebecca's doctors decided it was time to proceed with delivery as soon as possible.
Noah and Rosalie
A Cesarean section was scheduled, and both babies were brought into the world. Their birthday was September 17, 2020. A boy came first, at a weight of 4 pounds and 10 ounces. A girl arrived second, at the tiny weight of 2 pounds and 7 ounces. Rebecca and Rhys decided to call the kids Noah and Rosalie.
The new parents got the opportunity to briefly marvel at their kids, but the new arrivals were soon taken to a neonatal intensive care unit. Their health needed to be monitored, with Noah staying in care for a little more than three weeks. Rosalie’s stay was far longer, at closer to 13 weeks. In the end, though, both children were allowed to come home in time for the holidays.
Miracles can happen
After that, Rebecca and Rhys could concentrate on raising their kids. And they keep others up to date with their story, setting up an Instagram to post about their progress. As Rebecca reflected in The Washington Post, “We want people to be able to continue to watch as they grow up. Miracles can happen, and my children are proof of that.”
Rare pregnancy risk
Rebecca's babies continue to grow and show no health concerns, and she hasn't had any lasting complications from her pregnancies either. But women looking to get pregnant should be wary of certain twin pregnancy risks like superfetation or even something more concerning, a medical event that, for one pregnant woman, only appeared after she'd already delivered her baby. Somehow, doctors had missed all signs during her many sonograms.
Gray and lifeless
It was immediately obvious after delivery that something wasn't right. 38-year-old Leanne's joy was put on hold as she watched her baby, Louee, surrounded by medical staff. According to The Sun, Louee came into the world appearing "gray and lifeless." Doctors immediately took the baby to the antenatal unit, where they ran necessary tests and discovered something both perplexing and troubling.
The doctors found that Louee had lost a severe amount of blood while in the womb. Though the infant was surviving, he struggled and needed to spend three more weeks in the hospital as a consequence of the unforeseen trauma. It was certainly far from what Leanne envisioned for her infant's first weeks, but she soon learned they were both in for more medical curveballs.
“[The doctors] don’t know exactly what happened, but they think that he bled through me. We didn’t know it at the time,” Leanne told the Daily Mirror in April of 2018. Little Louee was soon placed into an incubator after unavoidable organ failure plagued him.
Fight for his life
Though heartbreaking, to maintain the newborn's blood quantity, doctors put Louee in a medically induced coma to revitalize him with donated blood. Louee wasn't giving up yet, and neither was his anguished mother.
Louee was clearly blessed by the presence of talented doctors, as he eventually made a stunning recovery. Leanne couldn't have been more jubilant to finally bring her sweet baby home, presumably attempting to forget the horrors that previously ensued. Leanne thought she could finally breathe.
While it seemed that the new mama's luck was finally turning, there were more demons awaiting her. Just two days after she brought a healthy, smiley Louee home, Leanne experienced disquieting blood loss of her own. Nothing about her postpartum experience was deemed normal.
Leanne then returned to the hospital she dismally knew too well. When doctors operated on the fatigued Leanne, they thought they cracked the case of what had caused her to bleed so violently, but the first time wasn't the charm.
Under the knife
“Medics operated to remove what they thought was part of Louee’s placenta. It was terrifying,” Leanne told The Sun. Well, a frustrated, frightened Leanne made her way back to the hospital just two weeks later, as her hazardous bleeding continued.
The answer emerges
While performing surgery on Leanne Crawley the second time around, doctors almost immediately discovered the true explanation behind her perpetual, life-threatening blood loss, and it was the stuff of horror movies.
The blooming mother had endured a molar pregnancy, which happens when abnormal cells (rudely) insert themselves in the womb. This intrusion of sorts then leads to a "non-viable embryo," which is about as unwelcome as it sounds.
The abnormal growth attempted to become Louee's twin by CONSUMING his real twin! That's right: Leanne Crawley had been expecting twins the whole time, but doctors oddly never caught it during routine ultrasounds.
“[Doctors] never knew that there were two [babies] in there. All you could see on the scan was Louee. But it turned out that he had been hiding [the other fetus] all along, protecting me," Leanne gratefully said.
This was understandably an emotional time for Leanne, especially considering doctors probed her with questions regarding a possible funeral for the consumed twin, just hours after Leanne was aware she was supposed to have twins in the first place. "It was a lot to take in," she said.
Not out of the woods
Believe it or not, this wasn't the end of Leanne Crawley's traumatic pregnancy tale. Despite the successful removal of Leanne's molar pregnancy, something harmful still lurked in her tired body.
Leanne had developed choriocarcinoma, a uterine cancer that originates from the development of the abnormal cells. Approximately 50% of women who are plagued with molar pregnancies fall victim to this particular cancer. What's even worse was that the cancer had spread to Leanne's lungs.
Long road back
The weathered mum went on to receive 15 hours of chemotherapy a week, as well as 20 blood transfusions. Losing the entirety of her hair was a harrowing experience for Leanne, having said that it was “horrible, a constant reminder that I had cancer.”
