Color photo of the 32-week twins

Marley & Reigny’s Birth Story: 32-Week Twins

More than half of all twins are born before 37 weeks, making them premature. This was the case for Shawna Maki and Riley Rajala, whose twins, Marley and Reigny, were delivered at 32 weeks. However, premature babies typically come with a set of temporary health issues, which was also the case for the Maki-Rajala twins. This is their birth story.

At 31 weeks, I was in a lot of pain. My belly was measuring 46 weeks. I felt like I was stretched to the max. I was sore and didn’t leave the bed or couch unless it was to eat. It was really hard! I could feel my body getting ready for delivery.

I saw my OB-GYN, Dr. Melissa Miller, at St. Luke’s on the Tuesday of week 32. The twins were measuring big and healthy, and it was looking like I would be able to go full-term. But with how I was feeling, I wasn’t so sure that I could make it five more weeks.

The Friday evening after that appointment, Riley and I went out to run some errands. I had rested for most of the day and was feeling really irritable. Then, once we got home, my water broke.

Laboring in the OR
I was pretty scared. I didn’t feel ready. It seemed like it was too soon. All I could think of was the twins. But Riley was right there with me. He got right to packing. Then he lugged the bag to the door, looked at me and said, “Let’s go, honey.”

Once we got to St. Luke’s Birthing Center, they put us in a room right away. I was already dilated to 3 cm. Everything continued to move quickly after.

Shortly, we found out that our baby girl was breech (positioned so her feet would come out first). My birth plan was to deliver them both naturally, but we realized that I might have to have a c-section. They brought me to an operating room (OR), just in case.

Welcome to the world, Marley Christopher and Reigny ElizabethColor photo of the 32-week twins
Luckily, I had written up a birth plan and Dr. Claire Mallof (who was my OB-GYN for the delivery) did everything she could to honor that. She dimmed the lights and made it very comfortable. She knew I didn’t want to have a c-section if that was possible.

After laboring a few hours in the OR, our baby boy, Marley Christopher, was delivered at 2 am. Then, as soon as he was out, baby girl flipped!

Our daughter, Reigny Elizabeth, was delivered at 2:35 am. I was so happy that I was able to deliver them both vaginally and unmedicated.

Caring for premature babies at St. Luke’s
Since they were born premature, at 32 weeks, they needed extra care. We were taken to St. Luke’s Specialized Care Nursery, which is right in the Birthing Center. Marley and Reigny needed to be tube fed, kept warm and monitored to make sure they were okay.

Color image of Marley and Reigny's parents caring for them in S,t. Luke's specialized care nursery.

I knew they were probably going to need extra care, since they were born so early. I had imagined that they would have to be in a big room with lots of other babies. We thought we’d have limited access to them, only being able to see them when staff let us. But that’s not how it was at all!

The Specialized Care Nursery is divided into private rooms, so we could be with them whenever we wanted. We could also take a break and go home or out for a walk when we needed to. We’re so glad they got their own room. It was very personal and felt very special.

Heading home as a new family
Image of Marley and Reignny's parents at St. Luke's Birthing Center.We were at St. Luke’s for a little under 3 weeks. I would pump breastmilk regularly, and the babies would eat about every three hours. After 10 days, they were slowly starting to get the hang of bottle feeding and were able to maintain body temperature without outside help. Being able to watch every step of their growth was amazing.

We could tell that the staff really loved our little ones, too. One nurse said, “I haven’t been here for three days, I missed them so much!” It made us feel so good knowing that they were in such safe and compassionate hands. As the babies grew and got stronger, the staff would get so excited, just like we would.

We are very impressed with the level of care we received at St. Luke’s. Everyone was so sweet to us. By the end of our time at the hospital, the faces of the staff were so familiar that it was almost hard to say goodbye. We are incredibly grateful!

Read more birth stories from moms like Shawna.

St. Luke’s Birthing Center is located in Duluth, MN, with St. Luke’s clinics in the surrounding region, including Superior, WI. To schedule a tour of St. Luke’s Birthing Center, call 218.249.5605.


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