MESA, Arizona -— With yawns, coos and a couple of smiles, after 110 days in the Nursery Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph's Hospital, twins born at 23 weeks gestation finally moved home to Gilbert Monday.
"We're completely ecstatic," said Lori Basaldu, the twins' mother. "It's been a long road."
Harper Basaldu, named after the famous author Harper Lee, will be joining her twin brother, Robinson, and their parents. Robinson, whose namesake is Jackie Robinson, went home exactly one week before.
"They're near full-term now," said the twins' doctor, Dr. Robert Gutierrez, who said the twins are leaving with a clean bill of health. "Babies born at this gestational age are rare, but not at St. Joe's. We commonly care for babies born at this gestation, unfortunately."
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center is known for its Level III Perinatal Center and Nursery Intensive Care Unit, Gutierrez said. The center serves nearly 800 premature infants every year.
On Monday, the family spent one last day with the NyICU doctors and nurses who helped care for the twins their first three months of life.
"They made sure we participated," Lori said. "Everything from changing diapers, giving baths and kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby); they make you feel like you can be part of their miracle."
After marrying in February 2010, the Basaldus hoped to start a family. With the help of IVF treatments, their wish to become parents became a reality.
In the first trimester of her pregnancy, Lori was diagnosed with a subchorionic hemorrhage, which is a type of blood clot found in the womb during pregnancy. It is fairly common and generally goes away on its own. Except for Lori, it didn't go away.
"My doctor told me that he had never seen a subchorionic hemorrhage that didn't go away by the second trimester," she said.
At her doctor's appointment on April 12, the twins were 23 weeks, 6 days gestation. The twins weren't due until the beginning of August.
"If something happens today, go to St. Joe's," Lori remembered her doctor telling her. "If something happens down the road, we can discuss other options that are closer, but if something happens anytime soon, go to St. Joe's."
Later that day, Lori felt cramping, and thought perhaps she was passing the clot, she said. Six hours later, Lori and Pete arrived at St. Joseph's and were told that she was in active delivery.
"From minute one, you just don't know what to expect," Pete said.
At the hospital, they were unable to stop labor and doctors delivered both babies via C-section, just moments apart, first Harper at 8:13 p.m. and then Robinson at 8:15 p.m. Robinson was 1 lb. and 7 oz., while Harper weighed in at just 1 lb. and 5 oz.
"We thought they can't live at 23 weeks," Lori said while cradling Robinson. "I thought it was over. But at the NyICU, the nurses talked to us about what was happening."
The nurses explained what would happen that day and the plans for the two preemies the next day, Lori said. They also started pointing out their differences and their personalities.
"They said that Harper was going to run a boardroom someday, what she would be like in high school," she said. "It made us feel like we were on a journey, not at the end."
Since their birth, the two babies have overcome a number of hurdles, all documented on Pete and Lori's blog.
They were so small, Pete put his wedding band on Harper's arm like a bangle, even past her elbow it was still loose, he said.
"I've watched them become babies," Lori said. "They didn't have voices because of the feeding tube down their throat and their eyes were still fused shut."
Both have been poked and prodded as they've grown. Robinson and Harper both had to have heart surgery to fix a heart murmur commonly found in preemies, as well as blood transfusions. They've learned to breathe on their own and eat without a feeding tube.
But so far, so good, their parents and doctor said.
Robinson is the more laid-back of the two and likes to coo, according to his parents, While Harper is the instigator.
"I love baseball and Jackie Robinson is a character of strength," Pete said.
"Harper Lee was a woman who wrote one beautiful book. She did one thing and she did it really well," Lori said.
With the strength that the two have already shown, Harper and Robinson seem to have already lived up to their namesakes.