The babies arrived just shy of 26 weeks along in gestation. Karsten weighed 1 pound, 6.5 ounces. Kade weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces.
They were due April 1. They arrived Dec. 27.
“They’re perfect. They’re just tiny,” said Pepper (Karst) Gonzales, the twins’ mom.
Kade now weighs 3 pounds, and Karsten is at 2 pounds 14 ounces.
Despite their small size, both babies are feeding well and continuing to grow.
Doctors “have always been really hopeful. From the very beginning, the doctors said they were doing really well for their ages,” Pepper said.
Currently, both babies are in the neonatal intensive care unit in Children’s Hospital in Denver.
Parents Ringo and Pepper were back home in Powell this week with their older children, Chase, age 10, Asher, 8, and Brooklynn, 3. Ringo recently returned to his job at J&R Well Service.
Though the family does have health insurance, they still face medical bills and additional related expenses.
To help the Gonzales family with medical expenses, friends and relatives are hosting a fundraiser Friday night. The taco dinner and silent auction begin at 6 p.m. at The Eagles Lodge, 131 N. Clark St. in Powell.
Pepper said she’s not sure whether she will be in Powell for Friday night’s benefit, as it depends on her sons’ health. On Monday, nurses said Kade’s breathing tube may be taken out at the end of the week, so if that happens, Pepper will return to Denver, she said.
Initially, Pepper’s pregnancy progressed normally. Her three previous pregnancies went to full term.
In September, Pepper posted a sonogram image to Facebook, announcing that she was having twins.
Then on Nov. 1 her water broke — just 18 weeks into the pregnancy.
For the babies to be viable, they couldn’t arrive for at least six more weeks. Doctors put Pepper on bed rest.
On Dec. 12, she posted on her Facebook: “We made it to our first milestone, 24 weeks! Woo-hoo! Keep on baking boys!”
Then on Christmas Eve, she went into labor. Attempts to stop the early labor were unsuccessful; on Dec. 27, the babies arrived by c-section at St. Vincent Healthcare.
The next day, Kade was flown to Denver, accompanied by his dad. Baby Karsten and Pepper followed on Jan. 2.
Both babies underwent heart surgery to correct “patent ductus arteriosus,” or PDA, a condition that is common in premature babies. Karsten has a hernia that will be fixed before he is able to come home.
Otherwise, the boys haven’t had any major health complications, and their digestive systems are functioning well — often a concern for preemies. Neither baby has had brain bleeding, which also is common in preemies.
“The biggest issue is their lungs,” Pepper said.
Before they can go home, the twins’ lungs must develop more. Their other main hurdles are feeding on their own and growing bigger.
Last week, Pepper got to hold Kade for the first time. Karsten is on a different kind of ventilator for his breathing, so she hasn’t gotten to hold him yet.
Pepper said she hopes the boys can be brought back to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings soon, so they’re closer to their family.
The twins aren’t expected to come home to Powell before their April 1 due date.
Their brothers and sister are anxious for the babies to come home, as are many other family members and friends.
Pepper said it’s been a trying experience, but she remains strong as a mother.
“It is what it is ... I can’t change it, so I’ve had to learn to be patient; very, very patient,” she said.
A fund for the family has been set up at Big Horn Federal Savings Bank.