Elizabeth Calia gave birth to twin boys at Eisenhower Family Birth Center last June — the first set of twins born at the new Center just three weeks after it opened — and she describes her experience as “honestly fantastic.”
“As first-time parents, we were nervous to begin with,” the Rancho Mirage resident relates. “Then my high-risk pregnancy doctor said I needed to deliver earlier than planned because the twins were what they call ‘discordant.’ So I was scheduled for a C-section at 34 weeks.”
Discordancy refers to when one twin develops faster and grows significantly bigger than the other.
“Elizabeth’s twins were monochorionic twins, identical twins who share one placenta,” explains Enrique Jacome, MD, FACOG, Board Certified in OB/GYN. He was Calia’s regular obstetrician. “They were sharing a ‘room,’ so to speak, and what can happen is that one brother ends up taking more of the blood and nutrient supply, growing bigger while the other twin remained smaller.
“By 34 weeks, there was a twenty percent weight difference, or discordancy, between the two boys and the smaller one had stopped growing,” he continues. “For the smaller twin, there was increased risk that he couldn’t endure labor. Elizabeth’s perinatologist — a high-risk pregnancy specialist — said we should deliver her via Caesarian section right away.”
Calia had been under a perinatologist’s care from early in her pregnancy since carrying two or more babies is considered a high-risk pregnancy. What’s more, once the boys started growing, ultrasound revealed that the first baby was breech, which meant he was bottom down instead of head down, and the second was transverse, which meant he was positioned horizontally across the uterus instead of vertically. She had been closely monitored throughout the twins’ gestation to keep an eye on this situation as well.
“It was all pretty nerve-wracking,” Calia says. “But as soon as we got to Eisenhower, they were so welcoming. They gave us a tour of the NICU, knowing the twins were pretty much guaranteed to end up there because they would be six weeks early. It was comforting to have everyone around us and it helped us get ready for what was coming.”
“Some babies have trouble transitioning from being in utero to life outside their mother, especially if they’re premature,” says Board Certified Neonatologist Jaime Tannenbaum, MD, Director of the Eisenhower Family Birth Center NICU, who was on service when Calia was admitted. “Twins are at increased risk for all of the issues we see with prematurity. This includes a greater risk of respiratory problems since their lungs aren’t fully developed. They’re also at increased risk of jaundice, which occurs because their liver isn’t mature enough to get rid of a substance called bilirubin in the bloodstream. And they often need intravenous fluids until they can eat all they need enterally (via a tube or breastfeeding).”
The NICU at the Eisenhower Family Birth Center is equipped and staffed to address all of these concerns in newborns whenever needed. A neonatologist — a physician who specializes in the care of sick newborn babies — is available at all times.
“Even though things were happening quickly, learning about the NICU gave us time to process what was happening,” Calia says. “All of the doctors and nurses came in and introduced themselves and explained what would happen in the operating room. It was kind of like a dress rehearsal; they told us who’d be in the OR, what they’d be doing, how they were getting ready for the babies’ arrival. It took a lot of the scariness out of it.”
Leo and Reed Lustenberger were born on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. Leo weighed in at five pounds, five ounces, and Reed was four pounds, four ounces — confirming their discordant weights.
“Both boys had some respiratory issues for a short time, and one of them was jaundiced and required phototherapy,” Dr. Tannenbaum relates, referring to a type of treatment in which light is used to lower the bilirubin levels in a baby’s blood through a process called photo-oxidation.
“It’s not uncommon for a 34-week baby to be in the NICU for two to three weeks,” she adds. “These twins did very well, going home after twelve days on, appropriately enough, the Fourth of July — Independence Day.”
Calia herself went home on the Friday after the twins were born. While she was in the hospital, she, her husband Kyle Lustenberger and the babies were in a special, private double room in the NICU designed specifically for accommodating twins.
“Having the twin room meant we could be with both of them with no walls between my husband and me,” she says. “We could play music for them, have conversations with each other…we really appreciated this kind of setup. It helped us bond as a family.”
Calia also gives major kudos to the NICU nursing staff.
“I had never even babysat overnight before the twins were born,” she says. “Then here we were with two newborns who were premature and so small. It was so intimidating. My husband didn’t even dare to stand up while holding a baby. And our families were on the east coast, so it was difficult to not have that support.
“But the nurses were not only amazing with our children, they were also amazing with us,” she continues, her voice breaking. “They taught us how to be parents. They were so kind and helpful; I can never thank them enough.
“Their professionalism and abilities are just unmatched,” she adds.
When we spoke with Calia in October, the twins were four months old and thriving. In fact, Reed and Leo were close to equal in terms of their weight. “They’re growing so quickly,” Calia said. “They’re no longer little guys; they’re pretty big now.”
“For babies who are born small for their gestational age, nature helps them out,” Dr. Jacome says. “They’re so hungry and eat a lot, so they catch up in no time.”
Both sets of grandparents have been to the desert to meet their twin grandsons. The boys flew across country with their parents to visit extended family on the east coast in September. And Calia was getting ready to return to work, something she was dreading after enjoying her maternity leave and spending quality time with her “babes.”
“But we’re all doing great,” she said. “We feel supported and happy. We’re experiencing what I think is the normal chaos of having twin baby boys. And as the first twins born at Eisenhower’s new Family Birth Center, they got their fifteen minutes of fame right out of the gate.
“Life is good,” she adds. “And that’s all you can hope for.”
For more information about Eisenhower Family Birth Center, visit EisenhowerHealth.org/Maternity.