For many, spending holidays with family is something special. For one Nevada family, this Father’s Day marks a big milestone.
Even though Brody and his twin brother Ryker are 14 months old, this is the first Father’s Day they’ll spend at home with their dad, Brandon.
“Be thankful for every day those little miracle babies are around,” Brandon Soukup said.
How the twins got here, laughing and playing with their parents, is like Brandon said -- a miracle.
“September of 2019, I found out I was pregnant,” Rachel Soukup said. As she went to checkups, she was told something no parent wants to hear.
“They're basically like, 'your smaller baby is probably not going to make it. He’s probably going to die and then the larger baby could have a lot of problems associated with that, he may not make it either.' So it was a very grim prognosis,” she recalled.
With the help of doctors, Rachel was referred to Children’s Hospital Colorado from her home in Nevada.
“We just want to make sure that they’re both going to make it and we’ll do whatever we can,” she said.
Early on, Rachel found out she had Mo/Di twins, meaning one was very small and had abnormal fetal-placental blood flows.
“The high-risk nature of this comes not only in potentially losing one baby but potentially losing both or leaving one baby with brain injury,” Dr. Henry Galan, who works in maternal-fetal medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said.
“Twin to twin transfusion affects about one in 4,000 to one in 5,000 pregnancies in general, it affects about 10% of identical twins.”
Rachel had to be monitored daily at the Colorado Fetal Care Center, where doctors and nurses care for high-risk moms and babies. They deal with many uncommon diagnoses.
“She needed to be watched very closely,” Dr. Franklin Chow, Director of Laborist Program at Children's Hospital Colorado, said.
Dr. Chow was there to help figure out when the danger was too high, and the babies needed to come out. The two babies' heart rate was the biggest sign -- when the smaller baby’s heart rate dropped too much, it was time.
“We just have to try to buy as much time for this baby to grow as possible,” he said.
And then the pandemic hit. Amid a pandemic, in an unfamiliar state, Rachel gave birth at 29 weeks to two boys, both under three pounds each, with her mom by her side.
Brandon was back in Nevada.
“Our hospital was like a military camp, it was secure and locked down,” Dr. Chow explained.
The twins were put in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, where they faced a number of challenges. Ryker coded due to oxygen problems and had laser eye surgery. Brody struggled with feeding difficulties.
Months later, Brandon was finally able to visit.
“They were born on April 8 and he met them on Father’s Day. That was finally when the pandemic was calming down for a short period of time to allow for him to come,” Rachel recalled. “They had these little Father’s Day outfits, but they were massive on them.”
“I was super nervous and almost shaking. You hold them and they're just so tiny. But it was kind of that moment like, oh it was weird because I had been a dad for four months but I hadn’t actually felt like a dad,” Brandon said. “Seeing them for the first time, the noises they make, that was probably one of the better days I've ever had.”
And after 125 days in the NICU, Ryker and Brody were finally able to go home.
“Brody was always the bigger twin. He’s starting to crawl, he's starting to stand up on things,” Rachel said. “Ryker has always been a little bit behind, but he’s finally now sat up by himself which is really exciting.” Rachel is simply grateful for everyone involved in helping her on her journey.
As the boys grow up, Rachel and Brandon say they always look at things with perspective.
“It’s like that challenge in the moment with the baby, or that next developmental hurdle you're trying to get over. But a year later you kind of look back. Now our problems are Brody is crawling around and getting into everything,” Brandon said.
This Father’s Day, one year after meeting his kids, Brandon is able to celebrate with family members at home, along with his own father.
“For me, it's like a day of remembrance that you have these kids. They're in your life now, you bless these kids, it's kind of a reset day, for me anyways. Let's do another year of being a dad, let's be there for them, try to be a good person,” he said.