By Hannah Shipton, the 2013 Ambassador Mom for the Winston-Salem March for Babies

Chapter 1 – The Decision
On Mother’s Day 2010, my husband and I found out we were pregnant. We were both shocked and excited when the physician informed us we would be having a multiple pregnancy.

Our apparently normal pregnancy took a turn for the worst at 24 weeks.While our son was growing normally, a scan revealed that our daughter had a reversal of end-diastolic flow; when this occurs there is abnormal resistance in the placenta which results in a marked decrease in blood flow from the fetus to the placenta. Reverse end-diastolic flow carries an increased fetal and neonatal mortality.My daughter’s chances of surviving were very slim. Shaken and fearful we called our family as we drove to the hospital to consult with the attending neonatologist. The physician calmly shared the negative morbidity and mortality statistics for babies born at 24 weeks. That was a day that neither my husband nor I will ever forget – we had to decide when our children would be born. We ultimately chose not to deliver at 24 weeks – it was too risky for both babies.

Chapter 2 – Emergency Delivery
A few weeks later, at 27 weeks, I was admitted into the hospital and diagnosed with a rare variant of Preeclampsia called HELLP Syndrome. Preeclampsia is defined as high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy in a woman who previously had normal blood pressure. HELLP Syndrome occurs in 10-20% of pregnant women with severe preeclampsia; the syndrome is a group of symptoms that occurs in pregnant women who have hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count. If untreated, HELLP Syndrome can result in life threatening complications for both mother and baby. I was terrified – scared for my babies and scared for my own life as I was rushed to the OR for an emergent delivery.Minutes later, my babies Caleb Andrew at 2.2lbs and Annabelle Claire at 1.3lbs were born. They were both breathing. Tears streamed down my face as my husband brought each of them to me for their first kiss.

Chapter 3 – NICU Rollercoaster
Over the next four months, the NICU became our second home. The only way I can describe the NICU experience is like a roller coaster. One day we would be greeted with good news and the next day we would face a setback. A special memory in the NICU stay was Thanksgiving Day. When we visited that day, for the first time I was able to hold both my babies in my arms at the same time. Joy and overwhelming emotion rushed through my body as I pulled my baby girl and baby boy close. Finally, exactly three months after birth, Caleb graduated from the NICU. While it was a happy day, it was also sad, because Annabelle was not yet ready to come home. She wouldn’t be ready for another month.

Chapter 4 – Your Impact
My twins joined millions of babies born too soon, who would live because of the advances in medicine as a result of research funded by March of Dimes.I will never know whose donations or which specific March of Dimes research enabled my children to survive and thrive after a premature birth; I do know investments in research were made to find treatments for premature conditions and today at two years old, I have two healthy toddlers.There are millions of other babies who will face these same challenges and worse and you can provide them a chance at life through your donation and support for March of Dimes.

So join the March of Dimes team and walk to change lives. Indeed, you may never know the difference you make. Join us on April 20th for the Winston-Salem March for Babies 5k walk and fun run. Register here to walk with us in Winston Salem or to find a walk in your city.