Launching a journey they'd never imagined
She got a kick out of telling people she was pregnant with her brother's twins. When the nosy nurse at her pediatrician's office asked why her brother's wife couldn't have children, Sissy answered: "Because his wife has a penis."

Chad created a website to keep family and friends up to date. The doctor, he wrote on June 5, had called Sissy "the poster child for twin pregnancies." He added: "If things continue to progress as they have up to this point, we are looking at an uneventful rest of the pregnancy."

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Father's Day was around the corner, and Chad (whom they had decided to call Papa) decided to surprise David (aka Daddy) by having Sissy sit for a three-dimensional ultrasound. The results were remarkable — crystal-clear sepia images of two fully formed fetuses, complete with slender fingers and button noses.

"I just can't believe these are our babies," Chad wrote on the website. "They are adorable...I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am."


Hospital trip

The next morning, Friday, June 16, Sissy felt some mild pressure against her cervix when she got out of bed. She took her kids to swim lessons at 11:30 and, while in the pool, felt her stomach tighten. She wondered if it might be a contraction. They went home so she could lie down, and the pains began almost immediately. She timed them at two minutes apart.

She called Jay at work, asked him to come home, and started to cry. She just knew the doctors, once they stopped the contractions, would order her on bed rest for the remaining three months of the pregnancy.

Normally a cautious driver, Jay lead-footed it to Arlington Memorial Hospital, five minutes away. They wheeled Sissy into maternity triage, hooked up an IV, and timed the contractions at a minute apart. A nurse lifted the sheet covering Sissy, and paused.

"You're completely dilated," she said. "We're going to have to deliver these babies."

Sissy became hysterical, and the nurse gripped her by the shoulders. "You cannot do this right now," she said firmly. "You're going to harm the babies if you don't calm down." Sissy breathed deeply, struggling to focus.

The nurses rolled her into an operating room as strangers in scrubs swarmed around her. An obstetrician arrived and told her to push, but the babies were blocking each other's path. "We're not going to be able to get them out," the doctor announced. "We need to do a C-section."

In the hallway, Jay was approached by one of the hospital's neonatologists, Dr. Eva Carrizales. "Right now, at 24 weeks, they're barely viable," she said. "Do you want me to do everything I can?"

"Save my wife first, but, yes, do everything you can," Jay said.

There was no mention of Chad and David. Sissy and Jay hadn't had time to discuss it, but each had decided to defer explaining that these children were not theirs. This was the Bible Belt. Why volunteer information that might cause a distraction?

"I want these people thinking they're working for a desperate straight father and mother," Jay told himself. When a nurse called him Dad, he just nodded.

Jay reached Chad in Atlanta and David traveling on business in Virginia, and told them to get on planes as fast as possible. "Sissy's going to deliver in 10 minutes," he said.


'Just live'

The babies were born at 2:25 p.m. and 2:26 p.m. First came Asher, weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces. Holland followed, 2 ounces lighter. They looked just like the ultrasound images taken the day before, fully formed, but barely a foot long. The doctors called them micropreemies.