The torment never seemed to end for Leanne. Even while fighting cancer she nearly died of a blot clot that viciously traveled to her lungs in the midst of her treatment. She'd been to hell and back multiple times, but finally, Leanne was cancer free come September of 2017.
“The whole experience nearly destroyed us all, but I had so much support from my friends and family,” Leanne said. In hopes to raise money for a lighthearted vacation, after months and months of treatment, Leanne set up a GoFundMe page.
Unfortunately, Louee suffers from long-term side effects of the molar pregnancy, Leanne having relayed that he is “completely deaf, mildly brain damaged and [has] cerebral palsy in his left leg.” Though the mother-son duo has withstood oodles of pain, she'd do it all again for Louee.
“I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, but obviously I would take it all again if it was a choice between me and Louee,” she said in an emotional statement for Daily Mail. Dealing with all the fallout from her traumatic pregnancy was difficult, but luckily Leanne had many online resources and support groups to turn to.
It would be in an online group like these that Leanne might have encountered the Garrison family. See, the Garrison girls were born as triplets. While Madeline was born healthy, Macey and Mackenzie — much like Louee — faced some serious risks that started before they even came out of the womb. The latter two were actually conjoined at the pelvis—and soon, their parents were forced to make one gut-wrenching decision.
Ten months after their birth, the girls faced a choice that determined the future of their family. The chief medical officer at the Los Angeles' Children's Hospital, Dr. James Stein, came forward to head an operation that could help the babies.
Dr. Stein was adamant about completing the operation. After all, while the planned surgery was not going to be easy, Stein knew it was necessary if the girls were to enjoy an independent life. Though this was no routine procedure.
Further complicating the surgery was the fact that the girls' had entwined intestines and shared a third leg. And in addition to the challenge of surgery, the girls also faced difficult personal circumstances. Their birth parents both had drug addictions, so they decided to give the girls up for adoption.
Still, the procedure couldn't be delayed any longer. During a 24-hour long operation in 2003, Dr. Stein led a team of surgeons in meticulously separating Macey and Mackenzie. If all went according to plan, both of the twins would be left with one leg.
A new family
By the last hour, the doctors knew the surgery's objective had been accomplished. Still, because of the parents' addiction issues, the future of all three sisters was hanging in limbo. Two years later, positive news developed.
Big and wholesome
The twins and their other sister were adopted by Darla Keller and Jeff Garrison. They took the girls to their home in Iowa, where with three biological sons, the Garrison family grew. Three sisters now had three brothers.
Living on a farm, the sisters thrived. Both Darla and Jeff treated them as regular kids and it helped tremendously. Macey and Mackenzie may still have had difficulties, but they had a strong determination as well.
Due to their amputations, the two relied on prosthetics to stay mobile. Several more medical issues came about as the years went by. Spinal infusions caused issue for the twins, but they persevered. Soon, a big milestone loomed ahead.
Another step into life
During the fall of 2020, the triplets entered their senior year of high school. Two decades of their life have almost been completed. For the first time, they could really start looking ahead to a future of their own making.
Madeline, after years of watching the medical help given to her sisters, became interested in a career in the nursing field. She wanted to narrow her focus onto geriatric patients with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Mackenzie had not made definite plans on her future just yet, although she realized she had a passion for agriculture. As for Macey, she has started plans to become a kindergarten teacher. One person could hardly believe the strides they'd made.
Long time, no see
Even after all these years later, Dr. Stein wasn't forgotten. The twins may not have seen him in over a decade, but that didn't stop them from communicating. Their experience has keep them connected in unexpected ways.
The twins have given their doctor the title of "the coolest person ever" and sent over emails to keep him up to date. Dr. Stein, on his part, was ecstatic over the continued contact. He hasn't been shy about singing their praises.
Sharing an excerpt in a People magazine article entitled: "Formerly Conjoined Twins and Their Sister Enjoy Being 'Normal,'" Dr. Stein spoke about his ongoing relationship with the twins all these years later. “It’s been a wonderful experience following the girls themselves and staying in touch with them.”
Long time coming
Dr. Stein had the pleasure to watch as the babies recovered, grew, and matured into two very healthy individuals. The careful work that he and the other doctors performed that day in 2003 paid off well. However, the Garrison girls admitted they were a bit puzzled about all that publicity.
While the twins made headlines during their birth and surgery, both Macey and Madeline have continued to find their prominence in the news, rather odd. Even their sister Madeline could never wrap her head around it.
For all three girls, they were simply sisters to one another. The fact that the whole country knew who they were has hardly fazed them, though. They never wanted to become public figures; instead, their personal lives came first.
Future so bright
Their mother, Darla, was possibly the most excited to see where their future may lead. "I’m relieved because, like I said, we always knew there were going to be bumps in the road and issues," she said. But fortunately, "They’re just like their peers."
So many paths
The Garrison girls ended up both a surgical success as well as an adoption one. They were fortunate enough to stay together and develop their sisterly bond and irrefutable triplet connection. And though they still have some physical obstacles to overcome, they are happy together and living their best life.