Meleah and Lee really wanted to have a child, but nature was not cooperating. The couple had multiple pregnancies that didn’t go to term, so they opted for in vitro fertilization. They tried IVF four times without success. When they went in for their fifth attempt, their doctor said he was feeling very good about the eggs this time, so he implanted two of them. And he was right. In fact, both eggs developed: Meleah and Lee were going to have twins.

Those twins seemed eager to make up for all the lost time, though, and they decided to make an appearance four months early. Sylvie weighed one pound seven-and-half ounces, and Harper weighed one pound five ounces. “They looked like little aliens,” Lee says.

No one expected the girls to live, not even Meleah; they were just so small and underdeveloped. But, to everyone’s surprise, their brain scans looked good and they started passing checkpoints. In fact, during their stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), they only had one or two challenges. The biggest one was when Sylvie stopped breathing while Meleah was holding her—a frightening but temporary issue. And she also had a small hole in her heart, small enough that the doctors said they wouldn’t need to see her for two years (that hole eventually closed its own).

Both girls were on supplemental oxygen for most of their four-month stay in the NICU. Sylvie was able to breathe on her own after three months, but Harper apparently didn’t want to let go of it. “They thought maybe they would see something on the brain scan, but they didn’t,” Meleah says. “I think she was just a little lazy, because she could breathe on her own.” As a result, Harper gained a lot more weight because she wasn’t working as hard as Sylvie. So Sylvie was small, and still is. “It took them so long to get off of those ventilators,” Meleah says. “It seemed like forever. I never felt like we were out of the woods.”

After four months of intensive care and abundant love, Sylvie and Harper finally got to go home at the end of July 2019. Today, the girls are three years old, and the only sign that they ever had any issues are the glasses they both wear (very fashionable glasses). They have minor developmental delays, but that’s about it. “The people there at the NICU saved our children’s lives,” Lee says. “They would not have lived without all that care.”