Giving Birth to Twins and a New Career

Child Health, Women's Health, News, Nursing | one year ago

Giving Birth to Twins... and a New Career

Complications during pregnancy led Liz Godwin to deliver via c-section when she was just 29 weeks pregnant with her twin boys. The 90 days her sons spent at Atrium Health Levine Children's Hospital's neonatal intensive care nursery inspired Liz to pursue a new career path. She’s now a nursing assistant and works in the same antepartum unit where she was cared for in the weeks leading up to delivering her boys.

Liz Godwin and her wife Jenn have been married for 13 years. Both knowing they wanted to be moms and both also wanting to experience pregnancy, they each went through several rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The couple says Dr. Rebecca Usadi with Atrium Health CMC Women’s Institute championed them both throughout their fertility journey. In 2013, Jenn became pregnant with their daughter, Harlowe. But Liz’s IVF journey took a little longer.

“Dr. Usadi was not going to let Liz give up on being pregnant,” Jenn says. “She reached out to colleagues and looked into studies to help Liz and kept us in the loop throughout the whole process.”

In late 2016, Dr. Usadi’s determination to help Liz become pregnant paid off when the couple learned they were expecting twins. Filled with excitement and anticipation to meet the twins, who they learned were both boys, they never expected that meeting would come so soon.

Unexpected Turns

When Liz was 18 weeks pregnant, the couple went in for an anatomy scan at Atrium Health Women's Care Maternal Fetal Medicine. They were told that one of the boys was growing at a slower rate. 

“They said they were going to keep an eye on my progress, and we understood that if he stopped growing, I would go to the hospital immediately,” Liz says.

At 27 weeks, that’s exactly what happened. Liz went in for her check-up, and was sent directly to the antepartum unit at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center

“We spent the next two weeks at the hospital just trying to keep me pregnant as long as possible,” Liz says.

Although she knew there was a possibility that she would have to be admitted to the hospital early, Liz says she was in denial at first. 

“Even when I was admitted to the hospital, I still couldn’t believe it had happened,” Liz says. “I kept asking my care team when I would get to go home. But Jenn stepped in as my voice of reason and said, ‘You’re not going home until you deliver these boys.’”

Liz says that while they were scared about facing the unknown, it was calming to know they were in the best place for their babies.

“Regardless of when our boys were going to be born, we had total confidence in knowing we would have the highest level of neonatal care,” Liz says.

While keeping an eye on one boy and waiting to see if he would continue to grow, his twin brother started to cause his own stir. 

“After being at the hospital for two weeks, the team told us that he wasn’t looking good and they wanted to deliver the boys as soon as possible,” Liz says. “They told us we were going to have babies within 90 minutes.”

The boys made their mighty entrance into the world via c-section on May 5, 2017 -- at just 29 weeks old. Cohen was the bigger of the two boys at 2 lbs. 10 oz., while Heath was considered a micropreemie at just 1 lb. 4 oz. 

“Heath was a fighter from the start. He came out swinging at the nurses and trying to take his breathing mask off,” Jenn says. 

Despite their twins’ strong spirits, Liz and Jenn understood that their boys, whose preemie diapers were the size of a toddler’s palm, were young and sick. There was no guarantee they would survive the first few weeks. 

Although terrified that their babies were in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Atrium Health Levine Children's Hospital, Jenn and Liz took solace in the capabilities of those caring for their tiny humans.

“I believe grief and happiness can coexist when you’re in the NICU,” Jenn says. “We were scared, but we were also grateful that our boys were receiving the best care possible.”

Throughout their stay, Jenn and Liz felt the support of their care team wrap around them like a blanket of comfort on their tired shoulders.

“The staff held our hands when we were terrified and sobbing after visiting the boys in the NICU,” Jenn says. “Dr. Usadi came to visit the boys and gave us handwritten notes and the nurses made sure we were able to rest when we could. It just meant so much to have everyone’s support.”

Five and Thriving  

After three months in the NICU, Liz and Jenn were able to bring their boys home and start living as a family of five. They were relieved to be home, but it wasn’t an easy road. 

On top of the typical adjustment of bringing home twin boys and helping Harlowe acclimate to being a big sister, Liz and Jenn had the added challenge of keeping up with the medical needs their boys still required. 

“The boys were on oxygen and using gastrostomy tubes for feedings, plus we were taking them to doctor and specialist appointments,” Jenn says. “My mom stayed with us for a year, and we had a nanny who helped with Harlowe. I don’t know how we would have survived without their support.”

But they not only survived, they are now thriving.

“It’s hard to believe they are five – nearly six – years old,” Liz says. “They are miracles, honestly. Everything that they learn, everything that they do, every silly joke that they tell, every friend they make is a reminder to us of how far they have come.”

Jenn adds that it’s been fun to see the dynamic duo continue to grow into their unique personalities.

“Heath is as feisty as the day he entered the world. He plays hard, loves hard and sleeps hard,” Jenn says. “Cohen is so chill. He’s a go-with-the-flow kind of kid. I guess you could say they are Yin and Yang. They complement each other.”

And at ten years old, Harlowe is a pro in her role as “best big sister,” at least according to her brothers.

Pursuing a Passion

When Liz was getting ready to return to work, she and Jenn realized the things the boys still needed support with was not something they could ask other caregivers to do.

“These things felt like a large responsibility for us as parents, let alone asking someone else, like my mom or our nanny, to do it,” Liz says.

So after working full-time for 15 years, Liz resigned from her job to stay home with the boys for about two and a half years. 

“When these boys were born, life up-ended in a positive way,” Liz says. “I wanted to be there to help them grow stronger and meet milestones.”

As the boys grew stronger and healthier, Liz found herself thinking about the level of care she, her wife and their kids had experienced over the last few years. This inspired her to pursue her next career path.

Liz completed her license to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in 2020 and spent the next three years working on a women’s surgical unit, where she says she gained valuable experience in caring for women in vulnerable situations. 

“It’s funny to find myself in the medical field now,” Liz says. “I wanted to be a pediatrician right out of high school and took a few years of pre-med classes thinking that’s what I wanted to do. So in a way, I returned to that path.”

In 2022, Liz began her current role at Atrium Health, working as a nursing assistant on the same antepartum floor where she received weeks of care leading up to the delivery of her boys. 

“One of the ways I have learned to heal my own wounds is by showing up for other women,” Liz says. “Holding their hands and walking along beside them when they are facing a difficult time.”

Liz recalls how humbled she felt the first time she walked into the same room where she and her family spent some of the most challenging days of their lives. 

“Without wanting to sound too cliche, it was that feeling like everything came full circle,” Liz says. “It also felt like coming back to a second home. I definitely found where I want to be.”

And Liz isn’t the only one showing up for other women. Jenn is a regular volunteer with a local nonprofit organization, Bee Mighty, that offers support to NICU families. She’s mentored so many families who are also navigating the hardships of having a baby in need of critical care.

What’s Next?

Liz isn’t done with her career journey. She plans to apply to Carolinas College of Health Sciences to pursue her goal of becoming a registered nurse – ideally to continue to help other women feel the same comforting care she received.

The support that we received – specifically in the NICU – was life changing,” Liz says. “Those individuals became our family. Remembering our experience helps me care for patients in similar situations. I hope I can give back that same level of love and support that we experienced when we needed it most.”

Learn more about the incredible women's and children's care that inspired Liz to pursue a career in nursing and help families in similar situations.