When Candice and Grayson McNeill welcomed conjoined twins, they cherished every moment they shared with them. However, just five weeks after their daughters’ birth, the couple had to make an immensely difficult decision about their new arrivals – one, in fact, that no parent would envy.
Before the twins’ arrival, though, the McNeills were already the proud parents of three little girls. The family from Asheboro, North Carolina, would become even bigger, of course, when the new babies were born; their due date was November 15, 2017.
However, 15 weeks into the pregnancy, Candice and Grayson were dealt a blow, as an ultrasound scan revealed that the couple’s twin girls were in fact conjoined. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the news came as a shock to the expectant parents.
After all, conjoined twins are far from a regular occurrence. Indeed, data collected by the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that the phenomenon occurs just once in every 200,000 live births. Sadly, though, very few conjoined twins will live longer than 24 hours after they have entered the world.
And, even more tragically, many conjoined twins don’t even get to take their first breaths; according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, somewhere between 40 percent and 60 percent of them are stillborn. Doctors duly warned Candice and Grayson, then, that their girls probably wouldn’t survive outside of the womb.
Furthermore, the medical team offered the McNeills the option of terminating the pregnancy. The couple wouldn’t hear of aborting their babies, though, as it was their belief that they should give their twins the best chance of survival.
And in November 2017 Grayson would explain why he and his wife had come to that decision. In particular, he told Asheboro, North Carolina, newspaper The Courier-Tribune, “Termination was not an option for us. We don’t believe that is our right.”
Instead, the couple decided that Candice would carry their babies for as long as she could, in order to give them the best chance possible of thriving. That was despite the fact that the girls were joined at the shoulder and shared one body, meaning that surgeons would be unable to separate them.
Subsequent doctor’s appointments would reveal, however, that Candice and Grayson’s twins did still have two pairs of lungs between them, along with a heart each. Still, the babies needed to be kept under observation. And so when a pediatric cardiologist diagnosed the girls with coronary problems, he subsequently referred Candice’s care to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
There, Candice could receive the specialized treatment that she and her unborn babies needed, and a medical team duly figured out a schedule for the expectant mother. Then on September 25, 2017, the mom of three moved into a Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati, enabling her to live more closely to the hospital.
And Candice’s being near the facility was probably for the best, as during the next few weeks, she would attend countless hospital visits during which her pregnancy was monitored. With these, the overall aim was to get her ready for her babies’ delivery. That way, if she went into labor early, both she and hospital staff would know what to do.
Candice was able to carry her babies to 37 weeks, though, at which point doctors decided to carry out a cesarean section. Consequently, twins Emily and Sophie arrived on October 26, 2017, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
And, the day after the birth, the McNeills announced their happy news on Grayson’s Facebook page. “We are so thankful and honored to introduce to you all our newest additions to the McNeill Tribe, Emily Rose and Sophie Belle McNeill. How blessed are we as parents to call these special little girls our daughters,” they wrote.
The following weeks were full of ups and downs for the family, however. Emily and Sophie had trouble breathing, and some of their organs were failing to work. So while Candice remained by their sides in Cincinnati, Grayson split his time between the hospital and Asheboro.
And even though there were times when it seemed as though the twins’ health was improving, that good fortune wouldn’t last. That’s because, when Emily and Sophie were five weeks old, the girls’ conditions began to wane. And as a result, their parents were faced with an unimaginable decision.
What’s more, both of the options available to Candice and Grayson were heartbreaking ones. In short, they could either wait for their daughters’ lives to run their courses, letting them die from cardiac arrest, or they could remove them from life support. The couple knew what they considered to be best for Emily and Sophie, though.
So, the parents chose to take their beloved daughters off life support. “To me, it wasn’t even a choice,” Candice explained to WFMY in December 2017. “You did the best for your children because you love them.”
Grayson added to the North Carolina-based station, “We just decided this is enough, they’re not going to make it. We prayed together and made the decision to take the vents out. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Before Emily and Sophie passed away, though, Candice spent as much time as possible with them, holding them in her arms and allowing them to grab onto her fingers. And in the future, the family will likely cherish those precious – albeit all too brief – moments that they had with their twins.
However, for now, Candice and Grayson are relying on their faith to get them through. “We know the Lord had a plan,” Grayson said in a December 2017 interview with NBC affiliate WXII. He added, “Because of Jesus Christ, I have hope to see Emily and Sophie again one day.”