After complicated pregnancy, Lawrence mom gives birth to rare ‘MoMo’ twins months before due date

photo by: contributed

Lawrence resident Alijah Kraus-McLaughlin looks at one of her newly born twin girls, Winnie, on Nov. 30, 2022.

When Lawrence resident Alijah Kraus-McLaughlin went to get a 3-D image of her new baby as part of a birthday gift for her mother, they came away with a lot more than expected.

“When they went to scan my belly, we just saw like way too many limbs,” Kraus-McLaughlin said.

Kraus-McLaughlin had gotten a sonogram at eight weeks, and at that time had been told it looked like she was having one baby girl. The idea of doing the 3-D sonogram, which was done at 18 weeks as part of nonmedical service, was to confirm the sex of the baby and to be able to have a 3-D picture for her mom’s birthday.

However, when Kraus-McLaughlin’s mom, Celeste Kraus, had looked at the first, early sonogram, she’d told her daughter she had a feeling it might be twins. So when the image that looked like two babies came up on the 3-D sonogram, Kraus said she just started cracking up laughing, with everyone in the room — her husband David, Kraus-McLaughlin’s husband Justin McLaughlin, and their 3-year-old son Weston — eventually joining in as well.

“No one could ever top that birthday gift,” Kraus said. “Don’t even try. There is no topping that. It was definitely special.”

However, the circumstances would quickly get more complicated. Kraus-McLaughlin soon found out that not only was she carrying twins, but a rare and complication-prone kind of identical twins, that, rather than each having its own amniotic sac, both are contained in the same sac and share one placenta.

Known as monochorionic-monoamniotic twins, and sometimes called MoMo twins, they are extremely rare, representing 1% of identical twins and .1% of all pregnancies, according to information about the condition from Columbia University Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Because the twins share the same amniotic sac and the umbilical cords are close together, entanglement of the cords is a serious threat, potentially resulting in blood flow being cut off and the death of one or both twins.

“Normally twins are in their own sac, but with these type of twins, they can reach out and either grab each other’s umbilical cords and cut them off, or they can twist themselves up,” Kraus-McLaughlin said.

Kraus said once the condition was identified, it was hard not to think of what could happen if things went wrong — and what her daughter would then go through.

“I knew that there was a chance that we might not bring babies home or have babies, and the thought of watching my daughter go through that was stressing me more than the actual event,” Kraus said. “I had a lot of sleepless nights worrying about what could happen in an instant, because everything can go so quick.”

photo by: contributed

The twins of Alijah Kraus-McLaughlin and Justin McLaughlin eventually had to be continuously monitored.

Scans ultimately found that the twins’ umbilical cords had gotten twisted, and Kraus-McLaughlin had to be closely monitored to ensure the cords continued to allow blood flow to the twins. She was admitted to Overland Park Regional Medical Center at only 25 weeks so the twins could be constantly monitored, including heart-rate monitoring and scans, to make sure they were not at risk.

“I was on continuous monitoring,” Kraus-McLaughlin said. “I would be on the monitor four hours and then I’d get one hour off, where they would just look at their heart rates.”

If issues arose, Kraus-McLaughlin said the only remedy would have been to do an emergency Caesarean. In addition to the twist in the cords, Kraus-McLaughlin said one of the twins got a “notch” in her umbilical cord, but fortunately it still allowed blood flow through. Regarding her emotional state during this time, Kraus-McLaughlin said she tried to just roll with the punches and that the hardest part of having to spend weeks at the hospital was being away from her 3-year-old son, who could only make visits.

“It was hard,” she said. “Every day was just like, what’s today going to bring?”

As the twins grew, so did the chance for further entanglement, and ultimately, a decision was made to take the twins by Caesarean section at a few days past 30 weeks — almost 10 weeks short of full term. That day came this past Wednesday, Nov. 30, and though her baby girls must be hooked up to breathing and feeding tubes, Kraus-McLaughlin said now that they are out in the world there is at least some sense of relief.

“It was really nerve-racking because they’re 10 weeks early, so we knew they were going to be so tiny,” she said. “It’s kind of a peace of mind though, to have them outside the belly. I know they’re not going to hurt each other. We can see them; they’re physically here.”

photo by: contributed

Winnie, the daughter of Lawrence residents Alijah Kraus-McLaughlin and Justin McLaughlin, is pictured recently after birth on Nov. 30, 2022.

photo by: contirbuted

Winnie, the daughter of Lawrence residents Alijah Kraus-McLaughlin and Justin McLaughlin.

The twins, which were born at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, each weighed less than four pounds, one weighing 3 pounds 9 ounces and the other 3 pounds 11 ounces. Kraus-McLaughlin, who has been at the hospital for monitoring since Oct. 21, will finally be able to return home to Lawrence on Sunday, after more than six weeks in the hospital.

Kraus, who was able to be in the delivery room to watch the C-section, said it was a relief to have the twins out and safe, and that she and David are proud of everything their daughter went through to get the twins there.

“The dedication and sacrifice that she made for those babies, we’re very proud of that,” Kraus said.

Kraus-McLaughlin said that the twins, whom she and McLaughlin have named Winnie Rook and Wyleigh Wren, will have to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for up to two more months, with their release date estimated for sometime around their actual due date of Feb. 4.

“I’ll just have to travel up to see them every day,” she said.

photo by: contributed

Justin McLaughlin is pictured with his daughter Wyleigh, who along with her twin sister, Winnie, was born by C-section on Nov. 30, 2022.

photo by: contributed

Lawrence resident Alijah Kraus-McLaughlin greets her daughter Wyleigh following her C-section on Nov. 30, 2022.

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