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The tale of Newberg's miracle twins

Newberg family celebrates first birthday of premature twins adopted as embryos

Newberg parents Jourdan and Matt Moore, 32 and 33, will celebrate their twins’ first birthday this weekend, a momentous occasion for any young family. But it’s a particularly special milestone in the Moores’ case as the occasion is a reminder of the long road they’ve traveled to start their family, the obstacles that popped up at every turn and the fact that their children survived, literally, against the odds.

Matt and Jourdan met when she was 11 years old and they were middle school sweethearts. They came to Newberg when Jourdan was attending George Fox University; they married in 2005 and have lived here ever since.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Cadence, left, and Jaxson Moore were born prematurely, at just under 24 weeks into the pregnancy. Against the medical recommendation, the twins' parents chose to resuscitate the babies when complications arose.

The couple had wanted to start a family for the past decade, but there was a roadblock — and not the traditional roadblock couples run into. As far as they know, the Moores are fertile. But Jourdan was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 16 and had a rough time with the illness for years. She was in and out of surgery, while doctors tried every FDA-approved medication — and some non-approved — to treat her condition. Nothing was working.

Then Jourdan went to a doctor who prescribed a medication she hadn’t tried — Methotrexate. It’s prescribed in certain cancer treatments and is also effective in treating Crohn’s disease when other methods aren’t working.

It’s also used to medically induce abortions, meaning for anybody taking Methotrexate, pregnancy is out of the question.

“So if I want to stay on the medication that keeps me healthy enough to be a mom, I can’t carry kids inside my body,” Jourdan said.

The couple decided to go the adoption route, but that too presented obstacles. The adoption agency they worked with had a lot of waiting parents, with few adoptions actually taking place. Jourdan later learned there were 67 percent fewer adoptions in 2013 and 2014 than there were seven years earlier, which experts have attributed to fewer overall unplanned pregnancies occurring at the time.

As much time and money as they had invested in the process, the traditional adoption route didn’t feel right for the Moores. So they found themselves once again in a frustrating position with no obvious way forward toward starting a family.

Then one day in September 2014, Jourdan received a surprise call from a friend who knew the frustration the Moores were experiencing. The friend asked if Jourdan had heard of a process called embryo adoption.

“I found myself listening for the sake of being polite but in my mind I was thinking, ‘This is crazy! No way would it ever work for us,’” Jourdan recalled in a blog post.

When couples go the route of in vitro fertilization (IVF) for a pregnancy, often more eggs than will be needed are extracted to safeguard should any complications arise. A portion of those will fertilize into embryos, and once the pregnancy is successfully underway there are often embryos leftover — there are an estimated 600,000-plus frozen embryos in storage nationwide. The parent couple then has to decide what to do with the embryos, and many end up donating them to another hopeful couple.

In the case of women who can’t carry children, embryos can be transferred into a surrogate for the pregnancy.

Despite her initial reaction, Jourdan and Matt began researching the process, reading about other couples who had gone through the process successfully. And they began to realize they were drawn to the idea.

They would still need a surrogate, however, which presented yet another obstacle: surrogacy costs often add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Besides the medical expenses, surrogates are compensated for the consuming role they perform. That roadblock vanished when Jourdan mentioned the whole embryo adoption process to her best friend, Hollie Mentesana, who not only immediately supported the idea, but also offered to carry the embryos herself as a gift to her friend.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Hollie Mentesana, right, surprised Jourdan Moore when she offered to act as the surrogate for the Moores' embryo adoption, as a gift. The two have been friends their entire lives.

Although Jourdan and Hollie have known each other their entire lives, Jourdan was amazed and hadn’t sought or expected her friend’s gift. There were still many decisions to be made and tests to perform, but Hollie’s offer essentially meant they had crossed the last major hurdle before the embryo adoption process was within reach.

Still, there were many difficulties to overcome.

“It was a big commitment for Hollie, because she has two kids of her own and they were mild, normal pregnancies,” Jourdan said. But for the embryo transfer, she had to take numerous injections that made her violently nauseous for weeks.

