By Maggie Sonnek
Chadley Doering had been at work 10 minutes when got the terrifying call every dad-to-be fears. His pregnant wife, voice shaking, said only eight words.
“You need to take me to the hospital,” she said.
At 22 weeks pregnant, she was bleeding.
Mother Nature had packed a punch that February morning. Ice-covered roads and bitter cold wind gusts made the 10-mile drive to the hospital seem eternal. To make matters worse, Mary Kay Doering started having contractions. She was going into labor.
The staff at the hospital near the Doerings’ home in Silver Lake was as prepared as they could be. One nurse’s words devastated the couple.
“There’s nothing more we can do for you here. We’re sending you to The Mother Baby Center,” she said.
Paralyzed with fear, the 26-year-old was prepped for the hour-long ambulance ride to Minneapolis. And she would be making the journey alone, leaving her husband to brave the winter storm on his own.
Just 16 weeks earlier on a crisp fall day, Doering found herself alone again, this time with a smile on her face. She had just learned she was carrying twins.
But now, as she bumped along in the screaming ambulance, she could only hope and pray her babies would hang on.
When she arrived in Minneapolis, doctors and nurses surrounded Doering. She was dilated to three centimeters; just a breath away from active labor.
They were able to stop her contractions, but gave her one assignment: Stay pregnant. Doering would be confined to a bed at The Mother Baby Center for the next 14 weeks.
Through it all, husband and dad-to-be worked hard to make sure Doering felt connected to her life at home, even though she was lying in a hospital room nearly an hour away. He painted the nursery purple – the couple learned they were expecting two girls – and filmed it so she could witness each brush stroke.
On March 25, Doering, at 27 weeks and six days, felt uncomfortable. In pain. She knew the babies were coming. Her husband knew it, too. But he was at home, 60 miles away, and his car could only carry him so fast.
“For a couple minutes, I was upset,” Doering said. “But I soon realized that these babies were coming whether Chadley was there or not. Waiting just wasn’t an option.”
Doering was rushed into surgery and the babies were delivered via caesarean section one minute apart. Dad missed the birth by 20 minutes.
Devastated, he arrived just as the girls were getting adjusted to their new homes at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota (NICU) in Minneapolis.
A million thoughts rushed into his mind as he saw his babies for the first time. He slowly made his way to their isolettes and cautiously stuck a finger into their plastic box.
The girls, who weighed no more than a can of soup, gently tugged back. Although they were 85 days early, they still recognized their daddy.
Clair and Reese made their home in the NICU for the next 35 days before they were transferred to a hospital closer to Silver Lake.
During these long days surrounded by monitors and nurses and feeding tubes, mom and dad tried to keep things as normal as possible. But, even daily visits and email updates couldn’t take away the feeling that something precious had been stolen from them.
“The time in the hospital and NICU was nearly impossible. I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy,” she said. “And yet I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
On Sunday, May 19, one month before their actual due date, the Doerings got the news they’d been waiting for. The girls were finally able to go home. No breathing tubes, no isolettes, no monitors.
They could finally sleep in their purple-painted nursery.
“Being a mom puts everything into perspective,” Doering said. “It’s an incredible feeling to be a parent.”