Diana Hubbard adjusted her son, William, higher on his pillow through two holes in an incubator before checking on her other identical twin son, Robert IV.
Hubbard’s twins are one of nine sets who were treated last week at El Paso Children’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. That was the highest number of multiple births in the unit since the hospital opened in February. The babies were all born prematurely.
Hubbard gave birth July 2, a little more than three months before her expected due date. Two weeks before she gave birth, doctors told her she was at risk for premature labor.
Her babies had undergone a twin-to-twin transfusion in utero, which caused blood to flow disproportionately through the babies’ umbilical cords. William was receiving too much blood and had a strained heart, while Robert wasn’t receiving enough, Hubbard said.
Now, “they have respiratory diseases, but they’re eating OK,” she said. “Their brains are doing well so far. I don’t want to jinx it.”
The twins have a long way to go and probably won’t come home until October, said Hubbard, who joked that she doesn’t get much sleep.
She and her husband, Army Spc. Robert Hubbard, who is stationed at Fort Bliss, keep a carefully planned schedule. From about 5 to 10 a.m., Diana Hubbard telecommutes for her job as a software designer. Then she heads to the hospital for a couple of hours.
She then meets her husband to update him on the twins’ status, then works again for about four hours in the afternoon. She and her husband then head back to the hospital to read the boys a bedtime story.
Amid all that, Diana Hubbard is finishing her doctoral degree in human computer interaction and information science from the University of North Texas.
Dr. Garrett Levin, a neonatologist at El Paso Children’s Hospital, said having nine sets of twins in the neonatal intensive care unit is not common.
“Nine is a lot,” Levin said. “But twins have increased over the last quarter-century. One in 30 births now are twins.”
Multiple births have increased with advancements in fertility drugs, and with increases in women older than 30 having babies. Older women have a greater chance of releasing multiple eggs during a single menstrual cycle, Levin said.
Having more than one baby at a time comes with increased risks, including twin-to-twin transfusion, which affected the development of Hubbard’s sons.
There’s also limited room for the babies to develop, a problem that stresses the mother’s body and can induce labor early.
The hospital’s nine twin sets is unusually high, but unfortunately it’s not uncommon to have that number of multiple births wind up in intensive care, said Robin Montoya, marketing director of Providence Memorial Hospital and the Regional Children’s Hospital at Providence, where there are now five sets of twins.
The neonatal intensive care unit at Providence can accommodate a maximum of 55 babies.
“Having multiples in the area of seven to nine, even possibly 10, is not uncommon in a NICU as large as ours — and UMC’s is high, but it’s not uncommon,” Montoya said.
Sabine Powell, 36, gave birth to twins Taylor and Tyler on May 26, about three months shy of her expected late August due date.
Tyler, who weighed a little more than 3 pounds at birth, has shown improvement. He no longer relies on a feeding tube or an incubator. But Taylor, who weighed 1 pound and 8 ounces when he was born, hasn’t fared as well so far. He has had a surgery on his heart and two on his intestines
“He’s my fighter,” Powell said. “They told me he wouldn’t make it. For him, there’s a long way to go still.”
Powell said she spends every day at the hospital.
“Sometimes to leave them, you don’t know what’s going on,” Powell said. “You go home and have nothing. I had to learn the feeling.”
Hayley Kappes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6168. Follow her on Twitter @hayleykappes.