The look of content on Laura Gomez’s face was not without exhaustion; exhaustion, however, that belied joy and quite possibly one of the greatest moments of her life.
They say pictures are worth a thousand words, but a photo of Laura holding her identical twin girls for the first time on Nov. 17 — five days after they were born and following a particularly vulnerable pregnancy all while keeping her then-unborn girls and family safe from COVID-19 — depicted relief after 34 weeks of heightened stress and what-ifs.
Consider that Laura, herself a pre-op nurse at DHR Health in Edinburg, carried mono-di twins — the term describing a monochorionic diamniotic pregnancy, in which twins share a placenta and an amniotic sac — since the onset of the pandemic.
Consider further that having to protect herself from a deadly disease which could threaten an already-challenging pregnancy with life-and-death complications proved highly worrisome, especially during a time in which an expecting mother must also maintain strength and calm.
Suffice it to say that when she and her husband, Serafin Gomez IV, could finally hold their girls, who they named Luciana and Andrea, it was something special for the two of them.
For Laura, it was surreal.
“I always wanted two boys and two girls, so when I got pregnant with these twins and got girls, it was happiness that I can’t even … God really showed off on this one,” Laura, a native of Mission, said.
The Gomezes welcomed Luciana and Andrea to a family with two boys, 3-year-old Serafin V and 1-year-old Eduardo.
“This is amazing and a dream come true for me, and then being pregnant, being scared each week and taking each appointment like a success, I tried to stay positive. I’m a pretty positive person,” she said in addition to admitting to nerves the night before having a cesarean section, which was conducted on Nov. 12. “When they were born they put them next to me and I didn’t get to hold them. They took them to the NICU. It was on day 5 that the nurse asked me if I wanted to hold them.
“I had not cried yet, but when they put them on me and I saw how small they were, I could breathe. ‘Ah… you’re here, you’re here and you’re safe.’ … I just lost it. That right there is one of the greatest moments of my life.”
The twins were born at 4.1 pounds each and required minor assistance breathing and eating, and after spending 13 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, were cleared to go home on the eve of Thanksgiving. It would hence be an understatement to suggest that the Gomezes were thankful this holiday season.
The circumstances leading up to the twins’ birth included weekly visits with doctors, each one bore the weight of unknowns since so much could go wrong with such a pregnancy.
Laura joined social media communities and sought out advice from other mothers, and learned of more that could go wrong, such as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, or TTTS, in which twins grow at a different rate due to sharing unequal amounts of the placenta’s blood.
“One umbilical cord was getting more blood and one was getting less,” Laura said of her pregnancy. “Every week there was stress they’re not growing as much as they should. So the doctor said it’s a good time to take them out. Every day I had to be very aware of what I was feeling. Praying you don’t miss something. ‘Oh, I didn’t check if they were moving,’ and then knowing which one is moving or if they’re both moving … there are so many things that can happen.”
Even prior to the C-section, Laura had to maintain strict COVID-19 precautions in the household before and after learning she was pregnant in April.
There were plenty of sprayings, pumping of hand sanitizer and cleaning off hands and even feet at the door before anyone could enter the Gomez home.
She worried about not touching her face, always being masked and gloved when heading to the grocery store. And by July, Laura decided it was best to step away from work until she saw the rest of the pregnancy through.
But what kept Laura, Serafin and the boys optimistic was faith that while the world was on fire outside, as she put it, there was “light inside our home.”
“You don’t ever want your kids to feel the worry that’s going on in the world,” Laura said Saturday as she prepared her newborns for their first doctor’s appointment. “We needed to keep our eye on the prize. You do everything you can to stay safe and can’t do anything more, you just do what you can.”