The embryos were transferred in April 2015, with the projected due date in mid-January 2016. The unlikely pregnancy got even more unique when an ultrasound revealed the Moores would be parents to not one, but two children. Twins, a boy and a girl. But overall, for the first nearly two-thirds of the pregnancy, it was relatively normal given the circumstances.

That all changed on Sept. 18, 2015, when Hollie felt she had the symptoms of a bladder infection. Given the high-risk nature of embryo adoption pregnancies, most medical visits sent Hollie to the labor and delivery department of the hospital, just in case.

When Jourdan arrived at Providence St. Vincent Hospital in Portland and walked into the room after the examination, she knew something wasn’t right: Hollie was weeping, while the doctor had a horrified expression.

“The doctor looked me in the eye and said, ‘The babies are coming right now, and they’re not going to make it,’” Jourdan recalled.

They were only 23 weeks and one day into the pregnancy, with another nearly 16 weeks to go before Hollie’s due date. She was a full 10 centimeters dilated with just one-pound babies inside; the babies could come out at any moment.

Hollie was rushed into a high-risk unit with doctors who specialize in emergency pregnancy situations. A specialist brought the Moores a chart with statistics explaining the twins were unlikely to live with a roughly 21 percent chance of survival.

The hospital brought in a nurse who specialized in grief and loss.

Doctors recommended the Moores choose palliative care, which would focus on keeping the babies comfortable for the short remainder of their lives, which could be minutes; but there would be no steps taken for their recovery, due to the high mortality rate for resuscitated babies and the higher risk of neurological problems for those who do make it.

Despite the seemingly tragic scene unfolding in front of her, Jourdan recalls feeling a strange sense of calm.

“I had a lot of faith and confidence they were going to be okay,” she said. “I knew we had come so far trying to adopt, so many things had to line up and God had provided for us so many times along the way. I knew this was just another step of the process and this was going to be okay.”

Against the doctor’s advice, the Moores chose to resuscitate the infants. They were scared but hopeful as the doctors’ goal turned to keeping the twins inside the womb as long as possible, which they did for five days while the babies received steroids and medication to help their chances.

But at 23 weeks and six days, the doctors determined the babies’ lives were at risk and that they needed to perform an emergency caesarian section. Jourdan watched as an “army of doctors” surrounded Hollie’s bed and performed the operation, first informing her it wouldn’t be like other births in which the babies cry when they’re born.

One by one the twins came out and were immediately placed into incubation. They didn’t know how to eat and they were under intensive care.

So began the 98 days the Moores would spend in the hospital, watching the twins’ progress. They were in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for nearly two thirds of their stay, before being moved into the “feeders and growers” area that indicated an improved condition.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Matt and Jourdan Moore wanted to start a family for a decade before learning about the embryo       adoption process, which has parents adopt the leftover embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures. The Newberg couple welcomed their twins last September.

Even so, while the parents were confident and hopeful they were also very aware of the dangers their children still faced. Jourdan recalled several babies in the same situation, babies that were stronger and bigger than the Moores’ twins, who didn’t make it through that phase.

Finally, after more than three months in the hospital, the twins were released on New Year’s Eve 2015 — two weeks before their original due date. Amazingly, they were released without any prescribed medications. The twins, Cadence Grace and Jaxson Brave, arrived at the Moores’ Newberg home on oxygen. The parents were instructed to monitor their heart rates closely.

“We’ve really learned to become nurses at the house,” Jourdan said.

The recovery process has had its ups and downs. Cadence still wears oxygen at night and has a feeding tube that’s with her all the time. She’s been readmitted to the NICU a couple times and has been diagnosed with chronic lung disease, but doctors expect her to fully recover, Jourdan said.

And as for Jaxson?

“My son is nearsighted and wears glasses. That’s really it,” Jourdan laughed.

A year after the pregnancy, the Moores are now in the position of deciding what they’ll do with the leftover embryos from their own adoption process. They’re thinking of donating them to another adopting family, but still have some time to decide for sure. Given the hard choices they made a year ago, this is the best kind of decision to have to make.

Jourdan kept a blog charting the journey with many detailed posts and lots of photos along the way. To read more about the Moores’ story, click here.