For expectant mothers who have high risk babies, several have to stay in the hospital for weeks or even months prior to their baby’s due date. When AuraBelle “Belle” Laskey was told by her doctor she had a 50 percent chance of losing her twin babies after 24 weeks, she knew there was no choice but to stay in the hospital for the next two months. “There was no thought to it,” says Belle. “I’m having identical twin girls and they have monoamniotic, which means they share one sack. It is rare. Only 1% of identical twins share a sack.” This condition poses the risk of her babies cords becoming entangled, potentially cutting off their life supply in the womb. Belle was hospitalized on strict bed rest and 23 hours of continuous monitoring a day.
During Belle’s hospitalization, and under the care of Utica Park Clinic physician Dr. Brandon Wilson, she was able to take an hour break from monitoring each day. This break gave her a chance to leave her room twice a week. During these breaks, she would go to the art room for Art of Healing. Working on art projects freed her from worrying about her babies’ movements, heart rates and if their umbilical cords might tangle. While making two dainty, pink bracelets for her daughters, Aessiah and Aurbany, Belle could unwind and recharge. “This is very therapeutic for me,” she shares. “I try to be patient and content,” while she spends more than 20 hours a day in her hospital bed. “The nurses are surprised that I’m so patient, because I’m in that bed so much, but what else can you do? This is where I have to be.”
After eight weeks of hospitalization in the high risk antepartum floor at the Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center at Hillcrest Medical Center, Belle’s twin babies reached their delivery date (32 weeks gestation), and had passed the highest risk for complications from preterm delivery. “The morning of the delivery I was happy,” says Belle. “I wasn’t scared. I was just ready – really ready to see them.” To ensure a safe delivery for her babies, Belle underwent a cesarean section. Aessiah and Aurbany were born two months premature, and taken to an adjoining room by the operating room for assessment. Aessiah weighed 4 pounds 6.9 ounces and Aurbany weighed 4 pounds even. “I could hear their little cries,” Belle remembers. “A tear rolled down my eye. I thought, ‘I’m a mom now and they are there and they are healthy!’”
After assessment, both girls were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “When I saw them for the first time, Aessiah was crying, so I started crying,” Bell says. “Seeing them on all the machines was overwhelming, but I was glad they were OK.” Once Belle was discharged, she spent her days feeding, holding and caring for her daughters alongside the NICU nurses, but something with Belle wasn’t quite right. “It was scary,” she says. “I was swollen from my waist to the tip of my toes. There was a lot of fluid and I couldn’t breathe. We went to the Emergency Department.”
Belle was suffering from postpartum cardiomyopathy – a potentially life-threatening condition, and was admitted to Oklahoma Heart Institute, across the Hillcrest entrance from the NICU. There, doctors were able to remove the excess fluid, but once again Belle was hospitalized. She wasn’t able to see her daughters as much as she wanted to. “I was a mess,” she adds. “I couldn’t do skin-to-skin. They would bring me over and I could only stay for an hour at a time, whereas before I was staying in the NICU all day long.”
As soon as she was healthy, Belle was discharged from the hospital and went straight to the NICU to care for her babies. After 23 days, Aessiah and Aurbany were discharged as well. “The day we were discharged, I cried,” Belle recalls. “I cried, because I thought I was leaving home. The nurses I’ve met – they took such great care of me. The days I didn’t see my friends or my mother couldn’t come up, they were here. Dr. Wilson would bring me food if I was tired of hospital food. I really felt this was home and still do. I was born here at Hillcrest, but I didn’t know how this experience was going to be. I didn’t know I was going to meet lifelong friends.”
Labor of Love at Hillcrest is a free program for expectant mothers who choose to deliver at the Helmerich Women's Health Center. To enroll please call, 918-579-8085 or click here.