ELMHURST – Last year, Meghan and Andrew Beatty of Elmhurst walked in the March for Babies while their premature twins, Benjamin and Jacob, fought for their lives at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.
This year, easy-going Benjamin and flirty Jacob will join their parents at the Naperville walk sponsored by March of Dimes.
"It was a completely uneventful pregnancy," Meghan said.
Then, one Friday evening while watching a movie, Meghan went into labor – three months before her due date. On Feb. 23, 2013, Benjamin entered the world at just 2 pounds, 9 ounces. A minute later, 1-pound, 11-ounce Jacob was born.
"It was obviously a very, very scary and unexpected day," Meghan said.
She remembers Benjamin was bruised all over his body after a difficult delivery and Jacob struggled because of his extremely low birth weight. The brothers were given nutritional IVs and put on ventilators. They both battled necrotizing enterocolitis, which is when the lining of the intestinal wall dies, twice.
"One moment they would be doing really well and then they would have a setback," Meghan said.
During the nearly four months the Beattys spent in the neonatal intensive care unit, Meghan was thankful for the nurses and staff. She described them each as "part angel and part superhero."
Through the nurses and other mothers they met in the NICU, Meghan and Andrew heard about the March for Babies, which supports community programs to help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies and research to help babies.
"I think the walk's a great event because it brings together so many people who support our mission and so many people who have been affected by our mission," said Rebecca O'Halloran Evans, March of Dimes director of communications for Illinois.
She said the March for Babies is the March of Dimes' largest fundraiser, which started in 1970 as Walk America.
While the couple struggled with leaving their sons at the hospital for any reason, they joined the walk.
"I know that every day that we were in the NICU, I thought 'I'm so glad they were born in 2013,'" Meghan said.
She realized the technology used to help her premature sons hadn't always been available. She recalls the nurses mentioning they didn't have certain devices they used with the twins even a few years earlier.
"I know the March of Dimes does a lot of research to facilitate those type of developments," Meghan said.
The Beattys brought Benjamin home June 15 on a monitor, but he seemed to be out of the woods. His brother Jacob came home a month later, but his parents worried because he was still constantly spitting up and sometimes stopped breathing.
With oxygen on hand, the Beattys brought "fiesty" Jacob home without incident.
"He just really started to thrive when he came home," Meghan said.
Meghan said last year's experience at the March for Babies was bittersweet. She felt the support, but seeing all of the strollers made her miss her boys. She hopes to combat premature births with research supported by the march.
"There is still just such a big question mark about why babies are born premature," Meghan said.
At 14 months, the twins have their own distinct personalities, Meghan said. Benjamin is always quick to smile, while his little brother Jacob is very opinionated. They just started to take their first steps, and even though mom is always on her toes trying to keep up, she doesn't mind.
"I have all the good problems with the babies," Meghan said.
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If you go
What: March for Babies
Where: Naperville River Walk, 736 W. Jackson Ave.
When: 9 a.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. registration
Activities: K-Hits Chicago, breakfast, crafts, games, bounce house
Fundraising goal: $400,000