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Couple shares memorable birth experience at Medical City McKinney for Pride Month

Months of planning went into the dream delivery for Josh Neal and Robert Sleeper’s twins. Together for more than 15 years, the married same-sex couple welcomed healthy biological boy/girl twins via surrogate at Medical City McKinney on March 17. In addition to the babies having a genetic link through the surrogate, each dad contributed DNA to one of the two embryos, so each is a biological father of a baby. They are sharing their pride in becoming parents to raise awareness of the journey of same-sex parenthood during Pride Month.

These fathers had a vision and a plan for their childbirth experience. Every detail, ranging from which dad would be in the delivery room to which dad would be in the warming room to solidifying plans for the couple to room-in with their newborns was made in advance.

Sarah Thetford, RN, labor and delivery nurse, worked closely with the couple to provide a virtual tour of the labor and delivery suites, newborn nursery and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), due to COVID-19 restrictions for hospital visitors. She also worked with colleagues to ensure the labor and delivery team was familiar with the couple’s vision and birth plan.

“With Sarah’s help we knew the decisions we had to make and it gave us time to think and plan,” says Neal. “We didn’t feel like we were missing anything.”

 Important for the fathers was the opportunity to bond with their newborn babies immediately after birth. Skin-to-skin contact is encouraged for all new parents to promote bonding, reduce the baby’s stress levels and help normalize their heart rate, blood sugar and body temperature.

Bear and Elle, born one minute apart and weighing 7 pounds 4 ounces each, were born about a month early, at 36 weeks gestation. Bear’s breathing was irregular and he immediately went to the NICU to be placed on a CPAP to help regulate his breathing. Medical City McKinney offers a Level II NICU, capable for caring for small or sick babies.

“The nurses in the NICU were so accommodating. They brought extra chairs into the NICU so that we could do skin-to-skin contact with Bear and Elle, together as a family,” Sleeper says.

Staying in a private labor and delivery suite near the NICU, Neal and Sleeper were able to have their newborns by their side. The nursery nurses helped the new dads with feeding and burping techniques, diapering, bathing and skin care for newborns. Less than 24 hours later, Bear’s breathing stabilized and he was released from the NICU.

“Just because they are two dads doesn’t mean they don’t have questions and worries,” Thetford says. “We wanted them to feel like they had the knowledge they needed so that they could go home and enjoy these two babies together.”

“It was like newborn bootcamp over 48 hours. We set our alarms and we were up every three hours for feedings,” Sleeper says. “The nurses helped us create habits and best practices that we still carry with us today.”

Medical City McKinney is dedicated to healthier tomorrows and is proud to foster a culture of inclusion, compassion and respect for all. Every birth experience can be customized to the unique needs of every family. The nursing team was focused on calming these new dads’ nerves and helping them become comfortable with their new roles as parents to twins.

“The team at Medical City McKinney made this experience so seamless,” Neal said. “We were treated just as well as the children.”

“We really got to know the nurses, and I am not going to lie, saying goodbye was emotional,” Sleeper says. “We left with big smiles. Our kids were brought into this world with love and joy and that’s thanks to the staff at Medical City McKinney.”

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