MARQUETTE - Marquette General Hospital delivers about 880 babies per year, but Thursday two arrived that will stand out in the physician's memories.
Sarah Reinfelder, 21, gave birth to Kaylin Joy and Valerie Marie a little after noon Thursday via caesarean section. Although seven weeks premature, the babies are healthy and Sarah is doing fine, doctors said.
What is unusual about these twins is that they came from two different uteri.
Born from two separate uteri on Thursday, twins Valerie Marie and Kaylin Joy are considered something of a medical miracle by MGH physicians. The real miracle for parents Shane and Sarah Reinfelder of Sault Ste. Marie, however, is getting to hold their girls for the first time. The babies join brother William, 10 months. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Valerie Reinfelder, born Thursday, to Sarah and Shane Reinfelder of Sault Ste. Marie, lays in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Marquette General Hospital Friday morning. Her mother, 21, gave birth to Valerie and her twin sister Kaylin via caesarean. Sarah carried each twin in separate uteri, called uterus didelphys. (Journal photo by Julia Woehrer)
Sarah has a condition called uterus didelphys, meaning she has two separate uteri and cervixes. While uterus didelphys is a rare condition in itself, what is even more rare is that she carried a baby in each at the same time, about a one in 5 million chance.
There have only been three other documented cases in the world in the past 40 years of this happening.
"It still blows our minds," said Dr. Connie Hedmark, one of the delivering physicians. "When you mention this to colleagues, everyone's like, 'What?'"
According to Hedmark, all females have two uteri that normally grow together before birth. In Sarah's case, the two did not grow together, meaning the muscle mass intended for one uterus was divided in two.
The two uteri meant Hedmark and Dr. Breanna Pond, the other delivering physician, had to perform two c-sections.
Although the MGH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit does see the majority of high-risk cases in the U.P., Hedmark and Pond never expected this case.
"First of all, you have to have the odds of having two uteri. Then you have to have the odds of ovulation in both," Hedmark said, listing off all the near-impossible scenarios that lead up to the birth. "We were thrilled she got to 33 weeks.
"It's phenomenal for us to have nice healthy babies," she said.
Kaylin, who was born first, weighed in at 3 pounds, 15 ounces, and Valerie weighed 4 pounds, 15 ounces.
Because the muscle tissue that made up her two uteri was originally enough for only one, each had a reduced muscle strength and reduced size, putting Sarah at risk for uterine rupture.
"Do they even have enough room to grow that big?" Pond remembered wondering.
The uteri are also different sizes, with Valerie, the larger twin, born from the larger uterus.
Now that they are born, however, the twins have the same risks and needs as other premature babies, said neonatologist Julie Frei.
"Both babies have prematurity of the lungs," Frei said.
Valerie is still on a ventilator, and both will need to stay in the hospital until they can function on their own, breathing and eating normally, as well as maintaining their own body temperatures, Frei said. Frei added she expected the twins to stay in the hospital three to four weeks.
"Before they can go home, they have to do everything that a normal baby can do," Frei said.
Sarah, along with her husband Shane, 23, and son William, 10 months, are originally from Sault Ste. Marie and have been living in Marquette for the past two months to ensure that Sarah had access to the appropriate medical care.
For Sarah and Shane, the real miracle is being able to hold their daughters for the first time, which they did late Friday morning.
"They're so small, you're worried you're going to break them," Shane said while holding Valerie for the first time. "They have the tiniest feet."
While the family was welcoming its newest members, both parents expected busy times in the future.
"We are anticipating the busy," Sarah said, adding that they were not expecting to be pregnant again so soon after William was born.
"It was pretty much just 'woah,'" she said.
Choosing names for the girls turned out to be one of the harder decisions in the entire pregnancy, the parents said.
"Every time we went to Wal-Mart, she'd run over and grab the baby names book," Shane said.
Although they had picked out the two names, the couple didn't decide which baby got which name until Friday morning.
"They were both darn cute, so we just went alphabetically," Sarah said, laughing.
For the doctors, although the job of delivering the twins is over, the work is not done. As this is such a rare case, Hedmark and Pond said they intend to publish the case in order to help provide some background information for other doctors who might have to prepare for a similar delivery.
"We will never see this again," Pond said.