For most parents, having twins as their first children is enough of a challenge, but Andrew and Allyson Rousslange’s twins, Eli and Shay, were also born three months premature. Although the road has had more than the usual number of bumps, including feeding issues and a nearly first-of-its-kind medical procedure, the Rousslanges are grateful to have their children home and healthy in Sauk Centre.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Andrew said. “I’m grateful for the blessings we have. There have been struggles, but Allyson and I keep looking at the pictures from when they were born, just remembering that day and wondering what was going to happen and what was going to be in front of us. Now, we’re just so thankful for where we’re at in this journey. We went through a lot to get where we are now and we survived a lot so far, so we’re excited to see what the future holds.”

The twins were born March 2 after Allyson had been on bed rest for a week at the CentraCare St. Cloud Hospital. She woke up in pain that morning, and the doctors determined the safest thing to do was an emergency C-section.

When Eli and Shay came into the world, they were each roughly 1 foot long and weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces. They stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in St. Cloud from their birth until June.

“We could go down every day to the NICU and just sit there and look at them for the longest time,” Andrew said. “Once they were big enough and healthy enough, we could start holding them, but they were still pretty tiny – about 3-and one-half pounds.”

Shay left St. Cloud once during that time, but only because she needed a procedure done for her heart for patent ductus arteriosus, a condition where the infant’s ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel which allows blood to go around the lungs before birth, does not close after birth the way it is supposed to.

When Shay did not improve, she was taken to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis at the end of April. On May 1, a procedure was done through a vein in her leg to close her ductus arteriosus with a Piccolo Occluder, a plug which had been approved by the FDA in January that year and was the first device of its kind for premature infants with PDA.

“They’d been doing (the procedure) out east already, but this was the first time the university had done it,” Andrew said. “After the operation was done, we were told it was the first one done in the Midwest.”

In June, Eli and Shay were not yet eating at the right volume, so they were transferred to the Children’s Minnesota hospital in Minneapolis.

“It was very stressful to have all that going on at once,” Andrew said. “It definitely tested us; (Allyson) spent a lot of time down in St. Cloud, and when they went to the cities, she spent a week at a time down there.”

The Rousslanges’ patience and sacrifice were rewarded July 20, the day they were finally allowed to bring the twins home.

“When they disconnected their monitors and cords in the hospital, we finally realized it was for real, they truly were going to be coming home,” Allyson said. “We are so thankful Shay and Eli were able to come home. Many families aren’t able to bring their babies home at all. We are very fortunate for what God has given us.”

Andrew admitted it is nerve-wracking to have to take the place of the equipment which previously monitored the twins’ health.

“It was a relief, but it was scary at the same time because there’s a lot of extra needs,” Andrew said. “They’re both on medication for high blood pressure, and then they have reflux. It was kind of overwhelming for the first week, trying to get on the schedule; both of them were already used to a schedule at the hospital, but for us to run it was way different.”

Eli needs to be fed through a G-tube port in his stomach, but the twins are doing well at home.

“We have nurses coming in weekly to do physical therapy and occupational therapy and to monitor what’s going on,” Andrew said. “So far, they’ve been checking off everything. A few things are lacking, but when they’re about 2 (years old), they’ll finally fully catch up to where everyone else is. That’s just how they are, but you look at them now and you really can’t tell they were premature. They look like two normal, healthy babies.”

With the twins home, the Rousslanges have enjoyed being able to hold their babies whenever they want instead of travelling hours to see them.

“We don’t have all the nurses and doctors around and all the cords,” Andrew said. “That was the worst; every time you wanted to hold them, there were these cords connected to them to do all the monitoring, and you were always getting tangled.”

Allyson also does not miss the cords.

“Holding them in our own home without any cords or monitors attached is the best feeling in the world,” Allyson said. “I’m able to walk around the house with them in my arms, cord free. I know that seems a little silly, but when you’re constantly fighting with cords in order to just hold them, feed them or change them, it truly is a cherished moment.”

The Rousslanges have also had support from their friends and family members, especially from Allyson’s and Andrew’s parents who live in Sauk Centre. Allyson works as a surgical technologist during the day at the Center for Pain Management in Alexandria, while Andrew, who is with Sauk Centre Public Works, takes care of the Sauk Centre Civic Arena at night. During the time gaps where neither of them are home, their parents, along with relatives and friends, stop in to watch the twins.

This Thanksgiving, the Rousslanges are most grateful they have two healthy babies at home, and they are also thankful for the community which has helped them through these extra-challenging first months of parenthood.

“A lot of people have reached out to us, and we want to say ‘thank you,’” Andrew said. “The support has been unbelievable from everybody in the community. We want to thank everyone for the prayers, gifts and support.”